By Anthony Feinman
Alright, let’s talk about shipping. Unless you run a business or send a lot of letters in this digital age, you probably could care less what shipping rates are. If you plan on doing a crowdfunding campaign, you better do your homework. Shipping is expensive! And if you have not factored this into your campaign request, your crowdfunding endeavor is bound to fail. Sure you may reach your goal and hundreds of people are excited to get your product BUT do you have funds to ship everything promised to them at a reasonable rate?
Several months past, I had a customer request to purchase the complete IF Comics library and ship it to them. SWEET! Well, so I thought until I got the package together and weighed the products. For me to ship our entire library nationally cost me close to $10. Take that same set and try to ship internationally, the price ranges between $37-$95. Yowser!
Shipping and fees are where most creators get hit hard in their wallet. It’s also an expense they forget about due to their excitement about getting their project funded. You have to pay a crowdfunding site to host your campaign, pay for processing credit card transactions, shipping supplies, and then of course shipping. All on top of printing/manufacturing your product.
A great example of how this has been applied for an actual Kickstarter campaign can be viewed by reading Jason Brubaker’s book, Unnatural Talent. When Jason started the campaign for his second book, he received $107,500 from pledges. Sounds like a lot of coin, right? In his book, he breaks down where all his money went which I will reiterate:
Kickstarter/ Amazon Processing= $9,500
Time off work to finish book= $8,500
Print first book (2500 copies)= $11,500
Print second book (3500 copies)=$14,800
Making slipcases to house books (1000)=$3000
Old Comic reprint=$950
After taking care of all his expenses, he was left with roughly $2,700 in profit. Do you think his campaign was worth it? Also notice that a lot of his incentives for stretch goals ate into his profits (reprints of past books, bookmarks, posters, shirts, ect) ? Luckily, Jason was prepared and he has a LOT of fans that are willing to support him, plus he gets revenue from advertising and his Patron account.
However, you could end up like John Campbell who had a successful crowdfunding campaign (or so he thought) and then went crazy and broke trying to print his book and ship it out to his contributors. He ended up a recluse, wrote a manifesto about how crowdfunding is akin to making a deal with the devil called capitalism and stated for any customer that contacted him about when they would receive their book, he would burn a copy of his newly published book, Pictures For Sad Children.
Campbell was able to raise $50,000 and print his book but did not have enough funds to cover shipping as he didn’t factor extra fees and the actual cost. Read this article about his freak out and view the link to his 4500 worded note to his contributors.
I have read so many pitfalls about how a crowdfunding campaign is a successful failure because creators are actually overpaying just to get their product to their backers. Yeesh.
You may ask how a publisher can stay in business if their expenses look like this. But think about it. Publishing houses are not just printing a single book. They have literally dozens of publications coming out each month and capital from previous publications helping to support new publications. It’s a endless cycle where previous books are feeding into producing new books. This is how they stay in business. Future sales from past publications.
My advice to any new creator wanting to try crowdfunding, don’t make a lot of crazy promises and plan your campaign out. Make sure to ask for enough to cover your initial expenses. Get your product made first, get support, and don’t promise things that will eat into your profits. You want to get your graphic novel printed and need help? Ask for the funds needed only. If you exceed your goal, GREAT! However, I guarantee you will need those extra funds to cover your shipping costs. No need to try to have posters printed, bookmarks, make promises to have contributors likenesses drawn into your book, ect. This is extra work that should only be offered by seasoned creators. Get your first campaign completed first and if it’s successful i.e. everyone gets their product in the mail and is happy, then consider trying to do the bells and whistles on later campaigns. You’re young and I’m sure you have many more projects locked in your head for later dates.
As a backer, I just want the product you are asking funds for. That’s why supporters are pledging in the first place. To support your book/product.
On a final note, remember that if you publish via crowdfunding, you are ultimately becoming your own publisher, marketer/promoter, and distributor. Are you ready to set aside time for the next few months (or years) to devote to your project? If not, crowdfunding may not be the road to travel for you.
Thanks for reading and good luck!
P.S. One aspect that I would like to discuss someday would be Crowdfunding as a new way of distributing comics. The history of comic book distribution is a fascinating and very involved study and I wouldn’t want to dismiss it as someone who has watched history of comics unfold from the early 80’s to now. Things are very different and anyone who publishes comics would be remiss not to understand how digital releases, Print On Demand, online shopping (Amazon) and crowdfunding have “cut out” the middle man of the big guns know as Diamond. Perhaps I will address this someday soon in a future blog (or if I want to write a book about it).
Want to read about some of the creators that have written their thoughts on Crowdfunding? Part of my research included Unnatural Talent by Jason Brubaker and Your Kickstarter is About to Fail by Carmelo Chimera. Both available in print and e-book format via Amazon.com. Both interesting reads and ones I recommend looking into if you have ever thought about starting a Kickstarter/Indiegogo or any crowdfunding campaign.
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