A controversy has erupted over the sealed 'mature content' section of Dragon #300 (see 'Sealed 'Mature' Section in Dragon and Dungeon Adventure Magazines'), prompted by the arrival of the first subscription copies in mailboxes last week. On Websites, in discussion groups, and on e-mail lists, retailers, distributors, publishers, and creators (including those that worked on the magazines and on The Book of Vile Darkness, the new 'mature content' D&D hardcover also due for release soon) have in turn attacked and defended Dragon, Dungeon, and Book of Vile Darkness for their content and for the decision to publish the strongest content ever in official Dungeon and Dragons publications. And all this has occurred before copies have even hit stores through normal distribution channels; subscription copies are mailed the day after shipments are sent to distributors.
Many retailers are being caught off guard by the mature section in Dragon, a publication that has not required special handling in the past. News of the sealed section was first released in August, and publisher Johnny Wilson of Paizo Publishing, which recently acquired the rights to publish Dragon and Dungeon magazines (see 'Wizards of the Coast Spins Off Magazines'), acknowledged when we asked that the sell sheet and other means of communicating the special content may not have gotten to retailers before they ordered the magazines.
Given that adjusting orders after learning of the special content was difficult to accomplish in time for many retailers, we asked Wilson about the ability to cut or increase orders on Dragon #300. No extras are available at the publisher level for reorders, so retailers that expect higher sales because of the content are probably out of luck. On the subject of returns for those retailers that expect to sell less due to the content, or who feel uncomfortable displaying the issue, Wilson answered obliquely. 'We've always treated our retailers and wholesalers as partners and we'll work with them to make sure nobody gets hurt,' he said.
We asked Wilson how Curtis, Paizo's primary magazine distributor (which sells in turn to other distributors), reacted to the issue. 'None until they heard it was controversial,' he said, but that they viewed controversy as 'always good' for sales.
Given the potential impact on retailer orders, we asked Wilson if Paizo would try to get info about mature content to retailers in time to affect orders in the future. Although he indicated that no decision had been made about whether or not to do mature sections in future issues of the magazines, Wilson said that if they do, that they would 'probably make a more concerted effort to get the sell sheet out there.'
Wilson has issued an open letter on the content of Dragon and Dungeon magazines (see 'Johnny Wilson of Paizo Publishing on Dragon #300 and Dungeon #95').