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IanDavidson

Live news pictures and sales

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Posted (edited)

Hi,

i know I have had a portfolio review before but this is a different question.  About 95% of my pictures are Live News and of those 90% are from Downing Street and Westminster.  I have a reasonable level of news web sales (anything from 10 to 30)   and monthly print sales.  (Between 1 and 5) This give a reasonable income for the three to four days a week I put in. (I have childcare responsibilities)  The Cabinet Minister/Prime Minister shots are best sellers.

 

However, I am not getting the level of print sales of friends covering broadly the same subjects.  I am aware that the subject of my photography puts me up against the big agencies such as PA and Reuter’s etc so competition is fierce. (And I am frequently surprised when my pictures are used rather than theirs.). 

 

I do keyword my news sales as they often pop up as stock.  I try the “less is more” with news pictures as the subject is not really conducive to wide key-wording. 

 

I do try to widen the scope with weather photos, local (Essex) events and a tiny bit of stock.  

 

My trusty  (and expensive) Nikon D5 is on its way to the shop as the LCD screen has stopped working so I am using the time to review my business and shooting plans for the next six months,  What can I do with my portfolio to improve sales?

 

Any help appreciated 

https://www.alamy.com/portfolio/iandavidsonphotography

 

Edited by IanDavidson

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You're near London, Corporate portraiture and any commercial work will pay far more than anything you can earn doing live news

 

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30 minutes ago, LawrensonPhoto said:

You're near London, Corporate portraiture and any commercial work will pay far more than anything you can earn doing live news

 

True, and you are not the first person to make the comment.  Freelance news photographers are having to diversify to make a living.  It is a pity as I love 💕 live news work.

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I moved away from doing commercial work to live news because I love doing it as well, but for the pittance it's paying, it's not worth it.

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1 hour ago, IanDavidson said:

I have a reasonable level of news web sales (anything from 10 to 30)   and monthly print sales.  (Between 1 and 5)

Take 30 web usages and 5, 1 page sales, I estimate £500 net to you (at this months prices), take away your monthly travel card...and you're left with sfa

Commercial job for a primary school in Stratford, E15: Shoot general shots of the school and children for publicity, head-shots of the head teacher and some staff, one days work, £1050 invoiced (and paid within 2 weeks).

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Ian

 

You tell a story with your news and stock images but it tends to be one off, with not a lot of credit to yourself. Why not tell an extended story through a picture book? Shooting the book will generate stock images. Shooting stock images can generate a book. Publishing the book through a publisher will generate book royalties.

 

For instance how about life in an english village? With photo sections on the pub, the history, the architecture, the gardens, the arts and crafts, the scenery, local characters, etc. If you do not feel confident in writing the text, get a father of the nation well known type of writer to write the text. His or her name will sell the book, and be well worth the cut in your royalties. If your English village book is successful, the publisher will want a follow up, so set your next book in a Scottish village. Make it a series, "Life in (insert name of country here)" by Ian Davidson.

 

Your name will be on the cover of the book so do it well. It will generate royalties, spinoffs, and reputation, that shooting exclusively news and stock will not.

 

In a ten year period during the 1970's I did 11 picture books by 3 different publishers. It is important that you match the book to the publisher. Each book sold an average of 30,000 copies for which I received roughly $1.20 per copy. My expenses to shoot each book averaged $5,000, publisher advanced against future royalties. To put that kind of money in perspective, my wife and I purchased a mid sized 3 bedroom suburban house in Toronto for $33,000 in 1972.

 

Then there were spinoffs. A sale of 5,000 copies to a government body to give as gifts only to VIPs, and not compete with bookstore sales. A high end boxed calendar for several years. A cheap copy of a book in return for mail in coupons from a breakfast cereal. Public Lending Right payments of between $1,000 to $2,000 per annum for 35 years. After the third book I became better known and started to receive photo shooting assignments from book publishers, consulting deals with book printers, universities etc. I was left with a large stock photo file. The list goes on.

 

There are books that government bodies, private corporations, interest groups, rich individuals, want published, but do not want their names on the book. They will help with financing, finding a publisher, promotion etc.

 

So think of a story you would like to tell, shoot some images, put together a book dummy, and put your book idea out there. Talk it up with publishers and interest groups. But find a publisher, do not self publish.

 

I know of at least two photojournalists who have done this successfully. One had semi retired for health reasons, one had childcare responsibilities.

 

Bill

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Ian, that's a portfolio that will impress potential clients.

As it stands its an asset in itself and should  open doors; please use it as such. I can hear people saying "we had our headshots done by a Downing Street press photographer". Let that association rub off on potential clients; they won't know how news pays, they will see a chap who gets MP's to smile for him.

All the best and good luck.

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Thank you all for your suggestions, I will work out a plan over the next few months.  It is a pity that news photography just does not seem to pay the bills anymore

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Hi Ian - tempted not to try any 'advice' as I'm usually standing next to you trying to sell the same pictures....

Like you I now have a growing collection of the same people walking out of That door (though most of them won't be doing it any more since last week) - and tennis players from my annual trips to Eastbourne.

I have been trying to edit them. A lot look VERY similar and, while they get used for live news occasionally, once they become stock I really don't think I need so many. I've been going through, person by person, picking the best ten or so and deleting the rest if they don't offer anything different. Hopefully that will mean the ones potential customers see first are likely to be better and more likely to be picked.

At least, that's the plan. Some way to go yet.

 

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Posted (edited)

Ian, Phil and Forum readers.

 

I must start by saying that in my opinion, just showing up and photographing what everyone else is

photographing is a waste of time.  In the "good old days" it was not worth my time or the time of any

agency that I was contributing to, to just "pump" the same images through.  Just recently, last couple

of years, I've started doing "Live News" again and I will tell you that for the most part it is not worth

my time and effort.

 

With a U.S. election coming up I have spent a lot of time thinking about this have had no good ideas

about how to cover this?  Keeping in mind that a number of my images of candidates during

U.S. elections over the years continue to be licensed by Alamy and other libraries.

 

Again in my opinion, it is not enough to me to make an image (s) and see it licensed once as "Live News."

It is only worth the time an effort to see it licensed over and over for decades.  FYI, checking my zooms this

morning I found zooms spanning images that I did over a span of 39 years and many included spot news

at the time.  I just sold a BOWENS Illumitran to a photographer in Boston who has a wonderful set of images

going back to the late 60's and he was interested in Alamy, but I did not have much good to say about the

current state of licensing images via Alamy or any of the current players.

 

Ian brings a really good question forward and I would like to see this discussion continued in a

constructive way.

 

P.S. I started doing commissioned work again and I will say that I am very disappointed, in the 80's

and 90's I worked with professional art directors who knew well what was involved in a commercial

photo shoot.  Now every one thinks it is just digital and "snap snap."  I travel with 10,000 watts of stobe

and it is not "snap snap."

 

Chuck Nacke

Edited by Chuck Nacke
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Posted (edited)
On 31/07/2019 at 11:11, Bill Brooks said:

Ian

 

You tell a story with your news and stock images but it tends to be one off, with not a lot of credit to yourself. Why not tell an extended story through a picture book? Shooting the book will generate stock images. Shooting stock images can generate a book. Publishing the book through a publisher will generate book royalties.

 

For instance how about life in an english village? With photo sections on the pub, the history, the architecture, the gardens, the arts and crafts, the scenery, local characters, etc. If you do not feel confident in writing the text, get a father of the nation well known type of writer to write the text. His or her name will sell the book, and be well worth the cut in your royalties. If your English village book is successful, the publisher will want a follow up, so set your next book in a Scottish village. Make it a series, "Life in (insert name of country here)" by Ian Davidson.

 

Your name will be on the cover of the book so do it well. It will generate royalties, spinoffs, and reputation, that shooting exclusively news and stock will not.

 

In a ten year period during the 1970's I did 11 picture books by 3 different publishers. It is important that you match the book to the publisher. Each book sold an average of 30,000 copies for which I received roughly $1.20 per copy. My expenses to shoot each book averaged $5,000, publisher advanced against future royalties. To put that kind of money in perspective, my wife and I purchased a mid sized 3 bedroom suburban house in Toronto for $33,000 in 1972.

 

Then there were spinoffs. A sale of 5,000 copies to a government body to give as gifts only to VIPs, and not compete with bookstore sales. A high end boxed calendar for several years. A cheap copy of a book in return for mail in coupons from a breakfast cereal. Public Lending Right payments of between $1,000 to $2,000 per annum for 35 years. After the third book I became better known and started to receive photo shooting assignments from book publishers, consulting deals with book printers, universities etc. I was left with a large stock photo file. The list goes on.

 

There are books that government bodies, private corporations, interest groups, rich individuals, want published, but do not want their names on the book. They will help with financing, finding a publisher, promotion etc.

 

So think of a story you would like to tell, shoot some images, put together a book dummy, and put your book idea out there. Talk it up with publishers and interest groups. But find a publisher, do not self publish.

 

I know of at least two photojournalists who have done this successfully. One had semi retired for health reasons, one had childcare responsibilities.

 

Bill

 

Bill, what is your opinion about self-publishing picture books. I've done a couple of slim books myself, but just for the fun of it and to give copies to friends. I've also used them a bit for promotion. However, I wonder if self-publishing can become commercially viable. There certainly are a wealth of opportunities for self-publishing these days.

Edited by John Mitchell

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I think self publishing of picture books is not financially viable. You need a old fashioned book publisher to get your book into the bookstores. You need wide circulation of the book in bookstores. You need a publisher's book salesman to make personal calls on all bookstores that might carry the book, as well as the big book chains.

 

Bookstores can send unsold books back to the publisher for credit on future book purchases from the publisher. Even if an individual store likes your book, they will be unwilling to stock more than a few copies because they think they will be unable to send unsold copies back to you for credit, as they expect no more future books from you.

 

In addition a book publisher can be a big help in working with you to make your book more saleable, lining up a big name author to write the text, selling international rights, making bulk sales to public libraries, promoting the book on TV talk shows, personal author appearances in bookstores, working with printers, etc.

 

The publisher has to do all of this in order in order to make sales of your book. Often the publisher looses money on your first book, but makes it up on the second or third.

 

A self published book does not carry any cachet within the big publishing houses. Occasionally a self published book will attract the attention of a author's agent, who will be able to place the book with the appropriate publisher in return for a cut of your 10-15% royalty. This doesn't happen hardly at all.

 

There are lots of chances for self publishing today, and it can be a lot of fun. However bear in mind that companies that provide self publishing services make their money by providing self publishing services. Not by selling books.


 

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27 minutes ago, Bill Brooks said:

I think self publishing of picture books is not financially viable. You need a old fashioned book publisher to get your book into the bookstores. You need wide circulation of the book in bookstores. You need a publisher's book salesman to make personal calls on all bookstores that might carry the book, as well as the big book chains.

 

Bookstores can send unsold books back to the publisher for credit on future book purchases from the publisher. Even if an individual store likes your book, they will be unwilling to stock more than a few copies because they think they will be unable to send unsold copies back to you for credit, as they expect no more future books from you.

 

In addition a book publisher can be a big help in working with you to make your book more saleable, lining up a big name author to write the text, selling international rights, making bulk sales to public libraries, promoting the book on TV talk shows, personal author appearances in bookstores, working with printers, etc.

 

The publisher has to do all of this in order in order to make sales of your book. Often the publisher looses money on your first book, but makes it up on the second or third.

 

A self published book does not carry any cachet within the big publishing houses. Occasionally a self published book will attract the attention of a author's agent, who will be able to place the book with the appropriate publisher in return for a cut of your 10-15% royalty. This doesn't happen hardly at all.

 

There are lots of chances for self publishing today, and it can be a lot of fun. However bear in mind that companies that provide self publishing services make their money by providing self publishing services. Not by selling books.


 

 

Thanks. This has probably always been the case with self-publishing. It's a fun project, but not a money-making one. However, from what I've heard, traditional book publishers are lot more difficult to crack than they used to be, especially when it comes to picture / coffee table books, for which there probably isn't a huge market.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Bill Brooks said:

I think self publishing of picture books is not financially viable. You need a old fashioned book publisher to get your book into the bookstores. You need wide circulation of the book in bookstores. You need a publisher's book salesman to make personal calls on all bookstores that might carry the book, as well as the big book chains.

 

Bookstores can send unsold books back to the publisher for credit on future book purchases from the publisher. Even if an individual store likes your book, they will be unwilling to stock more than a few copies because they think they will be unable to send unsold copies back to you for credit, as they expect no more future books from you.

 

In addition a book publisher can be a big help in working with you to make your book more saleable, lining up a big name author to write the text, selling international rights, making bulk sales to public libraries, promoting the book on TV talk shows, personal author appearances in bookstores, working with printers, etc.

 

The publisher has to do all of this in order in order to make sales of your book. Often the publisher looses money on your first book, but makes it up on the second or third.

 

A self published book does not carry any cachet within the big publishing houses. Occasionally a self published book will attract the attention of a author's agent, who will be able to place the book with the appropriate publisher in return for a cut of your 10-15% royalty. This doesn't happen hardly at all.

 

There are lots of chances for self publishing today, and it can be a lot of fun. However bear in mind that companies that provide self publishing services make their money by providing self publishing services. Not by selling books.


 

Self-publishing only works in niche markets where people know the audience very very well.  Even a small publisher can do better for most people with marketing, and credibility.    Hire a printer to do a author-financed book; don't go with the vanity presses ever.   You tend to look like a fool. 

 

Full return on mass market paperback means sending the jackets back and pulping the internal pages, though some unscrupulous places sell those books.

 

Most publisher publicize the books when the author already has a following.  My first book earned out despite one of the editors saying that they didn't expect this.  One of my Harpers Collins books earned out after 15 years thanks probably to e-books, and made me $10 over the original $20K for the book.  

 

Agents keep the publisher honest -- and can keep all your rights from being grabbed.  You may have to have one to sell to major publishers because they've been stung by crazy wannabes suing them later when they publish a book that the amateur believes was stolen from them.   Agents can't guarantee placement of projects.  I had a very competent agent, from what I could find out about him, who didn't sell movie rights to one of my books.  Agents may have a higher percentage of sales than unagented people, but it's never 100%.  Don't pay agents to take you on or evaluate your work.  There's a lot of money to be made hustling wannabes.

 

People have built audiences by offering e-book versions of their work for free while getting started. 

 

Most photo book will be from presses that specialize in art and photographer books.  Spend some time in Amazon's Art and Photography books section to get an idea of who is doing what.  My impression is that you have to become well-known before anyone would want to publish a photography book. 

 

Books that the publisher keeps in print for a year can find audiences through word of mouth and social media.  "The Hunt for Red October" was published by the Naval Institute Press, not a traditional novel publisher, and stayed in print until it had found a large audience. 

 

 

Edited by MizBrown

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Posted (edited)
On 02/08/2019 at 16:19, Chuck Nacke said:

 

I must start by saying that in my opinion, just showing up and photographing what everyone else is

photographing is a waste of time......... 

 

............. it is not enough to me to make an image (s) and see it licensed once as "Live News."

It is only worth the time an effort to see it licensed over and over for decades. 

I'd agree with that - to a certain extent. Experience shows that spending an hour or two in Downing Street on a Tuesday morning can be worthwhile, even if there are another six of the usual suspects (including Ian) there. Unfortunately, though live news sales can pay for all that standing around, stock sales of the same images (to newspapers for $6 a time) later bring in VERY little these days and shouldn't really be seen as a justification for being there.

However, the vast majority of my income still comes from general stock and for me a morning in The Street is usually followed by an afternoon elsewhere in London, taking the sort of stock that brings in most of my sales. 

If I can get a shot of a cabinet minister that pays the train fare (and more, hopefully) I usually go home with a few dozen more shots that I add to the portfolio.

 

Edited by Phil Robinson

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Phil,

 

It is late in the U.S. and I'm on my second (third) whisky...

 

In my old days of agency photojournalism, my agents would

say don't even bother with the film if it is what everyone else

has.  This is a problem in 2019, people (photojournalists) are

not asking for more access and when they do ask they are not

getting it, most are not.

 

I get a lot of money to make wonderful "head shots." but I don't

do that on "spec."

 

I also have no experience as a photographer on Downing Street,

but B. Yeltsin in Moscow did once tell me that he "Sees me more often then

his wife."

 

I am not "fast" on news, but I do shoot every thing with 36MP RAW in

16bit aRGB, which gives me a really nice large original file to work with

today and many tomorrows.

 

P.S. One thing that I think that Alamy should do with LIve News is set up

a emergency contact number when a contributor has an exclusive image

that nobody else has or if "Page One."  ALAMY, does that exist?

 

Chuck

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Phil,

 

I would like to add that I do think that it is up to all of us to

edit or select carefully what we upload.?

 

Part of the current problem with digital photograph is that

photographers to not know how to select images.

 

Chuck 

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1 hour ago, Chuck Nacke said:

Phil,

 

I would like to add that I do think that it is up to all of us to

edit or select carefully what we upload.?

 

Part of the current problem with digital photograph is that

photographers to not know how to select images.

 

Chuck 

I would totally agree. 

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Posted (edited)
On 04/08/2019 at 07:27, Chuck Nacke said:

Phil,

 

I would like to add that I do think that it is up to all of us to

edit or select carefully what we upload.?

 

Part of the current problem with digital photograph is that

photographers to not know how to select images.

 

Chuck 

Chuck and Phil,

thank you for your comments.   Chuck, I do try to be careful what I upload.  I would admit that I make too many photos, but I try to select and edit carefully so I have a range of newsworthy photos, even if they are just Downing Street headshots.  I take into account what ministers are attracting news coverage and also with a view as to what will work on the page and website.  The downside is that I sometimes don’t upload Ministers who are subsequently in a scandal;resign.  Again, picking up your point, I do shoot a variety of news not covered by other photographers (see my comment on facial recognition below) 

 

Phil, I took your advice about culling and had deleted some photos.  But, as noted above, I don’t have a lot of close similars.   Also, I have found I do sell “old” headshots.  Yesterday I sold quite an old headshot of Gavin Williamson.  A lot of my recent sales have been from the met police facial recognition trial in Romford about a year ago.  Including a print sale in The Observer on Sunday.

 

I guess the issue, as Phil identified, is falling prices, rising costs.  I do try to run at least three or four stories each day I am in London not to mention local stories that may have a national impact to reduce costs.  (Nigel Farage at the Sugar Hut Brentwood; you could not make this stuff up) 

 

I guess i just just need to shoot more just to stand still.  At this point in the year I have sold as many photos as all of last year but my revenue is roughly 60% of last year....

Edited by IanDavidson

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Have you done any teaching, Ian?  You have a wealth of experience and I am sure that there would be a lot of people who would be interested in learning from you.  An online course, a week-long programme, maybe assisting Stuart Franklin and Max Houghton on the Magnum intensive (https://www.magnumphotos.com/events/event/magnum-and-lcc-intensive-documentary-photography-course-summer-2019/), doing something through the RPS/Martin Parr?

 

Just a thought.

Graham

(PS Let me know when and I will be one of the first to sign up!)  😉

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On 06/08/2019 at 11:09, Utopian said:

Have you done any teaching, Ian?  You have a wealth of experience and I am sure that there would be a lot of people who would be interested in learning from you.  An online course, a week-long programme, maybe assisting Stuart Franklin and Max Houghton on the Magnum intensive (https://www.magnumphotos.com/events/event/magnum-and-lcc-intensive-documentary-photography-course-summer-2019/), doing something through the RPS/Martin Parr?

 

Just a thought.

Graham

(PS Let me know when and I will be one of the first to sign up!)  😉

That is a loverly thought, but I am not fit to lick the boots of these Magnum togs.  I would love to take that course but at £3,000 a bit out of my price range....

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Posted (edited)
On 06/08/2019 at 11:09, Utopian said:

Have you done any teaching, Ian?  You have a wealth of experience and I am sure that there would be a lot of people who would be interested in learning from you.  An online course, a week-long programme, maybe assisting Stuart Franklin and Max Houghton on the Magnum intensive (https://www.magnumphotos.com/events/event/magnum-and-lcc-intensive-documentary-photography-course-summer-2019/), doing something through the RPS/Martin Parr?

 

Just a thought.

Graham

(PS Let me know when and I will be one of the first to sign up!)  😉

 

Tumbled upon this conversation looking for some inspiration in the forums. I hope no one minds me interjecting. I have been doing an on-line course, but to be honest I'd say a course is possibly of more benefit to the school and tutors these days, just for all the reasons you all have stated - a course must pay for itself eventually, and with payments for news and stock so low, it is probably only of limited benefit to certain students. However, there are those who will always take them up. The NYPI [@NYPI] employ tutors from all over the world to assess work handed in by students, so maybe this could be an option (?) - all work is accessed remotely and reviews done at home (no need to travel to a place of work). 

Edited by BidC

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10 minutes ago, BidC said:

 

Tumbled upon this conversation looking for some inspiration in the forums. I hope no one minds me interjecting. I have been doing an on-line course, but to be honest I'd say a course is possibly of more benefit to the school and tutors these days, just for all the reasons you all have stated - a course must pay for itself eventually and with payments for news and stock so low, it is probably only of limited benefit to certain students. However, there are those who will always take them up. The NYPI [@NYPI] employ tutors from all over the world to assess work handed in by students, so maybe this could be an option (?) - all work is accessed remotely and reviews done at home (no need to travel to a place of work). 

 

Each to their own, BidC.  Perhaps the course you have been doing wasn't up to scratch, but I have experience of both sides of the fence - I have been on some excellent courses run by Central St Martins, Magnum, and the RPS.  My teaching commitment varies from year to year, but in the next one I have five courses currently scheduled and I would be very unhappy if people came away saying that the course is of more benefit to the colleges and the tutor than to them.  (I know they don't because the colleges actively solicit independent and anonymous reviews.) 

 

Ian has a wealth of experience, which he underplays, but I am sure that there would be plenty of people who would love to benefit from this.

 

Best wishes, Graham

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7 minutes ago, Utopian said:

 

Each to their own, BidC.  Perhaps the course you have been doing wasn't up to scratch, but I have experience of both sides of the fence - I have been on some excellent courses run by Central St Martins, Magnum, and the RPS.  My teaching commitment varies from year to year, but in the next one I have five courses currently scheduled and I would be very unhappy if people came away saying that the course is of more benefit to the colleges and the tutor than to them.  (I know they don't because the colleges actively solicit independent and anonymous reviews.) 

 

Ian has a wealth of experience, which he underplays, but I am sure that there would be plenty of people who would love to benefit from this.

 

Best wishes, Graham

 

Apologies Graham, 

 

That was not what I was trying to say - I am not putting down the course :) I was trying to say that teaching in that capacity is another option as regards earning.  [Regarding suitability of a course- one has to weigh up the costs/benefit. At my age (retired in my 60s), even a course that is not costly will probably take sometime (probably years) before it would be paid for in sales  - but this is making the post about me, which was not my intention ]

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