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…

INSERT OBLIGATORY PLUG:

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!

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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.

INSERT OBLIGATORY PLUG:

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!

END OBLIGATORY PLUG.

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.

Smoke and Oakum

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

Sitting at 32 pages from front cover to back cover it is almost as big as the core rules, and covers a lot of ground. In it you will be able to find rules and suggestions covering a slew of topics, from the effects of fair weather or challenging winds, to rules for encounters with storms, shoals, and more of the dangers that can foul a sky ship. There are 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. There are 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. 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 are two sets of stat blocks for enemies a Corsair Sky Ship might face off against, one titled ‘Sails Ho’, and the other ‘Here There Be Dragons’, and I’ll leave it to you to imagine what might be covered in the second!

At the back of the book 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 the book. Lastly 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. In short, Smoke and Oakum is a supplement that adds a lot of new material, all of it geared toward making your play experience as Corsairs sailing their infamous sky ships a more interesting, and nuanced experience. I am really thrilled with how Smoke and Oakum has come together, and I hope anyone who snags a copy of Smoke and Oakum will get a lot from the book!

I expect Smoke and Oakum to be available from DriveThruRPG and Itch.io within the next ten days, and I’m really excited to read what people think!

Speaking of which… if you have a copy of Corsairs consider heading to DriveThruRPG or Itch.io and giving it a rating or review, these things really help, and are very much appreciated! If you missed the Kicksarter and are interested in a physical copy of the zine, there are still some copies left from the print run, contact me at caradocgames@gmail.com for details. I am looking at a bunch of options to allow me to sell physical and digital products online at the moment, but I haven’t made any decisions on that front just yet.

Phew… So what’s next? Well, I am currently working away at Speed, Strength, and Wits, which will take a look at characters in the same way Smoke and Oakum took a look at Sky Ships and sailing. Beyond that… who knows. I am working on an adventure at the moment that I may just write up and put up for sale, and I have a half a dozen things I would have liked to include in Smoke and Oakum but just wasn’t able to fit in. If there is interest, I am keen to keep developing the Corsairs world!

Beyond Corsairs I am working on a new RPG setting and system that I was hoping to launch later this year, but which I may just hold on to in anticipation of next year’s ZineQuest (presuming Kickstarter run it again). I am really digging the theme and world I am currently developing, so we’ll see how it progresses!

Lastly, if you want to keep up with Corsairs, and everything else happening at Caradoc Games, head here to join our mailing list, or follow us on twitter @caradocp or @caradocgames

Sailing on Fair Winds…

Corsairs has been shipped. After receiving everything, my wife and I spent a couple of days packaging the games up, printing labels, and preparing, and today I took them to the post office and off they went…

Before

It was a surreal and uplifting feeling, handing them over in their stacks – this stack to Aussie addresses, this stack to the UK and Europe, this to the US… but it is done! I do not doubt there will be delays, given the pandemic sweeping the globe everything has slowed down and mail is one of those things that has been impacted, but the journey has begun!

After…

Shipping, all added together, was the most expensive part of making Corsairs. Over a quarter of the money made from the Kickstarter went toward paying for shipping costs. I would have loved to have been able to charge less, but shipping from (and to) Australia is expensive. It was one of the reasons I had both a PDF and physical option on the Kickstarter, and I was honestly surprised that far more people wanted a physical copy, than backed for the PDF only. I have to admit that I really like having a physical copy of my games and books myself, so I shouldn’t be that surprised! I really hope that when Corsairs arrives you enjoy it. That you enjoy reading it, enjoy the feel and look of it, and enjoy playing it.

If you get the chance, please consider heading over to DriveThruRPG or Itch.io and give the game a rating; ratings and reviews help immensely!

In any case, with that out of the way I am now focused fully on Smoke and Oakum. The final draft is mostly written, so things are getting close! I am hoping to have Smoke and Oakum out by the end of August, but we shall see how we go! The art is in, and it’s looking amazing. I can’t wait for you to see it!

I’ll be writing a bit more about Smoke and Oakum in the next update, until then I wish you a fair wind!

Set in Stone…

A little later today the files for Corsairs will be heading off to the printer. At this point, everything is set in stone. I am nervous, and excited. Once printing is finished we will begin the process of fulfilling the physical copies of Corsairs!

In other news, progress on the follow up zines has been slow, but ongoing. There are some fun new things for Ships and Sailing in the upcoming release Smoke and Oakum, and expanded options for characters and development that I think add some nice features in Speed, Strength, and Wits. Felicity has completed the art for Smoke and Oakum, and it is looking fantastic! I am really impressed with the work she has done to help bring life and energy to Corsairs, I’m sure you will agree.

It’s been a chaotic time, from a bush fires to a pandemic, to social upheaval. Given these very real and very important events I have felt that trying to push and market Corsairs in this time is insensitive to those issues. So Corsairs sits, at the moment, slowly ticking away. I have been pleased to see Corsairs gather a few more sales on DriveThru and Itch, and hopefully this continues with the release of Smoke and Oakum. I am considering developing and writing a mini-campaign for Corsairs to supplement the line, but that will depend on how the follow up zines progress. Beyond that, there are a few more games in development that will either see light later this year, or be more fully realised for 2021, perhaps as a part of the ZineQuest then, if it runs again.

I know I have been quiet of late, but things have been ticking along. I hope to shift back to posting more regularly soon…