My first Kickstarter project "Deck of Dungeons" has finally been shipped - or is still in the process of beeing shipped - and I try to put my thoughts about it in order here. Because in the end everything went quite differently than expected.
Let's start with what I was hoping to get out of the Deck of Dungeons Kickstarter, or rather, what my expectations were going into it.
I finished the complete Deck of Dungeons in advance. At least the planned 36 cards. To make sure it wasn't just the digital version I liked I ordered the deck as a prototype. Thank goodness for that. I didn't like it at first. So I reworked it a bit and ordered another prototype. It cost about 25€ each time, but it was worth it. I just wanted to know exactly what awaits the supporters afterwards.
After a little research, and influenced by my rather pessimistic nature, I calculated that maybe 100 to 150 people would be willing to support the Deck of Dungeons. A few for the physical deck, a few for the digital version, and if I'm lucky, a few who want both. That would be just enough to finance the printing and shipping.
Furthermore, I wanted to keep the whole project as simple as possible. This was my first project after all. So no stretch goals or other extras and I will send out the digital versions by hand. Shouldn't be that many.
Now let's compare that with reality.
The deck suddenly felt very, very light. 36 cards are just not that much. Alright - a stretch goal after all. 54 cards, if we get more than 300 supporters. That this would happen was unimaginable for me at that time.
Well, and then the funding goal came in on the first day after all. Okay, okay. Don't panic. That's the first day. After that, there will probably be barely anyone else who will back the project. I hardly do any advertising. And I have relatively few followers. So take a breath...
But somehow it went on like that. And with each day came new requests. More stretch goals, retailer discounts, more than one deck - what's happening right now? I did not expect that. I'm not prepared for that at all, but well, the most difficult part (printing & shipping) will be taken care of by MPS later anyway. I can just lean back and answer comments.
Fast forward. A few days later I noticed that MPS stopped responding to requests. By mail, Facebook and also the website was no longer available. That was the time when panic set in for me. The mouse pointer was literally already hovering over the "Cancel project" link on Kickstarter. Fortunately, I then looked around for alternatives. I needed a new print shop that could print my cards to my specifications. And preferably one that would also handle shipping to the end customer. To be on the safe side, I also wanted to go with a German company. More expensive, slower but hopefully more reliable. I then found ASS-Altenburger. They don't do shipping, but at least respond reasonably quickly and were super helpful and patient throughout the process. And I was also able to find a shipping company. The folks at Byrd have been super helpful and saved my rear end if I may say so. If I had to pack and ship 1500 shipments myself after work, the project would have been delayed another month or two.
Also sending the digital version was now suddenly not so easy. I can't just send thousands of mails by hand. That would take weeks again. So I decided to upload the digital version to Gumroad, generate a lot of 100% discount codes by script and then send them by mail. Also by script. I don't need to mention that my domain was blocked within minutes on all major email service. The codes had to go out at a snail's pace after that. With one mail per 90 seconds. That worked to some extent. Unfortunately, many people did not receive their code and had to ask me for it over the next weeks.
I'm not sure yet if I'll actually do another project along those lines. In the end, it was a lot of work and I'm glad once everyone has received their decks. But nonetheless, I learned a lot. And that alone is a big win.
1.) First, when planning, it certainly doesn't hurt to have a Plan B for every step in the production and supply chain. And not just a thought about it, but a concrete plan. What other printers are there, what are their prices, how do I get the goods packaged and shipped? How do I handle returns and complaints? You should break down the entire process from the end of the Kickstarter campaign to taking the goods back in case of a problem and have two options for each step. Quite obvious really, isn't it?
2.) Anticipate a close success (to prevent disappointment), but also plan for the event that the project suddenly becomes 20x larger. This mainly concerns two things. The time it takes to ship the product and the time it takes to communicate. It is much faster to print 100 decks in China (5-10 days) than 2000 in Germany (6-10 weeks). So plan far more time than you think. I've had to write embarrassing updates. That hurts. Even with incredible loving and understanding supporters.
The amount of time and effort it takes to communicate shouldn't be underestimated either. Sure, with 100 people you can expect maybe 10 people to comment or message. That's nothing. But the number of requests increases linearly with the number of supporters. Possibly even more than linear, considering that with more supporters come other issues you need to communicate. In addition to messages & comments there are th project updates. One per month is the bare minimum, but especially during the campaign or when it comes to shipping, you should post with increased frequency. Then there are requests from marketing agencies and other creators who would like to do cross promotions. This will increase the more supporters a project has.
3.) The Kickstarter tools are pretty ingenious. Only the management of the pledges shows clear weaknesses. More than one item? Merchant? Late pledge? Addons? Forget about all that. You should definitely think about using one of the well-known pledge managers like backerkit. Of course, they take some money from your sales, but it might be worth it if you can save time and frustration.
So, enough about the past. What does the future hold for Mythical Ink? Honestly, I don't quite know yet. First, I'm going to see about distributing some leftover copies of the Deck of Dungeon somehow. Then I'll consider launching another, similar Kickstarter project.
But I also want to continue working on the website. The loot generator and the item directory offer a great data basis for further tools in the same direction and I also have some other ideas what could be added here.
In addition, I am currently also flirting a bit with the topic of gamedev. Both digital and analog. It would be a challenge to design a game and implement it from front to back. No matter if board or computer game.
But one thing at a time. For now, I'll concentrate on closing the Deck of Dungeons chapter cleanly.