Living in a Bubble…

Corsairs launched on Kickstarter on the 1st of February, 2020. It was a ZineQuest project that would run for 14 days. I had the game written, I had made a bunch of art myself, engaged a professional artist in the event we crossed that stretch goal, and had put a lot of planning and thought into how the project would run. What I had not put a huge amount of thought into was how I was going to market Corsairs… how I was going to get word out there… how I was going to get prospective backers to see it. Some context…

An exciting and daunting email to read, all in one…

Before the Kickstarter launched I had a mailing list that was in an infancy, with fewer than a dozen subscribers. I had a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, and posted very occasionally on indieRPG forums on Reddit. I’m not sure now of the exact metrics, but I had a Facebook page for my company with almost zero likes on Facebook, but I was a member of, maybe two, Facebook groups of relevance. I think I had somewhere around 650 or so followers on Twitter. I did not have a presence on Instagram, or any other social media service. Twitter and Facebook, those were the two largest social media presences I could use to spread the word when my project went live.

Of course, in addition to whatever audience I could generate on my own, being a part of ZineQuest, and tagging posts about Corsairs appropriately, meant that there was a ready audience that could be tapped into; people who were knowledgeable about the ZineQuest, and keen to see and support zines connected to it. Many of these were also creators of their own ZineQuest projects.

What did I do when Corsairs launched? I posted everywhere I could think of… I posted on Twitter, on Facebook, on my company page on Facebook, I dashed off a company email, I blogged about it, I tagged everything with #ZineQuest, and I launched my project the second ZineQuest went live. I launched my project the second February rolled around (and that would mean half a day ahead of the US given my location) in the hope that being early in, would mean that there would be fewer zines up, meaning Corsairs would be jostling with fewer projects for notice. I was hesitant to post too often to Twitter, as I didn’t want to pester my followers, but with hindsight I think that next time I would post more.

I had also been writing a series of blog articles journaling my progress and planning with the Kickstarter, with two key reasons in mind:

  • I wanted to provide a series of articles (and this one is part of that series) that would, I hoped, be useful and interesting to creators looking to do ZineQuest for the first time.
  • I wanted to produce useful content. Useful content being something that others can use, and that also serves to get my project out there. I hoped that not only would I achieve the first point, but that people reading my content for tips or to follow along might also consider backing the project or supporting Caradoc Games. Content might get shared by those keen to see you do well, useful content might be shared by those keen to see you do well, and who found the content interesting or useful, or thought it might be useful to others.

Corsairs launched on the 1st of February, 2020. By the end of the first day it was over 50% funded, and passed the funding goal early on the third day. It wasn’t a ‘Funded in 3 seconds’ Kickstarter, but it funded pretty quickly, and more quickly than I expected. It had a relatively high Funding Goal compared to some ZineQuest projects, but not excessively so.

I posted updates to the Kickstarter page. I shared them on Facebook, Twitter, and anywhere else I could think of… Then around day 6 the project slowed right down, and the flow of backers dried up. I had posted lots of places, I had said: ‘Hey! Check this out!’, and I had said it in as many places as I could think of. I was running out of places to say things, and the influx of backers slowed to a trickle. I had hit my bubble…


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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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I remember clearly sitting at my computer and thinking to myself that I had yelled about my project everywhere I could think of… that the people who follow me who might back this project have either already done so, or are not going to… What now? I thought to myself in that moment. What now?

I felt that yelling again about the project was going to achieve nothing, the people I was going to reach through the avenues I had used had already been reached. I had filled my bubble with the announcement, and all who had ears to listen had heard it… had backed it or hadn’t. I had hit the limit of my social media reach, I had hit my bubble, and no amount of yelling was going to reach more people. It was a surreal feeling, a tangible sense of the intangible networks we surround ourselves with. Social media feels like it is a cavernously vast space that our voices can echo through endlessly. To feel edges, a boundary, was strange… What now?

Update number 3…

One of the things I loved most about the ZineQuest experience as a whole was the opportunity to interact with other creators. It felt like a very communal experience, with the vast majority of the people I was lucky enough to engage with overwhelmingly supportive of each other and each others work. From the start I had decided that I would take an active role in that communal spirit, it was laden with an energy and hope for success. Amplifying other voices, the work of other creators poses an interesting problem, I wondered to myself how many people who would potentially back my own project would I lose if I started sharing links to other zines… From the beginning, when I decided to take an active role I decided that I would place my hope in the old maxim that the rising tide floats all boats. In the last paragraph, I wrote of the moment I sat wondering, in the small hours one evening about 6 days into my Kickstarter, what now? Well part of that answer happened naturally out of my choice to try and like and share other projects. As I liked and shared other projects I found, unexpectedly, that other creators liked and shared mine in return. It wasn’t something I had planned, it wasn’t something I asked for or expected, but slowly the trickle of backers grew.

I think a project is also like a rolling stone, a project gaining backers is like a rock gaining momentum, and engaging those backers and being active on social media were, I think, the key things that kept my project rolling.

Had I been organised I could have gone on podcasts, tried to use Facebook advertising, had social media goals linked to the project, or any number of other options. But I didn’t really consider the fact that I exist within a bubble, and what I could do to market the project outside of that bubble. I wasn’t prepared for it, will I be next time?

Crossing the finish line felt great!

I think a few things I have learned from Corsairs are that I don’t need to write so many updates, and that equal to that, it is ok to share an update more than once on social media. Next time I think I’ll aim for fewer updates, and more active use of social media to share and share again the project. If I share on Monday morning my time, that might mean it’s hitting American followers just before midnight Sunday… By the time they wake and check their social media, that post is long gone. It’s ok to share things multiple times, and its’s ok to share and amplify the voices of other creators.

Corsairs taught me a lot, it also grew my social media following, increased my email list, and grew the audience that I had. I think, in reflection, that this is one of the more powerful things a running a Kickstarter, especially if you are a small time creator, has to offer. It can increase the list of those who follow you, allow you to reach more people in subsequent attempts, it doesn’t burst the bubble, but it does help it grow.


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.

Updates! Get your Updates here…

Keep your backers engaged. That was the advice I got from several people who had experience running Kickstarters: Keep your backers engaged…

The most obvious vehicle for keeping your audience engaged is through updates. Updates require content, and take time to create. In December and January, well prior to the February launch of the Corsairs Kickstarter, I made a list of ideas I could write updates about. Updates about the progress of the campaign, naturally. Any milestones crossed, like being funded, reaching stretch goals, these were obvious, and I wrote last time about my planning for Stretch Goals. But what else could I write updates about?

The main page for the Kickstarter already contained an overview of the game system, and with a 36 page role playing game, if I expounded too much further on the specifics of the rules I may as well copy paste the rules book to the Kickstarter Page. I decided to take a mixed approach, keeping those ‘in-between the highlights posts’ about the setting of the game and some of the rules that I thought were neat aspects of the Corsairs system. With the mantra of ‘keep your backers engaged’ echoing in my head, I also decided that for the two weeks the Kickstarter was running, I would post one update every day.

Yes. One update every day. Over the course of the Kickstarter, from launch to two weeks later which marked the end of the project funding period, I wrote 22 updates. More than one a day, and more, by a long way, that I think I should have. It was tiring, of course, but I also wonder now whether the constant barrage of updates could have been off-putting to some prospective backers. This is a question and quandary that I don’t have an answer to, unfortunately.

Updates is one vehicle for keeping backers engaged, but there are other options. I decided, given that the Stretch Goals I had settled on mostly involved more content for the game, that I would run a poll for every stretch goal. These polls would ascertain which of the expansion zines would ‘make the cut’. I started using Survey Monkey, but found it didn’t suit my purposes quite as well as I had hoped. I soon switched to Google Forms, and found that a much more flexible and easy to use platform.

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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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One other thing I decided to do during the Kickstarter was to include a shout out to at least one other ZineQuest zine every update. There was such a huge array of awesome looking zines, I thought it would be good to highlight as many other creations as I could. I do have to admit that I was worried I might lose some backers, who might choose a highlighted zine over Corsairs, but I also thought that some of those highlighted zines would end up leading more potential backers to the Corsairs page as well – swings and roundabouts. In end I decided that to hell with whether I would get a loss or boost out of highlighting other products, ZineQuest had a very excited and communal feeling to it, and a part of that was a slew of creators sharing each others stuff – something I was very glad to take part in.

So… 22 updates over the course of the Kickstarter, that ended up being around 12,500 words all told. I ran four polls, and across those polls tallied some 220 odd votes. In those updates I highlighted 23 other zines that took part in the Zine Quest. What did I learn?

39 updates to date…

I think next time I will try and tone down the frenetic pace of updates. So many updates hitting the inboxes of my backers was possibly, in retrospect, annoying. Being excited about something is one thing, sharing details and sneak peaks is one thing, but do it too much… I don’t know if any of the backers found it annoying, if you were one, perhaps comment below with your thoughts, but I think toning down the number of updates will not hurt. Don’t get me wrong, a Kickstarter needs updates! But I don’t think it needs quite so many.

Polls were great fun. I liked using the polls, and I really liked watching the results roll in. It gave me a sense of the number of backers engaging with the project in real time, and helped me work out which stretch goals the backers wanted to see most. Corsairs, with a majority of its stretch goals being for additional PDF content, was well suited to the use of polls. In another project, it might not be so well suited or relevant, but for this ZineQuest Kickstarter it was good fun.

Highlighting other zines was something I was very glad I did. The jury is out on whether I lost backers through it, or gained any, but it was just a good thing to do. I truly hope that some of the projects I highlighted gained backers off those updates. If I was running a Kickstarter outside of ZineQuest I would consider doing this, though not as often. Perhaps focusing on friends who were running Kickstarters in the same space as my own, or to projects or creators I admire. As a part of the ZineQuest though I felt it was something that fit really well. ZineQuest was a time of buzzing interactions, lots of liking, sharing, and resharing of links and posts between creators. With the general mood of this year’s ZineQuest being one of excitement I felt that it was fundamentally a good thing to do, and something that played into the spirit of the ZineQuest in general.

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.

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.


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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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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.


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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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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.

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.

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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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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.


How things Change…

I started developing Corsairs as an idea back in the middle of 2019. I wanted to make a game that mingled the ideas of pirates and freedom fighters; rebellious sorts who wanted to strike a blow for freedom against the machinations of heartless Empires. Tropes common enough in modern takes on pirates in film and TV. So the setting was born, and the game systems evolved from that. I might take some time in another post to talk about the evolution of the mechanics, but today I want to talk about the game itself, as a thing, and about ZineQuest in general.

In 2019 I started a Patreon, with the idea that I would make a series of micro-games and people would flock to my Patreon, and… no. Not really. I started a Patreon, and released a few smaller games through that, and subsequently on DriveThruRPG and Itch.io. You can find them on the ‘Our Games‘ page if you’re curious. Corsairs was originally intended to be a part of that, one small game in among many. But… As I designed these smaller games they grew… Freedom or Toaster was the first, and each game subsequently grew a little… Part of that was the idea that I would have ‘exclusive content’ in the Patreon version, while the base game would be on DTRPG and Itch. As I was writing the beginnings of what would become Corsairs it was already becoming a ‘larger thing’.

Early character sheets. Originally the game was made in an A4 layout.

Then Kickstarter announced it would be doing ZineQuest again. ZineQuest was a thing I wanted to do. A thing I wanted to challenge myself to do. I had a choice. I could develop a new game specifically for the ZineQuest, or I could continue to develop, test, and make Corsiars into that game. I was honestly torn. Corsairs had already had a bit of work, and if I had pushed I could have quite easily released that and done something else for ZineQuest. It’s not like I’m lacking in ideas.

I decided not to do two things almost at once. Running a Kickstarter for the first time, actually writing, getting art, laying out, printing, and shipping a game would be enough work. I’m glad I chose to focus on Corsairs, because it gave me time. I had time to finish the game rules in September and November of 2019. And that gave me time to do a ton of research into all the things I didn’t know I needed to know for producing a game. Writing one I could handle, producing one, that was new. I’m glad I gave myself time, because there was a lot to learn.

A test booklet, all blank, and the incomplete print of an early draft.

So I decided to do ZineQuest, and that changed things. It changed a lot of things. What was going to be a coloured A4 PDF needed to be a two tone A5 booklet. What would that even look like? What is imposition? What size envelope would it need? How much would that cost? I made some early prototypes, just to get a feel of what size it would be and how much it might weigh. Would it be under 50g? That would make shipping very affordable! More than 50g and the price nearly quadruples. Australia, woo!

Without hitting that stretch goal, Corsairs would have looked like this…

What would I do for art? How much art? How much is art? What rights and rules are there around using art? All of these were things to consider. I drew the first cover, it was the image that I used for the Kickstarter. I knew I wanted to get a professional artist to work their magic, but that was only something I could afford to organise if the Kickstarter was a success, it was only something that could happen if I met the funding goal, and then the stretch goal for professional art. Thankfully it did.

The physical copy… final.

With the rules already written and tested, I could spend the latter part of December and January preparing for the Kickstarter, researching, working on costs, and trying to nut out a plan of how I was going to actually run the Kickstarter itself. This involved a lot of emails to artists, to people who had previously run Kickstarters, and looking back at the games that were released in the last ZineQuest. I knew the ‘rules’ of ZineQuest stipulated two tone, saddle-stitched booklet or loose pages, and a few other conditions, but I also knew that plenty of the games that had been in the 2019 ZineQuest had broken those rules with impunity. There was colour galore and a few hardbacks in there too. Still, I wanted to do the thing, and I wanted to stick by the guidelines, for 2020 at least. I could, maybe even should have had a colour cover as a stretch goal, but I love what it looks like now, so I’m happy.

How things change… Corsairs grew from what was to be a small micro-rpg released on Patreon to a 36 page saddle-stitched booklet with professional art funded through the Kickstarter promotion of ZineQuest.

The final Character sheet, a little different from the A4 version above…

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. END OBLIGATORY PLUG.

Running the Kickstarter for ZineQuest was a great learning curve and a wonderful experience. I won’t pretend it wasn’t a lot of work. It was. I won’t pretend I didn’t spend a lot of hours writing updates, comments, getting the word out there, pushing, pushing, pushing. I did. But it was worth it. Not terribly worth it from a financial point of view – that might be the subject of a later post. But worth the experience. It was a learning curve, and I did a lot of things I had never done before. I commissioned art and got to work with a wonderful artist, Felicity Haworth. I got to buy a large quantity of envelopes after working out which ones were the right size. I got to lay a document out, and decorate it with ink spatters and mess. I got to price shipping for the UK, the US, Iran, and China. I got to work out costings, incoming and outgoing, and then hope like crazy I hadn’t made some egregious mistake in there somewhere. I got to communicate and interact with a huge number of zine fans and indie TTRPG folx. All of it was a great experience, and yes I would do it again. Yes, I am planning on doing it again.

If you are at all interested in running a Kickstarter, or participating in the ZineQuest, I have tried to keep a record of many of the helpful sites, links, and online posts on the ZineQuest page here. These helped me greatly. There are also links to the articles I have written on this blog, charting my thoughts, plans and experiences. Articles I plan to continue with, and will continue to link there.

So final thoughts? If you’ve ever considered writing and making an RPG ZineQuest is well worth trying out. Check out the ZineQuest page on this site, and do your research. It is a lot of fun, and well worth doing.