So shipping, specifically international shipping is a problem. Now that a lot of people are getting into Kickstarter, I thought I’d write about it. Now, for those who don’t know, I used to run an online game store that did Kickstarter Fulfilment (mostly Canada, some US) so I had a glimpse into the huge push that board game fulfilment went through and the varying changes.
The thing about international shipping is that it depends on where you want to ship to.
The main markets are US, Canada and EU. Also China which pushes out to Asia.
There are Kickstarter shipping companies that (mostly) work with KS fulfilment for larger projects. Floship and Shipwire do international shipments, others require you to contact them individually. With Floship they ship out of Hong Kong which makes use of the ridiculously (or used to, my data is pre-pandemic) China shipping rates. Shipwire uses multiple warehouses in the above countries/locales to ship out. There are also companies like Snakes & Lattes (https://fulfillment.snakesandlattes.com/) and BlackBox (http://blackbox.cool/fulfillment/) who do much the same thing.
I don’t know how well they’d handle pure book fulfilment, but I do know that they’ve worked with RPG makers, so I would assume it would not be an issue.
When you are looking at international fulfilment, you have three options.
- Ship from a single locale, eating higher shipping cost to countries not within the region. This is often best for smaller Kickstarters whose customer base is mainly in the US.
- Ship from multiple locales, with co-ordination in-house. In this case, you find multiple fulfilment companies in various locales to help you handle fulfilment within that specific region.
Extremely useful if you are looking at a decent volume of shipments within a locale. Often, this is US and the EU, with sometimes Canada and Asia thrown in. It’ll keep general shipping cost down.
- Lastly, hiring a single global fulfilment warehouse and working with them for shipments. In many cases, you might send multiple shipments from the printer and/or send a single shipment that is then broken again (depending on how you produce your books and quantity).
Advantage of this is lower level of headaches (brokerage into multiple countries is a pain) and sometimes, lower overall cost.
Something to consider is that in the last two cases, you are shipping the majority of the books and other goods direct into the locale. This means brokerage and cost of brokerage is paid for by you.
This is a vast difference (and important one!) for customers if they have to handle customs themselves. Often, additional customs and/or brokerage cost can shoot cost of book shipments up by another $20-50 which is a painful and annoying addition.
Third Party Shipment Considerations
Obviously, working with third parties adds another major wrinkle. Especially if you have to do things like sign your books (and that’s a wrinkle we didn’t have to worry about in board game fulfilment!). It is more discussion, more co-ordination and can be more costly. If you have to sign the books and ship it onwards, in many cases, it might not even be cheaper.
However, it can be significantly cheaper to use a 3rd party due to shipping costs. Depending on the KS company, many third party fulfilment companies have significant discounts (anywhere from 20-70% off posted rates) from their favoured carriers. We often found when we (my old company) did shipping that the cost of shipping was significantly cheaper than what could be done individually due to our volume discounts.
Shipping Gotchas (Products and Shipping Types)
Note that when you create stretch goals or include items in your KS, be VERY careful about the kind of things you include. Some things we have found that can increase your cost of shipping:
- The US has media mail as a shipping option. There are very few discounts in media mail even for 3rd parties due to the extremely low cost. However, media mail is extremely restrictive in the kind of items you can include. Do not add keychains, pins, etc to your stretch goals.
There is also no tracking. So expect occasional lost packages.
- Posters are a huge pain to ship. They cost a lot in shipping cost in comparison to their weight due to the need to use specialised packaging to ensure the posters are not creased.
- T-shirts (and clothing in general) can be annoying. Country of origin of the material and where it is screenprinted can cause random jumps in brokerage cost and custom tariffs. Be VERY careful and make sure you verify all this before you include a t-shirt.
- If you are using a 3rd party company, understand that each item you include is often an added charge (anywhere from $0.25 – $1 per item). So an initial charge might be $2.50 per order (plus shipping) + $0.50 per item. If you include multiple pin types, each pin is considered a different SKU. If you have 5 items including your book, your handling cost is now $4.50 plus shipping.
Limit your stretch goals. The more variations you have, the longer it’ll take for people to ship to.
This holds true to on your end. It’s a lot easier to pack and ship a single item box than having to look over 20 different SKUs, finding each specific variation for each box.
- Buy your boxes in bulk from box companies like Uline or the Great Little Box company (Vancouver, BC) if you need more than 25. You’ll find it’s much cheaper. You can have them do deliveries or just pickup at their warehouse. There are often companies like this in every major city.
Some Fulfilment Resources & Reading
Look into Kickstarter Fulfilment Companies. Get quotes if you intend to do third party fulfilment (especially if you expect a lot of shipments). Another useful source of shipping companies are subscription box companies.
Additional useful reading:
- Stonemaier Games (https://stonemaiergames.com/5-shipping-partners-in-the-eu-for-kickstarter-reward-fulfillment/) has a large series of blog posts for stuff like this. It’s a little dated now but it’s a good starting point. There’s also companies in his Excel sheet (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1bx2h-oZ-ZcNdKw-yyAUfl-BbWOjmqP6tYu9jTKPxfnI/edit#gid=1844848505) that probably could do it for books too.
Additional Notes About Countries and Shipping Limits
- Australia (yes, there are Australian fulfilment companies but the volume of people is so low it’s often not worth it).
- South Africa (Africa in general, but South Africa has a decent volume of purchasers)
- Brazil and South America (but specifically Brazil, again, volume).
These countries can and WILL hurt your shipping cost. Also, bigger countries like Canada and Russia with its random super remote regions (like the Yukon) can throw up huge $ amounts.
In general, cost shipping out using estimates or cheap shipping software, then add $2-5 on top of that. That’ll cover cost of packaging and random higher prices.
Like the business blog post? Want to support me writing more of them? Want to read ahead (2 weeks) of others? Become a Patron and choose the $2-tier to be able to read the business posts only and ask questions about the business side of writing.