October 19, 2010

A year ago, I self-published a 10,000-word story on how the recession had impacted the adult movie industry, "They Shoot Porn Stars, Don't They?"

In April of 2009, I had spent a week in Los Angeles, interviewing adult performers and visiting adult movie sets. The story had been written for a publication, but after filing it, I had pulled it. I had done so for a variety of reasons, among them that I realized early on that I did not believe the editor was going to run the piece as I felt it should be run and that in that process I would lose control over the piece.

Initially, I shopped the story around to other publications, but all passed on publishing it. After that, I sat on the story for a while, unsure what to do. Ultimately, I decided to publish it myself. I hired designer and illustrator Chris Bishop, who I had worked with previously, to build and design the site. It would also feature photographs that I had taken while working on the story in the San Fernando Valley. And I hired Joanne Hinkel to copy edit the story.

On October 13, 2009, the site launched.

  • On the 13th, there were 8,960 visitors.
  • On the 14th, there were 18,217 visitors.
  • On the 15th, there were 11,268 visitors.
  • On the 16th, there were 11,318 visitors.
  • On the 17th, there were 23,817 visitors.
  • On the 18th, there were 20,021 visitors.
  • On the 19th, there were 14,988 visitors.
I received more email responses to this story than anything else I've published. The emails were overwhelmingly positive. People also seemed to respond positively to the fact that it had been self-published. I believe that people gathered it was a labor of love. There was no charge to read it. There was no advertising. It wasn't one more piece of content being sold in service of a brand. It wasn't one more story masquerading as a platform for advertising content.

Boing Boing called the story "bold and ambitious." Warren Ellis deemed it "brilliant." A commenter on Metafilter wrote, "Ms. Breslin has changed the way I think about the business of making pornography."

The numbers, according to Google Analytics, since the story was published:

  • Visits: 275,933
  • Unique Visitors: 219,153
  • Page Views: 1,249,042
  • Average Page Views: 4.53
  • Average Time on Site: 7:18
  • Bounce Rate: 22.83%
The majority of visitors are from the US, followed by Germany, Canada, the UK, and France. Others come from Trinidad, Congo, Iraq, Kazakhstan, and Papau New Guinea, among 197 other countries and territories. The most common search terms include "they shoot stars," "susannah breslin," and "porn stars."

Based on the numbers and the response, I feel this act of self-publishing was a success. But for me, it was more about being able to present my story the way it should be presented. Most people have no experience with the adult industry, and it never made sense to me why I should let an editor, a publication, or the insidious effects of a marketing department dictate the terms of my work. By retaining complete control over the story, I was able to maintain complete control over the truth of the story. And to me, that's what mattered in the end.