Inside My Kickstarter Project

skeptoid-5-book-600As promised to my backers, here is the final accounting for the Kickstarter project to launch my new book, Skeptoid 5: Massacres, Monsters, and Miracles.

The most notable thing about the campaign is that pledges ended up being double the amount I’d hoped for. Let’s see how that affected the accounting for everything:

Estimated Actual Notes
Pledges $7,250 $14,959 Yay! I doubled my pledges, but feared the double amount of work. Rightfully so!
Amazon Payments fee $290 $570 Amazon Payments (mandated by Kickstarter) takes ~4%.
Kickstarter fee $363 $730 Kickstarter takes ~5%.
Shrinkage $507 (7%) $355 (2%) People whose credit cards did not go through, or who otherwise flaked on their pledges.
Totals funds received $6,091 $13,303
eBook Conversion $700 $1,080 The final charge was inexplicably higher than the estimate  I was given.
Illustrations $200 $250 Mitsuko did such a great job that I overpaid her.
Number of books 250 540 Double the pledges = double the books.
Proof copies - $91 I failed to account for this.
Book printing $1,340 $2,681 Double the books = double the printing.
Sales tax - $214 I failed to account for this.
Shipping the printed books to me $175 $219 More books = more shipping.
Packaging materials $125 $238 More books = more boxes.
Shipping $1,250 $3,491 Fully half of the books went to international addresses, incurring postage of up to $60/box. I had figured it was going to be largely domestic. This was really hard to know in advance, and unfortunately my estimate erred in the wrong direction.
Total costs $3,790 $8,264
Net profit $2,301 $5,039
Hours 80 180 I way underestimated this. The indexing took longer, the packing, shipping, customs forms, post office, and just plain managing everything all took much longer than I expected.
Hourly rate $28.76 $27.99 All in all, it ended up being very close!

There were a number of calls from people saying “Hey, you doubled your numbers, you should write two books instead of one.” But the table above does not show one gigantic expense: The actual writing of the book’s 50 chapters represented an entire year of full-time research, which had already been done, and was paid for by Skeptoid’s regular donors. Quite obviously, from the bottom line shown above, spending an extra year and writing a second book, then doubling all the expenses, would not have been possible. [Think of a car dealership doubling their sales in one month; should they throw in a second model of car for each sale?]

On Kickstarter, such additional gifts offered for a project achieving milestones beyond what was asked for are called stretch goals. Kickstarter discourages stretch goals, because coming up with and providing additional gifts not initially budgeted for make it harder for the campaigner to fulfill the original obligations made to backers. When my backers started calling for stretch goals, because they thought I was swimming in so much extra loot, I began to feel a bit distressed. Rightfully so, as I finally learned.

So my final advice, based on this first crowdfunding project, is to be extremely conservative estimating your costs, and use a spreadsheet as I did. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. And do not offer stretch goals unless you can provide them at no significant cost of time or money: they’re bad for the project’s viability, and thus bad for your backers.

About Brian Dunning

Science writer Brian Dunning is the host and producer of Skeptoid.
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12 Responses to Inside My Kickstarter Project

  1. Anonymous says:

    Brian. Thanks for the full financial disclosure. I recently received the book and am looking forward to reading it. Thanks for the hard work and best of luck going forward.

  2. csmastermind says:

    Thanks for this Brian! This post was very insightful. I love Skeptoid and I was more projects were as transparent as yours.

  3. Susan gerbic says:

    Fascinating. Thank you for breaking this all down, really helps everyone overall.

  4. Atheous says:

    I thought the details would be a bore, but it is interesting. I remember congratulating you on doubling the money, but I didn’t get how it didn’t translate to “double everything”.

    I’m glad my books only had to be shipped about 100 miles. And I appreciate the eBooks, I can have them with me, with detailed analysis of like a hundred topics.

    I devour all the Skeptoid offerings hungrily and I’m proud to have taken part.

  5. William Main says:

    Did not participate in the original campaign, will order the book. I expect I will order all 5 books from this week. Great job and keep them coming. I enjoy the podcasts and really loved the DVD. Look forward to my continuous sponsorship.

  6. Karolyn says:


  7. Great read. I’m starting to consider a crowdfunding campaign myself, and this has been really helpful. Great work Brian.

  8. Andrew Hackard says:

    Having worked on a far larger project (OGRE), I can endorse everything you’ve said, up to and including “Plan for more success than you expect, and how it will change everything you did before you launched.”

  9. Nicholas says:

    What, no line item for the free labor you got out of your children? /k

    Honestly this kind of cost breakdown hugely increases my willingness to participate in this kind of crowdfunded project. To be able to see the finances illuminates the costs that my contribution go to.

    Next time charge extra for international shipping. Next time find a way to receive donations that doesn’t require chunking out a tithe to the moneychangers [Kickstarter, Amazon]. Next time target $40 for your wage; a brother’s got to eat.

    Thank you. Your breath contributes to blowing the sails of humanity in a better direction. Good luck.

    • Though you meant it humorously, there was indeed much free donated labor. Not just the kids, but all the friends and neighbors who descended for a massive book shipping “party”. 🙂

  10. Anonymous says:

    will yopu ebay any books?

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