Kickstarter Reflections – Shipping and Handling Not Included

This is part of a series of posts where I look back at the process of running a Kickstarter. The steps we took, the mistakes we made, and a bunch of other things I wish I had known.

Other Kickstarter Reflections Posts

Kickstarter Reflections – Mailing List Blues

Kickstarter Reflections – Starting at the Finish Line

Kickstarter Reflections – Shipping And Handling Not Included


When we last left our intrepid hero, he was busy crunching numbers for the Route 3 Kickstarter, trying to find the bare minimum it would take to actually get the trade funded. And I had my number: around $4500 would get us what we wanted.

Aside from my mistake, that is what it would cost…

I didn’t notice my mistake at first. And I really must say that I had done a ton of research. I’d listened to podcasts and read blogs until I was cross-eyed, and still didn’t see it coming. Because here’s the warning that you get on every single one of those posts:

Watch out for Shipping costs.

So I did. I was a maniac about it. I was making sure to count every person at the $7 shipping charge. What I didn’t realize is how Kickstarter actually incorporates that number. My brain said:

The shipping is determined after you make your pledge selection, so it CAN’T be a part of the overall $$. It’s a separate item and is effectively collected separately.

What reality said:

No, that $7 for shipping is actually added into the total goal number. So when you were calculating your goals, you should have included that one, but you didn’t.

It seems like it probably shouldn’t matter all that much, but I didn’t realize it until I did an update to the spreadsheet once we’d gotten past the 50 backer mark – and then realized my error.

On the positive, it meant we were much more likely to hit our goal when our $25 reward level was actually worth $32 to the campaign each time. On the negative, I was now seeing that there was as much as an $800 difference. Which basically meant if we barely funded, we’d potentially be behind by $800. Of course, that was the absolute worst case scenario (and I kept reminding myself of that very fact). That was if everyone only contributed at the $25 level. The idea of that happening was highly doubtful. It would mean no one would buy any PDF only levels or any of the higher tiers… again, not realistic.

That rationale didn’t help ease my brain spinning, and I can only imagine Robert’s state of mind when I told him the “good news”:

“So after we got off the phone tonight I got curious about the overall numbers. I quickly added the 55 backers up and found that the shipping charge (the $7 or $20) that appears to be an add-on is actually contributing to the Project Fund Goal.
This obviously causes a problem because we did not factor that into our cost breakdowns. I have written Kickstarter to make sure that I am seeing this correctly. What follows is the note I submitted through their “Support” button:
“I would like to confirm whether or not the added charges for domestic and international shipping is a contributing factor to the project’s overall Funding Goal. I had been under the impression that this was not the case when we launched on Friday afternoon. Is there any way that this can be altered for a project, as our calculated costs did not assume the shipping applied to the pledge amount? We believed it was an add-on. Any assistance you can provide on this would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.”
Assuming that this cannot be changed for the project, it appears that our True Number should have been approximately $5625 ($775 difference).
Now, this number is based on various factors:
Digital vs. physical backers – I’m assuming 25% digital based off our current level
Potential of International vs Domestic Shipping – This is probably only going to be a handful of people, but it is something to consider
The number of people who actually chose to do a higher reward level – This would reduce the number of people we actually have to ship anything to.
And potentially people who can get their reward hand delivered – Again, reducing the number of people we actually have to ship anything to.
That’s a lot to take in. I can walk you through it if you want to talk by phone at some point. I’m sorry that I didn’t catch this as I thought we’d been as thorough as possible.”



Of course, things couldn’t be changed at that point, and Kickstarter wasn’t going to change their whole setup for little old me. So I mentally prepared myself to make up for the blunder if it came to it. As the campaign went on I tracked the updated numbers and found that for every digital only person, it brought that value down (nothing to ship), for every higher award number chosen, it brought the numbers closer together.

I said it last post – the biggest part of Kickstarter is that it changes with every new person who contributes. We’d calculated in the “have an artist draw you tier” into our numbers, but if all of them weren’t taken (I think we were limited to 10) then it would reduce the number. So there were tons of ways to get through this gaffe. And by the end, just due to the rewards taken, we ended up all good and got some Stretch Goals in for good measure!


So I suppose the lesson is to really, really try to identify the potholes where you can. And even if you think you have a handle on the costs, maybe reach out to someone who’s already done a Kickstarter. Sometimes it is the question we don’t even know to ask which end up biting us in the ass.


John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at



About John McGuire

Writer of comics and novels. In 2006 his first short story "The God That Failed" was published by Terminus Media in their debut comic Evolution Book 1. Since that time he has had stories published in Terminus Media's Evolution Book 2 and Evolution Special, Kenzer and Company's The Knights of the Dinner Table, and Four J Publishing's The Burner #3. Currently he is eagerly awaiting the digital publishing of his first creator-owned comic The Gilded Age #1 to be published online as well as his first novel The Dark That Follows later this year.
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