Crowdfunding Comics: Shipping
NOTE — This article was originally written a few years ago but I updated it 07/18/22 to reflect current shipping prices as researched for my most recent Kickstarter campaign.
[ WHY SHOULD YOU LISTEN TO ME? ] I have a business that creates all kinds of nerdy stuff (games, comic books, tabletop miniatures and gaming accessories, and more) — I’ve run 16 successful Kickstarter campaigns, 1 IndieGoGo, and multiple other platform-agnostic crowdfunding projects.
[ WHAT IS THIS SERIES ABOUT? ] I’m going to distill my learned knowledge about crowdfunding, delivery, logistics, backer management and more into a series specifically about crowdfunding comics — there’s not a ton of great resources out there for new creators, and I thought it would be helpful to document what’s worked for me! I’ve only crowdfunded 4 comic projects myself at the time of writing (the most recent here) but the collective learnings of kickstarter, marketing, packing, etc are also somewhat agnostic.
[WHAT IS THIS SPECIFIC POST ABOUT? ] What you need to know to package and ship physical comic books to crowdfunding backers — specifically single issue floppies (trades and graphic novels will have their own packaging requirements that differ but many things are the same)
With the info below I’ve been able to keep my shipping/packaging/handling costs down to $4 domestic and $12 international for a heavy-duty single issue floppy or two per package.
[ PACKAGING ]
I use these rigid mailers which work out to about 50 cents a piece https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000HHQUJQ — they hold 2–3 floppies (depending on what paper thickness/weight you use) with plenty of room for stickers/pinups/etc, and super rigid.
Some collectors might wince at this packaging, but I have sent hundreds of books in them and have never had a single book get damaged during delivery yet and they’re super easy to stuff, seal and ship. I was recommended to use these by my editor, Bob Salley, who has himself shipped thousands of books in them (including unique higher-value variant covers) with no issues.
I also buy a roll of these “handle with care, do not bend” stickers and put one on each mailer — the stickers cost < one tenth of a cent each and backers appreciate the extra touch to make sure their packages get delivered safely! https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01N3YMMDD
If you wanna get real fancy you can add a sleeve onto each book as well — I use THESE ones for my limited books. They are kind of static-ey, and somewhat annoying to use, but work ok for a limited # of books. I wouldn’t want to put 200 books into these, but for 40–50 copies it wasn’t too bad. They’re less than one cent each, and backers really appreciate the extra touch.
[ SHIPPING ]
Many online services you can signup for free get you USPS shipping and international discounts. I’ve tried a few different ones over the years but my favorite I currently use, and love, is pirateship.com — they have a super easy system and you can create save packages (with dimensions/weight/etc) for your rewards, easily upload spreadsheets of backers to generate/buy shipping, and quickly generate/share/email backers tracking info. I am not affiliated with them in any way, but I recommend this system for any creator and I’ve never found a way to buy cheaper shipping anywhere.
[ LABELS ]
I highly suggest buying a thermal label printer, especially if you plan on high volume or multiple crowdfunding projects. It’s a bit of an upfront cost but makes life much easier and saves you tons of time. If you’re using a service like PirateShip.com you print labels right from the website fast as hell (I’ve printed hundreds in one go) and can stick em right on in your living room. This is the printer I use and love — https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B072N3S7LV . It’s a bit pricey but there are cheaper ones on the market also.
USPS will come to your house and pick all your ready-to-ship (aka purchased label affixed) packages for free. You can schedule this pickup from their website, or right from the PirateShip application. You pick the date (as early as next day if you do it by midnight), select the rough weight (easy to calculate if you know your final package weight) and # of packages. Then they show up the next day with their delivery truck, grab your comics and off they go — it doesn’t get any easier!
You can schedule as many of these pickups as often as you want/need. I usually box the comics up in a heavy duty box and have them in my garage waiting, so when USPS shows up I can meet them out there and hand them off, but I have left boxes of them on my doorstep when I have been out of town or working, and they picked those up no-touch without any issues.
Many creators, including myself, use media mail for domestic shipping. It’s *technically* not allowed for comic books, but I’ve never heard of anybody having an issue with it ever. USPS claims they might inspect the contents for eligibility but again, this has never happened to me or anybody I know of. I even put a stamp of a sci-fi laser revolver on my packages, and USPS has never batted an eyelash at them being media mail. It can sometimes take a bit longer to deliver than priority but you mileage may vary.
I’ll continue to use media mail to shave a few bucks off my costs until an issue arrises though. But if you’re personally worried about it, priority is a bit more expensive but will be 3 day delivery guarantee and work the same for labels/etc.
[ INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING ]
This can be expensive, but PirateShip helps a lot — In my packaging noted above with weights of a heavy-duty paper floppy, to ship anywhere internationally I charge $12 (which worked out great price-wise for every destination on pirate ship — some were a bit cheaper but a blanket rate made life easier logistically). Initially I checked intl shipping to 30+ different countries and they ranged in price from $8 to $12, but never over $12, which is why I picked that number. Having a *single* intl shipping fee makes things less confusing on Kickstarter. I initially thought I would have specific cheaper shipping for closer countries, like Canada, but they really weren’t any different, so the $12 blanket fee worked great for me.
Remember your backers will have to pay duties/taxes/etc depending on their country, so I declared the comic as very cheap ($3 USD value). You actually mail your package to PirateShip and they send out from an international shipping hub, it’s been super easy for me.
[ SHIPPING COSTS FOR BACKERS ]
As noted before I charge $4 for domestic and $12 international for shipping/handling/packaging in my campaigns. This covers my cost for the mailers, shipping fees, and leaves a bit of extra to help recoup the initial cost of the label printer, thermal paper, and my time. BUT please do the math yourself before blindly trusting me.
Get a proof of your copy printed to weigh (or use an existing book that you know will be similar), and weight the final shipping package (including stretch goals!), then plug int into PirateShip as a saved package. Then you can get shipping quotes right in there to tons of domestic addresses and international ones to see what actual shipping prices/cost will be for you.
[ PACKAGES OF MULTIPLE BOOKS ]
After getting into issue #3, #4, etc I started offering “Catch up” tiers which bundled sets of 3 or 4 books together. For shipping those I use THESE boxes off amazon. I stack the books then wrap them in a few tear sheets of bubble wrap.
This makes for a very secure box and fits up to 5 single issues + plenty of room for printed swag. Pricing for these is a bit more of course, but I did the same thing where I filled the box with what it might have in it, weighted it, and created a saved package in PirateShip and did some test quoted prices domestically and worldwide to land on my pricing. For my last campaign that was $20 international and $11 domestic.
[ SHIPPING ADD-ONS ]
Add-ons can come in all shapes and sizes, but for this point I’m specifically talking about add-on books. (i.e. adding another copy to a backer’s pledge, a single back-issue, etc). Depending on your basic rewards you might be able to fit the book in the existing packaging. If it’s an envelope like the ones I shared above, you can usually safely fit 2–3 floppies in there. Or they might bump their package size up to one of the boxes I shared above. From a shipping cost perspective, if your package doesn’t change, the extra cost is usually minimal for the additional weight (~$1–2). But a backer might add 2 or 3 copies and bump themselves up to needing a larger package, or multiple packages, so to be safe and build myself a margin, I price my add-on shipping as such: Each add-on issue adds $2 domestic and $4 international to your shipping cost, above your base pledge level shipping cost. This gives me plenty of wiggle room and hasn’t let to any problems so far.
[ WHAT ABOUT GEMINI MAILERS? ]
Most readers of comic books, and all collectors expect their books to arrive in mint condition. That’s why Gemini Mailers have become very popular (and often expected) in the comics community. Gemini mailers are designed for shipping comics and offer the best protection of the books inside the package compared to some other alternatives.
Many creators use Gemini mailers exclusively, and you can certainly do so yourself, but in my own research they end up costing a bit more to ship (but that’s a tradeoff you can make for yourself). You certainly can’t go wrong by using Gemini mailers though, and backers certainly appreciate them!
[ CONCLUSION ]
Hopefully this helps some of you new creators on your comic journeys! This was one of the things that stressed me out the most early on, and I hope the compiled info is useful to you all. Stay tuned for more posts in this series about other comic crowdfunding guides/tips. And be sure to follow EC3D Designs on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook if you’re interested in my future comic releases. Cheers!
Also check out my currently live space-western comic Kickstarter, THE IGNIS QUADRANT #1–4.