Katanas & Trenchcoats Initial Financial Overview, Part 1
Last month, the Katanas & Trenchcoats Kickstarter campaign closed. It did pretty well, getting 328% of the initial goal! In fact, if you go to the campaign’s site, you’ll see:
895 backers pledged $32,766 to help bring this project to life.
Calculating the Project’s Budget
I’m rolling in money, right?
HAHAHAHAHAH. Let’s get into a breakdown. First, backers drop. I had the following drop:
- 1 Illuminated Archon ($350 level)
- 1 Visage Etched in Time ($150 level)
- 2 Name Woven into Lore ($80 level)
- 2 Hardcover ($45 level)
- 2 Softcover ($30 level)
- 2 PDFs ($15 level)
- 2 non-reward ($1+)
The total of dropped pledges is $936 from those 13 people (or 2.9% of funding from 1.5% of backers).
At least, it is if I look at the dropped backer report. According to my Kickstarter payment summary breakdown, the dropped pledges totals $866, not $936. The $70 different perhaps comes from the shipping fees? I really don’t get where the discrepancy comes from.
Let’s go with the payment summary, even though it’s lower, because that’s likely canonical. That brings me to an adjusted total of $31,760. Here’s the problem: all the messaging and all the data will say the original amount that’s nearly $1000 more. This is gonna bit me in the ass shortly.
Now we get to the Kickstarter and Stripe fees.
- Kickstarter’s fee is $1,591.50, 5.0% of the adjusted funding
- Stripe’s fee is $1,129.36, 3.6% of the adjusted funding
That means the payout amount from Kickstarter is $29,109.14, which is 88.8% of the original funding amount. That’s what got deposited into my bank account.
I offered backers to upgrade to the high-end tiers that suddenly had holes, which I used PayPal for payment. That brought in $480.00 minus $17.14 in PayPal fees (which accounted for 3.6% of the additional funds brought in).
That raises my project budget to $29,572.00.
I’m using BackerKit, and just paid for my standard account, which takes 1% of the campaign’s funding and 5% of any sales after the fact (along with the Stripe fee).
BackerKit charged me $327.66, which is 1% of the original funding amount and slightly more than 1% of the adjusted amount. That leaves me with $29,244.34 for the creative and material budget.
(They also charge a $124 setup fee, but here’s a dirty secret: all of the money I spent before getting the money from Kickstarter isn’t accounted for in the budget. The money from the campaign is to cover payments onward, and not to recoup costs already incurred. Why? Because frankly—and you’ll see soon—I can’t afford to recoup my own costs at this point.)
Shipping (a.k.a. “Fucking Shipping”)
Shipping is an emotional hellscape wrapped in a nightmare that’s made worse by demons that thrive on international shipping turmoil.
The total for shipping—which the reports from Kickstarter made rather difficult to tabulate—is $4150.
That amount doesn’t take into account 10% that’s carved out from Kickstarter/Stripe/BackerKit (hereon abbreviated as KSB). The $5 for US shipping was really $4.50 to me, just as the $25 for most international shipping is really $22.50 to me. Thing is, I can’t afford to take that 10% out of my shipping budget, so by saving $4150 for shipping, I have to carve out $415 from the creative side of the budget.
Shipping: Everyone but the creator makes money on it.
I’m padding my shipping costs up to $4500, because in shipping, Shit Happens. (Or “Shipping Happens,” if you like.) Some people thing I’m not being cautious enough. We’ll see.
My budget for creating and printing the books is $24,744.34.
Printing Physical Books
Without going into too much detail, my quote for printing the hardcover and softcover books is around $5,300. That sounds like I should put $5,300 as a line item in my budget, right?
Only if I love the idea of mis-planning.
That line item says $6,500, to account for:
- That quote expiring before the book is done, requiring me to requote. I assume prices with increase, because that’s what prices do.
- Shipping the books to my fulfillment partner.
- Shipping some of those books to me for those that get signatures.
That leaves my creative budget at $18,244.34.
Actually, That’s a Filthy Lie
Now that I’m in what I call the Land of Soft Costs—where I can shift costs around as needed—I can carve out one more very important thing: the Fuck-Up Slush Fund. I’m socking away $2,500 for when Things Go Horribly Wrong, like I have to reship books or contract artists last-minute to account for some that don’t deliver or random legal stuff.
That leaves my actual creative budget at $15,744.34, or %48.0 of the original funding amount.
Later, I’ll talk about the creative side of the budget, but in broader strokes—some of my freelancers wouldn’t want me to discuss what I’m charging them, because that could be used to argue rates. Even the term “creative budget” is a misnomer, because I have to deal with planned legal/accounting costs, fees associated with paying freelancers, etc. But even those are soft costs when compared to shipping and printing.
But the short answer is this: I expect to be in the hole around $1,000 by the end of the project, even when me being funded at %327, because of the stretch goals. I’ll rely on BackerKit sales and post-shipping sales to recoup all my expenses. And none of this money is being counted to general business expenses like my accounting software or Creative Cloud subscriptions, the planned trip to Vancouver I promised I’d do, etc. That $1000 in the hole I’m projecting is just about the project, not those other expenses.
To end with an aside: Jason Walters once said of me that I’m a nice guy, but not good at business. As I believe I illustrate here, I take that as a mantra when it comes to Dice & Whatever Studios. :) But I take the sane gambling approach: I never plan to lose more than I can afford.
 And I don’t just mean right now. Someone might bring up this post three years from now to argue a rate that would be at that point untenable to charge.
 Some of the money from Unknown Armies freelancing and older products on DriveThru will end up covering most of those non-Vancouver expenses.