Updated: August 2019
This article is a collection of Qs & As from our Live Advice Panel events held at conventions around the country and across the years.
At each of these events we take our Advice Columns to the street to meet people where they’re at. I serve as the moderator and emcee for a Q&A style discussion with a panel of unique Kickstarter experts, often far larger than myself. *humbled* The events are strictly Q&A based, so the discussion is generated entirely by the audience addressing their immediate and relevant concerns.
Each event has new experts, each event has new guests, and each event’s questions and answers are recorded below for you to benefit from.
Perhaps you have the same questions?
A special “Thank You” to the guest panelists that have joined us so far and are responsible for the below array of information…
- Jamey Stegmaier (Stonemaier Games & Kickstarter Lesson Blogger) x2
- Michael Lee (Managing Partner at Panda Games Manufacturing) x2
- Fabian Louton (Account Manager at Panda GM) x2
- Lance Myxter (Undead Viking Reviews) x3
- Michael Mindes (President of Tasty Minstrel Games) x2
- Mark Streed (The Dice Tower) x2
- Seth Jaffee (Designer at TMG)
- John Coveyou (Got Genius Games)
- Jeff King (All Us Geeks)
- Adam Clark (Creator of Kicktraq)
- Forrest Bower (Bower’s Game Corner Reviews)
- Joel Eddy (Drive Thru Reviews)
- Max Salzberg (Co-founder at Backerkit)
- Dan Halstad (League of Nonsensical Gamers)
- Greg Spence (Owner at Broken Token)
- Jonathan Liu (Geek Dad)
- J.R. Honeycutt (Restoration Games)
- Daniel Zayas (LongPack GM)
- David Blanchard (GPI GM)
- Peter Aoun (Panda GM)
- Chandler Copenhaver (CrowdOx)
- Aldo Ghiozzi (Impressions Distribution)
- Conor McGoey (InsideUp Games)
- Steven Cole (Escape Velocity Games)
- Justin Bergeron (OTX Logistics)
- Keith Matejka (Thunderworks Games)
- Kevin Burky (Game Toppers)
- Karen M. Hansen-Morgan (Kickstarter Super Backer)
- Matt Paquette (Graphic Designer)
- Stephanie Hodge (Board Game Geek & Social Media)
- Michael Wright (Unfiltered Gamer Reviews)
- Jesse Anderson (Quakalope Photography & Reviews)
- Justin De Witt (Fireside Games)
- Anne-Marie De Witt (Fireside Games)
- Dave Snyder (GamelandUS Manufacturing)
The Actual Questions and their Actual Answers:
The following Q&A list will continue to grow as we continue to host these events around the globe, so keep an eye out for regular updates.
“What was the most surprising result of your first KS, besides its success?”
-The kindness of people!
-That life-long friendships were made during it.
-People believe in [the creator] without knowing him/her.
“What are the top mistakes a first time KS creator can make?”
-Not budgeting, but guessing at costs.
-Not building a crowd in advance.
-Trying to please everybody with game design, look, content, terminology, etc.
-Adding every suggested stretch goal to the campaign.
-Not planning shipping correctly.
“What do you wish you knew before you started?”
-How much freight would cost.
-How many backers I’d have in each area of the world.
-What optional goals people would want.
-How my manufacturer would treat me and my customers (delays, etc.)
-That people would have an issue with the video as shot.
-That Kickstarter isn’t going to make me rich.
“What was your experience like with the first game you created (published or un-)?”
-My first game was never published and probably never will be, it’s an RPG that attempts to quantify reality. We still game monthly on it.
-My first game also isn’t published. I published other ones first, and am circling back around to it now.
“What’s the difference between design, publishing and distributing?”
-Design is the process of game creation. You then self-publish or pitch to publishers.
-Publishing is the process of taking a finished game, marketing it, manufacturing it, and getting it ready for distribution. The publisher’s logo is the one that goes on the box. The designer’s name will go near it, ie: “A game by: NAME“.
-Distribution is the process of getting a published game into retail stores around the world. For this you always hire distribution company.
(Note: “Fulfillment” is the process of mailing out your Kickstarter rewards to backers. It looks a bit like distribution, but it is not the same thing.)
“What is the timeline/process from game completion to Kickstarter launch?”
-Get art – 1 to 6 months.
-Get Manufacturing Quotes – 1 month.
-Build a budget – 3 days to a week.
-Make video – 1 day to 3 weeks.
-Design site – 3 days to 3 months.
-Set up KS account/identity verification – 2 days.
-Get site reviews – 1 week.
-Prepare banner ads for immediate launch – 1 week.
-Promote where you can – Various.
-Launch. (14 to 40 days. 30+/- recommended).
-Finish art – 0 to 6 months.
-Finalize quotes for updated components/changes.
-Submit files to manufacturer – 1 week.
-Pre-press / Pre-production – 25-100 days (depends on components. paper = faster, plastic = longer).
-Mass production – 40-75 days (depends on components…)
-Freight shipping – 25-50 days (depends on location).
-Fulfillment shipping – 1-2 weeks to process, 1 week to ship. (but varies by self vs. amazon) (customs may require holds, testing, etc.)
“What pitfalls have you encountered with Kickstarter?”
-Some functionality of the site leaves a touch to be desired, but they are actively upgrading it.
-They’re letting almost anything get approved these days unless it’s outright smut or outright illegal. You can Kickstarter cookies, then Kickstart muffins, and then Kickstarter a loaf of bread. Fortunately in our genre, this isn’t too much of an issue; the gaming market weeds out the insane pretty quickly.
-Some people hate Kickstarter exclusives, but other love them. Right now you have to worry about right now. Exclusives are good. But not too many.
-Other than that, not much. The site is reputable and respected.
“What is the hardest part of running a KS?”
-“All of it!”
-There comes a time for an advice panel to get low energy and be real with you, and this is it. Kickstarter is a h.a.r.d. hard route to take. There is almost nothing easy about it.
-Getting the budget right.
-Universally agreed upon answer: The work-life-balance. KS will consume all your time, not just for 30 days, but for months, possibly years, afterward.
“If KS is one of the hardest routes, what are alternative routes?”
-Get your inheritance early, or an investor, and self-fund.
-IndiGoGo (but really the same thing).
-Sell/License designs to another publisher.
“Since running a KS is so social, is there any hope for one who is socially awkward, and terrified of speaking to random people at cons?”
-Michael Mindes (CEO of TMG, on panel at the time) was pointed out as someone that is a huge introvert that doesn’t enjoy selling boothside, but has had massive success.
-The audience was asked if Jamey Stegmaier (Co-founder of Stonemaier Games, not on panel) has ever been seen by any audience member shaking hands on the Exhibit Hall floor..? No hands went up. Yet, he too has had massive success.
-Net answer: Yes!
“How do you know you’re not infringing on someone else’s’ trademarked game mechanics?”
-First: Trademarks are for brand names and logos. Copyrights are for text and art. Patents are for methods of creation and designs.
-Second: The most appropriate term is Mechanisms (mechanics fix cars).
-To Trademarks: Don’t use another’s brand name or logo in your product’s design or advertising.
-To Copyrights: Don’t plagiarize another’s manual, game text, or use art that you don’t own.
-To Patents: Look em up, and don’t go near them.
-Some Patents are formalities and easy to get around. When “Tapping” was patented, some folks turned cards 180 degrees instead of 90, and called it “Turning”.
-In general, creating your own genius ideas instead of working off another’s is the easiest way. Then it is truly yours.
“What if a copyright issue pops up during/after Kickstarter.”
-If it happens during, Kickstarter will shut down your page until the dispute is settled – your end date will not be adjusted. You’ll likely want to cancel unless the claim is clearly bogus. You don’t want income based on another’s IP. They’ll take the money, and you’ll never fulfill.
-If it happens after, you’ll be in a legal battle and likely owe some money. Call a lawyer!
“Once you have a physical prototype from the manufacturers is that the time to launch a KS?”
-Good news. You don’t need a physical prototype from manufacturers, and there’s lots of good reasons no too.
-Print n’ Play productions, and Game Crafter, and a little leg work at Fed Ex Kinkos can get you one cheaper.
-You get locked into a manufacturer if you do make a proto with them.
-You need all art first to make a full one… not worth it for a first time Kick. …you could fail. (!)
“How far along in the design/development process should the product be towards completion before Kickstarting?”
“Should your project be about 100% complete before launching?”
“Still playtesting, when do we Kickstart?”
The experts unanimously agreed on the following points:
-You should NOT Kickstart an IDEA. Kickstart a fully designed and fully playtested game.
-2015: The game should be 90-95% complete. Leaving 5-10% for wiggle room from backer-ideas is a great way to improve your game from the minds of 100s of backers, and to get them involved. Any less than 90% is Kickstarting an idea, and to be avoided.
-2018: At 99%. There was a time when 90-95% was enough, but those days are largely behind us. People want products, and don’t often get as deeply involved in campaigns as they used because there are so many to spend time on.
“What are your top tips for running a successful campaign / What elements make a game KS successful?”
-Budget every detail.
-Playtest, playtest, playtest.
-Make the campaign page clean and pretty.
-Don’t give in to all stretch goal suggestions.
-Be communicative and honest.
-Clear pledge Tiers.
“Suggestions on timing for a first Kickstarter? Phase of completion / Time of year?”
-Phase of design completion: 98%+
-Phase of art completion: Enough to make the Kickstarter look awesome.
-Time of year: If seasonally themed, launch in that season (not for delivery in that season), unless turn around time is 2-3 months. If not seasonally themed, most any time is fine with summer and Christmas time being a bit harder.
“Is there a best time of year to run a board game Kickstarter?”
-Evidence suggests: Maybe. But quality games with properly designed campaigns are successful every month of the year.
-Visit Coveyou’s blog for his stats on this.
“How much playtesting should I do?”
-Until it’s a 100% solid sellable game, and don’t launch beforehand.
-Also, don’t send it to a previewer until it’s at that state. Their video will last forever on the internet, so you’ll want to make sure they don’t post one with issues.
“Is it viable to hire a consultant to run a Kickstarter or does the largest success come from designer engagement with the community?”
-The 8 panelists universally agreed that consultants are simply not necessary at all and can likely be a waste of money. They can help, but it’s a good game that sells itself.
-Naturally designer/creator engagement is worth a million dollars. If the Pacific Rim Kickstarter were run by the unique passionate individual that created the game instead of the machine that was just trying to make money, it would have done a lot better.
-On the other hand, consultants, by analogy, can be like a hired gardener/landscaper. They’re not necessary at all… unless you don’t want to, or have time to, learn to garden or mow your own lawn. – They’re a commodity that you need to decide if the time they save you is worth the money they cost. If you do bring on a consultant, they should share in the risk of the project, only getting paid if they help it become successful.
“Are there any downfalls to crowdfunding a game on Kickstarter?”
-“No. Haha.” (unanimous answer from the panel).
-At worst, you have a few people after the campaign who “won’t buy it because they can’t get the Exclusives”. Otherwise, nope.
“What’s the #1 thing you need to do to start your own Kickstarter game?”
(We all answer this in a one sentence or less answer.)
-Have a game! (Haha)
-Play test, play test, play test.
-Build your audience on social media.
-Get awesome cover art.
-Look professional (even though you’re not).
-Have a Kickstarter account. (har har)
“If you haven’t produced a Kickstarter yet, but are ready to, what do you need to know before you jump in?”
-A lot, but by being here at the panel you’re taking those first steps. Beyond that, read the advice online. There’s so much to cover in this broad question.
“How do you know when your supporters have reached critical mass to justify starting a Kickstarter?”
-When they keep telling you you better!
-When the playtest responses are overwhelmingly positive.
“What aspects of Kickstarter has made you want to back it?”
Top 5 in no particular order:
-The cover art.
-Creator’s involvement in the comments.
-Personal taste in the product.
-Fair/good price for the product.
KS PAGE DETAILS
“Is there a really sweet spot for quantity of reward levels?”
-As few as necessary to represent the product. Maybe 1-3.
-More if it truly makes it easier for the backer to find what they need.
-Various debate over the value of the $1 Reward. Some said it was a waste, some said that with a personal thank you note to those Backers, and you might convert their pledge to a full reward.
“Should a print and play version of the game be a reward on the project page?”
-Some say yes, some say no. All agreed a black & white PnP should be available for cheap or free.
-They build trust and confidence in the game, and its actual existence.
-I like them at the $1 level. It’s not too much to ask for basically giving your game away, plus it increases your Kickstarter #’s, and locks that person into getting your updates which may pull them into a full pledge. Plus making a printable version of your game probably isn’t easy, some will just want to SEE it before upgrading their pledge.
-Don’t make it more than $1. They already have to spend $10 on ink to print it.
-Full Color Ones can do well between $10 and $25. This can help you pay for the art on a first time indie-style Kick.
“How important is a video to success?”
– Very. Don’t launch without one.
– On one campaign, we had 6,139 backers. That campaign had 11,911 video views; 39.70% of those were viewed to 100% completion, 4,729 total.
“What do you think makes a good Kickstarter video?”
-Keep it short. 3 minutes or less. Once we came up with an example of a video script that I made up on the spot …it was 20 seconds long. Simple, and direct is good.
-Don’t put a full game run-through on this video. Simply mention that such can be found below.
-Mention that your professional reviews can be found below. Show logos of reviewing companies to give your product immediate street-cred.
-Give your “elevator pitch”. All the best points and highlights in near bullet-point form, so we know quick and dirty what this is about. Mention that details can be found below on the site.
-Show yourself. People want to see you and the product so they know both are real.
-No need to be verbose. Again, “XYZ can be found below on our site” will save you time and present an approachable video.
-“Intro back-stories” at the beginning are all the rage these days, but catch mixed emotions on their presence, many prefer you avoid 30 second “meaningless voice-over intros” and “Just get to the goods”. (What are your thoughts on these? Tell us in the comments.)
-Remember: one tool Kickstarter uses to rate & rank projects is the percentage of completed video watches. So keep it short and compelling.
“Best video choice for first time publisher? ie: High quality trailer vs personal with creator talking?”
-#1 Priority = show the game. We want to see the game, and a bit about how it is played.
-#2 Priority = show you. We want to know who the face is behind the voice, and have a new person to believe in.
-The super expensive videos that are fun to watch but show little of the game, are neat, but not ultimately as valuable.
“How do you decide realistic and obtainable Stretch Goals?”
-Ones that improve the quality of the components.
-Ones that improve the art or upgrade functionality.
-Ones that add free stuff into the game.
-Ask your manufacturer to quote these upgrades as upgrades to the core game. They can add them to the quote as a “+” line item.
“What are good ideas for board game stretch goals that don’t suck too much money?”
-Upgraded components (Ivory core cards – Black core is much much more) (Thicker punchboard) (Tokens to meeples) (Dice to custom).
-+1 or 2 of X component. +X cards is really cheap, less than .02c per card.
-Items that can be “added on” at a cost to the backer. ie: “Unlocks the ability to add minis to your pledge”.
-Tip: Watch for weight increases that will affect shipping costs.
-Bottom line: 95% of SGs should be planned in advance and thus budgeted for, so all can be ok at that rate.
“What tools are available to organize pledge levels & stretch goals?”
-Nothing formal. These vary so much by campaign, you will have to do it yourself according to your project.
-Jamey’s blog has some advice on how to think about these.
-I offer free KS page reviews. I’m a champ at catching silly typos and marketing no-nos.
-General rule: Don’t price the buy-in cost for your game at a greedy amount. We priced TKA at 37 cents above our estimated cost. Try not to break $50 unless it comes with minis. It’s ok if MSRP is above this.
-General rule: Place a REALLY awesome stretch goal first. People will fight for it. Once that’s broken, you’ve got momentum!
“Is it ever worth doing ‘Quickstarters’ for a product that is 99% complete to generate buzz / pre-orders?”
-Yes, though we’d caution against doing it just to get attention with a product that isn’t very good as a step toward a next product. If the product is good, then yes.
-Quickstarters can be very effective in reaching an audience quickly with a lot of buzz in a short time.
“Should you offer wholesale backer options, or just individuals?”
-Wholesale options are best reserved for a retailer level where they can order 4+ copies of the Kickstarter version at a discount.
-Your “get a friend to go in on your pledge level” incentive can be in your shipping rates.
“Stretch Goals vs. Paid Add Ons?”
-They both have a place. Stretch Goals first. They are used to upgrade things that already exist. So you can use them to upgrade some of the Paid Add Ons available in the campaign.
-Paid Add Ons generate mixed reactions when they are unlocked via Stretch Goals (ie: At $50,000 we’ll add a $30 expansion add on). Exception: Campaigns for components (like dice or minis, where new components unlock as the campaign grows).
-Plan for increased freight costs as your product gets heavier and bigger.
-Plan for increased shipping costs as your product gets heavier and bigger.
“Will people troll my comments? How do I deal with them?”
-Likelyhood is yes, but don’t sweat it. You’ll have someone that doesn’t like something and will feel the need to share it, like they’re doing the world a justice by doing so. Be kind. Be polite. Apologize.
-They need to pledge for at least $1 to comment. If you cancel their pledge and refund them, that account is banned from re-backing, and so you can stop them that way.
“Can you get pre-pre-orders?”
-Yes, but the general advice was not to. Encourage those fans to back on day 1 instead to generate buzz.
PRESS / OUTREACH / REVIEWS
“How can I get publicity for my Kickstarter?”
-Pre-views (like “re-views” but for an unpublished game).
-Share about it in relevant Facebook groups.
-Share a press release.
-Demo it at conventions, in dedicated playtest / first exposure areas.
“When should you do a press release?”
-A month before, and again the day of.
“What recommended pre-launch marketing is there?”
“How should you build enough exposure and buzz to be ready to use Kickstarter?”
“How do you gain a following prior to launch? Vlog/Blog? Mailing list?”
-Demo at local and national cons.
-Start a facebook company page, and boost posts. (Nobody sees yer post unless you boost it anymore.)
-Starting a blog isn’t what it used to be, don’t bother unless you really want to for the sake of the blog itself.
-While it’s helpful to have a following, you really only need about 50-100 people willing to back on day 1. Multiple people with massive followings have had Kickstarters fall on their face, so it’s no guarantee.
-Talk to existing game bloggers. Get involved in their blog, make it personal, then tell them about your game, maybe they’ll cover it.
-You can run banner ads, but it’s not recommended before launch.
-Beyond this, Kickstarter IS your marketing. Just have a solid plan for the run of the campaign.
-If you are established, and this is your 2nd or 15th game, you have a following and a mailing list, and these people should be informed at least a month in advance of launching your new campaign.
“What are the best places to advertise?”
-Facebook, targeted campaigns.
-BoardGameGeek.com (click here for detail).
-Honorable mention to The Dice Tower and similar gaming websites.
“How much time should we invest into social media versus getting the product out the door to our backers?”
-Depends on what point you are at in your campaign. Pre-campaign, as much as you possibly can afford to. During, medium; maybe a post every few days to your Facebook and Twitter. After, minimal; focus almost entirely on getting the game made, post once every 2 weeks.
-General consensus: Advertise on Facebook, it helps. Don’t expect results from Twitter though, nobody actually reads their feed, it flows far too quickly to accomplish valuable exposure.
-If you want to focus somewhere for marketing purposes, do it with banner ads.
“Besides social media what’s the best way to promote a KS?” “Do you advertise on Facebook?”
“Any tips for getting the best exposure possible online in order to reach the KS funding goal?”
-Firstly, Jamey cautioned about the idea of “Promotion”. The KS can’t be about you making money. This will slow you down. Though campaigns have clearly had that goal and succeeded anyway.
-Social media produces mixed results. Certainly for a start up. We had zero click-throughs on our substantial Facebook ads (including boosted posts, etc.) on our first campaign. On later ones Facebook ads proved remotely useful, and certainly affordable.
-Though the above was GKG’s experience, we’ve been told a particular mini’s campaign that nearly 40% of their pledges came via their Facebook ads, though I’d like to see the actual stats on that before I trust those #s.
-Kickstarter is promotion in and of itself. You can guarantee that people will see your project page. Make sure it sells itself.
-Advertise with banner ads on BGG, Kicktraq, and the Dice Tower. Top 3. You should contact several other sites offer low cost (but low return) ads. Most “paid for themselves” in our campaigns.
-Contact bloggers you’re familiar with. Ask them if they’d do a write up on your campaign.
-Study our Advertising KSAC.
“When is the best time to approach reviewers?”
-Several months in advance of launch. Every reviewer is backlogged by months.
-When you have a camera-ready prototype.
-When it’s 99% ready for mass-release. If the reviewer doesn’t like it because it’s under play-tested, it’s not going to help your campaign.
“What are some good ways to push up the middle slump of a KS?”
-Personal emails to backers thanking them.
-Continually posting Kickstarter Updates that are authentically interesting and exciting to read. Your current backers are your #1 fans, and they more excited they are, the more they’ll talk about you to their friends.
-Don’t front-load all review releases to the start of the campaign, save 1 or 2 for the middle.
-Interact on facebook groups. Get people talking about your campaign, and asking questions.
“How do you increase the likelihood of your game getting reviewed?”
-Make a complete game with a well thought out rules and approach reviewers respectfully.
-Be prepared to pay. Some charge.
-Reviewers are people and gamers too. Pitch it to them. Be nice. Make them want to play it.
-Choose a reviewer that likes your style of games. Some won’t play certain types, other hate all games of X type, some like em all. Ask before sending.
-Be enthusiastic! If you hem an haw about how great your game is, the reviewer won’t have interest either. If you’re enthusiastic about your game, the reviewer is more likely to catch it too.
“How do you have a reviewer review a game if the production comes after the Kickstarter?”
-Prototypes. High end / camera-ready are better, but hand made are ok too, and you definitely need at least a solid handful of art.
“Do reviewers communicate first with the designers if you like or dislike the game before posting a video? This would allow for corrections.”
-Usually. You can ask for this, since most people don’t enjoy posting a negative review.
-Note: Not all reviewers do this. FatherGeek makes it clear that they’ll post a scathing review if that’s what they think of your game. So do your research.
“How does the community react to different types of reviews?”
– Regardless of product, good reviews are good reviews, bad reviews are bad reviews. Just like amazon.com, if you see a solid recommendation you’re more likely to buy it. If your BGG game page has a 2.0 rating, you won’t sell many games; if you see an 8+ there, you should buy it. If people see 7 good reviews and 1 negative, they’ll probably take the negative one with a grain of salt unless they’re looking for an excuse to not back it.
– If you’re talking Podcast vs Video Review vs Written Review, etc, people know what they like. Having at least one of each isn’t a bad idea.
BUDGETS and MONEY
“How to estimate the amount of money you need to make everything happen and pay KS?”
-Never estimate. Make a Budget!
-When calculating KS’s cut take your total costs and multiply by x1.12. When reversed, it’ll be the 10% KS takes net.
-Go here build your budget, step by step.
“How much in a realistic budget for a KS video?”
-Budget: $50-2000. You simply don’t need to spend more than $2000 on a video.
-$500 can be solid.
-If you have talent, and can make it yourself and it looks good, do it. If you don’t, don’t.
“Should I post a low Funding Goal and hope to overfund to earn enough / a lot?”
-Don’t post a goal lower than your actual minimum need to create and fulfill your rewards. Period. No exceptions. Don’t forget to factor the 10% Kickstarter takes.
-That said, it’s choice. Do I post the lowest, just to get funded? Do I post more to make it look like it really needs it to be all that it can be? That’s a call you need to make based on the style and breadth of your game.
“How much profit is normally built into a Kickstarter campaign for board games? Is there a generally accepted way to calculate that?”
-Depends on publisher size. CMON can plan lots of profit, they know they’ll hit any goal they post. Small first- and third- time publishers can’t plan much if any. Their profit comes from sales after the campaign selling the extra copies in the printing.
-There is no “general” way to calculate it. It’s up to you to decide what your time is worth, and how much risk you want to inflate your initial goal with.
“What is the best way to estimate art costs? How to find artists?”
-Since your game is 98% complete you know what kind of art you need, and how many pieces. Therefore, find artists, get prices, choose an artist (and their prices), put them as multiple line items in your budget by piece type.
-The bigger the game with the more cards, tiles, tokens, the more art you’ll need.
-Go here for more tips to find an artist.
“How much should a person be paying for art when putting together a Kickstarter?”
-Depends on the piece.
-A simple card art will can cost between $40 and $120.
-Your box and game board will cost between $200 and $3000.
-Then you need to multiply by the # of pieces of each. It can add up quickly.
-More details here and here.
“What’s the best way to calculate and handle shipping costs?”
“How do you build in shipping costs?”
-If you fulfill yourself, then use the USPS site. If you know your weight, do the math. If not (or it’s a full board game of 2lbs+ rock the best flat rate shipping by area.
-If you fulfill with Amazon, use their PDFs to estimate prices, though Amazon is a bit messy to use.
-You first need to know your product size & weight; you design the size, get an estimate from your manufacturer for weight. Once you know that, do the math for Amazon’s Fulfillment, and then do the math for USPS Flat Rate shipping. Figure 70% in the USA, 15% EU, 10% Canada, 5% elsewhere (#s approximate, and based on a USA based campaign). Add it up piece by piece.
-More details here.
“How much shipping should the creator eat?”
-You don’t have to eat any, but be clear “These are our actual shipping costs as calculated on the USPS website and other resources.” ie: $17.74 to USA, $28.48 to Europe, etc.
-You can eat some as it makes the campaign easier to parse and round down to the nearest easy number. ie: $15 to USA, $25 to Europe.
-That all said, you CAN offer Free Shipping, but only if you really can and you can still pull proper profits for yourself.
-General suggestion, collect shipping after the campaign in the Pledge Manager. Kickstarter doesn’t need to have a cut of your shipping costs, else those are costs YOU are “eating”.
“What’s most likely to cause a backer to drop their pledge?”
-The that causes the most dropped pledges is the backer’s personal finances. A lot can happen in a month, and a layoff, a surprise vet bill, an illness, a car failure … can all cause a sudden loss of disposable income. This is 75% of the reason backers drop.
-The second reason is a backer’s personal finances when they have to choose between your campaign and the new one that just launched. They might choose you, they might choose the other. There’s not preventing or changing it.
“Anything to avoid to prevent causing backers to drop for other campaign-related reasons?”
-Being rude, short, or disrespectful to backers. Every question, every comment, every criticism of your campaign in the comments should be met with Gratitude. “Thank you for backing and for your comment. I’ll take that into strong consideration. You may have just improved the campaign. I’ll see what I can do regarding that.” Chuck in an emoji for good measure. 😃
-Topics in comments and updates that are downers. People come to Kickstarter for vicarious living and for the “shopping for new stuff makes me feel good” and the “I’m here to support indy designers” thing(s). Bringing up sex, religion, politics, or other hot topics in the news at the time of your campaign – no matter how much you assume your backers agree – will result in a loss of pledges. Keep it uplifting, exciting, and a place where people feel like they’re on vacation. It shouldn’t be fake. You’re just avoiding the depressing stuff. Save that for more personal and private circles. (Some might not like this answer, but it answers the question.)
“Taxes…? Are products “Sold” via Kickstarter? Taxed as profit or as a donation?”
-The IRS doesn’t care that Kickstarter is “crowdfunding” or “fundraising”. It’s income to them. Period end of story. So your local, state, national, and international tax rules will apply.
-In the USA usually the buyer is responsible for sales tax payment. It’s common that the seller collects that (like when you go to shopping mall), but since state taxation varies it’s common that the seller does NOT collect for online sales, it’s the buyers responsibility to report it. Check your local laws.
-Assets – Liabilities = Owners Equity. Your income from Kickstarter is part of your Assets. Your manufacturing and shipping costs are your Liabilities. The left over is your owners equity, and will be liable for taxation as company profit.
“How do you enforce quality control over a manufacturer, especially with fades in coloration, warping of tiles, etc.?”
-Pick a reputable manufacturer. You always get what you pay for. Reputable manufacturers include climatized pieces and climate-controlled storage.
-Beyond that, you can’t. There are no refunds on shoddy components. If you go with “JoBob’s Discount Manufacturing”, and they spend $20,000 making a shoddy version of your game, costs they can’t recover either, there’s no way they’re going to refund you; and you just went bankrupt. If you don’t have a solid recommendation for the company, and a sample that you’ve seen and felt, don’t use that company.
“What are some good companies for manufacturing a hybrid board/card game?”
-View the late James Mathe’s list of Manufacturers here, and see our personal recommendations below.
“How do you choose a manufacturer?”
-Find a couple games that you respect the component quality of, and find out who manufactured it (often on the box, on the BGG game page, or you can contact the publisher and ask).
-Choose from the names you’ve seen & touched one of their products.
-Getting a good recommendation from a publisher you respect is also a good idea (they may have worked with several already and may be able to provide feedback on each).
-Get a quote from each of these companies.
-Do NOT work with someone who does not have an account manager fully fluent in your native tongue; far too much will get lost in translation, we’ve all heard horror stories.
-Do NOT work with somebody just because their quote was cheaper than everyone else’s.
-Sage conceptual tips: “Never take the highest or the lowest bid.” & “You get what you pay for.”
“What decisions can we make to save money in the manufacturing process?”
-Start with a lower component quality. ie: Greycore cards (standard), instead of Ivory or Black core (premium); 1.5mm punchboard instead of 2.0mm. Consider upgrading these as add ons.
-Consider alternate components. Can your full game board be remade with simple playing cards? Can your spin tokens be made with only 1 layer of punchboard? Can your cards be made with a smaller size card? Do you really NEED x,y,or z component; can you put it as a stretch goal?
-Smaller box. (Saves on freight too!)
-Better laid out punchboards (get all of the tokens printed on the same single layout called a Die Cut).
-Base your Kickstarter goal on a 1,500 print run, instead of a 2,000 run. This will be less.
-Just make sure you get a real quote. Never guess at the cost.
POST KICKSTARTER / PLEDGE MANAGEMENT / SHIPPING / LIFE AFTER KICKSTARTER
“What costs do I have to plan for to get my product from China to fulfillment centers?”
-That’s called “Freight” shipping.
-You should plan a minimum of $1000, but it could as much as $5000+ depending on your volumes.
-The more you ship, the cheaper it is per item. You can save a lot by doing it en bulk.
-If you’re planning to ship to various locations for fulfillment from them (USA, EU, Australia, etc.), you’ll have new costs to each.
-FOB, or EXW will also effect your pricing. Be sure to have your freight company chat with your manufacturer to make sure you’re not paying the same fees to both companies.
“How long do people expect to wait for a finished product after the Kickstarter funds?”
-Honestly, several months past your projected date. Nobody believes a game will ship on time anymore, except MAYBE from established companies.
-Regardless, give that ship date plenty of leeway. Better a little late, than a lot of late. This will increase return backers.
“What is the standard delay caused by art? I’ve seen various levels.”
-Art delays depend entirely on the amount of art and the amount that can be paid for and completed pre-launch.
-15-25 pieces can be fairly easily paid for pre-launch, if that’s all you have, there are no delays. If you have 130+ as TKA does, and can still only afford 25 pre-launch, then you have to wait for the other 105.
-How many artists? How fast do they paint? How much are you paying them prioritize you? Your answers to these questions also affect the result greatly.
“How many extra games should I order for post-Kickstarter?”
-If you have distribution chains set up 600-900; if only selling direct/amazon, 400-600.
“Can you speak on the 3rd party post-campaign tools to manage backers/pledges? ie: Pledgemanager.com/Crowdox/Backerkit”
– Both Jamey and I used our own methods of managing pledges instead of the BackerKit method. Jamey uses the Kickstarter Surveys straight up; I invented my own pledge manager in “EmailMeForm”.
-We’ve heard good things about BackerKit and the like, but they take a % of your funding goal right off the top, plus set up fees, plus Credit Card “stripe fees” on extra sales.
-A benefit of Backerkit specifically is you MIGHT get on their mailing list promotion. That’s a target market.
-PledgeManager.com (run by Kicktraq) has meta analytics you can use to retarget.
-CrowdOx’s Chandler does direct consultations for Kickstarters, so that’s a huge boon too.
“What are some common mistakes made with shipping/fulfillment and how can they be mitigated? How do you calculate shipping?”
-Guessing at shipping costs based on other companies -> Make a prototype, measure it, put it in a box, weight it, get a price. Then figure at +5% increase when USPS increases prices in January.
-Stretch Goals -> Everything you add to your box increases weight 100x to 1000x per pallet. If this pushes you into a new weight class for shipping, it’s gonna hurt.
-KS’s 10%. -> If you charge shipping at exact cost, then KS takes 10% of your funding, you only have 90% of your shipping costs.
-Calculate shipping by making a prototype out of actual cardstock (leftovers from a game you punched?), figure size and weight, find the best shipping box to put it in, and get prices from USPS. Strongly consider “flat rates”.
“Do you recommend using a fulfillment middleman or DIY?”
-It really depends.
-DIY can save you a lot of money, but is very time consuming. Build a team.
-Using a fulfillment company makes things a lot easier, but of course you pay for it.
-Most of us have used a mix of both from project to project, largely based on size. Small = DIY. Large = Fulfillment company.
-Advice on both here.
“Any experience with fulfillment services? eg: Shipwire, etc.? Lessons learned?”
-Do your research.
-Shipwire, in addition to charging “Pick and Pack” fees (as they all do) also charges you inflated USPS shipping costs (as they all do), and other fees (as most do). If you have a full & heavy board game, just go do it yourself. …or…
-Amazon on the other hand includes shipping in their Pick & Pack fees, and the net result is much less.
-Quartermaster Logistics is excellent in service and mostly gamers at heart.
-Shipnaked is outright to be avoided. They lost over 134 units of our product, and literally revised receiving invoices after the close of all shipping to make it look like they only lost 30. It was like reading 1984. They also handle stuff very poorly resulting in tons of damaged product.
-If you have a super light board game that has multiple add on packs a company that doesn’t charge pick & pack would be a good idea.
-If we had a rec, it would be Quartermaster or DIY. 100%
-More info here.
“How do you properly store leftover inventory till you need to move it?”
-A+ for realizing you’ll have leftover inventory!
-Depends on your fulfillment method. If you fulfill personally, you’ll be keeping it in your attic/basement/garage/storage facility. If you fulfill with Amazon, you’ll be paying them to store it in their warehouse.
-Once you enter distribution, they’ll store it in their warehouse. Same deal, you pay for the space you use monthly.
-You’re at liberty to store anything else however you like. You own it till its sold. We recommend climate controlled, esp if in a humid area.
“Is it common to end up with a Distributor after the campaign closes? How do you get one?”
-Sadly no. Getting a distributor is a lot of work, as the market is flooded with new designers.
-To get one, you need to fund and well. Some say $200,000+ to get attention. Then head to GAMA Trade Show and bring your highest end prototype to pitch to distributors. Contact them in advance to set up a meeting time. Stick to it.
“Any recommendations for Manufacturers?”
-2018: In no particular order, Whatz Games, Meijia, and Magicraft were agreed upon as all-around-reliable.
“Any recommendations for Fulfillment Services to use? To avoid?”
-Quartermaster logistics was agreed upon as great and well serviced. (USA).
-Shipnaked was strongly suggested to be avoided for a record of losing inventory and shipping slowly with bad service. (USA & International).
-HappyShops in Germany is good, but taking less clients these days and is slow on turn around though well priced.
“How to find quality printers for books at low volumes and domestic options?”
-Google it. ; )
-Suggestions: Walsworth Publishing (US), Transcontinental (Canada), Thompsons-Shore (US), Bang Printing (US).
“Any recommendations for Freight forwarders and Logistics companies?”
-OTX Logistics, has served a great many of us without fault for years. John’s note: There’s almost no reason to shop around, these guys are great. Ask for Justin Bergeron, tell him I sent you.
FAILING / CANCELLING
“Is there anything you should do in advance for a potentially failed campaign?”
-Plan your “quit, cancel, or see it through” before you announce that you’re gonna shut it down.
-Inform your backers before pulling the plug.
-Since no money changes hands on a failed campaign, there is no concern here.
“What if your project fails?”
-You can relaunch (give it a couple months, and really rework both the issues the game has, and the issue the Kickstarter page has).
-You can let it go. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. Failure on Kickstarter isn’t a reflection of your personal worth. It’s a learning experience.
-More info on my thoughts on this topic here.
“At what point do you go from Game Designer ‘Noobs’ to a game design company.”
-This is actually a choice, and that’s when you incorporate (or make your Sole-Proprietorship official).
-Few become “game design” companies. Most are solo designers, selling rights.
-Those that design & publish, will also want to incorporate.
“Go broad, or look for a niche crowd?”
-Game design should start from the heart, not the audience. But since that doesn’t always happen…
-Niche is generally the preferred answer, as “you can’t please everyone”.
-General works too. But even with “Euro”… that’s not gonna make Ameritrasher’s happy.
-Go with what works for your game. If nothing works, then consider alternatives.
-Gnomes, sports, cars, and poker or chess variants all tend to fail. Sorry.
“How do you differentiate your game from others with superficial similarities (theme/concept)?”
-Simply don’t ever just clone a game. Always start from scratch. Games “with a ‘twist'” are doomed to fail.
-Beyond that, make your game new. Theme is repeated all the time, no problem. Concept?… you might be cloning. If you’re not, then great. Be the best you can be.
“Any tips on how to get people to playtest my game?”
-Call every gamer friend you have. Playtest with each. If you have a large group, playtest in smaller groups with mixed company to get more tests out of them than just 1 big one.
-Local hobby shop’s open gaming nights.
-You could always ask on some of Facebook groups.
“I believe my team’s idea is genuinely unique. How can we introduce it to the community without fear and paranoia about getting it stolen?”
#1 – Almost nobody steals other’s ideas in this industry. People are cool. This is very true in games. Not as true in dice or components.
#2 – IF they did, you’ve got a massive head start. They’ll never build, redesign, get art commissioned, do layouts, set up a Kickstarter page, and launch a gaming Kickstarter before you. It won’t happen.
#3 – Build a Game Page for it on BGG. The posting date and revision history can serve as proof of previous existence should it become a legal issue.
So share it!
-Provide a PnP on BGG for feedback. Respectfully sk people not to rate it if they don’t like it, allowing the chance to improve.
-Play it with honest and “Blind” playtesters (those who only have the game and rules, but you don’t teach).
-Share it with a reviewer. It’s like copyrighting it. People see that YOUR game is in HIS hands… they know who had it first.
“Where is the best place to find publishing & manufacturing resources (board/card printing, piece/dice making, etc.)?”
-This blog, of course! ; ) No really, look around! Also visit Jamey’s site, and BGG.
-Download the brochures linked at the top of this page as well.
“If running an RPG campaign, when do your ramp up paper quality? What about hard vs. soft cover?”
-Paper quality should be thin enough to keep the book reasonably light, while still feeling quality. People don’t notice super thick paper in a book and think “This book is awesome”. The content does that.
-RPG books should start as Hardcover. Nobody enjoys a soft-cover RPG book. Plus the wear-and-tear of constantly flipping through it will get it destroyed if it’s only paper-back.
-If you’re really concerned about costs, then “Hardcover” should be the very first stretch goal. People will get excited about that.
“How much is too much communication with your backers? Is there such a thing?”
-There is such a thing, but it’s somewhat hard to achieve.
-If your Updates are useful and full of worthwhile information, post them.
-Anywhere from 2 to 5 updates a week during your campaign is valid. Once the campaign is over, this rate should peter down to about 1 every week to 2-weeks to month. Once the game has shipped, and everything is fulfilled, people only need to hear about relevant related projects of yours through the updates.
-That being said, too LITTLE communication is very easily possible. If you don’t post Updates in the project you’ll see people start dropping like flies as doubt grows.
-As for Comments… visit them at least once daily, and post questions to keep the chat going. A nice “# of comments” in the header draws people in.
“Once a project goal has been met, what is the flow of the money? How soon does Kickstarter release the funds?”
-Kickstarter gives all collected funds in 1 burst directly to your bank account exactly 2 weeks (to the hour) after your campaign ends – It may take 2-3 days to post.
-Uncollected funds will occur from failed credit cards. KS will try to recover it, with automatic emails, but your personal one to each backer will increase your odds. Once the 2 weeks is up, they can’t fix it any longer.
-Once you have it, you pay people as soon as they expect it. Your manufacturer may not have a final final final quote for you yet. Once you get it, sign, and they’ll invoice you (usually 50% +/-). Pay it promptly. If you owe artists anything, pay them that week.
-The rest stays in your account (put it in a 6 month C.D. at your bank!) until you’re ready to pay 2nd 50% and ship.
-The rest stays with you until tax season.
-The rest stays with you until you spend it on wine and cheese and a trip to the country of your grandfather’s homeland to celebrate! : D
“Is the board game industry experiencing a “bubble” like the “dot.com bubble”?”
-We do not think so. Even the dot.com bubble, though ‘burst’ in theory is actually still thriving.
-The community is growing, and the pace isn’t exponential, it’s pretty steady. That’s a sign of good growth as people get back to roots and look to ‘unplug’ more and more.
“To what extent have pre-internet supply chains been disrupted? (meaning: brick & mortar)”
-There have certainly been waves, and each retailer you ask will give you a different answer. They love Kickstarter, or they hate it. They love amazon or they hate it. Though in our experience, if a product is going to sell; previously on Kickstarter or not, the retailer is likely to carry it anyway.
-The desire to sit at table and play the game I just bought, that requires a table, is a boon to brick and mortar.
-More FLGSs are opening every year. This is a good sign.
“As a self-publisher, how do you deal with distribution?”
-Get a Consolidator to take you on (Impressions, etc.). That’s the easiest, but you pay for what you get.
-Go to GAMA Trade Show, and set up appointments with the distributors to show them your game and get them to take you on.
“Advice for non-USA publisher to tackle US distribution?”
-Same as for USA distribution now that the world is so small due to the internet. Be sure to conquer the language barrier effectively.
THE BIG QUESTIONS
“How many others should you involve in publishing?”
“Should I find a partner, or go it alone?”
-When pitching to others to have them publish your game for you – you only need to include the company you want to publish it (or the one that accepts if you pitch to multiple).
-When self-publishing, get help if possible. You’ll need it. Get a partner, or bribe your gaming buddies into helping with some stuff. If you’re married, make sure your spouse knows what they’re going to get roped into. Even if they don’t help you with your KS page, they will get stuck with the dishes more often. Note: This counts as help, and so thank them! ; )
-Whether or not to establish a full formal partner is up to what’s best for you, and who you have with you that is as deeply interested as you are. Finding and vetting a good business partner can be tough.
“What’s the difference between wanting to make my game, and wanting to be in the publishing biz myself?”
-Becoming a publisher yourself, and having your game published (by another publisher), are two very different things. If you want full control and to spend a lot of time working for bits but have the reigns to all decisions and to potentially form a business… self-publish. If you just want to make games and see people enjoy them, sell/license out your design to a publisher.
Watch some of an actual event from GenCon!
We’re always adding more questions. Keep an eye out for updates.
Got a question that hasn’t been raised yet? Post it in the comments.