We’ve taken a lot of flack for our high shipping prices. Many backers have told us that other projects only charged them $X so why is ours so high? The reason is pretty simple, because that’s what shipping costs.
Let’s take a look at a simple deck project like Call of Cthulhu…
A Simple Beginning…
2500 decks. That’s what we hoped to achieve in 40 days with our Call of Cthulhu Playing Cards branded with Bicycle. We thought, 2-3 decks would be a few bucks and maybe double that for international. Doing a quick weight calculation, we figured about $8 international would cover most expenses and anything over couldn’t be much more right? We couldn’t have been more wrong.
Within the first week we had already allocated about 5000 decks. And then we started looking for other cool stuff to add to keep the campaign going for another 30+ days. And that’s where we ran into trouble.
Look at your package size
Before you get started, you should really know how many of what you can fit into each package. We originally ordered a ton of 4″ x 30″ heavy duty mailing tubes thinking that we could roll an art print in there and put the decks down the middle. When we got the tubes, prints, and decks we realized that plan didn’t work because the decks could slide around and tear up the prints. So we taped the decks to the top of tube. Which would have been fine except for two issues
- The tape didn’t hold.
- The larger tubes were much heavier, pushing the total weight above 16 oz. The magic number is 13oz which we’ll explain below.
So we moved to two different models, depending on where they were shipped. The first was a 24″ x 4″ tube that could hold an uncut sheet and some prints and allow us to stuff both ends with packing paper with up to about 12 decks in-between. We used this method for international because it kept everything in one package and the cost usually between $20-$30. Packing the uncut sheets/prints separately would have been about $13-$16 plus an additional $17.
In the US, any number of decks over 3 immediately went into a small priority flat rate box. Unfortunately, only up to 8 decks can fit in such a box, so any pledges we allowed over this number either went up a size or into multiple boxes. A typical pledge would be a small flat rate box for $5.35 and a tube with a print for about $4 (including tube cost).
Because of the varying size and weight of each pledge, it made it difficult to establish a standardized packaging process. I ended up eyeing each one to determine what the lowest weight packaging would probably be, sometimes having to completely repack a reward if I was wrong. This might have happened because of extra packing materials, etc.
Every oz counts / Be careful with the add-ons
The biggest issue we ran into was once we started with the add-ons. While this gave our backers more reasons to throw money at us it also continued adding weight to each of the packages.
Let’s say an international backer started with a pledge of $15 for 2 decks with an international shipping rate of $8. They then added a coin, a poker set, and 4 dice. What we originally started with was a weight of about 8oz. With each of the add-ons weighing about 2 oz each, what we ended up with was closer to 14oz.
In the states this drove the cost up to a minimum of $5.35 (instead of about $2.30) and internationally to the tune of $16.95 (instead of about $8-12 depending on the country).
The key number to keep in mind is 13oz.
Anything over this in the US means you’ll need to go to the priority flat rate box ($5.85) I thought you said $5.35? I did, that was until January 27th. Guess what? USPS raised all of their rates substantially yesterday.
Remember, whatever the weight is, round UP to the nearest ounce. Here is a chart for current costs to ship various decks:
8 oz – 2 decks – $2.55
11 oz – 3 – decks – $3.08
4-8 decks $5.85
8 oz – 2 decks – $12.75
11 oz – 3 decks – $14.90
15 oz – 4 decks – $16.75
5-8 decks – $24.95
To ship these internationally was over $6, plus each tube was about $1. Charging $8 for an art print, you can see that we didn’t make anything on these and the $8 only covered the cost of shipping. The only way we ever saw any return on these was if a backer ordered up to 5 (anything over that required another tube).
So what was the damage?
To date, we have spent $13,700 on shipping and over $2200 in mailing supplies. An average of $7.20 per backer.
Taking into account the average pledge was $44 per backer, shipping accounts for roughly 16% of each pledge. Given that Kickstarter/Amazon can take up to 10%, you better make sure your cost to produce is less than 74% of the pledge amount.
One thing we haven’t been charging for is handling. The numbers given here represent only the cost of the actual shipping. This says nothing of the countless hours (okay, I count close to 320) that are spent packaging, weighing, addressing, and filling out customs forms. My only job is to run the company and oversee things like this. The process took almost a full two months and of that, I made exactly $0. So next time you think you want to mail out over 2000 packages (so far I’ve mailed 2700+) think about what your time is worth. Because those pledges aren’t going to ship themselves.