Hail, hearty Fate Corps! Here's the news. It's a lot of text that gets into the numbers behind our shipping plan, so if that's not your thing, feel free to skip to the end.
We've had our shipping partner run the numbers on both timeframe and cost.
Timeframe: Two-ish weeks remains the estimate on the shipping effort time. Will we be surprised if it spills over into a third week? Not really, especially for the international shipments, where the paperwork tends to make processing a given international shipment 5 to 10 times longer than a domestic one. But we should have all of the domestic shipments shunted out in that span, whereupon they will travel at Media Mail's leisurely 10-business-day pace to reach backers throughout the States.
International shipments take longer still once in transit, and are subject to the vagaries of their respective countries' postal systems, as we understand it. Past experience suggests that this can mean packages that take anywhere from a couple weeks longer than they take in the States, to a month or two or more of transit time in the outlying cases. It's nutty, and the only way to survive it is patience. Hopefully this isn't the first time our international folks have experienced the joys of a shipment from the USA, but in case it is -- that's the fun time ahead. Wheeee! :)
Budget: Here's where things get interesting. ... Interesting to a business geek, at least. That's us, so we're happy to talk about it. :)
Our domestic mail-out plan is based on the media mail shipping method. It's slow (see above), but it's book-friendly, and can save a bundle on shipping costs. Were we to go for a faster method, one with tracking, etc, we'd end up with at least double the shipping cost, and that would've raised the pledge-price for everybody. As it is, with media mail, we felt comfortable asking our backers in the USA to include $5 for each shipment.
Fate Core is going to clock in at close to 2 pounds as a book, maybe a smidge over. Fate Accelerated will be under 4 ounces. Add packing material and packaging to that, with or without FAE added in, and you end up with a two-point-somethin' pound package. Costs of handling, plus packaging, plus the actual cost of shipping by our shipping partner will put that domestic shipment right around $7 per package. We've planned all along, and are happy, to take on that $2-per-package overage ourselves, and we knew it was a potential risk. (Still, we're talking about over 3000 domestic shipments, so that's $6000 of the Kickstarter kitty going towards that cost. All part of the plan, and entirely absorbable!)
Looking at the international shipping side has given Fred a few heart palpitations. We have ~1100 international shipments to make happen in this initial push. For our international backers, we asked/budgeted for a $15 to go towards shipping, knowing that the $15 would only cover some of the cost.
With Fate Core and FAE going up for general preorder this past weekend, we've seen a couple international preorders come across, and the cost quoted for shipping has been staggering: over $50. That's the rate that the USPS gives for a somewhat-over-2-pound shipment to most locations outside the USA.
This is where the palpitations set in for Fred. :) If a mid-$50 rate were to hold true, that'd mean for a given international shipment of one $25 Fate Core book + $15 shipping pledge, the cost of shipping alone would exceed the pledge by $10-15. Add in costs of packaging, the unit cost of the book itself, etc, you get into the $20ish range (i.e., a cost of $60+ to deliver a $40 pledge), and with 1100 shipments it'd add up to taking a mid $20,000 loss instead of... well, any revenue gain at all, for those.
Consulting with our shipping partner gave us hope, though. There were a couple of flat rate solutions that might be able to work. One involved a "large video" box, and that would have been our preference, but with packing insulation included the contents would be too big to fit. The only other flat rate option below $50-60 that would fit the dimensions of our contents is a padded envelope mailer. With some extra padding surrounding our books, we think this is the winner for international shipments.
It still means a shipping pricetag of just about $30.
That's not too crippling, though: it means that we're still retaining $10 out of that $40 pledge scenario to put towards the book itself. On a $25 MSRP book like Fate Core, $10-$11 is the price at which it would sell into distribution channels, so this is no worse than those scenarios. We price our books such that we still make "margin" (i.e., net profit) above the unit cost even on such a sale, so this is no loss.
At any rate, as we said in the last update, we're freezing the spreadsheet this week so we can give our shipping partner time to plan, review the data, order the necessary supplies, and be ready to roll when the books arrive in mid-June. We'll resume taking in data (extra-tardy survey answerers -- who've had over 3 months to answer -- address changes, etc) after the shipping effort concludes around the end of June.
In other news, the editing effort on the Fate System Toolkit is drawing to a close. A few weeks from now -- maybe just as the books are arriving at the warehouse? -- we'll be sharing the raw (but edited) text with you for your scrutiny and feedback.
At the same time, the Fate Worlds books are in layout and art acquisition, which we've scoped as a two-month process. It's a lot of material!
If luck holds, and the Toolkit revision process is reasonably brisk, we may be able to get both the Toolkit and the two Worlds books out around the same time, at the far end of all this. Of course your tender mercies may leave the Toolkit needing more time to bake in the oven -- but our plan right now is to keep all that on a tight timeframe.
Whew. So that's it for this update. When we have more to tell you, we'll share it for sure! If things keep going as projected, it might mean we'll skip next week for updating as it'll all be more of the same, same trajectory, all that. If that's the case, we'll see you again a couple weeks from now.
Thanks as always for your support, and here's to a smooth logistics process from here on out!