I would say that one of the good things about the new Diamond policy is that it removes the necessity of having to worry if my product is commercial or not because it will now start from a default state of non-commercial. If I want to make something commercial, I have to work very hard and meet certain formulaic benchmarks – strong suggestions that tend to include the word “should.” And, if I want to measure my success by a financial metric, these benchmarks are damn near necessary.
A central tenet of business planning is that the person who takes on the most risk stands to gain the most reward. The trick, then, is to identify the risk in the equation, because the reward will be directly keyed to the risk. It may not always be obvious, but it will be there. And, if there is no obvious reward, there probably isn’t a reason to take the risk.
In comics publishing (and publishing in general), the risk comes from printing – literally, creating a hard copy that can be sold and consumed in the most convenient fashion. So printing costs are the risk, sales are the reward and convenience is the hook. Notice that content doesn’t factor into the equation.
The truth is that content is free. I can (and do) publish the content for nothing. It’s easy to do and there is absolutely no risk associated with it. And, by any realistic financial scale, there is no measurable reward. Fair enough. But if my criteria for success is “to have people read my material,” then free content is not an obstacle to overcome – but a measurable means to an end.
The reward comes from the convenience of having the story continue. For example, book one will run until May. Book two will not start as a webcomic until January of 2010. But, if you get to the end of book one and do not want to wait seven months, you can buy the next book immediately.