A Stall

Jon Maki, President and Publisher

Last time I talked about how this whole thing got started and how ever since that start things have been stalled at the gate. I also got into some of the reasons why I think that’s the case, why there has been no significant growth of the platform or movement towards achieving the vision that OpenDoor Comics represents.

The biggest reason, I suppose, is that I really don’t know what I’m doing, and I probably should have done a LOT more research before I got started, rather than just winging it and trying to learn as I go, but if I hadn’t started when I did, I probably never would have started at all. And, frankly, the learning-as-I-go thing was actually part of the vision.

The idea was that, sure, I could do a bunch of research and use that to try to build something more sophisticated using what I learned, but the end result would, ultimately, be based on my ideas alone, and what I think is best, and that was counter to what I wanted to achieve. I wanted to take many ideas, many perspectives, and build something that was not necessarily all things to all people but was at least many things to many people.

I didn’t want to just put out something that I built, I wanted to provide the opportunity for us to build something together. Giving people a voice was the idea at the core of OpenDoor Comics, after all, and while I may not know much about running a comics-publishing platform, what I do know a lot about is gathering requirements and translating those requirements into solutions.

Which brings us, finally, to what I think has been the biggest cause of the stall, one I mentioned in the last post: I haven’t managed to present the oft-referenced “vision” in a compelling way, which is a problem, because the vision was supposed to be the thing that got things moving.

So let’s try to fix that, by getting into what the ultimate vision is and what I see as being the phases of achieving it.

The first phase, which is where we are now, and have been for a while, is just getting it out there. Putting something out in the universe. So let’s assess:

The site exists. There are social media accounts associated with it. There is a (potential) source of revenue in the form of advertising. There is – basic, kind of clunky – functionality for creating sites and posting comics.

The goal for this phase is to just get people to show up. To use the platform – such as it is – to post comics, sell things (custom brushes, actions, etc.) through the online store, offer their services as collaborators with other creators, and just help the platform grow an audience.

All of these things are in place right now. You can sign up and create a site, and you can begin posting comics, and I am here to help you do that.

And all of these things are free to the creators, and bring with them the potential for generating revenue for themselves, as the bulk of the advertising revenue their comics generate go to them, and they have the opportunity to leverage the comics they post here to generate even more, by using the site as a portfolio to showcase their work to other, established publishers, or through crowdfunding.

Growth at this phase would provide the means for improving the basic functionality, and for moving on to the next phase.

So far, it’s largely been marked by my limited attempts at sharing my own stuff, which I’ve done mostly just to show that it can be done. If I can put my comics out there, so can you.

But the problem is that it makes it all about me, and it isn’t, and never has been.

This phase is the one in which it’s crucial to bring in people who find the vision compelling and want to make it a reality. This is the phase where I do the learning, and gather the requirements, and we start to build. Are the terms of the revenue sharing adequate? I don’t know! I need you to tell me that. Are there ways in which we can improve the posting experience using the system that’s in place? Probably! Let me know!

We should be constantly working to improve, well, everything during this phase. Find a better hosting solution. Build a bespoke, less confusing interface for posting and sharing and collaborating. Allow me to start hiring people who do know what they’re doing.

If at this stage we can achieve a state in which there is a compelling experience – for readers and creators – and generate enough revenue to keep investing in improvements, keep the creators happy and paid, and keep a roof over my head, that would be a success. But it would also help to move on to the next phase.

The next phase would involve offering paid services for creators who want something more than what’s available for free. More promotion of their work, with paid moderators and social media managers, customized interfaces, opportunity for generating much more revenue, and the ability to draw on the resources of a virtual bullpen of potential collaborators.

In my non-OpenDoor Comics work, AKA the work I actually get paid for – I often ask the question “What does success look like?” when starting or evaluating a project.

For OpenDoor Comics, success looks like being a full-fledged publisher, not only of comics and comics-related media (Movies! TV!), but of tools for producing comics, such as software, how-to books, and online solutions for collaboration and publishing. Beyond offering free and paid services for posting self-submitted comics, OpenDoor Comics would publish solicited works under its own brand, and that brand would be one that’s committed to the idea that Comics Are For Everyone.

Because that’s the ultimate vision of OpenDoor Comics. It’s about opening the door to those who have been knocking on it. It’s about letting in those that the small minority of gatekeepers are trying to keep out.

My vision – what I hope can be our vision – is to tell the gators and the “get woke, go broke” crowd to eat shit. Not out of spite, but out of love, a love for the medium that has meant so much to me for so long, and out of a belief in that single idea.

Comics are for everyone.

So that’s the vision I wanted to share with you, and the vision that I hope you’ll share with me.

Maybe it was foolish of me to even try, but it’s something I have to try. Not for me, or at least, not just for me, but for everyone who has ever dreamed of making comics, and especially for everyone who has ever been told that they shouldn’t be allowed to even try.

Again, I know it’s not ideal and there is so much room for improvement, and for every problem I do see – the clunky interface, the revenue model – there are undoubtedly dozens or hundreds I don’t, and that, as much as anything else, is why I need you. I need you to try it out, get frustrated, and offer suggestions for improvement.

It’s a lot to ask, I know, and I probably still haven’t made a convincing argument for any of it, but…well, honestly, I don’t have a “but” to follow that up with.

All I have is hope, and all I know is that hope is something we could all use a little bit more of these days.

I’ve started and I’ve stalled, but I will continue to keep trying to restart, and I know I can if I have you to help me.


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