Shared Story Worlds and transmedia projects are still searching for the big success story. The DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND setting is joining that search. How can we build sustainable businesses on top of open content?

This setting has been licensed under Creative Commons for years now, but finding a revenue stream, some way to make the project pay for itself (and make possible more ambitious projects) has been difficult. But we’ve just begun a new experiment we hope will find that success. Recently we announced our plans to produce a traditional copyright narrative based on this setting: the comic book REFORM SCHOOL NINJA GIRLS.

Producing a comic book costs money, and like I said, up to now DINO-PIRATES has had no reliable revenue stream. We have turned to crowdfunding. We’ve just launched an Indiegogo project to raise the funds necessary to produce the first issue. Crowdfunding systems like Indiegogo or its more famous cousin, Kickstarter, are providing avenues to funds that previously were not available to creators. We can connect to fans of our project, and collect their pledges to help us financially, making it possible for the artist (in this case) to work full-time on the project, even though we don’t have a finished product or any sales channel set up yet.

Of course, those things will have to come. The goal of this campaign is to produce a completed first issue, but we’ll need to find ways to sell that issue, and sell enough copies that we can afford to do a second issue.

It wasn’t easy to get to this point. We’ve invested years of time polishing the story and the character designs. Thousands of dollars were spent (not many thousands, but still, THOUSANDS) getting sufficient art together to prove that the project had worth, to show prospective backers that there was something really special going on here. A team had to be assembled, and a plan put together, before we ever launched the Indiegogo campaign, but all that is behind us now, and the campaign is live.

It’s an experiment. It remains to be seen if we can generate enough money to pay for the first issue. Even should we succeed at that, will we sell enough copies of that issue to finance the second? Will this turn into a viable, sustainable business?

We don’t know. We’re just starting this experiment. But stay tuned to find out how it works. I’m convinced that somewhere in this territory lives the model for building good businesses out of open content.

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