The Threshold

Money, Money, Money, Money*

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

(As part of the migration to the new hosting platform, I’m manually adding back in the posts that were made to The Threshold on the other platform.  If there were comments made on the posts, I have no way of carrying them over to the new site as actual comments, so I will append them at the end of their respective posts.)

Moolah.  Clams.  Benjamins. Filthy lucre.

Let’s talk about money.

The guiding principle for the founding of OpenDoor Comics was a combination of a love of comics and a desire to make the world of comics more open and inviting as possible.

That said, I have to admit that the prospect of bringing in some money also factored into it.

“Aha!” You might say.  “This stuff about being open and inclusive is just a cynical ploy to make money!”

To which I would say no, working at my actual job is a just a cynical ploy to make money.  And as far as cynical ploys go, it’s working out rather well in terms of achieving that end, all things considered.

“Still,” you might go on to say, “You’re only doing this for the money.”
I would argue that my bank account says otherwise, because, “What money?”

But more seriously, I would answer that I’m only doing this for the money so that I can do it.

Because honestly, my little joke about my job being a cynical ploy to make money isn’t really a joke.  There are things I like about what I do, beyond merely getting a paycheck, and I do my job well because I care about doing a job – any job that I’m called upon to do – well, but it’s not really what I’d consider my calling or my passion.

This endeavor, though…well, this I care about.  So yes, I want to make money doing it, because I want it to be more than just a hobby, or something I do on the side.  I want this, and more to the point, the future iterations of this, to be my calling.

If you’re someone who also loves comics and has something to share with the world, I also want it to be your calling.

And I want you to make money from it.

But, again, being honest, the “calling” part is going to have to come first, and as we first get started anyone who steps through the OpenDoor will need to do so for love, not money.  Because, again, “What money?”

There is a minimal amount of advertising on the site right now, and with an increased audience, which first requires content, that will begin to generate some revenue.  Further, as the amount of content grows and the number of page views increase, that will open up options for better, more lucrative advertising opportunities, which will bring in even more revenue.

With more revenue comes additional investment in the site and in the operations of OpenDoor Comics, which means more services – some of which will generate new streams or revenue – to offer in support of hopeful creators, which in turn will help to build the audience further, and many of those services will be provided by you in exchange for additional compensation.

As the expansion continues, opportunities for selling collected editions of comics in traditional and digital formats will open up, and then, well, then we move on to Phase 2…

But yeah.  Love first, then, hopefully, money.

So the obvious question you’re asking yourself – certainly, it’s a question that you should be asking yourself – is “Why should I bother?”

There are plenty of other options available to you.  Domain registration and hosting plans aren’t terribly expensive, so you can always just put your work out there on your own site.  If you don’t want to go that route, there’s always self-publishing via Amazon, and there are places like Tumblr, or Deviant Art, or any number of blogging services to choose from, where you can quickly and easily post your content and have your own advertising accounts and online stores and not have to share any revenue with anyone.

Sure, I have some vague and enigmatic pronouncements about future plans and phases, and how, based on your feedback, I’ll make posting and sharing your content as easy as possible, and how there will be an ever-expanding list of services to choose from but…so what?  Why here, and not literally anywhere else?

Love.

Passion.

A calling.

The Mission and Vision.

The chance to  make this your space as much as or even more than it is mine.

Because you’re welcome here, no matter who you are.  More than that, you’re wanted here.

Why here?  Well, the door is open.  Why not come in?

***

Okay, I guess we talked a little bit more about love than we did money.  In my next post, we’ll get into specifics about some of the revenue opportunities that are available to creators currently, as well as those that are still to come.

*…money!

Hey You Kids! Get ON My Lawn!

(Note:  In the process of moving from one host to another – part of the “Live and Learn” approach I have no choice but to take, some things, such as these posts, have had to be recreated.  In the process, I lost the comments that were made.  Or rather, I lost them as comments that could be directly carried over as comments here.  I still have the text of them, so  I’ve included them at the bottom of this post.)

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

Given that this site is only a week old and has yet to become the home to any sort of content, it should come as no surprise that this isn’t what I do for a living.

By day, I’m your average Corporate Drone, toiling away to help make rich, old white guys even richer. By night…well, by night I’m not much of anything, during the week, at least, because I’m mentally exhausted from spending the day in the cubicle farm, and physically exhausted because I get up ridiculously early in order to get back to the cubicle farm before traffic can begin in earnest.

In any case, in my day job, I work in what’s known as Knowledge Management. What that entails isn’t important, but I mention it simply as a way of introducing a concept from my current vocation.

Most people are familiar with the Law of Supply and Demand, but there’s a Knowledge Management-specific version of that Law that sort of inverts the standard concept.

In essence, this variation states that in order to identify what you need to Supply, you need to first find out what’s in Demand. The illustrative anecdote presented when I was getting my Knowledge Management certification involved an architect who’d been hired to design a college campus.

Once construction had been well-underway, someone noticed that the architect hadn’t included any sidewalks between buildings in the design. This wasn’t an oversight; the idea was that they would open up without any sidewalks in place, plant some grass seed, and then wait a month or two to see what routes the students took when they were left to make the decision for themselves. Once some clear pathways emerged, they put in the sidewalks in those locations.

The Demand for a path determined where they would Supply the sidewalk.

Though I wasn’t familiar with that anecdote when I first conceived of OpenDoor Comics, looking back I can see that I was thinking very much in terms of this Law of Supply and Demand. I saw, and continue to see, a demand for comics that are more reflective of the diversity of readers and creators that populate the world, that can, in some small way, start to address some of the injustices and short-sightedness of the industry and a demand to remove some of the barriers to entry, and to more fully embrace the opportunities that digital media present for all of us as fans and creators.

And now that I’ve started the process of supplying, I’m still thinking in terms of demand.  As it stands, OpenDoor Comics is like that college without the sidewalks. Just as the architect knew that what he needed to provide was a paved pathway between the buildings but took a wait and see attitude about where to do the paving, I know what I want to use the site to supply, but I still need some demand in order to work out the how of it.

To move away from the metaphor, I know that I want people to begin publishing their original content here, and I know that I want to supply a method for doing so that is as simple and hassle-free as possible, and I know that I want to provide additional support and services that go well beyond simply giving people a place to post their content. But while I’ve worked out much of what that service and support will entail, and I have a lot of ideas, particularly on the technical side, about workflow and the sign-up and publishing process, what I really need is for people to begin using the very rudimentary and not-so simple process of becoming a contributor.

I could sink some money into development resources and build some high-tech, automated provisioning system and publishing workflow, and hire some designers to build me a shiny UI that has all the latest bells and whistles, but who knows if that would actually meet the demand?

In many ways, to return to the sidewalk metaphor, as I continue to reach out to creators and ask them to begin contributing content, I’m really asking them to walk on the grass seed and help me identify the best path.

Sure, your shoes will probably get dirty and grass-stained, and your heels will get stuck in the mud on rainy days, but the end result of your patience will be the best path to your destination, and you will have helped to blaze a trail for others to follow.

So please, keep ON the grass!

Great ideas, keep on being awesome, Jon!

– Jenny
(P.S.  Thanks, Jenny!)

What you just described was what my sort of folk (small business owners) would call a “LEAN Startup” strategy. Spend the smallest amount of resources to test a concept before spending more to improve or expand on it. I wish that my creative talents allowed me to contribute here (I have degrees and experience in theatre and films, but I can’t draw worth a lick), but if you ever need someone to bounce business ideas off, hit me up.

– John Brandt

Come On In!

jon_maki
Jon Maki, President and Publisher

So what in the world is OpenDoor Comics?

Well, as you can see for yourself, it isn’t much of anything at the moment.

I’ve been kicking this idea around for about two years now, and recently decided to start moving it out of my head and into the world, and what you see here, now, is the result of those efforts.

And, again, the result of those efforts isn’t really all that much.

BUT!

There is more – much, much more – to come in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.

The plan for OpenDoor Comics has several phases, and if I’m honest, we’re probably not even to Phase 1 yet. We’re probably somewhere around Phase 0.2.You may be asking, “What will Phase 1 look like?” Then again, you may not, but either way, I’ll tell you.

With Phase 1 we’ll have an established platform for creators of original webcomics to share their ideas with the world, and a place where fans of the art of putting words and pictures together can come to see comics of all types and styles that are as diverse as the people behind them.

There will be changes to the look and feel of the site, an index of categorized links to all of the content contained herein, profiles for creators, areas for discussion between fans and creators, more opportunities to purchase merchandise – including tools and templates for creating comics of your own – additional services and expanded support for creators, and just generally more.

As for Phase 2, well, while we pride ourselves on openness here, I’d rather not spoil the surprise just yet.

Still, I haven’t really answered the original question, have I?

OpenDoor Comics is an idea born out of my lifelong love of comics. Given what’s happening at the Box Office, one might think that comics rule the world. Sadly, that’s not really the case, and there are many reasons why that’s so.

The rapid growth of the Internet over the past two decades has opened the door for people all over the world, with vastly different backgrounds, experiences, and lifestyles to share their creativity, their ideas, and their stories. Social Media, Web publishing platforms, and the various eBook marketplaces: all of these and more represent an unprecedented opportunity for self-expression.

With that said, barriers still remain. Rigid, restrictive categorization, the old media mindset, and technological hurdles can seem daunting and impossible to overcome for many people. The door may be open, but for whatever reason, many people just can’t walk through.

Worse, many are actively prevented from walking through. Online harassment and the toxic culture of trolls are an unfortunately predictable outcome of the open and anonymous nature of the Internet, but that represents only a part of the problem. While there is significant overlap with the behavior of trolls and other online bullies, the real problem is one of a general desire to keep the door closed.

Hate, ignorance, and simple malice are components, but the real problem is one of fear. Fear of a loss of privilege and hegemony, fear of reprisal for years of oppression and intolerance, and a simple fear of the other.

In traditional media, this has led to a depressing level of homogeny. Overwhelmingly, our choices for creative expression are made by straight, white men for straight, white men. This is especially true in the world of comics, where the lack of diversity both on the comic page and off has led to an ever-diminishing audience and volumes of in-depth online discussion of the causes, effects, and solutions to the problems that stem from the unexamined privilege of the creators and consumers of comics.

In catering almost exclusively to what they view as the majority of their audience, comics publishers ignore the real majority, and fail to recognize that a majority is simply a collection of minorities.

Despite the protests of those who fear the loss of their privilege, embracing the diversity of creative voices in comics can only expand the medium’s audience.

And that’s why I’ve launched OpenDoor Comics.

For comics to continue to thrive in the way that I, as someone who loves them – warts and all – want them to, they have to change. Not just in terms of embracing new technology and distribution methods, but in terms of embracing new ideas and moving away from the closed, exclusionary ways.

So I want to open things up, even if only just by the slightest margin.

Obviously, I can’t do it alone, and this one little site – even if it grows beyond my wildest dreams – can’t change the world, or even the world of comics, but it’s a start.

I’m doing what I can to make sure the door is open. I’m hoping that you’ll come in and help keep it open.