For a while there it looked like Kickstarter was akin to printing your own money, especially if you were a comic creator. From The Order of the stick earning over $1.25 million in early 2012 to Frank Cho clearing over $150,000 just a couple of months ago, it seemed like Kickstarter was THE sure way to make money in comics.
However, there were some rumblings. Things may not have been quite so “easy” as it first seemed. And, it seemed, creators were stumbling at the same place: shipping.
Whether it was Molly Danger or Sullivan’s Sluggers, it seemed that the #2 issue creators had with actually making money on Kickstarter (#1 being actually completing the project in a timely enough manner to get some return on their investment) was the cost of shipping. Both international and domestic shipping costs can be staggering. When shipping hundreds, if not thousands of units, a small miscalculation in those costs can add up to some serious cash.
It is not that the creators are irresponsible, crooked, unintelligent, ignorant, or any of the other words I have seen tossed about the internet recently when it comes to this issue. More often than not, the creators involved have a load of creative skills and experience, and very little business experience. They do not have a dedicated staff of highly qualified and experienced individuals who do nothing but calculate shipping costs and determine logistics. At best they have a spouse or friend who is willing to make a couple of phone calls in their spare time. Usually it is up to the creator to make all the decisions. So mistakes happen.
recently I was informed that one of my Kickstarter projects was just about prepared to ship. I had backed Greg Rucka and Rick Burchett’s Lady Sabre and the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether (first announced on this blog, natch!) and now it was ready to be packed up and shipped out. I dutifully filled out my backer survey and made sure that my shipping info was correct, all the while lamenting the fact that it was going to cost the creators somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 to ship me a book (when you calculate in the cost of the shipping envelope as well as the actual shipping cost).
Then the other day I received another message from them. There was going to be a Kickstarter release party for the book at a local comic shop. Kickstarter backers could come to the comic shop, meet the creators, pick up the books, possibly buy some other products, and then head home.
It is here that you are probably thinking that the best part is that I will have bragging rights about having my copy of Lady Sabre before anyone else. But you would be incorrect. The best part is that the creators are going to get a great buffer when it comes to their shipping costs.
Stick with me for a minute because we are going to do a little math. Imagine for a minute that just ten people come to this Kickstarter release party (representing less than .35% of the total number of backers). These 10 backers represent a minimum $40 that the creators will not have to spend on shipping. Far from pocketing the money, this gives the creators a bit of wiggle room on substantially more items they ship. Let’s further imagine that The Pirate crew is not precise on some of their shipping. If they underestimate by just 50 cents on all of their shipping, that is a cost of $1450 that the crew has to eat. So, by having $40 of wiggle room, that represents 80 packages where they can be off by up to 50 cents. The more people who show up and pick up their packages in person, the more wiggle rom they have, and the better chance the creators have of not being forced to shell out a substantial amount of shipping money.
Even with careful calculation, there are some factors outside of the creator’s influence. The USPS announced on September 25, 2013 that they were increasing the rates for all domestic and international shipping. This was done nine months after the Kickstarter was successfully funded and, more importantly, nine months after everyone had calculated all the shipping costs. It was entirely outside of the Pirates’ influence. But they are still forced to deal with the realities of this situation. So now that “extra” $40 will go towards covering a shipping rate increase over which they have no control.
So, how do you make money in Kickstarter? Manage your shipping costs. How do you ensure that you have some wiggle room on those shipping costs? Throw a release party where people can come pick up their items!
In case you want to attend, here are the details for the release party:
Bridge City Comics is proud to announce our Lady Sabre Kickstarter Release Party with Greg Rucka, Rick Burchett and Eric Newsom on Saturday, April 5, 2014 from 5pm – 8pm! This event is free to the public.
If you live in the Pacific Northwest, this is your opportunity to pick up your Lady Sabre Kickstarter rewards directly from the creative team! If you are a backer and want to pick up your book in person, maybe hang out and chat for a while or simply point and stare, you are cordially — even eagerly — invited to come and do so. Greg, Rick and Eric will be on hand to hand out the backer rewards, sign any rewards you want and hang out and talk lady Sabre (among other things).
Depending on the final inventory count, and presuming that they have enough extra to justify it, there may be additional copies for sale, prices TBD.
Refreshments will be served free of charge. Sketches will be at the discretion of the artist.
Location: Bridge City Comics
3725 N Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR 97227
Keri Grassl is a Web professional who collaborates on a graphic novel and creates a variety of art in her free time. Her work has been shown at Gallery Sesso, Seattle Erotic Art Festival, and private clubs in the area. One of her comic illustrations has been showcased in the 2013 San Diego Comic Con souvenir program. Keri has also donated work to a number of charity auctions including the Women of Wonder fund raising campaign, Twitter Art Exhibit, and the Portland Timbers Community Fund. A native to the Pacific Northwest, Keri currently resides in Portland, Oregon.