If you live in the U.K. You are probably aware of the shipping forecast. It is an institution beloved of many in this island nation, because it reflects our relationship with the sea. “Tyne, Dogger. Northeast 3 or 4. Occasional rain. Moderate or poor.” in the early hours of the morning can be hypnotically comforting. Planning shipping for a Kickstarter is not nearly as comforting!
My plans are being formed as I write, but I outline here the main options that seem to be open to me, and their associated pros and cons.
Even though short print runs are cost effective for small publishers nowadays, and are used successfully by many at the UK RPG Design Collective [link] (who have provided me with much helpful advice over the last year), it is not a route I wanted to take at this time. My distribution plan centres around using DriveThruRPG to allow pdf and print on demand (POD) sales for the future, and there are compelling reasons for using them for delivery of Kickstarter rewards too.
What are the shipping costs?
I know it is obvious, but I’m thinking here of the cost to get the finished product to the backers doorstep. If I want to use the Royal Mail postal service, then that depends on the size and weight of my RPG book.
If I’ve got a printed sample by now, then I’ve got something I can weigh and measure, and I can then find out exactly what the shipping rates are likely to be for UK and internationally, assuming that I’m posting them from my home. There are other avenues however. As Simon Burley (author of Golden Heroes) eloquently puts it, would I rather buy 150 envelopes, write 150 shipping notes, print 150 labels, pack 150 books, lick 150 stamps, cart them all down to the post office and remain responsible for their delivery? Or outsource that to an expert? A good friend and coach Scott Moore was explaining to me earlier in the year the value of deciding which things you love doing, and which things you are great at doing, and try to outsource the rest!
At the time of writing, my 900g hardback would cost me £3.90 to ship to the UK and £17.20 to ship to the USA if I do it myself, and that is excluding the cost of purchasing packing material and time. But what about other countries? Postage prices to places such as Canada, Brazil and Australia could conceivably eliminate the whole contribution!
International shipping issues
As you can see from the figures above, international shipping can be hugely variable. So how do you handle it? Fred Hicks of Evil Hat Productions laid out the options in 2013 in a straightforward but stark manner Why International shipping doesn’t work for a kickstarter (on archive.org) – although it may be that shipping out of the US is worse than shipping out of the UK. At the time he wrote that two years ago, he felt that there wasn’t really any viable possibility for international shipping.
I’m looking at DriveThruRpg for fulfilment of Kickstarter rewards and ongoing selling of the product, and it appears from Shipping Page that at least for US and UK customers I can upload their delivery address to dtrpg and they will either print and ship from UK or print and ship from US. This would be practical for what is likely to be my two main markets.
Their shipping cost page is sadly woefully out of date (October 2013) but lists hardback shipping of my size as $8 to the UK and $6 to the US. Apparently by ordering a thing I can find out current shipping, but I don’t have anything listed at the time of writing.
What impact do they have on pledge value?
- Do you include it in the pledge amount?
- Have different pledge levels for different international territories?
Even so, as Fred details in his post, higher shipping costs mean a lower proportion of the pledge is actually contributing to your bottom line goal. Even if you have higher pledge levels for overseas customers, one pledge at £50 which includes £20 shipping counts the same amount to the funding goal from kickstarters point of view as two £25 pledges which include £5 shipping; but only contributes £30 to your actual funding vs £40 for the two pledges.
Or do you put shipping as an ‘add-on’ which needs to be included at the close of the Kickstarter (and risk offending backers who hadn’t realised that there was to be extra to pay?).
What about “print at cost” option?
There may be a way out of the fog for the tiny publisher such as myself, and that is to take full advantage of the dtrpg POD solution. That is, to split out both printing and distribution from the Kickstarter pledge.
What does that mean?
Simply put, the reward for a pledge level includes a code allowing a backer to order a copy for themselves printed at cost, rather than the reward being a physical book arriving through the post. They still get the physical book of course!
The pledge levels are then lower than they would be if they were covering the printing and shipping of the book itself as part of the reward. By my calculation they would be about £15 lower, as that is the approx cost of printing and shipping within UK and USA.
Advantages for me (and all backers) include
– pledges contribute fully towards goal.
– reduced chance of financial problems related to shipping.
– nobody is excluded because they don’t live in the ‘easy to ship to’ countries.
– it is an extra step that backers have to go through personally.
Will people go for this?
Cover photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash