Well, not really annual. The last time I bitched and moaned about how tough it is to be an adult cartoonist was a couple of years ago. Get your tiny violins ready. Here I go again:
PayPal still has a rule against selling erotic or X-rated works of art via their services. You can sell physical artwork or physical adult magazines but not digital material. Many people do use PayPal for adult commissions for example and they’ve never had a problem. But it’s a dangerous game. Know that all it takes is one “disgruntled” or dissatisfied customer who wants to report you. PayPal will seize the funds in your account for no less than six months. I got in trouble with PayPal once for putting one of their buttons on my website, blondemarvel.com. Turns out it’s against their rules to have a PayPal button on an adult website. My account was suspended for six months (they allowed me to withdraw the funds I had) and to tell the truth it was never really un-suspended. But I know of two artists who had their accounts suspended and they weren’t allowed to touch their money for six months.
I’ve sold a handful of adult comics via Drive-Thru. They are a great service. At least they allow X-rated comics, for which I’m grateful. I’ve made a bunch of money with them but I could have made more if my comic wasn’t X-rated. If your comic is X-rated, Drive-Thru kind of puts it out of reach of their casual consumer. It’s not included in casual browsing. It’s not included in some promotional campaigns.
Scenario: Let’s say I want you to check out my comic. On my website I provide a link to where my comic is sold on Drive-Thru. If my comic was a plain old everyday PG rated book, the link would take you directly to the page where my comic is sold on Drive-Thru. You can preview it and decide if you do or don’t want to buy it. If you do, then naturally you have to open an account, give your email address, and so forth. But, because my comic is X-rated, Drive-Thru won’t allow the link to go directly to the page where my comic is sold. Instead you are asked to give your information and affirm you are an adult. Then they will allow you to see my comic. This is ass backwards. Who wants to sign up to a website just to preview a comic they may or may not buy? I’ve sold comics on Drive-Thru but mostly to people who were already members of the site.
Project Wonderful: This is moot because I don’t use them anymore and don’t even know if they are still relevant in this age of AdBlock. But when I did use them, they were very bitchy about advertising adult comics. Not at first, but gradually they became more skittish about it. But what really got my goat was that a lot of cartoonists who were making adult comics themselves would not allow advertising from other adult cartoonists. As a website owner, you had to manually “opt in” to allow adult advertisers and many just failed to do so. It was frustrating to see a comic that was R or X rated that would be perfect to place an ad, only to find out that they didn’t allow adult ads. And by “adult ads” I don’t mean that the ads were explicit or raunchy but that the ad linked to an adult website. I had to write people individually and ask why they didn’t allow adult ads on their adult website and most were unaware that they had to opt in. Usually they would opt in and allow me to advertise. There were still one or two cartoonists who, inexplicably, did not want any adult ads on their adult website. Whatever. So, yes, I did manage to get my ads placed on most of the websites I wanted. Then Project Wonderful made some kind of change to their rules or algorithm. Big improvements. All new features. Remember all those people I wrote individually? Project Wonderful reset their preferences back to default, meaning they would once again have to opt in to allow adult ads. I stopped using their service.
Update: Just announced June 11th Project Wonderful is shutting down.
New digital comics service on the block similar to Drive-Thru. They had a similar policy in that my comics were not featured along with other comics because they were X-rated. I mentioned it would be nice if this policy were changed and to my surprise, it was. Also, they allow me to link directly to the page where my comics are sold. Potential customers are not re-directed to a sign-up page.
I’ve sold a handful of comics thru Lulu but I can’t really recommend them. They are a good service but they aren’t exactly the place where people go browsing and shopping for comics. As a publisher, a lot of your sales comes from people discovering your comic via just browsing and looking around and having your book featured in campaigns. People don’t come to Lulu to browse for comics, unfortunately. I remember for a long time Lulu was steadfastly against publishing adult comics. Then they allowed it. Then they were against it again. Now they are okay with it but I still wouldn’t recommend them.
I have no problems with Patreon (except that I wish I had more Patrons, ha ha) but I include them in order to point out the hypocrisy of PayPal. As an individual adult cartoonist, I can’t legitimately do business via PayPal because of their rules against selling digital erotic works. Yet Patreon uses PayPal to pay all of their adult content providers, from cartoonists to porn stars. Same thing with Drive-Thru, actually. The money I make at Drive-Thru is paid to me via PayPal. I understand that early on, PayPal did have a problem with Patreon providing adult content but funny how the almighty dollar solves all sorts of problems.
I published an erotic prose novel with them. I had no problem with them in that regard. I noticed they also sell digital comics. They do not allow adult comics. You can publish X-rated prose with them (in fact, they are famous for their porn prose novels with suggestive covers and titillating titles) but they are too good to publish X-rated comics. Not mad at Smashwords, just pointing out the kinds of things I’ve had to wrap my mind around.
They publish print on demand physical comics. Unless your comic is x rated. I believe they allow some nudity but no explicit sex. I’m not all that interested in physical media anyway. I remember when the idea of publishing my own physical comics and having them sold in comic stores and newsstands was paramount in my mind. It was a pipe dream because of the cost, the logistics and, of course, the prejudice most American printers have against adult comics.
I have not tried to sell anything on Gumroad mainly because when I first checked them out, they wrote they would not publish anything adult (they struck me as rather religious, so that made sense). I’ve since been told that yes, you can sell adult stuff on Gumroad. I know people who have. But I imagine Gumroad would be like Lulu, a place where folks aren’t shopping for comics. There are places like Drive-Thru and comixcentral where people are already there shopping for comics and then there are places like Lulu and Gumroad, where you have to take them there and hope for the best.
Comixology and Amazon:
Funny story about Amazon. I once had an Amazon button on my website. One of those deals where, if you purchase something from Amazon via my website, I’d make a few cents off the sale. After a while they wrote to say they did not allow this service on adult websites. I made a whopping 6 cents tho! As far as publishing comics via Comixology or Amazon, I’d rather not go through the hoops and the review process at the moment. Maybe later.
Well, overall, things aren’t as bad as they were back when I first started (Bush administration. Look it up). Back then there were almost no options for an adult cartoonist (unless you were somehow already internet famous or European). You could give your art away for free on sites like DA, no problem. But try to make money. Want to run an adult website? The credit card companies didn’t want to mess with you (still don’t). Want to sell commissions? PayPal didn’t want to mess with you (still don’t). Want to print a book? Printers didn’t want to mess with you (still don’t). Every avenue seemed closed.
Now there are a number of different options to make money. There are still roadblocks but you just go around them. Although I disagree with some of their policies, I’m glad Drive-Thru was brave enough to sell adult comics when they launched their service. They sure didn’t have to. I’m glad Patreon negotiated a way for adult content providers to use PayPal as a way to receive money. I’m glad Lulu and Gumroad were flexible and changed their corporate minds about not publishing digital smut. I’m glad all the other companies even though I’ve had mixed levels of success with them. Oh, and thank you, Al Gore, for inventing the Internet.
Lastly, I’m not as in love with the idea of exclusively being an adult cartoonist anyway. A long time ago, as I was facing obstacle after obstacle, I thought about just doing PG rated comics. I saw people putting out by-the-numbers Marvel comics rip-offs and they didn’t get hassled. It’s just I was too stubborn and didn’t want to feel like I’d given in to “The Man.” Now, having finally had some success selling erotic comics and commissions, I guess I no longer feel the need to “take a stand” against corporate hypocrisy. I can go ahead and make PG rated, by-the-numbers Marvel rip-offs without feeling like I capitulated. And then turn around and make an X-rated version and feel pretty sure that I could find places to sell both.