I started blogging a long time ago, back before it was called “blogging.” That was in 1998, when people were making Geocities sites and coding little diaries with guestbooks (GUESTBOOKS! omg, and webrings) for visitors to leave comments. Then there was LiveJournal. Then there was Movable Type. I did all of that, and I loved it. In 1999, I started Absolutely Vile. It was initially a dated repository for my signage photography, and then in 2001, it became a BLOG-blog.
I wrote about pretty much everything. Decorating my apartments in Brooklyn, music I liked, shoes I wanted to buy, how much I wished there was a Target nearby, what I was eating for dinner, who I was going to vote for in the next election, what was on television that night…just about anything, really. That was back in the days when blog posts didn’t even necessarily have photos in them. I mean, most people didn’t even have digital cameras, much less iPhones that could capture and share any moment, instantly.
In 2007, after taking a couple of years off from blogging, I started Door Sixteen. This very blog! By then, things had changed a little in blogging-land. Movable Type was out, and WordPress was in. Some people were making money from blogging through advertising. Jason Kottke tried out a reader-supported model. And lots and lots and lots of the blogs that I had devotedly read in the early 2000s were gone. By the late 2000s, blogs had focus. They were about a particular subject, not just about an individual’s entire big messy life. I decided I would write about my house—renovating it and decorating it—but eventually it became about my entire big messy life, because I just can’t help myself. Oh well.
Anyway. Since 2007, I’ve been all over the place in how to approach the monetary side of blogging. My JOB has always been designing book covers, and I’ve never wanted to change that. I worked for the same publishing company for 17 years—again, I’m a loyalist. So my feeling was really just that I needed my blog to pay for itself. That meant that (a) it needed to generate enough income to cover the cost of hosting, and (b) I needed to make sure that if I turned down any freelance design work because of the time I needed to spend working on my blog, that I made enough money to cover the difference in income. And that plan worked! I accepted a few sponsored posts a year, I sold sidebar ad space directly to independent businesses, and I started using automatic affiliate links so I could a little commission from sales generated from products I wrote about in posts. I didn’t make much money, but I didn’t need to. Like I said, I just needed the blog to pay for itself.
When I left my job in New York and moved to New Mexico in 2015, things got much harder to balance. Aside from having mixed feelings about sharing stuff, I had to really focus on making sure that my freelance work as a book cover designer was THE THING. It had to come before anything else. And for four years, it did. And I made enough money to pay my bills and my rent and have a little left over. I started putting more time into my print shop at Society6, too, and that became a nice way to generate a little extra income, which I’ve tried to save.
About six months ago, though, something happened. I didn’t really notice it at first, but I was gradually getting less and less freelance work every month. A lot of people I know in the publishing world had gotten laid off, and suddenly there was a lot of “competition” (not that any of us have been actively competing with each other) for the freelance work that was there. Budgets got cut more and more, and covers that previously might have gone to freelancers started to be handled by in-house designers. The entire publishing industry is facing catastrophe right now, and that extends all the way down the line to authors and booksellers and yes, book cover designers.
It’s getting scary. It’s been getting scary. Actually, it’s even scarier right now because there are so many other designers whose contracts have been canceled and whose clients have delayed projects indefinitely because their own economic situation is so tenuous. And nobody is buying stuff they don’t need. I have friends who are retailers who haven’t made a sale in weeks. So we’re all out here trying to figure our shit out.
Meanwhile, I keep thinking about blogging. I have missed it so much. SO MUCH. I’m living in this great little house and doing so much stuff with it, and there’s nothing like the feeling of sharing something that you’ve done and in turn inspiring someone to do something with their own home that makes them feel good about where they live and about what they’re capable of doing. That was a long, weird sentence, but I hope you get what I’m saying. This is my thing. You don’t blog for 22 years if you don’t love it. And I really want to share this house with you, and show you the whole renovation—the stuff that’s done, and the stuff that’s still to be done.
So maybe this can be how I make a living? Or at least part of my living? Or even just a small addendum to my living? Something. Any of these things.
I’m not sure what that means in practice, exactly, and I’m willing to try different things to see what makes the most sense in the long term. (For what it’s worth, I did apply to an ad network, but I was rejected—probably because of the erratic patterns in my traffic, which I understand. I’ll resubmit an application once I’ve been back at this regularly for a while and see what happens.)
In the mean time, it’s been suggested to me by some longtime readers of Door Sixteen that maybe I should add some kind of donation option to the blog. I’d always rejected that idea because I have a hard time suggesting that anyone pay me to do anything (yes, this is a bad mentality for a freelancer to have, I know), and also because I don’t ever want to assume that anyone can even afford to do stuff like pay for things that aren’t absolute necessities—especially now.
That said, I did recently launch a Patreon. There are only two tiers of support, and they’re both pretty modest. If enough of you are able to pledge a few bucks a month, then at least the cost of hosting Door Sixteen would be covered. If a few more of you can chip in, then I can afford to spend more time here blogging and less time trying to scrape together income from other sources. Maybe it would mean I wouldn’t need to bother with an ad network at all? We’ll see. And if a whole bunch of you became Door Sixteen supporters, that would mean more funds available to do more projects—including fun DIY stuff that I could share (including stuff like printables—like the coloring book I shared yesterday—that could be available for download)! I have lots of ideas, and I’m really excited about the prospect of taking this old blog here to the next level in terms of it being a resource…and a respite.
So I’d love to have your support on Patreon, if it’s something you can comfortably do. If you contribute, I’ll add your name to a Blog Supporters page on Door Sixteen (I’ll also include link to your website or social media account, if you’d like). And even if you can’t, Door Sixteen will still be here for you to enjoy, for free. I promise.
Thanks for hearing me out, and for reading this whole mess of a post. I appreciate it so, so much. Thanks for sticking with me for all these years.