Guest Post: Heidi Black: Kickstarter Fulfillment and Shipping

 In the past few months, Heidi Black has successfully funded her artbook, ElectricAbyss:The Art of Heidi Black.  Now that the artbook is written and funded, she faces the daunting task of mailing, a problem many Kickstarter campaign managers fail to plan for.  Like many, she underestimated the cost of shipping books internationally, and has had to find solutions where there is little precedence.  I asked Heidi to write a little about her experience in hopes that it might help others.

People tend to forget about one of the most important parts of a Kickstarter:  fulfillment – and this often means SHIPPING.  Shipping things around the US is not that big of a deal – we've all had to mail things or UPS/FedEx them before, so we're all probably somewhat familiar with the process.  But shipping things internationally can be a whole different kettle of fish, and a very expensive one at that.  Here are some tips for shipping that ought to help you out.

1. Can you ship directly from the printer? 

In the case of Createspace, I don't get a bulk discount until I start getting into numbers upwards of 500 – and since I only needed about 80 copies of the book to fulfill my Kickstarter, I wasn't going to hit that. Rather than pay the cost of having the books shipped to me (the cost of shipping for 40 books is about $35, plus I also had to carry those 40lbs of books up to my third floor apartment) you can ship books directly from Createspace to your recipients.  This is a little bit more expensive up front (it costs about $4 to ship my book from Createspace) but you are saving on the cost of shipping to your house, shipping FROM your house, AND buying the envelope/packing supplies.  I also found with Createspace, 40 orders of one copy of my book get printed and shipped faster than one order of 40 copies.  (go figure?) 

EVEN BETTER, INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING IS WAY CHEAPER.  Yeah.  Shipping my book with the USPS (the cheapest service I found) costs $20+ internationally.  Even after researching, I couldn't find a cheaper option, until I checked to see how much it would cost Createspace to ship directly.  While the shipping speeds are slow as all get out (they are probably being put on boats and freighted overseas), because Createspace uses Amazon Distribution, they have arrangements with shipping companies and can ship overseas for way less – the most expensive ones were to Australia, and even then it was never more than $8 – way less than the $20 the USPS charges.

Screenshot of Createspace international shipping rates.

2. Bulk shipping supplies

For all the rewards you have to ship from your own home, you won't be able to ship directly from the printer, so you'll have to package and mail these yourself.  You can save money by purchasing bulk shipping supplies online.  Padded envelopes/bubble mailers you can get for less than a dollar in bulk, and the same for mailing tubes.  A simple Google search will find you a lot of sites that sell these items.  Do look into whether it is cheaper to buy them in bulk or just the few that you need – if you are only shipping ten packages, it may be cheaper to just buy the supplies at a local store.  Alternately, contacting people who have already done a Kickstarter and may have some extra shipping supplies laying around that they would be willing to sell for cheap is also a good idea *coughIhavemailingtubescough*

3. Media mail

If you are shipping books, you can send them MEDIA MAIL!  Sometimes this is cheaper than first class mail or standard shipping (but always check to make sure) but you will have to do this in person at the post office, you can't use their automated machine or online services.  Media mail is specifically for books, so if you are sending DVDs or the like you can't use it, but for me it was a good way to save a few dollars.  My envelopes with extras shipped media mail around the US cost about $2-3 to ship each.  Media mail takes a little longer sometimes, but it should still get there within a week or so.

4. Use the smallest envelope you can, or fold over envelopes to make them smaller.

This may seem kind of obvious, but not everyone knows it.  The post office often charges more for packages over a certain dimension (unfortunately, over 3/4” thick is one of them, and my books all exceed that) and 12” is a common dimension cutoff.  My mailers are 10x14, but I can fold over the top some to make them smaller, and sometimes cheaper to ship.  If you are shipping in boxes, get the smallest box you can use without damaging the goods. 

Those are the best tips I have.  Hopefully they will help with all of your shipping needs!