Mike Yip thought retirement would involve a lot of golfing and relaxing.
The former Comox school teacher was at the golf course five days a week at first, until one day in 2005 when it was a frosty morning.
Instead of playing golf, Yip took a drive and saw some ducks with “weird-looking beaks that looked like Mallards,” and snapped a few photos with his camera.
He admits the pictures didn’t really turn out, but it was the sighting of that first duck which drew Yip not only into nature photography, but becoming a bestselling author.
By the fall, Yip had amassed a large collection of bird photos, and admits being a teacher at heart, he knew he had to share them so that people could learn more.
“(At that point) I had a website so I thought, ‘what about a book?’”
Yip decided to enter the world of self-publishing, and began the challenge of selling and marketing his first book – Vancouver Island Birds, Vol. 1.
He had just over 5,000 to sell, and was ready for the challenge.
“When the (delivery) truck came with the books, it was kind of awesome,” he says.
Yip not only self-published the book, but did everything himself including editing, layout and copy-writing. He used his experience with the yearbook club in school, but also knew he wanted to try his hand at all aspects of creating a coffee table book.
“I needed about 150 images, then I sorted them depending if they were water, land or field and forest birds. It’s not a bird guide, but a photographic coffee table book.”
Making the decision to market the book only on Vancouver Island, Yip notes there is “a method to my madness,” adding many readers feel the birds are “Island birds and they’re ours.”
He says there are more than 250 species of birds on the Island, most of which can be spotted in the Comox Valley.
Since having the book reprinted in 2008, Yip has sold 5,000 copies – hitting the milestone for a Canadian bestseller.
He has donated more than 100 books to the Nature Trust of British Columbia and another 100 copies for other fundraisers across the Island.
Between marketing and selling his first book, Yip began work on volumes two and three of Vancouver Island Birds, printing 3,400 and 2,000 respectively.
He shifted gears for his fourth book – Vancouver Island Butterflies – and printed 500 copies, and most recently published Denman & Hornby Nature at 1,500 copies which documents island landscapes, birds, wildflowers and butterflies, with undersea photography by Amanda Zielinski.
With five photographic books in 10 years, Yip acknowledges the tremendous growth in the development of digital cameras.
“In 2004, I was one of the few people on the Island with a really, really big lens. Now they’re a dime a dozen.”
He says one of his biggest challenges with being self-published is committing to the book. He notes once you have an idea, it’s a balance between a passion and finding a topic that’s marketable and will have an audience.
“The first half of it is just doing the book and the publishing; the other half is selling yourself.”
While Yip says he’s not thinking about a sixth book, he adds: “… who knows when inspiration will strike again.”
For more information on Yip’s books or to view more photos, visit vancouverislandbirds.com.