Kickstarter Reflections – Starting at the Finish Line

Here we are, at the gateway of Summer (is that a thing?). You have people everywhere casting off their high school personas and trying to take their first stabs in the “real world” (whether college is the “real world” or not is a discussion for another day). I couldn’t tell you anything about the speeches given during my graduation, but I do remember the closing line from my sister’s which was a quote from the band Semisonic “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

That stuck with me more than anything else.

This idea that an ending becomes a new beginning is a beautiful thing. It means we get a chance to close the door on something old and move onto something new. And maybe it is a chance to see that before you can begin, you must look at the end… where you are going.

I’m in the process of final fulfillment of my Kickstarter for the Gilded Age, but I’ve got all these thoughts swirling around in my head about the process over the last year or so. You see, about a year ago Robert Jeffrey II launched his Route 3 Kickstarter. He was the guinea pig for this process. And knowing that I’d be launching one of my own in the Fall, I wanted to be along for every step he took. You know, so that hopefully if we made errors, then it wouldn’t happen again the next time (a wonderful thought, if nearly impossible to anticipate everything).


Where to start is always an odd thing. You have blogs and posts out there that talk to you about certain things, but a lot of time there is very little consensus in the right way to do something (note- there are TONS of wrong ways to do it… don’t worry). But honestly, the place to begin a Kickstarter is by thinking about the very end: what is the goal and what does that equate to? Numbers, dollars, cost, shipping, taxes, fees, and so on. You really need to have a grasp on those numbers so that you can set the right goal to get to, otherwise, it doesn’t matter what you plan and publicize or whatever. If you set your goal too high you’re dead before you even get started.

That meant looking at what our costs were going to be and trying to set a slightly moving target.


Route 3 by Robert Jeffrey II and Sean Hill – Available for order… just click the image.

With Route 3, we started with what we knew. We knew we’d have a 108-page trade as the final product. The layout had already been done and a small print run had been completed (about 25 copies), so we knew what it looked like (and what it was like to hold in our hands). We knew that the target retail price would be about $20 each. And we wanted to not only be able to fulfill our Kickstarter order, but also have extra copies for conventions. However, we didn’t want to fill Robert’s apartment with too many copies. It needed to be… manageable.

Then it was a matter of determining what kind of prices were even available. We ran the numbers through 5 different printing companies (Kraken, Artist Express, Ready Comics, Print Ninja, and Colorwise Commercial Printing). And by running the numbers, I mean trying it out with different copies ordered. Trying to find out where the best price break might be while always being mindful of having a number that still was attainable.

Key Takeaways: From most of the places listed above, it became apparent that the price break (and therefore the question we needed to ask ourselves) happened at 500 copies. At that number, the price of each trade is around $6 to $7 whereas if we tried for fewer copies, like 200 or 250, we were in the $10+ range per book.


I wrote this to the Terminus guys as I was breaking down the numbers, and it really remained true throughout the number crunching process and into the actual campaign as well:

“What I’m really finding is Kickstarter is like having a target that keeps moving every day. Sure, you have the big target that stays the same, but everything else ends up being highly dependent on about 3 or 4 additional things which need to be factored in. It’s like – ok, you need another $1000 to get to this stretch goal, but that really means you need $1000/$32 = 32 additional backers who need stuff shipped to them and… so you put in a number and then recalculate and recalculate and…”

Beyond true.

It means you are going to be doing iterations with your numbers. And you’ll want to factor everything in. T-shirts and buttons and prints and anything else you can think of, but each of those come with a cost, which drives your shipping up which drives your overall numbers up which drives the Kickstarter fees up.

Oh, and did you factor shipping into your numbers? No? Well, start again because you’ll need to have those in there as well.

I was coming up with numbers around $6000 for Route 3’s Kickstarter.

But I’m looking around at other Kickstarters that might be comparable and they are closers to $4000 or $5000.

My thoughts from an email to the team:

“I’m a little concerned about hitting these numbers. Maybe that’s unfounded, maybe I’m being pessimistic, but I’d love to have these numbers lower.


I also went ahead and calculated what the costs might be if we went “Bare Bones” with the rewards. Basically, we’d be doing the trade and the pdf and that is it… no prints, no additional artist stuff, and no t-shirts or stickers. This also eliminated the 10% contingency (I don’t think we should get rid of these things necessarily, but I wanted to know what our “Floor” really was).”

Doing all of that I finally got the numbers down to something closer to what I hoped might be attainable: about $4500.

And so we had our first real target… but I’d made a mistake that might have cost us…


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


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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