Pixels and Pages

One of the things I assumed when creating the Corsairs RPG Kickstarter, is that the digital (PDF) copies would be a more popular option than the physical copies.

I was wrong.

Nevermind that I was wrong for now… why did I think digital copies would outsell physical copies?

Shipping. In the simplest of terms, the answer was shipping. Shipping is expensive. Shipping from Australia is especially expensive. A couple of posts ago I wrote about the costs of shipping. Last post I wrote about the different backer levels, and the prices I came to for each of those. But to summarise: I had decided that the backer levels would be set at $10 for a digital only copy of Corsairs, and $15 for a physical copy, with the cost of shipping added after the Kickstarter had funded. Now, these prices are in Australian dollars, and so translate well into the US and UK currencies, which I assumed would be my largest sources of backers. Shipping domestically would add a cost of $2, and internationally would add a cost of $8. Bringing the total for a physical copy domestically to $17 AUD, and internationally to $23 AUD. At the end of the day this is a price that is more than double the cost of the PDF. Based on that I would completely understand, and expect, that a majority of international backers would opt for the digital reward level.

Yes, currencies play a key role, and $23 Australian dollars in US dollars or UK pounds is a better proposition (at the time of the Kickstarter it was around $16 USD for the shipping and the physical copy combined). Compared to the cost of the digital backer level, it was more than double. Based on this, I assumed that the digital version would receive more backers than the physical.


If you don’t have a copy of Corsairs you can fix that by heading to DriveThruRPG or Itch.io. If you missed the Kickstarter and are interested in a physical copy of the zine, there are still some physical copies left, contact me at caradocgames@gmail.com for details.

The supplement, Smoke and Oakum, is also available at DriveThruRPG and Itch.io now!


As I wrote above, I was wrong. At the end of the Kickstarter Corsairs had 236 backers, funding at 274% of it’s goal. Of these, 80 backers opted for the digital only level, while 148 opted for the physical level. 63% of backers opted for the physical level, representing 79% of the funding for the project. Compared, only 34% opted for the digital only level, representing 20% of the money raised. With the final percent coming from the few lovely people who backed but opted for no reward.

Interestingly, and annoyingly, the Kickstarter Fulfillment tab gives you the number of backers by country, but no option to filter that by backer level. So I had 236 overall backers, and 148 backers for the physical copy, and the fulfillment tab tells me that 149 of those were in the US (that’s obviously 149 of the 236, not the physical copy). But it’s interesting data nonetheless. Counting by country I had the following:

  • US – 149 backers
  • Australia – 28 backers.
  • UK – 18 backers
  • Germany – 10 backers
  • And a whole bunch of other countries with 1 or 2 copies, from Spain to the Philippines, from Norway to Puerto Rico.

So… why did people opt for the physical game?

I have no idea. I think the most likely answer is that many people, when they can afford to, prefer to have a physical thing, a manifestation of their pledge, and a book to thumb through. I know personally that I like to have physical copies of the RPGs I own where possible. I can’t explain why, but I prefer reading a physical copy than a digital one, and there is a visceral element that plays a key role as well.

Ok, so what does this mean?

Well, on one hand it’s nothing more than an observation. On the other, I think I would be very hesitant to run a Kickstarter that offered no physical copy. It seems that people like their physical books/zines, and that neglecting that would potentially turn away a number of backers. How many of the 148 backers I had, that opted for a physical copy, would have backed for a digital copy I will never know, but some, perhaps a significant number, would have been lost, of that I am sure.

So the next Kickstarter I run, and there will be one, whether for the next ZineQuest (presuming there is one) or independent of it, I will make sure to include a backing level that is for a physical copy…

This article is a part of a series about running a Kickstarter campaign for ZineQuest, you can find the other articles in this series here.

Levels and Goals…

Today I want to ramble about funding goals and backer levels. In the last post I listed what the costs would look like in an ideal scenario. I mean, in an ideal scenario I would get half a million backers, but what I mean in this case is an ideal scenario in which I printed 200 copies of Corsairs, and would sell close to 200 copies through the Kickstarter…

Playtesting Corsairs back in 2019.

Questions that needed answers were: What should the funding goal be? What should the backer levels look like?

Before trying to math out either answer I looked through a slew of the ZineQuests from 2019. It’s one thing to have an idea of how much the game might cost, but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Customers have expectations, and setting too high a funding goal, or setting the backer levels significantly higher than what has been charged in the past for similar products is going to turn potential backers off. Underneath all of this too, was the concern about the shipping costs. Shipping from Australia, as I wrote in my last post, is expensive. Whatever price I set for the backers who wanted a physical copy had to respect the fact that an additional cost was going to be tacked on, and for international backers, that was a significant amount ($2.20 domestically, $8.30 internationally).

In my last post I broke down the costs as I had worked them out so far, here I want to look at what they would be per copy of the zine. So what were the costs looking like in an ideal scenario?

  • Printing ($675 for 200 copies ($3.38 per zine) (all my calculations were on my original printing quotes)
  • Envelopes ($100 for 200 ($0.50 per zine))
  • Shipping Labels ($30 ($0.15 per zine))
  • Shipping Domestic ($2.20 per zine)
  • Shipping International ($8.30 per zine)
  • Margin for screw ups (?)
  • Kickstarter and processing fees (10% ish)

Overall it looks like the cost of printing the zine, as well as the cost of an envelope, a label, and the portion of shipping I was absorbing would add up to around $5.13 per zine. Not bad. Remembering of course that I was rounding the cost of shipping down, and Kickstarter takes 10% of the shipping money as well… $8.30 for an international backer was rounded to $8, of which Kickstarter would take $0.80, meaning I would get $7.20, and I was absorbing not $0.30, but $1.10.

Okay, so that all makes some sense… but it is not as simple as all of that. I could order print runs in multiples of 50 (50, 100, 150, etc). I wanted to take into account a margin of 10% losses in shipping, meaning that 10% of the packages would get lost somewhere en route, and I may need to resend them. I accounted for this by essentially saying to myself that if I get within about 10 of the next multiple of 50, I would print the next level up. With 30 backers I would print 50, but if it climbed to 40 backers I would print 100, I would have enough therefore to account for any losses. This introduces some issues, if I got close enough and printed the next amount up, but didn’t get too many more backers, the costs would be defrayed over fewer backers. The per zine costs above are only if I actually sold all 200 copies. If I sold only 140, the trigger point for raising the print run from 150 to 200, the costs would look like this:

  • Printing ($675 across 150 copies ($4.50 per zine))
  • Envelopes ($100 for 200 ($0.67 per zine))
  • Shipping Labels ($30 ($0.20 per zine))
  • Shipping Domestic ($2.20 per zine)
  • Shipping International ($8.30 per zine)
  • Margin for screw ups (?)
  • Kickstarter and processing fees (10% ish)

Overall, for printing, envelopes, labels, and the absorbed shipping it would be around $6.47 per zine, a jump of around $1.30.

If we hadn’t hit the first Stretch Goal backers would have been saddled with my art…

So in the worst case scenario, and betting on 200 copies printed, Corsairs would cost me $6.47 to produce. I have a margin for screw ups in there, and a margin for Kickstarter. Everywhere I read suggested something around 10% for a margin for error is a reasonable calculation. So that’s a 20% increase between Kickstarter fees and margin for screw ups. That leads to a cost of about $7.76 per zine.

In all of these calculations I haven’t included any costs for labour. The design, writing, editing, layout, none of that is included. Profits on the zine equate to pay, so I was content to leave it at that, but had to ensure I set the appropriate backing level. The other thing to consider is tax, but I’ll write a tangential note on that another day.

If I had set the backer level at $10 for the printed zine, with a cost of around $7.76 per zine, I was worried that if anything went wrong I would end up losing money. What could go wrong? The costs could go up of course, the price of printing, or shipping, any of those things. But of biggest concern was the exchange rate. All of my calculations are in Australian dollars. If that loses or gains value against international currencies it could lead to a big impact on the money raised, in Australian dollar terms, which is what I would be using to pay for everything. The exchange rate was also in my favour, with the Australian dollar weaker than the US dollar and the UK pound, meaning, I hoped, a more attractive price for international backers. But the risk of increasing or decreasing the money raised due to fluctuations in the currency was there. In the end I settled on a backer level of $15 AUD, which would roughly equate to $10 USD – very much on par with the cost of other Zine Quests.


If you don’t have a copy of Corsairs you can fix that by heading to DriveThruRPG or Itch.io. If you missed the Kickstarter and are interested in a physical copy of the zine, there are still some physical copies left, contact me at caradocgames@gmail.com for details.

The supplement, Smoke and Oakum, is also available at DriveThruRPG and Itch.io now!


The logo for the Kickstarter page…

But what of the Funding Goal? Using the ‘worst case scenario’ above:

  • Printing ($675)
  • Envelopes ($100 for 200)
  • Shipping Labels ($30)
  • Shipping Domestic ($2.20 per zine ($0.42 absorbed per zine))
  • Shipping International ($8.30 per zine ($1.10 absorbed per zine))
  • Margin for screw ups (+10%)
  • Kickstarter and processing fees (+10% ish)
Felicity’s wonderful art. If you look carefully you can see the name of the ship: The Fyrerider. This was the ship of the playtest group…

If I assumed that in the best case I would get 200 backers wanting the physical copy, I would be spending around $250 on absorbing shipping costs, the total costs based on that estimate, and using the ‘worst case scenario’ for the rest of the costs, adds to $1055. Add 10% for Kickstarter and 10% for screw ups and that comes to around $1266. There are also other costs as well – test prints, software, ink, all the other bits and bobs I spent while drafting and making Corsairs. In the end I settled on a Funding goal of $1500, after all, many of the Kickstarter FAQs advise setting a thicker margin for error, because…

Another thing to consider is dropped backers. After the dust has settled and a Kickstarter has finished, there are a number of backers who, for whatever reason, drop out. While a funding level may look like it got $1000, it may in fact have only raised $850 because a number of backers have dropped out. A drop of a few hundred dollars in lost backers could have a significant impact overall.

So with all the mathing out of the way I had settled on my Funding Goal of $1500 AUD, and the backer level for the printed copy at $15 AUD. I decided to drop the price for the digital only copy to $10 AUD (about $6.70 USD when the Kickstarter launched), because that seemed on par with the costs of other zines in the 2019 ZineQuest.

Two things changed over the course of the Kickstarter: 1) I swapped my printer to Mixam, which meant a significant drop in the cost of printing. And 2) I realised that Kickstarter would take 10% of the shipping fee as well (yes, I was stupid), luckily I built in a margin and had a reduction in the printing costs.

So how did it wind up? Corsairs ended with 149 backers wanting physical copies, which was high enough to push to the 200 copies I was hoping to print, but was also close to the worst case scenario in terms of costs for printing that many copies.

Ending by writing that the Kickstarter resulted in a worst case scenario sounds gloomy and ungrateful. This is not the tone I intend, Worst case scenario in this context was my short hand for the different calculations I was using. I don’t mean ‘worst case scenario’ in a bad way – Corsairs funded, has been fulfilled, and exists in the world – believe me when I write that I was elated when it funded and am thrilled still!

This article is a part of a series about running a Kickstarter campaign for ZineQuest, you can find the other articles in this series here.

Shipping a game about Ships…

One of the biggest costs for any Kickstarter that is shipping a physical product is… well, shipping. This is especially true when to or from a country like Australia, where ordering a game from overseas can cost more for postage than for the game itself. I was seriously worried about the costs of shipping, seriously worried that if I got the weights or sizes wrong, the parcels I was sending would be bumped into a different category, and therefore end up costing significantly more per zine. As I wrote in my last post, one of the only things I was certain about in the beginning, was that I was uncertain of so many things…

Many Kickstarters absorb some or all of the shipping costs by wrapping them into the backer level prices. I thought I might be able to absorb some of these costs, but that if I tried to absorb too much, the price of backing for the physical zine would balloon to a point where it was ridiculous. I decided, after much uncertainty, to add shipping as a cost after the Kickstarter. Kickstarter allows you to set an amount for shipping, and I set one for domestic shipping, and one for international shipping. I could have used a service like Backerkit, which would have allowed me to collect pledges after the campaign was over. But these have fees, and I thought the cost of doing so would not be much different than doing it through Kickstarter.

It’s important to note, and it may be obvious, but Kickstarter has fees – usually a bit more than 10% of the money raised. Shipping is included in this amount, so whatever you charge through Kickstarter for shipping, will be included in the money raised before Kickstarter takes it’s 10%. I said this may be obvious, but when you are setting backer levels you may easily remember that 10% will be taken as fees. But when you are setting the shipping costs you need to remember this 10% (approximately) applies to them as well.

Before I go too much further there are three key things I was trying to work out at this point. How much would a backer pay for a physical copy, what would I put for the shipping costs (domestic and international), and how much would the funding goal be? Getting one of these right doesn’t necessarily mean the others are correct, and setting either the backer level or funding goal too high would turn off potential backers. The backer level needed to be priced in order that the money gained from a backer would cover the costs of producing the game for that backer. Of course, the economy of scale is at work here (the more zines I print the cheaper per zine they are), and I needed to be able to price out a range of things before I could settle on a solid figure for either. I wrote in my last post that I decided to set the funding goal around a print run of 200 copies, with the idea that if we got more than 200 backers who wanted the physical zine, the excess of funding would cover the next step up in the printing. I also decided to base my backer level costings around the idea that I might only print 50 copies, in which case the cost per zine would be higher. I feel these were conservative choices, and they were partly driven by the idea that more international backers would go for the digital only rewards than the physical rewards (spoiler: I was wrong).

Not the most beautiful tests, but they were a beginning…

Setting a funding goal meant I had to be able to make a good estimate for what it would all cost – if I printed 200 copies, and included a little of the shipping, envelopes, everything else required, a safety buffer, and the Kickstarter fees – how much money would I need to be able to hit print? So what were the costs?

More research was called for. The biggest hurdle was postage… What was the size of the finished package going to be? What was the weight? These things impact the cost of shipping significantly. I printed test copies off to see what the weight might be – but the tests were not the right gsm, not the right cover card, the envelope I added wasn’t the same as the ones I would use in the end, but these tests gave me a good idea.

Shipping from Australia Post is based around the size and weight of a package (surprising, I know). For a zine, I could get away with sending them as letters. Given the size of the envelope I had the following costs…

Domestic shipping through economy post, using a large letter (which would be the size of envelope), would cost me:

  • $2.20 if it was up to 125g.
  • $3.30 if it was more than 125g and less than 250g.

Internationally sending a large letter through economy post would be:

  • $3.20 if it was less than 50g.
  • $8.30 if it was between 50g and 125g.
  • $13.50 if it was between 125g and 250g.

I did not think it would be more than 250g, but it could easily have been more than 125g, the envelope counts too of course. While the difference between 124g and 126g in costs for shipping domestically is small, it jumps by more than $5 internationally, which is not an insignificant leap. Especially when I did not have an exact idea of how much the zine, envelope, etc would weigh, just a rough estimate.

Once I had settled on Mixam as the printer, they were kind enough to send me estimates of the weight of a single book, I also bought a few envelopes and used the heaviest for my calculations. Despite all the tests and estimates I still wasn’t 100% sure what the prices were going to be until I actually walked into the post office and was relieved to find I was right – it is within this size of 260mm x 360mm x 20mm, and less than 125g? Well, I’m not 100% because I haven’t had them printed yet, but I estimate that is the correct sizing and weight to be…


If you don’t have a copy of Corsairs you can fix that by heading to DriveThruRPG or Itch.io. If you missed the Kickstarter and are interested in a physical copy of the zine, there are still some physical copies left, contact me at caradocgames@gmail.com for details.

The supplement, Smoke and Oakum, is also available at DriveThruRPG and Itch.io now!


With the tests made and weighed, adding in a heavier envelope of the correct size for good measure, I made the judgement that the zine would, in fact, weigh less than 125g, but more than 50g. This would mean that shipping domestically *should* cost $2.20 per zine, and internationally *should* cost $8.30 per zine.

Getting ready to pack the printed zines ready for shipping…

When I looked for envelopes I found plenty of options, but the ones I found early were quite expensive, at about $90 for 200, including shipping I rounded to $100, and that meant $0.50 per zine. Shipping labels I found for $30 (I could have gone cheaper, but wanted to be able to print them out – more on this in another post).

So what were the costs looking like given the ideal plan of shipping 200 copies?

  • Printing ($400 for 200 copies)
  • Envelopes ($100 for 200)
  • Shipping Labels ($30)
  • Shipping Domestic ($2.20 per zine)
  • Shipping International ($8.30 per zine)
  • Margin for screw ups (5-10%)
  • Kickstarter and processing fees (10% ish)
All packed up and lots of places to go…

I decided to absorb a small portion of the shipping costs by rounding the cents down to the dollars, $2.20 and $8.30 became $2 and $8. Ahh! But… Kickstarter collects that shipping as a part of the funding total and then applies it’s fees… so 10% (roughly) of each of those values was taken by Kickstarter… a point I initially (and stupidly) overlooked. Luckily I had built a margin for screw ups.

Of course, if I got 200 backers all of this would work out perfectly… which is why I based my final choices for the backer levels and funding goal on the more conservative estimation based on printing only 50 copies, where the costs would be defrayed over far fewer backers, meaning less profit margin on each zine. More on that in the next post though…

In the end, after all was done and dusted, Corsairs ended with 149 Backers wanting a physical copy. I posted those out a few weeks ago, and it cost a little over $1100 to do so. Meaning, of course, that a bit less than a third of the money raised by the Kickstarter when into postage.

This article is a part of a series about running a Kickstarter campaign for ZineQuest, you can find the other articles in this series here.

Certain of my uncertainty

When I decided to run a Kickstarter as a part of the ZineQuest, I was pretty sure that the only thing I was certain about, was that I was uncertain. I was uncertain of so many things. But… let’s start with what I knew:

The original test print with the original art (drawn by my own hand – the backers are lucky we found Felicity! 😀 )
  • I knew I would run a Kickstarter for ZineQuest.
  • I knew that it would be for the game Corsairs, which was designed, tested, and written.
  • I knew that I would do the layout, editing, and to begin with at least, the art for the project.
  • I knew that I would have three funding levels – one thank you, one digital only, and one print and digital.

So what didn’t I know?

  • I didn’t know what money amount I should set the funding goal at.
  • I didn’t know what price I should set the backer levels at.
  • I didn’t know what the costs involved would be.
  • I didn’t know how many updates to plan for.
  • I didn’t know if I should do Stretch Goals? If I did, what would they be?
  • I didn’t know how to advertise my Kickstarter, or get the word out beyond posting it on my social media.
  • I didn’t know how big the envelopes would need to be.
  • I didn’t know how much shipping was going to cost.

And soooooo many other things…

I started with one thing: what would the costs for printing be? I inquired at a local printers and looked at Mixam online. From the local printer and from Mixam I looked at printing quotes for 50, 100, 200, and 300 A5 zines with a range of paper qualities and cover types. In the end I knew that I had to settle on something, so I chose to run with an internal book of 32 A5 sides, printed on 115gsm silk paper, and a 4 side cover in 250gsm with a laminate finish, saddle stitched. This was the book all my prices were based on, and the book I would eventually print. I had no intentions to including stretch goals that added colour, special effects, or anything of that nature. My reasoning? This was a first experiment at a Kickstarter: keep it simple the first time around, follow the ZineQuest guidelines, and get it done successfully.

Originally I was going to use a coloured card cover, but to have it laminated locally was going to involve a second business, and that was going to push the prices up higher. Going local was something I wanted to do, but with fewer options available, and a much higher cost for printing involved, I ended up going for Mixam. This was a final choice I made during the Kickstarter.

The finished booklet! So good!

If I was to print 200 locally, it was going to cost around $675, through Mixam with the same paper weights and laminated cover, it was going to cost a little over $400. With uncertainty the name of the day, especially around the costs of everything involved, I decided to go with Mixam. I had read good reviews of Mixam’s printing quality, and while I would have liked to support a local business, I made the choice to go with Mixam.

While I was working all of this out I became painfully aware of how much international shipping was going to cost. So how to price out a funding goal? I made the assumption that international backers would tend to go for PDFs (I was wrong), and assumed that the printing costs therefore were likely to involve a smaller physical print run. The cost of printing overall goes towards working out the funding goal level, but divided by the number of booklets printed it contributes to the price of the backer level. For the Funding goal calculations I decided to hope, and chose to use the prices for 200 copies. For the backer level prices I decided to go conservative, and run with the per zine cost of a print run of 50. I was hedging my bets, hoping that the price of the larger run wouldn’t make the funding goal too high, but trying to ensure that the backer level prices were high enough to cover a worse case scenario. I was happy I made those choices…

That worked out, what else did I need to know to work out the Funding Goal? What were the other costs involved?

  • Printing ($400)
  • Art (?)
  • Envelopes (?)
  • Shipping Labels (?)
  • Shipping (?)
  • Margin for screw ups (?)
  • Kickstarter and processing fees (10% ish)

While I was researching the costs of printing, I was also working out the costs of shipping, but… I think I have written enough for now. The next part will come next time.


If you don’t have a copy of Corsairs you can fix that by heading to DriveThruRPG or Itch.io. If you missed the Kickstarter and are interested in a physical copy of the zine, there are still some physical copies left, contact me at caradocgames@gmail.com for details.

The supplement, Smoke and Oakum, is also available at DriveThruRPG and Itch.io now!


This article is a part of a series about running a Kickstarter campaign for ZineQuest, you can find the other articles in this series here.

Smoke and Oakum has Launched!

Smoke and Oakum is the first supplement for the Corsairs RPG; and delves into the world of Sky Ships and sailing the skies of the Molten Seas.

In it you will be able to find rules and guidelines covering:

  • The effects of fair weather or challenging winds.
  • Rules for encounters with storms, shoals, and more of the dangers that can foul a sky ship.
  • Guidelines for running a crew or factions within a crew on board a ship.
  • 6 new Conditions that can have a serious impact on a ship and it’s crew.
  • Rules for chases which expand on the recommendations in the core rules, and include bonuses and setbacks for starting a chase at a lower or higher level than the target ship.
  • A ship may gain a Reputation, or be upgraded, and there are a range of upgrade options from a Figurehead to larger cannons all of which can make a ship better, more fearsome, or more dangerous.
  • Two collections of stat blocks for enemies a Corsair Sky Ship might face off against, one titled ‘Sails Ho’, and the other ‘Here There Be Dragons’…

Sitting at 32 pages from front cover to back cover Smoke and Oakum is almost as big as the core rules.

Of course, Smoke and Oakum also includes more of Felicity Haworth’s wonderful art, and I hope you love how she has brought the world to life as much as I do!

Also included is a new and updated Ship Sheet, including room for marking a ship’s Point of Sail, details on the Crew, and other sections to accommodate the added rules in Smoke and Oakum. There is a page of Condition Cards, which may be printed and cut out to help track the conditions player characters or a ship might be suffering from at any given time. As well as a faction sheet, for play groups who want to delve into the murky waters of a conflicted crew.

Smoke and Oakum is a supplement that adds new material geared toward making your play experience as Corsairs sailing their infamous sky ships a more interesting, dramatic, and exciting experience!

You can find Corsairs on DriveThruRPG here.

You can find Corsairs on Itch.io here.

For those who love the art in Corsairs as much as I do, the artist is Felicity Haworth, and you can find her work here.