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Kickstarter Lessons: Everything takes longer than you’d expect (so make sure to do this)

Last week we talked about how to under-promise and over-deliver on your Kickstarter campaign. Part of that article was about giving yourself extra time, as you may underestimate the amount of time it will take to complete certain tasks. Today we’re going to go deeper on that important point, as you’ll find that almost everything will take you longer than you’d expect when you run your first Kickstarter campaign.

We’re going to break this down into 4 sections: art & graphic design, file submission, manufacturing, and shipping.

We’ll talk about how each of these aspects can take a lot longer than you would anticipate and how to prepare yourself for this inevitability.

Art & Graphic Design

If you want your game to do well on Kickstarter, stunning art and visually appealing graphic design are a must. These are the things that people will see when they come to your campaign page, and they have to be first-rate to get people’s attention and make them want to scroll down and learn more about your game.

Like most creative endeavours, art and graphic design take time. It’s really difficult to anticipate exactly how long it will take to design a box cover or 20 pieces of individual art for all the unique cards in a game.

This is confounded by the fact that your artist is likely working on multiple projects at once (or at least they have others in the queue) and must work back-and-forth with the creator to get things just right. A delay on one project will have ripple effects on others.

But you can still prepare yourself for this by having a good amount (or even all) of the art done before you launch on Kickstarter. Sure, there will always be little things you might want to add or some final touches needed, but the closer you have this to production-ready, the less you’ll have to worry about after your campaign.

You can also ensure your artist(s) and graphic designer have some time available after your campaign to do any final work, prepare the print files, etc., so that you can get everything submitted and move into production sooner.

I had practically everything ready for production after the campaign for Relics of Rajavihara, however, I was still trying to figure out the best way to display the challenges for the after-campaign missions. I originally thought about another rules sheet, but it turned out that using cards would be more helpful. So, a little more work was necessary.

This delayed the file submission to my manufacturer slightly. Lesson learned.

File Submission

The process for submitting your files to your manufacturer is pretty straightforward and quick. Or so I thought!

You submit all the files for your box, cards, rules, and any other components you need. Then your manufacturer reviews them, lets you know if any adjustments are needed, and creates a digital proof for your sign off. Then a sample is made and sent to you for evaluation and approval before they move into mass production.

I thought that the submission process would take a week or two, then I’d get my sample and we’d be moving into mass production quickly.

In reality, the process took a couple of months.

I went back and forth with my manufacturer and graphic designer/illustrator, ensuring that all files were complete, cards were in order, and bleed lines were in the right places. Because of some minor language barriers, sometimes multiple emails had to be exchanged to understand what the issue with a file was and what needed to be corrected.

One thing that helped was sharing images and examples. You can try to explain an issue in words, but if you can provide a picture and highlight or circle the problem, this makes it so much clearer. Sharing an example from other projects like yours can also be really helpful.

For my next project, I am planning on submitting all my files before the Kickstarter campaign and may even arrange for the sample to be sent in advance. This should save a lot of time after the campaign is over so that we can move into manufacturing quickly.

However, if anything changes during the campaign, we’ll need to make adjustments. Flexibility is important. Still, with everything else ready for production, this should speed things up overall.

Manufacturing

Once all the files are submitted and approved, and then you’ve received the sample, you’ll communicate any issues or changes with your manufacturer. Upon approval, they will move into mass production.

Standard practice is that you will make payment of half of the bill upfront. This is typically done through wire transfer, which can take a few business days to complete, so be prepared for this and plan this into your timelines. Your final payment will be due around the time that manufacturing is being completed.

Also, be aware of events that can delay your process. One of the biggest ones is the Chinese New Year, assuming your manufacturer is in China. Whole factories shut down for multiple weeks in late January or early February, depending on when this falls, so make sure to check your calendar and plan accordingly. You should expect that no communications or manufacturing will happen during this time.

Depending on the company and the number of games you’re making, it will likely take about 30-45 days to get all your games manufactured, assembled, and ready to ship out.

Keep in constant communication with your manufacturer about production timelines and expectations and you should be fine.

Shipping

Shipping can be unpredictable, especially in the current environment.

You’ll work with your manufacturer or fulfilment company (or companies) to arrange for your games to be freight shipped via the ocean to their destination port, where they will then be trucked to a warehouse. They are then sorted, packed, and labelled before being sent off to your backers.

There are a lot of steps in the process, so it’s a good thing that others with more experience are making all the arrangements!

Just getting your games booked onto a ship can take some time. Then it could take a month or more until they reach their destination. So, you want to allocate at least 2 months for this process. And this doesn’t include the time for clearing customs and being packed in the warehouse before going out to backers.

All told, you want to allocate about 3 months from the time the games have been manufactured until your backers receive them. However, it’s always good to add in some buffer time (here and in all stages of the process, not just for shipping).

Work with your partners and ensure they have everything they need when they need it, including the number of games headed to their destination, a list of backer addresses, and anything else they may require.

Again, communication is key.

What delays have you seen in other campaigns that extended the delivery well beyond what you would have expected?

Please leave a comment and share your experiences.

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