A few weeks ago I completed fulfillment of my latest game: Foundlings. This is the third game I have published physical copies of. All three of the games I have published (Corsairs, Rascals, and Foundlings) are A5 saddle-stitched zines of varying lengths.
Foundlings is the largest, clocking in at 48 internal pages, and cover (4 more pages). It has the highest GSM cover stock, making it the heaviest game I have produced. Why is this relevant? Well, this post is broadly about shipping costs.
Foundlings Printed Zine
If you backed Foundlings on Kickstarter, $15 AUD would net you one physical copy of the game (as well as PDFs, etc). The cost of shipping (which I collected through GameFound) was $14 AUD.
Shipping cost nearly the same as the game itself.
Anyone from Aus will probably not be overly surprised, but for anyone else: this wasn’t me price gouging, inflating the cost of shipping to make more out of suckered in backers who just wanted their physical copies, this is actually less than what shipping those games cost me.
A backer jumps onto GameFound, uses their credits to get their copy of Foundlings, and pays the $14 for shipping.
Stripe and Gamefound take their %, and I get about $13.30 deposited into my account. Shipping an envelope large enough to hold an A5 zine internationally (let’s say somewhere in Europe), costs me $13.50 at the post office. This does not include the costs of the envelopes, labels, time, or anything else.
Shipping is wildly expensive for a small time publisher.
With Foundlings I tried something I hadn’t done before, I used shipping partners in the UK and the US to help reduce the costs of shipping. So how did that go?
It did not really reduce the costs of shipping.
The cost to send a box of games to the US (or UK) is expensive, the processing costs charged by my shipping partners (which were very reasonable I need to add), were in USD and GBP – both of which are worth considerably more than the humble AUD – so whatever the cost, you can times it by a minimum of 1.5 for USD, and about 2 for GBP.
All of it meant that the actual savings passed on to the customer were small – indeed, the shipping costs for Backers in the UK and the US were both only a couple of dollars cheaper than had I not used shipping partners.
It might have been more cost effective if I was shipping larger quantities than I did, but not significantly.
Now, I’m not complaining – it costs what it costs. It’s important to note that I absolutely understand why backers might be upset with the costs – hell, I certainly am! It is also absolutely reasonable for shipping partners to charge – of course – and both partners I used were extremely reasonable and extremely helpful, and I am very grateful for having had the opportunity to work with them – they were and are wonderful.
But… Shipping is expensive. It is, by a long way, the most expensive part of creating and getting a game like Foundlings (or Corsairs, or Rascals) into the hands of gamers around the world.
In fact, it’s so expensive, that I’m not sure I want to try publishing a game of the same size (or larger) here in Australia, and sending it out internationally. I think for any future game of this size (or larger) I will need to look at working with a publishing partner, probably in the US. Anyway – food for later thought…
So why is this post called Downsizing? Well, if you made it this far, this is the experiment I plan to undertake…
The next game I am releasing is called Owlbear Omelette – a reworked and rewritten version of a little game I published back in 2019. This game is designed to be a fun and silly dungeon crawl style game, in which the players (Goblins) are ransacking the Goblin King’s palace for an Owlbear Egg for the express purpose of omelette making.
Owlbear Omelette will be published as an A6 saddle-stitched game. At 34 internal pages, it will be about the same thickness as Corsairs, with the added bonus of being literally half the size.
Besides the fact the A6 is a fun little size, and I quite like mini-games, shipping an A6 booklet of that size will allow me to use tough card DL envelopes, keeping the cost of international shipping to about $4.00-5.00 AUD. That reduces the cost of shipping by two thirds, and with currency conversion should come out at a pretty minimal addition for most international backers.
Will it be successful? Who knows! I will be Kickstarting Owlbear Omelette during the ZineQuest promotion Kickstarter is running in August, and will let you all know how successful (or not) it was after that…
If it is successful, then maybe I need to take a long and careful look at a few of my planned and upcoming games, and ask myself how they would look wearing an A6 sized overcoat.