I made a book and started an online store. Coincidence?

A pungent smell of fresh ink and recently dried glue enters my nostrils the moment Thijs opens his front door. It’s difficult to pass through his hallway and enter the living room because there’s a literal wall of boxes in the way.

Mitchel Lensink
May 8, 2023
9 min read
de ontluiking the efflorescence stack of books on table

Table of Contents

Patient readers,

Apologies for the delay in getting this message to your inboxes but once you hear my reason, I'm sure you understand. I won’t waste any words doing further introductions and instead just dive in.

The Efflorescence in physical form

A pungent smell of fresh ink and recently dried glue enters my nostrils the moment Thijs opens his front door. It’s difficult to pass through his hallway and enter the living room because there’s a literal wall of boxes in the way. We're lucky they're even here, we found out just a couple of days ago, because our printer partner ran into unforeseen production trouble and announced a delay of a few days. 'No can do' we unfortunately had to tell them, which caused them to work overtime on a public holiday. Of course we felt bad about this, but we wouldn't ask for it if we didn't absolutely have to. I squeeze myself past the stacks and pick up one of the boxes from the top along the way. 'Surprisingly heavy!', I think to myself. 'Good. I remember my dad always telling me that, sometimes, the weight of a product signals its good quality and I think that logic applies here.'

I set the box down on Thijs’ dinner table (the table thankfully holds) and we excitedly, though ever so carefully, rip it open. We find twenty-two perfectly stacked books inside. Our books. Books we willed into existence over the past two years. Books that wouldn't be here if we did not insist on the importance of documenting a time like this. I look at Thijs to see my friend slash writing co-producer’s reaction and my eyes meet his because he was doing the same with me, his photographing companion. I can only hope he sees the same spark in mine as I see in his. It’s this very Friday night when our joint efforts have finally crossed over into the physical world in the form of a book. A moment we are both very proud of. Tomorrow night, on Saturday, the 29th of April, 2023, we will welcome around a hundred people to our launch event. I can’t wait to share our work with the world. Let's hope the ink and glue of our fresher-than-usual books have dried by then.

I see the time on my watch jump from 20:29u to 20:30u when the first people start to trickle in. The trickle soon becomes a stream, and at 21:00 ‘o clock sharp, everybody either sits down in a chair or finds a spot at one of the standing tables. All the eyes point at Thijs and myself, who take place on one of the two couches on stage. 'Welcome everybody,' our host Karsten speaks into the microphone. The noise from the room dies down quickly. 'Today, we are celebrating the release of Thijs and Mitch's book, documenting the euphoric return of festival- and club culture during pandemic times', Karsten says. I'm a little surprised by Karsten's effortlessness and how he lets the words flow so freely. Thijs and I fully realize our project is a mouthful, but it doesn't bother Karsten at all. I'm happy we asked him to host our special night. Now realizing I can fully trust him to lead the conversation in the right direction for the next hour or so, I relax a little for the first time today.

A story about hope and resilience

Thijs and I gave ourselves a combined fifteen minutes to talk about the project but decided to dedicate a significant portion of the available time to a few of our main characters as well. Our book tells a story about hope, about creativity, and about resilience, during a time when it seems like all we face is challenges. Our book tells a story that takes place during a pandemic, is caused by a pandemic, and is sometimes catalyzed by a pandemic, but it's not a story about a pandemic. I even think mentions of the big C-word (not that one, the other one) can be counted on two hands, maybe even one, despite the book containing some 60 thousand words (about 59.000 from Thijs' hand and close to 800 from mine).

room filled with people for the book release party of the efflorescence
The room was filled with people for our bookrelease

You can see it in the images as well. These are not images of despair, or exploiting other people's misery in any way. The images in the book show people smiling and large crowds joining together with a common goal. These are images containing undeniable positive energy, even when the crowds are there out of protest. Though, let's be honest, the protest was only a small part of the story. Most of the time we interviewed organizations, visitors, and artists alike, we discussed how you navigate around negativity and bring some light during a time when all the power seems to be cut off. Can't do a club night? Let's make it a club day. Can't have too many people at a festival? We can size down but we can never bow out. Can't do festivals at all? Fuck it, we rave in an abandoned warehouse. You may cut the power off but we will always just light candles instead. Those are the stories we told in our book.

It is for this reason we dedicated so much of our on-stage time to the heroes of our stories on this night of the book's release. Thijs and I are mere documentarians of the people making real changes in our society. The people who aren't afraid to sometimes circumvent (within reason, of course) the weird rules our governments sometimes seem forced to uphold. So no, this is not a Covid-19 book at all. And even though our chosen subject is the Dutch festival- and club culture, if you really think about it, it's not even about that so much as well. In my mind, the story we told is exemplary of human resilience in a broader sense and a real record of what we can achieve when we stick together and join forces in a peaceful and loving way.

I will admit that not everybody is waiting to read a book about a pandemic but stories that reignite your hope in humanity, we can never have enough. Readers who bought the book during the night of the release and already finished reading it report the same sentiment. For this reason, we decided to turn our year-long documentation into a physical book. We need these stories to be remembered for decades to come, even though, for now, we'd rather forget the past few years. We need a way to look back in ten, twenty, maybe even thirty years and say, 'damn, that was quite something, was it? I'm glad we fought our way through it the way we did.'

Support our project, please

We need this book to exist in as many different bookshelves as possible. It's the only way to really eternalize this story. Yes, the text is written in Dutch and I understand the majority of the people reading this don't understand the language. Though there are also over a hundred images in the book, which is equivalent to well over a hundred thousand words. So if you can spare €29,95 + shipping, I would appreciate it greatly if our book can live on your shelf as well.

de Ontluiking (1st ed.)

De Ontluiking, or the Efflorescence in English, is an ode to the world-leading industry of Dutch festival- and club culture.


An online store, for real now

I wrote about my ideas to monetize my work almost a year ago already, and I am now finally setting the first steps towards achieving those goals. The book is obviously the main product already, but it's also a product I'm sharing with Thijs. This means I'm still not able to fully utilize the infrastructure I'm trying to build for myself and, since the book is written in Dutch, it doesn't quite 'fit' in the grander scheme of things I'm aiming to achieve with this newsletter and adjacent works. So, yeah, for me personally, I'm taking baby steps and settled on offering digital products first. Digital products are nice because they require no effort in shipping and don't run out of stock. All that's required is some effort in creating the actual product; after that, you're set.

Wallpaper packs

I extensively thought about it and concluded that, as a photographer, the most obvious digital products you can sell are preset packs or wallpapers (NFTs are not an option, thanks). Since my workflow is basically liquid at this point and I don't even work with presets, I settled on wallpapers. Wallpaper packs, to be exact.

I know these aren’t the most glamorous products to start with but the important part is that they are a product. It’s a good way to get my feet wet. The simplicity of the product doesn’t mean I didn’t try my best to bring something of value though. While creating the assets for the product pages, my thoughts went from ‘I don’t know if this is worth money’ to ‘I might be undercharging.’ Because damn, you can set any photo as a wallpaper, but if you want to present people with something nice, you really have to polish up the presentation. I’m happy to say I think I succeeded and you can find the three wallpaper packs I created, Verdant, Aquatic, and Floral, for only a couple of euros in the store right now.

de lens loves you wallpaper pack by Mitchel Lensink


Finally, I want to share some thoughts on the infrastructure for online stores. There are many ways to sell your goods on the internet these days and they all offer similar services. Though each with its own unique benefits and disadvantages. I thought about launching on Gumroad, for its lack of monthly fees, but the 10% cut they take on each sale can become expensive quickly. I even considered simply making Stripe payment links and 'hiding' those behind buttons, but that would omit a lot of the niceties that come with an e-commerce platform, like proper product pages and things like sales analytics.

I ended up going with the option I wanted to use all along, which is Shopify. Shopify costs a hefty 28 euros per month, but this flat fee does not increase when sales increase. This turns it from the most expensive option into one of the cheapest ones if you manage to sell enough. This is good for me because it signals that I can't do half work and really try my best to create things of value that people are willing to exchange money for. I don't want to hind behind a lack of monthly fees and then, when nothing's selling, don't care about it because I'm not making any losses on it too. Settling for a percentage of each sale eliminates risk but also makes it easier to cheap out. I realize I don't have much of a business case for this online store yet. But I have so many ideas for things I can do, and I know I wouldn't be able to rest as long as I didn't at least give it a try. Plus, I think it simply is fun to build stuff like this. That should be reason enough.

With so much going on in the past month, I couldn't even include anything from my trips to Eindhoven and Ghent because this newsletter would turn into a novel. Though as always, you can find the work I made in the past month in my online archive. My work from Ghent in particular, I enjoy a lot myself! I'm traveling to Greece in a few days, so I will report on that next month. For now, please have a look at the book and buy a wallpaper pack on your way out. It really helps support my work and allows me to continue doing it for free.

Thanks everybody, talk soon.


Receive monthly stories in your inbox.

Dialogue is a newsletter about photography, walking and other things.

Oops! There was an error sending the email, please try again.

Awesome! Now check your inbox and click the link to confirm your subscription.