Mailbag-Shipping a kickstarter project!
Q: You mention going through all avenues and doing your research beforehand and I wanted to ask if there were any pointers you could give as to shipping estimates using the USPS. I’m doing weight and distance calculations but I am afraid of any unforeseen stumbling blocks and I realize this is possibly the second most crucial aspect of a successful KS delivery beyond project completion.
I get a lot of messages every day. Some of them are about my comic, some of them are about the billions of items I have in production at any one time and many of them are about Kickstarter! So here’s a gem I just received and here’s my version of an answer.
A: I can give lots of pointers regarding shipping! I’ve done it three times now and I’m getting ready to do it for a fourth time. I’ll try to separate it into a few categories to make it an easier read.
Type of shipping
What are you shipping? If it’s a book then you have a very cheap option open to you, Media Mail! It’s only for stuff you read so boardgames, you’re out. Sorry!
Here’s a link to find out what counts as Media Mail.
This form of shipping is very cheap and if your rewards are all books then this will probably work for you. If it’s not books you’ll probably be using Standard Non-presort. This is the next cheapest option, assuming that your stuff is too heavy for the 13 ounce First Class limit. If you’re shipping internationally you don’t have a ton of options unless you want to bulk ship some of your product to a fulfillment center out of the country. Which is an option, but I’ve never used it myself so I can’t speak much about it. So aside from that you will most likely be sending all your non US packages as Priority Mail International.
Fulfillment centers are people that will send out all your packages for you, for a price!
The method in which you pay for postage can save you a lot of money and time. If you print your postage at home you’ll save money on every package versus taking it into the post office and the post office even does free pick ups. You can schedule them on the USPS website. You can use stamps.com, paypal, or any number of sites to pay and print your postage. And many of them offer bulk printing if you have a very uniform reward tier where all the pledges weigh the same. If you have a lot of add ons that change the weight you’ll need to print postage separately for those items. Here is the link to the paypal page for shipping. I already use paypal for most of my business banking so it was nice to have a one stop for shipping and they don’t charge a subscription the way stamps.com does.
The first thing you need to do is buy a scale. They’re pretty cheap but you’ll need it at some point anyway, so just do it! If you’re selling a book, then find one a similar size, throw it on the scale with a couple bookmarks or whatever else is similar to what you’ll be sending. Then go to paypal or whatever shipping method you’re using and type in your own address and the address of some place in the united states that is the farthest away from you. I’m in Southern California so I do Florida and New York to check prices. You can go to Google maps and just look up a Starbucks in New York to get an example address. Write down the ounces and the cost for this shipping. Now do some international tests. Find an address in France and Australia. Why those places? Those have consistently been the most expensive for me to ship to.
Here’s the tricky part. You can’t charge the highest price for shipping, because people will be upset. But you can’t charge the cheapest price because you’ll go broke. So you kind of have to do something in the middle that makes sense for your project.
For example, if you are selling a $20 book that costs $9 to ship from your place to the farthest United states zip code and $4 to ship to your next door neighbor then your reward price for that book might be $25-27. If the international cost to ship that book to France is $18 and the domestic price for that level is $25 then you’ll want to add at least $10 in international shipping.
Lately I’ve been getting a lot of guff from Canadian backers on my international shipping because I don’t provide a separate option for them. They assume it will be cheaper to mail a package to them then to mail one to France. Well if you live in Washington or any of the northern border states that might be true but from my location in Southern California it costs quite a bit to send a package to the opposite side of Canada. Therefore I probably won’t ever break out a separate shipping for our northern neighbors. But if you do a test pricing to Canada and find it way cheaper than Britain or France then you can specify a different shipping price on your project page text. But if you do it this way make sure you’re using some kind of aftermarket project helper like backer kit that will make sure everyone has actually payed their proper shipping charges based on their address. The last thing you want to be doing is sending an email to someone 6 months after your project ends to try and get an extra $10 for shipping out of them. Another great aspect of using something like Backerkit is the ability to lockdown address changes at a certain date. Kickstarter now allows backers to change their addresses if they move but they can change them even after you’ve shipped!
The USPS raises their postage prices by a small amount every year so depending on the nature of your project you might need different kinds of packaging. That is because the USPS offers some flat rate boxes. You will need to get a couple padded envelopes or cardboard boxes and fill them with your sample materials to get a good price estimate. What you will also want to do is get a couple flat rate boxes and see which one your stuff fits in. Then you will get estimates for the domestic flat rates and the international flat rate boxes. Yes it is annoying, but shipping can add up fast! And if you find that your flat rate price is cheaper than you buying envelopes or boxes and paying for shipping then you might as well use their boxes. You can even order boxes and customs forms from USPS.com. Here’s a great article on shipping from the guys at Albino Dragon about the real costs of shipping.
You can’t guess. Do an estimate using a weight that is close to what you’ll be shipping. And do an estimate for multiple zip codes and countries.
Mailbag-Shipping a kickstarter project!