Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Kickstarter: A Postmortem

Kickstarter encourages transparency and open communication between the creators and the backers of the projects... since I put the wraps on the KS this morning (it is now 100% in the books), I thought I'd share how the numbers break down and let you see how it all works out. If you were like I was - 'holy crow! I made 4 grand!' - you might want to wait until you see how the numbers actually play out... remember that I started with an amount after the Kickstarter and PayPal fees:

Running Balance
March 22
Starting Kickstarter Deposit

March 22
Cover Art Deposit
- 394.00
May 3
- 115.00
May 3
- 163.95
May 8
Custom Ink t-shirts
- 245.40
May 17
Createspace 5 copies + expanded distribution
May 27
Fulfilled Orders for all copies of Volume 1: Tour of Duty
June 24
Cover Art Final Payment
June 28
Padded Mailers
July 12
Character Pad Printing
July 16
Post Office: Shipping Backer Rewards
July 22
Post Office: Shipping Backer Rewards
Aug 10
Expanded Distribution for RPG
Aug 10
Fulfilled Orders for all copies of RPG and Volume 2: Year of the Ant
Aug 11
Hardcovers via Lulu
Aug 13
Lunch Boxes
Aug 17
Hardcover Reprints
Aug 25
Reprints YoA Softcovers
Aug 27
Post Office: Shipping Hardover/Lunchbox/ Art Rewards
Aug 27
Final Hardcovers via Lulu

A few notes:

- All told, I ended up ‘making’ 11% of the Kickstarter’s total. I initially expected to make about 20% when I worked out a projected budget in March. Considering this was my first time around on KS, this wasn't too bad!
- International shipping was a killer. My costs for international shipping for several backers ended up going a bit beyond what I expected.
- Direct shipping books is the way to go! I assume that CreateSpace and Lulu have already crunched all of the numbers (or do it immediately) for each package by size/weight/destination for each carrier, and get the best price. I had the post office, and a postal worker who kept telling me she was giving me the ‘best possible’ rate on packages that I suspect there were better options for… I just couldn’t spend the time/energy comparing shipping on each piece through various carriers. I know that this ended up sucking up some of the money.
- The snafu with the printing was a big problem, but not as disastrous as it could have been thanks to the generosity of so many backers who elected for the pdf reprint only. This error, just in printing, cost 204.97, and shipping for some of the art cost another 27.82, for a total of 232.79.

If I had it to do all over again…
- I’d simply be more patient in shipping, planning ahead better. Everything went out on time, but I was anxious to get things to backers ASAP, especially early on. This means that some people at the upper ends received up to five different packages from me: the initial rewards (t-shirt, patches, tattoos, 2E copies, card sheets) followed by a softcover of comics volume 1, followed by the YoA/RPG softcover, followed by a reprint, followed by hardcovers and lunchboxes… if I had been more patient and planned ahead better, I could have tightened up shipping for everyone by at least one shipping rotation, saving at least $250.
- I’d triple-check my proofs! The misprint of the Year of the Ant (and the hardcovers that had it inside) was the only big problem in this whole thing. 
- I'd package flat things with different mailers and/or hard backing to protect the trading cards better; some people reported that the cards got banged up in shipping.

- The Kickstarter was a true kickstarter in every sense of the concept. I was able to get my complete comics back in print, launch a webcomic and begin to promote it, revise my rpg and put print and digital copies of an entire catalog up for sale that I will be able to build upon for the next several years; the real benefit here is not the money I made on the KS itself, but the ways in which it allowed me to develop an infrastructure going forward.



  1. Glad it worked out. I'd rather wait for all one package as it's hard to remember what I'm expecting and what I've gotten.

    Also, being on time isn't as important as some people think it is. I'd rather things got delayed by a few months if quality is going to suffer otherwise.

    1. I was worried about ending up on a 'wayward kickstarter list' if I failed to hit my deadline, so I was trying to push to get product into the hands of backers ASAP... in retrospect, releasing the pdfs as I got things done, and holding off on printing until the last minute, would have probably saved a good chunk of money and a large chunk of time/energy while still showing that progress. I did a lot of redundant labeling of boxes and shipping to the same people a handful of times. NEXT Kickstarter I totally do that...

  2. As an international pledger / rpg purchaser I have always bought my books online and mailed to me with tracking and insurance, as a result I usually pay from half the value of the books to the full value of the books in shipping, with more books ina single order being the key in reducing the shipping cost.

    I am used to getting my books from noble knight games and amazon and live in Brazil, so you can get an idea.

    I advise anyone running a kickstarter and looking to support international shipping to visit your local post office, se how much they charge you for different countries in different continents and fix the value for shipping to the highest amount, in my experience I usually pay around 30-50 dollars for shipping a single book, depending on the size / weight of the book and if I want tracking and insurance or not.

    1. I did feel bad about the international shipping in all ways... for instance, customers in Germany ended up not being as expensive, while those in Australia and New Zealand ended up costing more - so it's really unfair to charge the same rate to all of those international customers. I don't like any of the options for international shipping, but I guess in the future I would have to err on protecting myself and over-charging customers, which seems like a cruddy approach to have to take.

    2. NEW ZEALAND WHOOOOOOOOOO PRIIIIIDE!!!! Whatever you did, all but the package I'm waiting on arrived ridiculously fast. You've done good, hope army ants becomes a serious thing on the internets

  3. I'm glad to hear that things made it to you quickly. The estimates were always measured in weeks, but it seemed like shippers always wanted to err on the side of prudence when estimating delivery times. I'm glad that things made it your way in the land of the Hobbits and such (they DO actually live there, right?)

    1. As much as our defense minister denies it,they are slowly trekking to Australia to recapture the one pavlova to rule them all

  4. Hey, it's not a postmortem--your kickstarter succeeded, not died! ;-) I was worried when I saw a link to this post that your kickstarter had turned into one of those where your costs exceeded your pledges. Glad that it didn't.

  5. If you ever run another kickstarter with physical goods, I would advise sending all physical things at the last minute together- saving international costs, and backers would still be content with their pdfs for the time.