The Threshold

The Door is Open! Again! Still! Open-er!

Jon Maki, President and Publisher
Jon Maki, President and Publisher

After a great deal of searching and some trial-and-error – which will no doubt continue – I’ve managed to enable an automated registration process, allowing Creators to sign up and create their own site all at once.

The solution – a plugin called BuddyPress – allows for the creation of a sort of internal social network, which also enables Collaborators to offer their services directly (if they so choose).

The one major con to the solution is that the Name field is now required, and I can’t change that or the visibility of that field, so anyone will be able to see it.  However, it is still the case that pseudonyms are acceptable.

As mentioned, there will continue to be some trial-and-error, and I’m looking into ways to integrate the registration process with existing social media accounts to simplify the process even further.

The plugin also allows for the creation of a rudimentary site directory, which is available in the navigation menu.  Future development will provide better organization and categorization, though, of course, I still have work out what the categories will be.  For that part, I will be looking to the Creators and the readers to help develop them, and that’s actually a topic for a future post…

The registration form also has a field for members to offer their services as comment moderators.  The moderation rules are something that will also have to be developed, and, again, that will involve input from the community.

Additionally, with my current advertising network (and my limited WordPress skills – which are, fortunately, growing), I will have to manually add the advertising code to new sites.  The good news is that the ads will be relatively unobtrusive, and will not interfere too much with the layout of pages or the readers’ enjoyment of comics.  Eventually, I hope to have a more robust advertising solution, and automate the process of (still unobtrusively) inserting ads into new sites.

If you’re not comfortable with using the form, you can still e-mail me at comics@opendoor-comics.com, and I will be happy to set up your site for you.

I’m Sorry

Jon Maki, President and Publisher
Jon Maki, President and Publisher

Deciding that it was past time that someone start posting some comics on a platform intended to host, you know, comics, I took it upon myself to create a comic and post it.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry because it’s not very good, and because that’s not what OpenDoor Comics is about; I didn’t create this site for me to post my own comics.  Well, I didn’t create it just for that.  I did plan to start posting some of my own content someday – ideally with the assistance of a collaborator – and when that day came it would be something better than what I just posted.

But if I were only interested in posting my own content, I wouldn’t have put as much effort in building this platform, or at least clearing the space and laying the foundation for a platform, as I have.  I had a long-running blog, after all, and could have just as easily posted comics there.

I’m also sorry because I clearly haven’t done enough to entice talented creators to want to sign up and begin posting their comics here, and that means that the few people who stop by every once in a while aren’t seeing the great comics that they could be seeing.

But, despite the low quality of the cheesy joke comic, I’m also not sorry, because the reason I decided to post something of my own was to test the process of creating a new site, setting it up, and posting to it.  In those terms, my lousy comic was a success, as the process was relatively quick and painless.

In the future, that process will get simplified and automated, once I throw some resources into developing site features based on user feedback, but it’s good to know that, in the meantime, if someone does sign up, I can get them up-an-running pretty quickly.

And I’m also not sorry, because I’m viewing it as a bit of gauntlet-throwing.  I posted a crappy comic.  I’m willing to bet that you can do something better.  In fact, I almost guarantee it.

This Space For…

Jon Maki, President and Publisher
Jon Maki, President and Publisher

…well, not for rent, but I’m not sure that saying “This Space For Free” would make much sense.  Not without some additional context, at any rate.  So here I am, providing some additional context.

What do I mean by “This Space For Free,” you ask?  Exactly that.  This space right here?  Free.

Less flippantly, I’ve been doing a lot of yammering here, which, it is my site, and this is my dedicated “Stan’s Soapbox” corner of it, so that’s only to be expected, I should think.  BUT!  As I mentioned in the Media Kit, this site, and the idea behind it, are not about me.

Another thing I mentioned in the Media Kit is that I’m interested in providing this space to guest posters who have something to say on the topic of comics, diversity, and inclusion.  Comics pros, comics fans – it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, if you have something to say, I’m willing to give you my “soapbox” to stand on.

And that’s the point of this post, and the message behind “This Space For Free.”

I’m looking forward to some occasions on which the face up in the corner is not mine – assuming you want to have your picture appear, of course – and the content of the post isn’t from me.

So if you or someone you know is interested in utilizing this free space, drop me a line at comics@opendoor-comics.com.

Finding The Balance

Jon Maki, President and Publisher
Jon Maki, President and Publisher

As I continue to grapple with the task of getting the word out about OpenDoor Comics and getting creators to begin posting content, I have to admit that it’s difficult to avoid getting at least a little discouraged.  When I look at the traffic stats – or lack thereof – it’s a little depressing, even though I knew from the start that it was never going to be an overnight success, or possibly even an overyears success, and I continue to have faith and cultivate patience.

Along with that creeping discouragement is the fear that, in terms of the site’s functionality, I haven’t done enough to get it polished and ready to go.

I’ve mentioned before that starting with something that’s pretty basic was a deliberate choice, as I wanted to work with enterprising creators who are willing to take a chance on dealing with the initial struggles to develop something that is more sophisticated and also suitable to the needs of the people posting content here.

I don’t want to develop something that just works for me, or that I think will work for someone else, I want to find what works best for (almost) everyone and work to develop that.

But more than that, the fact that people continue to be excluded from participating in comics – as creators and as readers – is behind the creation of OpenDoor Comics, and a large part of that exclusion is the result of not listening.

I want to listen.  I want to learn.  I don’t want to tell you what to do or how to do it, I want you to tell me.

This comes into play more on the services and support side of the side than it does on the comparatively more straightforward technical side, but it is a component in all aspects of the site’s operation.

To give an example, when I first created the sign-up form, I included what seemed to me to be a pretty straightforward set of fields, including one for Name.

However, until it was pointed out to me, I didn’t consider that for many of the people I’m particularly interested in reaching out to and recruiting as creators who will contribute their content, this seemingly innocuous question is not innocuous at all.  Anonymity isn’t just a nice feature, it’s an essential aspect of everyday survival.

Those are the kinds of issues that I’m not going to be mindful of without assistance and guidance, and the thing is that I know enough to know that I don’t really know all that much, which plays a big role in determining the amount of upfront work I’m going to do on the site and my overall approach to developing the features and services offered by OpenDoor Comics.

However, while for the most part in those areas in which some of my goals seem a bit vague and hazy it’s something of a deliberate choice, I am concerned that the reasons behind that lack of clarity are unclear and it just looks like I have no idea what I’m doing.  (But I do, I promise; I just don’t have all of the ideas.)

And of course there’s the matter of time and resources (financial and otherwise).  I make a comfortable living, and I have more money that I could put towards development of the site, but given that I don’t exactly have an unlimited amount of money, and earning that money eats up a lot of my time and resources, I’m really uncertain as to how much of my time and resources I should really invest in what is, so far, a completely unproven idea.

As I look at those goose egg numbers listed in the site usage statistics, I suspect that I haven’t found the right balance and that I should be shifting more resources into the development and marketing of the site.

Still, even though I have no intention of getting discouraged, it would be nice to see some amount of progress happening as a result of what I’ve already invested and to know that if I do start looking at funding some additional development I wouldn’t be throwing good money after bad…

In any case, those tiny moments of despair and questions of investment and development aside, I’ll keep plugging away, because, unproven or not, I continue to believe that this is a good idea, and it’s something that I want to keep working on.

The Whole Kit and Kaboodle

Jon Maki, President and Publisher
Jon Maki, President and Publisher

If you’ve visited the main page of OpenDoor Comics recently, you may have noticed a bit of a change in the form of the embedded, interactive(ish) OpenDoor Comics Media Kit!

It took a lot of time and effort to put together, and while it’s not everything I hoped it would be – one critique I received is that it’s too self-effacing; I’ll have to work on being less modest, I guess – I thought that time and effort called for putting it front-and-center right on the main page.

The Kit is available in PDF form for anyone interested in taking a look at it offline.  It will also be available in physical form someday soon.

Now it’s just a matter of identifying the various media outlets with whom to share the Kit and passing it along.  Feel free to offer any suggestions on that front.

And, as always, feel free to be an unpaid shill and spread the word about OpenDoor Comics, which would include directing any members of the Fourth Estate you happen to know towards the Media Kit.

The Path

Jon Maki, President and Publisher
Jon Maki, President and Publisher

As I’ve been toiling away working on the Media Kit mentioned in my last post – which is why it’s been a while since my last post – there’s been something at the back of my mind that’s given me a bit of pause.

We all know by now (I hope) that OpenDoor Comics is about inclusion and diversity, and giving the opportunity for people who have been excluded or underrepresented in comics – on and off the page – to share their stories.

My concern, though, is that I’m not articulating that message and what it actually means as clearly as I should, and there are certain paths that I’ve seen others who, in general, share the same vision and values that drive OpenDoor Comics, wander down.

That is, I’ve seen times in which the solution to the “diversity problem” – the scare quotes indicate that I don’t see it as a problem so much as an opportunity for improvement; also it’s exclusion, not diversity that is the actual problem – is to essentially take a segregated approach.

Namely, “Let’s draw in women readers by publishing a bunch of comics for women that feature women and are made by women.”

That’s not a bad thing per se, but it’s also kind of a half-assed measure that misses the point.

It’s also not the path I want OpenDoor Comics to take.

Do I want to publish comics made by women that feature women and appeal to women?  Of course!  Comics by and about Trans* people that are for Trans* people?  Absolutely!

I want all of these things and more.

But what I don’t want is to have any sort of rigidly exclusive targeting or creative restrictions.  “Oh, that comic is for women, and I’m a man, so it’s not intended for me.”  Wrong!  That comic is intended for anyone who is interested in it.

“I’m gay, so I have to make comics about gay people for gay people.”  Nope!  Make comics about whatever you want for whomever you want.

That’s the idea behind OpenDoor Comics.  Everyone gets a voice, and everyone is part of the audience.

None of this is to say that women creators, as an example, can’t make comics about women that are primarily targeted at women if that’s what they want to do, it’s that they don’t have to do that.

If you’re a woman and you only want to read comics about women that are by women, that’s your choice to make as well, and hopefully you’ll find what you’re looking for here, as it’s certainly the intent for that to be available, but it is a choice, and the door is open if you want to check out something different, with “something different” being almost anything, with every possible combination of creator and content.

Make what you want to make, read what you want to read, and recognize that it’s your decision.

As for the Media Kit…it’s coming, I promise, and once that step has been taken I’ll move on to the other hundred billion things I need to do in order to make this open door one that people are interested in walking through.

In the meantime, as always, I’m hoping that any of you reading this think that the word is worth spreading and are responding accordingly.

Get Real

Jon Maki, President and Publisher
Jon Maki, President and Publisher

Just popping in to quickly share a link to a goood article on a relevant topic by Laura Hudson at Wired:

It’s Time to Get Real About Racial Diversity in Comics

“The alternative and independent comics scene is leaps and bounds ahead of the big publishers, as usual, and that’s where the real action is happening,” agrees Trotman. “The diversity in perspective and storytelling in the small press scene is incredible. Right now, I honestly suggest anyone looking for comics by black creators skip the mainstream entirely and investigate webcomics. It’s as easy as browsing a Tumblr tag.”

And hopefully someday soon it will be as easy as visiting OpenDoor Comics.

Coming Soon(ish)

Jon Maki, President and Publisher
Jon Maki, President and Publisher

While the site itself seems to be languishing with nary a visit nor, more crucially, a comic creator sign-up, I haven’t been idle.

As time (and energy) allow, I’ve been working on some projects to get the word out and hopefully increase traffic and generate some interest from prospective comics creators.  They are, after all, the primary reason this site exists.

One of those projects is a press release describing the site and its mission and driving home the message that we’re looking for creators to start helping it fulfill that mission.  The release will be, er, released very soon to assorted media outlets, as well as to some of the bigger names in Webcomics and other comics professionals with an online presence, in the hopes that they will help spread the word.

The other, somewhat more involved project, is a comprehensive Media Kit, of which that initial press release is only one component.

Given that this is a place for comics, naturally the Media Kit will emphasize that purpose by the very nature of its format.   It’s still a work in progress, but here’s a sneak peek just to assure you that I am, in fact, still working, despite all other evidence to the contrary.

Media Kit Cover

An Egg Or A Chicken?

Jon Maki, President and Publisher
Jon Maki, President and Publisher

As I’m sure many of you are at least vaguely aware, the pop culture juggernaut that is San Diego Comic-Con took place this weekend.

You’ve no doubt seen the trending stories about movie trailers, TV pilots, and other big multimedia announcements, and, if you’re actually primarily interested in the “comic” aspect of Comic-Con, you most likely saw a lot of announcements about new creative teams, new books, and exciting new directions and storylines.

If nothing else, you may have browsed through galleries full of pictures of clever and creative cosplayers.

I’ve never managed to make it out to Comic-Con myself – I spent most of my weekend engaged in exciting activities like mowing the lawn – though one day I hope to, both as a fan and, in my role as President and Publisher of OpenDoor Comics, an industry professional.

While I’ve got the fan part down, I’m still a long way from being an industry professional, given the place that ODC currently occupies in the industry, which is to say none.

I continue to work on that part – much of my time over the weekend that didn’t involve cutting grass to an HOA-approved height was devoted to marketing strategies and the development of a media kit – but I can’t help wondering if I’m directing my efforts correctly.

So far my approach has been, to use a weird metaphor, to treat this site like an egg.  Over time, with proper attention, it will go on to become a chicken.  The idea being that I’ve essentially launched a no-frills site (laid the egg), and now I’m focusing on getting the word out that it exists in the hope that creators will begin posting their comics (sit on the egg), which will help to develop the site into something more fully-featured (become a chicken).

I can’t help but wonder, though, if instead of saying, “Hey, here’s an egg!  Come sit on it to help it hatch!” I should focus on developing the features and say, “Hey, here’s a chicken!  Come…do…chicken…things?”  …okay, I should probably start moving away from the metaphor, but I think you get the idea.

But that’s the question, particularly as I think about my Comic-Con ambitions:  Which should come first, the chicken, or the egg?

Do I keep trying to get the word out and hope that pioneering souls will find the vision and mission compelling enough to sign up to help me develop the site into the platform, the community, I want it to become, or do I focus my time, effort, and money* on development and try to build the platform first?

I’m sure there’s probably some sort of approach in the middle that I can take, and really, that’s likely to be how things turn out, but it will never be exactly in the middle, as one approach will require more focus than the other.

Regardless of which way I go, it’s unlikely the path I follow will bring me to San Diego anytime soon, but I will, no doubt, begin establish a presence at conventions that are bit closer to home, but when I go to those cons, will I be cosplaying as a chicken or an egg?

*Developing the features I want will not be cheep.  …I’m so sorry.

Independence Is Just The Beginning

Jon Maki, President and Publisher
Jon Maki, President and Publisher

Between my day job, being sidelined by a nasty bout of bronchitis, and a visit from my family, I haven’t been able to devote much time or attention to the site in recent weeks.

That will change going forward, but in the meantime, I wanted to wish a happy and safe 4th of July to all those who celebrate it.

As the USA enters its 239th year, we have much to celebrate in terms of the diversity and inclusiveness in the country as a whole, and in comics.  But, as always, there are still a lot of challenges remaining, and the mission and vision of OpenDoor Comics is as vital as ever.

So, after a short break, efforts to spread the word about OpenDoor Comics and to continue developing the site will resume.

Once again, have fun, and stay safe!