No Sex, Please; We’re Printers: ‘Smut Peddler’ Creator Spike Trotman On The Challenge Of Publishing Porn
American printing houses: We need to talk.
I coordinate an erotic comic anthology called Smut Peddler. The 2014 edition is on Kickstarter right now, and it's slaying. Owning. Knockin' 'em dead. Far and away, the most popular KS project I've ever run. And I'm glad its been so well-received, because otherwise it wouldn't be worth the aggravation.
Have you ever tried to print comic book porno? Not a picnic. I know where to look, thanks to two years of experience and the aid of a freelance print production manager, but it still took two weeks and a dozen price quotes. I had to assemble a PDF of what I call "the black diamond pages," or the most potentially objectionable content, to send around with the quote requests. I had to double and triple-check. "There is sex in this. There are sex organs in this. There is penetration in this. Is that okay? Are you sure? Very sure? Did you see the PDF?"
I don't enjoy being a pain in the ass; I do it because I can't just assume. I've heard all the horror stories. Printers ditching a job halfway through pre-press. Printers pulling out after the proof stage. Printers price-gouging when they think they're your only option. I'll have 4,000 Kickstarter backers waiting on me before this is over; I can't let this go up in smoke.
Before you say these are reasonable obstacles on the path to producing graphic content, know that the first printer I approached -- the first house, a personal favorite I'd worked with before -- happily produced my previous anthology, a horror collection called The Sleep of Reason.
Smut Peddler features consensual oral sex. The Sleep of Reason features a man getting his dick bitten off.
NEWS FLASH: America has sex hang-ups. We're still running on the fumes of puritanical fanaticism, and it manifests in nonsensical ways. But porn makes this country between ten and thirteen billion dollars a year. Some of that money that goes into the respectable, starched pockets of General Motors and TimeWarner. And it's still subject to eye-rollingly hypocritical, spottily enforced persecution that makes every producer of adult entertainment just a little bit paranoid... and ornery (people dealing with random bouts of arbitrary injustice usually are).
Consider Smut Peddler's 2012 edition. And consider Gumroad, current darling of digital sales start-ups. SP downloads were sold on Gumroad for over half a year before the creator of a rejected Smut Peddler submission graduated from blowing up my inbox to mounting a campaign against the book until it was removed from the service.
Gumroad was okay with Smut Peddler. And then when more people started paying attention, it wasn't.
Likewise, sometimes printers are okay with porn. Until they aren't.
The point: I'm not expecting the world to change any time soon. But printers, publishers of adult material can be some of your best customers. Keep your word, treat us with respect, and offer a fair price. We appreciate it. And of the love of God, make it easy to find you.
Every convention I attend has a half-dozen printing reps haunting the small press booths, handing out flyers. Y'know which ones I would actually keep? The ones that say "WE PRINT ADULT MATERIAL." Make it easy. Make it obvious. Because when I usually ask a print rep their house's stance on smut, the answer is pretty predictable.
"I'd have to run it by my boss." means no.
"Submit it for review and we'll see what happens!" means no, too.
"Maybe." Yeah, that's another no.
Be the rep who says, "Yes." And let people know you say yes. Help us out.
We're grown-ups, okay?