640% Kickstarter, Sponsorships, and Shipping

In forty-eight hours, my experimental Kickstarter funded six hundred and forty percent.

Those of you who told me so, may now commence declaring that you told me so.

I am considering using Kickstarter for future books, in combination with my sponsorship program. (Sponsors pay me while I’m still writing the book.) The sponsor program will never go away, mind you. My end goal is reader disintermediation; I want folks coming directly to me for their books, instead of buying through Amazon or whoever. Sponsorship is the culmination of disintermediation. But sponsorship is for dedicated readers, while Kickstarter attracts casual ones. I’m thinking that I’ll use sponsorship to pay bills as I write, while Kickstarter will pay the bills of publishing. I’ll have to figure out how to make any sponsor books more precious than the Kickstarter ones, though. Maybe a special SPONSOR EDITION note on the cover.

One wrinkle with Kickstarter that’s raised a bunch of questions, though, is shipping. Overseas shipping costs are EXPENSIVE. They are set by my experience with sponsor gifts.

When it comes to shipping books internationally, the US post office provides three options.

  1. Media Mail. I can get it just about anywhere in the world for less than $10. No international tracking. No guarantee of delivery. Might take months or years. Those container ships moored outside every port in the world, waiting months for an opportunity to unload? There are Media Mail packages adrift in every one.
  2. First class mail. Costs $25 +/- $5-ish. Delivery guaranteed, eventually. Might take months. I can complain to the post office, and they’ll fill out a form. What they’ll do with that form is another issue.
  3. International Priority Mail. Costs about $40 ($30 to Canada). Ouch. Delivers within a week or two, sort of guaranteed. Insured. Complaints are taken mostly seriously.

I normally use First Class mail.

Ever since the pandemic started, sponsor gifts anywhere outside the USA keep going astray. Thanks to the tracking number I am able to watch packages bounce between, say, Chicago and London, England. I don’t know if the actual package keeps circling or if the computer is confused, but either way the sponsor does not get their gift. This is unacceptable. If some maniac generous soul puts food on my table as I write the book, my ethics declare that I must get their thank-you gift to them. Asking the post office staff for a better solution gets me the same answer every time: Use International Priority Mail.

Delivery failures are not my fault, but they are my responsibility. Here in the USA, a backer with a tracking number can contact the Post Office themselves. That’s not an option for a backer in Farawayistan. I must be able to investigate and resolve problems. That means tracking. I elected to go with Priority Mail all around this time, so that any complaints merit more than a tally in a database.

I would prefer to offer backers shipping options like “Would you like cheap ‘I promise to ship it, good luck getting it and I can’t help you’ or expensive ‘will arrive ASAP’?” Kickstarter does not offer that flexibility.

When I offer OpenBSD Storage Mastery for sponsorship, I will offer that choice. Sponsors already accept some risk–if I drop dead while writing the book, they’re out of luck. 1 Some of them will choose the cheap mail, probably the same people who tell me not to ship them a gift.

  1. As long-term authors rarely quit writing until they die, one day the whole lot of them will take it in the shorts. I’d apologize, but as I’ll be getting the worse end of that deal I think they’ll have to live with it.

2 Replies to “640% Kickstarter, Sponsorships, and Shipping”

  1. 1. Kickstarter sort of does let you do this, but only by having (N x M) #of reward tiers. I’ve seen it done, and it’s clearly as much of a PITA for the maker as for the donor.
    2. There are easily a dozen logistics companies that promise to make this easier for you, at some cost that is hopefully/typically less than Priority mail. I’ve had to deal with several of them recently, I’ll send some names your way. They may or may not be suitable, YMMV.

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