Now what the hell am I to do?

So your Kickstarter is over and it was successful… now what?

NW_LogoDO IMMEDIATELY

  • Hopefully right before your campaign ended you remembered to update the story page with your home page URL and last minute info on how to order your product in the future. Remember your page will be live forever and people will visit in the future and may even want your product!
  • Send out an Update saying thanks for the support and explaining what backers are to expect next
    • Est Shipping Date updates
    • When to expect survey
    • Will you use a fulfillment service, should they expect an invite
    • Be honest and hope and people will be understanding
    • Do not get snappy with your customers no matter how many times they are being annoying.
    • Remember not everyone reads ALL your updates or comments. So repeating yourself should be expected.
  • Export Kickstarter backer data so you have a record of the state of pledges right at the end of the campaign.
  • After 7-10 days Kickstarter will move non-payers to their own category/tier. Once this happens you can export your data again.
  • Withdrawl your money from Amazon Payments into a BUSINESS account and DO NOT TOUCH IT for anything not related to this specific project. It is very easy to get in trouble using this money for other bills. The backers put a lot of trust in you to manage the money correctly.
  • If you’re using a 3rd party management tool  (such as Backerkit.com), than you can send out the invites after Kickstarter has moved non-pay people to their own teir. Using these tools allow the backer to change their address at any time as well as add items to their order.
  • Finish up your product’s design/artwork/layout/manual and keep testing.
  • If you haven’t already created a company and company bank account for this project (which you should have done before now), do so now. It only costs a couple hundred dollars to start an LLC. Open an actual business bank account to keep your Kickstarter money separate from your personal money. It can also save you from disaster of law suits.

SurveyTHE SURVEY

  • Send out the Kickstarter Backer Survey
    • If you’re not using a 3rd party tool to manage your data, then send the survey out as late as possible as you’ll be having to deal with address changes going forward.
    • You will have to send a seperate survey to each reward level/tier. While this can be helpful to ask specific reward tier questions, it takes time to make so many surveys. So don’t get carried away with non-essential questions.
    • Ask questions that allow you to fulfill a backer’s possible add-on items or choices such as: sizes, colors, etc
    • You can also ask a few simple marketing questions like, where did they find out about your campaign.
    • If you later need more information, you can always use another survey site and ask for their name and then build a cross reference. But you really rather not do this if you can help it.
    • If you are using a 3rd party Kickstarter tool you can just send out the simplest address only survey and then you can more then likely use that tool to get more answers there as they complete their orders. Likely you’ll have them add items to a “shopping cart” so you don’t even need to survey for sizes/colors anymore.
    • Ask in the survey if  they wish to be added to your company mailing list.
  • Some people may never fill out the survey or use a 3rd party, you’ll have to continue to manually nag them. Sometimes even manually process their order.

COMMUNICATING

  • Continue to send KS updates at least once a month. This can not be stressed enough! It can mean the difference between a mob of angry backers and a group of supportive fans.
    • Share your Manufacturer’s mock-up pictures.
    • Share status updates on shipping from Manufacturer
    • Don’t forget it’s possible to send a direct message to all people in a specific reward teir in case you need to bring special attention to something.
    • Bad news is better than No news
  • If you’re NOT using a 3rd party to manage your post-Kickstarter data, once your products are for sure in-route to your warehouse you should:
    • Send out survey with questions to get addresses and allow you to fill orders
    • Find some PC tool to help manage your data/users.
  • Consider setting up a community forum/page to take your customers off of Kickstarter and start engaging them directly. This works best for more involved/creative products (film, fiction, RPGs, rewards that allow contribution, etc) to continue development from backer-based creatives that need to be added.
  • Remember you now have everyone’s email address, so you can make use of mailing list services. I’d recommend the majority of your communication directly related to this project, stays on KS though as it’s less likely to bounce and it’ll keep an active archive.
  • Don’t send out updates out too frequently (1 week is enough). Backers will be tempted to turn off your updates. If you feel you want to share or have lots to say, consider starting a blog page and invite people to follow you there.

Manufacturing-PictureMANUFACTURING

  • ALSO SEEHitchhiker’s guide to Game Manufacturers
  • Sign a contract/invoice with your Manufacturer
    • Send the downpayment (usually 50%)
    • Arrange for some replacement parts (1-3%) to be included in your shipment. You don’t want to have to bust open new games for these parts.
    • Don’t make more than 1000 extra of your product as post-KS sales are hard to obtain.
  • If you haven’t already prepared a print-and-play version of your game (which is great to hand out during the campaign), then work on making one now. This helps you get all your ducks in a row and gives Backers something to do while they wait.
  • Prepare your print mechanicals and 3D models and other details (for the bits) for the Manufacturer
  • Sign off on the digital proofs files from the printer
  • Get sample (“white box“) from the Manufacturer. Don’t count on just pictures as they can be misleading and hard to spot problems. Do the touchy-feely thing. Yes this may cost you $200-300 to have done, but it’s worth it. I know that’s a hard pill to swallow, but I’ve learned the hard way here.
  • Approve final physical mock-up & advanced copy
  • Read: http://www.jamesmathe.com/10000-feet-to-publishing-a-board-game/

25022001113755_logisticsLOGISTICS

  • If you offered an electronic version of your product, consider using a free service like WarGameVault.com to deliver the files for you. Just have to cut and past the email addresses.
  • Pay the final manufacturer bill (sometimes including the shipping) or they will not ship it. Don’t pay it without them having fixed every problem you found first!
  • Figure out how many and of what kinds of add-on / stretch goal items you need to order from other manufacturers or locally. The survey or your 3rd party tool should help you get this data. Get the ball in motion so you have these when your main product arrives.
  • Where are you going to store all these games? A pallet typically holds about 300-600 copies of a board game. Warehouses will charge you $5-15 per month per pallet. Your 2 car garage will not hold more than a dozen pallets (and is not climate controlled). Stacking them in your house gets old real quick. Consider an insurance rider if you do store them at your home.
  • Who’s going to pack them all? In what boxes? Can you take a week off work to do this? Make sure you order enough Priority Mail boxes before you get your games. It can take a week or two for them to show up. Collect some newspapers as they make good packing materials. If you’re packing yourself, be prepared for having no free time for weeks.
  • Customer service will be on-going even outside of Kickstarter. Provide a way for your Backers and future customers to contact you and always reply within 1 day.
    • Make sure you have a website with a clear contacts page.
    • You will be dealing with missing shipments. Don’t argue with backers, just do what you can to track the package and send it again if you must. Believe it or not there is theft in the postal and customs units of many countries. This is part of doing business.
    • You have to deal with miss-packed orders that need a second shipment (costly).
    • Dealing with replacements parts: http://www.stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter-lesson-53-replacement-parts/
  • Importing products is more of a hassle than you might think.
    • You need to put your products on in container which will most likely be a LFC (Less than Full Container) which will cost anywhere from $500-2500. A full container can hold 4000-5000 games and will cost about $4000-4500. Most Manufacturers will arrange a container shipment for you at least to your country.
    • You will need someone bonded with Right of Attorney to act on your behalf to receive the goods into the country.
    • Your products may or may not get scan, searched, and even X-Rayed. While most of the time you get through customs with just a couple hundred dollars a few days lost, once in a while they do much more. I have imported containers about 6 times now and 1 of those times I was hit with $1800 in customs fees as they gave the container the full deluxe treatment. The usual amount though is $200-300
    • Just getting your stuff through customs isn’t enough, you still need it delivered to a warehouse or your home. This takes putting them on a train and then trucking them to your warehouse. If it’s your home you need to make sure they bring a truck with a lift gate (about $50-75 upcharge). Getting the games delivered from the customs port will cost about $1000-2000.

sellingSELLING YOUR GAME

  • The time to have contacted and partnered with a Publisher has passed… None of the well know publishers will take on a game after it’s been through a Kickstarter. So you are your own Publisher and salesman from this point on.
  • Get into Distribution as you will sell very few copies off your own website. Contact a consolidator or distributors about them handling/selling your products after you have fulfilled your Kickstarter backers.
  • ALSO SEE: Hitchhiker’s guide to Game Distributors
  • The most common (Easiest? Best?) way to get your games into game stores and sold in our hobby market is to use a consolidator like Impressions or PSI or Game Salute. The first two can get you into distributors world wide. Game Salute specializes in keeping your product priced near MSRP instead of in the hands of deep discounters.
  • You can attempt to contact distributors directly, but you’ll have to ship to each of them and they will not call for restocks often enough. http://www.impressionsadv.net/index.php?p=distributorlist
  • You should create a way for customers to order your product directly from you. This can be as simple as putting a paypal link on your product page. Consider offering a pre-order version of your product that includes most (maybe all) Kickstarter rewards. Remove that special pre-order sale option once your product has arrived.
  • Conventions & Events
    • If you want to continue to sell your product after Kickstarter, you should look into attending and vending at conventions both local and nationally. These can widely range in price from just $50-$2000. GenCon and Origins being on the high end, local cons on the low end.
    • Arrange demos at conventions, events, game stores, and wherever you can. Bring a copy or two to sell or give to the store to sell when you’re done.
    • Bring enough copies to sell the game at the show but not too many. This will be 10-30 copies for most events. At large national events you could sell more, but only with good exposure.
    • Reach out to local gaming groups and meetup.com to demo your game
  • Get your product listed on Amazon. It’s easier than you think (though can take some time). Create a business account and submit the new product with images and UPC/ISBN.
  • Esty has loosened some of their rules recently and so many Kickstarter projects can now be sold there.
  • List your product on Ebay
  • Retailers
    • Reach out to your local gaming stores and attend game nights and offer to do demo days.
    • Consider a launch party package deal of your game and extra prizes and demos copies.
    • Offer to sell retailers copies at 50% off. If they don’t bite on that, offer to give them 1 copy for free and leave your number so they can reorder if it sells. If they still don’t bite offer them a demo copy and a consignment sales deal.
    • Contact a few of the major online retailers (Cool Stuff Inc, Miniature Market, Fun Again Games, Boards & Bits, etc) as they may be willing to list/buy your product direct.
  • Don’t forget your game will not sell well if you don’t do any marketing. You need to consider continuing to do online banners, blogging, interviews and reviews. Even cold-calling stores.
  • Continue to find people to publicly review your game.
  • If your game sold well, consider contacting companies from other countries about localization of your game. Licensing can be another source of revenue.

POST MORTEM

  • Remember the customer base you have built can be used as a launch pad for your future projects, including a reprint or expansion to this product. So always treat your backers well.
  • Don’t ignore the social network you built. Continue to make use of them or they will fade away.

 

PLEDGE MANAGERS

PledgeManager – 25 cents per backer. 5% add-on charges.

CrowdOx – (variable options) $1.25 per backer + 5% add-ons or 1.5% campaign funds + 5% add-ons

Backerkit – A bit expensive and complicated to use, but very powerful.  $149-299 Setup fee. Couple payment plans, but roughly 1% of the campaign plus 3% of added funds using Backerkit’s cart.

FundAFull – $250 min or 1% fee. 2.9%+30 cent additional funds processing fee. Pledge Calculator.

Skykadia – $300 min or 1% fee.

ShopStarter – 2.1% (+2.9% + 30 cents) of add-ons

 

 

MORE READING

Kickstarter Lesson #40: Should You Offer the Kickstarter-Exclusive Version of Your Product After the Campaign?

http://www.stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter-lesson-40-should-you-offer-the-kickstarter-exclusive-version-of-your-product-after-the-campaign/

The Hacker’s Guide to Crowdfunding: The Good, The Bad, & The Flexible

http://backerkit.tumblr.com/private/68898069642/tumblr_mx8vevoOvk1rl8qx1

Tabletop Game Kickstarter Advice:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/TabletopKickstarters/

 

9 thoughts on “Now what the hell am I to do?

  1. James–This is yet another fantastic post. Thanks for taking the time to compile this wisdom. Two big takeaways I’ve never considered were your advice of exporting project data immediately after the project and then again after pledges have cleared (very clever) and listing the product on eBay. That’s a great idea.

    There is one key note I should mention regarding your advice to wait as long as possible to send out the backer survey. If you have an overseas manufacture send pallets of games directly to multiple countries, you need that backer data fairly soon so you can tell your manufacturer exactly how to divide up the games. You don’t need it immediately, but it often takes a while to get that final 10% of backers to fill out the survey, so you don’t want them holding up everyone else.

    • I did say as late as possible… if you need the data for some reason, that’s as late as you can wait. The point is that you’ll be surprised by the number of address change requests you get and worse you have to manually track them or screw up the order. But I agree, much of the time you need that survey data sooner rather then later. Which is why a 3rd party tool for managing shipping addresses is recommended.

  2. Great article, James.

    It’s very clear and well thought through. You hit a number of points that I think many of us haven’t really thought about. For example the, “If [you’re having the games delivered to your home] you need to make sure they bring a truck with a lift gate. This will cost $1000-2000 more” was especially eye opening.

    That’s just one of the many things listed here that a new guy like myself could easily end up taking on the chin. The whole logistics section is full of harsh realities. Too often, I can see people just doing the, “Getting it backed an printed is the hard part.” True, but they’re all hard parts.

    It’s also enlightening to learn just how few copies you’ll likely sell after the kickstarter is over and how much harder you’ll have to work to sell them. Aldo at Impressions says it’s about 300 – 600 copies FOREVER, unless you’re super lucky. That information combined with what you’ve mentioned really does put it in perspective.

    I should point out, none of this turns me off from doing my own kickstarter project, far from it. If anything, I feel more at ease after reading this article, as scary as some of the parts of it are. You’ve illuminated a number of dark questions I’ve had about the other side of the campaign. And you know what they say, “Knowing is half the battle.”

    Thanks,
    Joe

    • Oops… bad wording/phrasing… it will cost only $50-75 extra for a lift gate. The $1000-2000 is what it will cost you to get a delivery from the customs port to your destination. Sorry for the confusion, I fixed the text above.

  3. Wow! What a great and comprehensive list. Thanks for compiling all this info. Lots of stuff here that I hadn’t considered before.

    Have you had much success with e-bay sales? Do you sell at MSRP or a reduced cost?

    • Honestly, even though we make many games with 2 or 3 pretty popular ones, our sales on Ebay and Amazon and such are very nill (a copy here and there at best). Our sales on our own website are also very poor (a couple a month). This reinforces the need for you to get your games into distribution and into game stores and online shops. Though I suppose if people could ONLY get the items direct from us, the numbers would be much greater.

  4. Great post as usual 🙂
    Regarding production, I’d say you must have done the layout/prepped the files/be ready to print BEFORE the campaign actually ends. Ideally before it even starts.
    You’ll need to make minor adjustments right after the campaign but at least most of it will be done already.
    This allows you to spot any wrong assumptions, mistakes, to have the manufacturer re-quote if required (say for instance you just realise you need an extra die cut punchboard to fit some of your tokens. This affects desktop publishing time, and costs.)
    The more that you have ready before you start the less surprises you will have. And surprises are not the salt of life when publishing, they’re always unpleasant and costly.

  5. good, but this statement “You can also ask a few simple marketing questions like, where did they find out about your campaign.”
    Kickstarter does not allow marketing related questions in the project ending survey

    • And Kickstarter is very bad at enforcing their own rules. That’s why I said keep it simple and they won’t say anything. I’ve done it many times before.

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