The Threshold

Housekeeping

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

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I had to make some behind-the-scenes changes with the OpenDoor Comics site.  Anyone who visited the site before and after the changes would no doubt have noticed that the site looked quite a bit different as a result.

When I initially launched the OpenDoor Comics site I went with Squarespace as my hosting and content management solution, based on a lot of positive feedback I’d heard and read about their service, and I have to say that, initially, I was quite pleased.  It was a very clean and easy-to-use system.

I signed up with Squarespace operating on the assumption that at some point, particularly if/when the site begins to expand, I would need to move to a more robust – and complex – system.  I had hoped that day was a little further down the road, and would come at a time during which I could afford to bring on some staff (or freelancers) to engage in some development work and build a customized content management system.

Unfortunately, that day came much sooner than anticipated, as I discovered that in its current iteration Squarespace can’t actually provide some of the essential features I require just to get things started.  And so I had to move to a different hosting and content management solution.

Fortunately, the process wasn’t too painful, and I’ve got the functionality that I need, though there is still a bit of a learning curve ahead for me with the new system.

To be clear, I am in no way finding fault with Squarespace or their product offerings.  It’s a very good service, and provides an ideal platform for hosting sites that are perhaps a bit less ambitious than this one.  It really is very easy to use and it makes it possible to build a beautiful, responsive site in no time at all.  So on that front, I highly recommend Squarespace for users whose requirements are a bit more straightforward than mine.

In any case, now that OpenDoor Comics has found a new home, I’ve created some new pages  – Creator FAQ and For Collaborators – that provide some details about the opportunities available for anyone interested in helping OpenDoor Comics fulfill its mission.

For those of you who are interested in helping OpenDoor Comics fulfill its mission through less creative means, you can follow @OpenDoor_Comics on Twitter, like our Facebook page, follow us on Google+ and Tumblr, disable your ad blockers, buy some products from the OpenDoor Comics Shop, spread the word through your own social media accounts, leave comments with suggestions and feedback, and/or click on the “Donate” button to help with funding the mission.

And, of course, just remember that the door is open and you’re welcome to come in.

Let’s Keep The Momentum

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

While the work on getting the site comfortable in its new house continues, and I continue the efforts to develop it further and turn this house into a home, I wanted to share a link to an interesting – and hopeful – article on Comics Alliance.

For Second Year In A Row, Female Readers Are A Growing Market

One quote in particular very neatly encapsulates the reason I decided to launch OpenDoor Comics in the first place.

This is exciting news, and along with the top selling books at retailers, it points to an increasing diversification of the comics industry. A wider variety of books are selling and a wider variety of creators are succeeding at levels that just weren’t possible a few years ago. It becomes a delightful oroboros [sic] of new reader demographics supporting books that appeal to those demographics, which bring in more new readers, who support more books that appeal to them.

That’s it in a nutshell.  Let’s help keep comics growing and gaining new readers.

Sign up today to become a creator on the OpenDoor Comics platform and build your audience.

 

Money Changes Everything

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.  Note that in the time since I originally posted this I have created an FAQ, have voted in favor of Patreon, and created a Google+ page.)

Right, money.

Given that it’s all going out at the moment with none coming in, I’m not quite sure what to talk about in that regard, but I suppose we do need to discuss the opportunities currently available to creators to earn at least some amount of revenue via OpenDoor Comics as things get started.

Advertising Revenue

That one is pretty straightforward; every page will feature a space in which ads will be displayed.  As ad revenue comes in, sources of revenue will be identified – that is, which pages featuring the ads are generating the clicks/impressions – the totals will be tallied, and payouts to the creators will be made on an agreed-upon schedule.

OpenDoor Comics will retain 5% of the revenue.

To keep it simple, let’s see what that would look like with some nice round numbers.

Say that the total advertising revenue for a given period of time comes to $1,000.  You, as a creator posting content to your OpenDoor Comics site, are responsible for driving 10% of that revenue, or $100.  Your payout would be $95, with OpenDoor Comics keeping $5.

Another creator accounts for 25% of the $1,000 total.  That creator’s payout would be $237.50, with OpenDoor Comics retaining $12.50.

80% of advertising revenue generated by any of the main OpenDoor Comics pages – Home, The Threshold, etc. – will be retained by OpenDoor Comics, with the remaining 20% distributed equally between creators.  (Note:  Creator sites will be housed in a folder called “Comics.”  An example of a creator site might be something like www.opendoor-comics/com/comics/example_page.)

Advertising revenue generated by other sites owned and operated by OpenDoor Publishing, LLC, the parent company of OpenDoor Comics, which do not house content from any of the creators at OpenDoor Comics, will be retained entirely by OpenDoor Publishing, LLC.

In the interest of transparency, OpenDoor Comics will provide all creators with the analytics information used for identifying revenue sources in a quarterly report.

Sales

There are two sales channels currently available via OpenDoor Comics:  The OpenDoor Comics Shop, which is a Café Press online storefront selling physical merchandise, and the Supply Closet, a digital store incorporated into opendoor-comics.com.

OpenDoor Comics Shop
Creators submitting designs to the OpenDoor Comics Shop will receive 97% of the revenue from sales, with OpenDoor Comics retaining 3%.

Revenue from the sales of OpenDoor Comics-branded merchandise created by OpenDoor Comics directly will be entirely retained by OpenDoor Comics.

Supply Closet
The Supply Closet is a store selling digital downloads, primarily consisting of tools and templates for use in illustration and image editing software such as Adobe Photoshop and Manga Studio.  Examples include custom brushes, custom layer styles, shapes, page templates, actions, and fonts.

There are two methods by which creators can sell their products via the Supply Closet.

The first is by listing/uploading product directly.  Sellers can set their own price and will receive 100% of the revenue; however, OpenDoor Comics will add a 5% processing fee to the price set by the seller.  If you set a price of $5 for a collection of custom brushes, the final sales price will be $5.25.  OpenDoor Comics will keep $0.25, and the creator will receive $5.

The second is by selling your product to OpenDoor Comics for a negotiated one-time fee that provides OpenDoor Comics with a license to redistribute the product.  No additional payments/royalties will be received by the seller.

Collaboration

If you have applicable skills and would like to offer your services as a collaborator, you can sign up via the form on the For Creators page and be added to the index of creators available to be matched with other creators.  Specific payment terms will be negotiated between collaborators, and any content or products published to or sold by OpenDoor Comics will be subject to the revenue terms listed above.

More information about the matching service will be provided in an upcoming post.

***

So…that’s it for right now.  In all honesty, while I think they are, I have no idea if these terms are fair and/or reasonable.  With that said, they’re subject to change as OpenDoor Comics evolves, but no changes will be made without notice or agreement.

It’s also worth mentioning again that creators retain the full rights to all content published or sold via OpenDoor Comics, with the exception of any “work for hire” products created under separately-negotiated terms.

What about services like Patreon that allow fans to directly contribute to creators?

Honestly, I’m not sure on that one just yet.  I’m generally in favor of allowing it, but I have to admit that I don’t know enough about how it works, and, more specifically, how it would work here.  For example, if you wanted to offer your patrons an ad-free experience on your pages, I’m not sure what, if any, options are available for selectively disabling ads.  I think that’s a bridge we’ll have to cross when we come to it.  That said, you’re certainly welcome to include your own PayPal “donate” buttons on your comics pages in the meantime.

In terms of the future, as mentioned in the previous post, as more content is offered and the audience grows, there will be opportunities for more and better advertising, and as the functionality of the site expands and OpenDoor Comics grows as a company, there will be other opportunities for revenue as well, such as print-on-demand services, and eBook sales via this site and other eBook marketplaces.

Additionally, I will rework this post slightly and turn it into its own permanent FAQ page.

Comments:

Hi there! I think your project is neat, and I have several questions/comments. I’m aware this thing is in early alpha, to use video game terminology, so I don’t mean any of this negatively- I’m just curious and want to see how best to work with this if I can.

0) What experience do you have with website hosting, other webcomics hosts, dealing with ads and other proposed sources of revenue, freelance work and contracts, and social media promotion? Basically, how much experience do you have with doing the stuff you say you’ll be offering?

1) What sort of hosting are you planning to provide? Is it all through Squarespace? (I have no familiarity with Squarespace beyond Googling them when you mentioned it.) If so, does that mean we’d be paying for Squarespace hosting, meaning you’re mostly offering the collaboration and promotional aspects?

For an average comics-person with little experience in or desire to do coding or backend work, what specific features are you offering or considering offering, or what will be available through Squarespace?

2) Do you have a general strategy for your site promotion/social media promotion? What platforms are you considering?

3) How are you planning on paying? Quarterly? Through what service?

4) A Patreon would generally be a thing that exists outside the bounds of the site. If your hosting doesn’t do ad-free/early release/whatever then someone just wouldn’t offer those things via Patreon, or would find some other means of doing it. I’d agree with not worrying about it at this point.

5) Can you give an ETA, even if a very general one, on the basic site features like posting comics? Even if you don’t have revenues worked out I’m sure some people wouldn’t mind setting up their pages/blogs and maybe generating some interest for an opening. How about a list of your next priorities?

6) Anything you’d need or like volunteer experience on? What can other people do to contribute outside of tossing the link around?

Good luck!

– too lazy to log into anything

Great questions. They’re all things I’ve been meaning to address, but, as with everything else, you have to start somewhere, so my focus in these posts has been on various other aspects.

0) Honestly? I have very little in the way of direct experience. I have, in the past, worked in public relations and advertising. It was a very different, less digital world back then, but the basic principles apply, I think. I’m very much learning as I go, but I am learning, and I plan to begin bringing in others with more expertise to help keep things moving. Some of that will be through directly hiring people and enlisting the aid of friends and family, and some will be through building a community of creators and readers who will help to fill in the gaps. There’s going to be a lot of trial-and-error, and I probably should have done more to prepare before I got started, but I was at a point, personally, at which I had to stop thinking about it and planning and just dive in and do something.

1) The hosting is all on me – I have a Business plan with Squarespace that provides me with plenty of space and bandwidth. Comics creators will not have to pay anything to post their content.

2) I’m in the process of assembling a Media Kit that I’ll be sending out to comics-related sites (Comics Alliance, Comic Book Resources, io9, etc.) and podcasters, and I’m establishing some connections via my local comic shop and will be displaying at cons and local comic shows. In terms of platforms, ODC currently has a presence on Facebook and Twitter, and will soon have one on Google+ (I know). I don’t really “get” Tumblr – not in a philosophical sense, more in a “Maybe I’m old and out of touch, but this looks like a disorganized mess to me” kind of way – but that’s a pretty obvious avenue as well. Beyond that, I’ll also utilize reddit, handling the job of rehosting content on Imgur and posting to r/comics, r/webcomics, etc. on behalf of the comics creators and setting up AMAs.

3) This is an area in which I need to find out what works best for people, whether it’s on a regular schedule, or if they would rather choose to be paid based on crossing a certain earning threshold. Possibly it’ll be a completely flexible arrangement, with different options available. PayPal, despite its drawbacks, seems like the most obvious, but I’m open to better alternatives. Actual paper checks are also an option.

4) Yeah, that was pretty much my thinking.

5) Right now! It will take some manual intervention on my part for the near term, but anyone who wants to post can post. To be clear, the process involves filling out the sign-up form and creating a (free) Squarespace Profile. Once you – the general you – provide me the details about your comic I can create your site (using the built in blogging feature for the time being) in the “Comics” folder, and when you have a Profile I can invite you to become a contributor. I’ll work with you to get your site set up to your liking, and you’ll be up and running.

6) As I want to ensure that the level of discourse stays relatively civil once actual content goes live and the discussions begin, I’ll need some people to volunteer to be moderators. Based on the volume of content and the need to promote it, there may also be a need to assist with some of the social media promotion. (It’s my intention, by the way, for those sorts of volunteer activities to eventually become paying gigs.) Beyond that, people can like the OpenDoor Comics Facebook page (www.facebook.com/opendcomics), follow @OpenDoor_Comics on Twitter, buy some stuff from the OpenDoor Comics Shop, click the “Donate” button, and keep leaving comments and suggestions.

Thanks!

– Me, in reply

Awesome. Thanks for replying.

I’ve filled out the sign-up form and haven’t heard back or seen anything change on the site, so I wasn’t sure if there was a technical problem or what was supposed to happen next.

– still too lazy

Thanks for letting me know – there definitely does seem to be a technical issue. I didn’t get an e-mail, but your information was saved, so I do have it. I’ll get back to you soon via comics@opendoor-comics.com.

– Me, in reply

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.