28 April 2016 | 25 Comments
Consider this scenario: You’ve successfully funded your crowdfunding campaign to make a new product. The survey data indicates that backers pledged to receive a total of 1000 units of the product. How many units should you make?
There are lots of different answers to this question, and it may vary by industry. What I can offer you today are some questions to consider as you make this decision, as well as some insights into what I’ve done.
These are the questions to ask when you need to send a final order quantity to your manufacturer.
- How many units did your backers order? This is your starting point. Consider adding about 5% to the total of each version of the product to make up for errors that happen during the fulfillment process.
- What is your minimum print run? Every manufacturer has a different minimum quantity that you must produce. For board games, this is usually around 1000-1500 copies.
- What are the economies of scale? The more units you make, the less the cost per unit will be. This may factor into your decision, as there can be some pretty big decreases in cost. A game that costs $16 to make at 1000 units may drop down to $13 at 2500 units.
- How many units can you afford to make? This depends on how much money you raised. Your Kickstarter funds may allow you to make many more copies than the backer rewards, so it’s a choice for you to walk away with a little profit or to invest it all in the biggest print run you can afford. Remember to deduct estimated shipping expenses from the funds raised before deciding how much money you can allocate to the first print run.
- Do you want to make a second print run in the future? One consideration is if you want this to be a one-and-done product or if you’re hoping to make multiple print runs. If the latter is true, your calculation must take into account the expense of a second print run. You’ll need to make enough retail units for the sales of those units to allow you to afford a second print run. Randy Hoyt wrote a great article about this.
- What’s the risk in overproducing? If you make more copies than you can sell, you’ll have a bunch of inventory just sitting in a warehouse somewhere. This is a good reason to only use funds raised–not personal funds–if you can help it.
- What’s the risk in underproducing? Other than the risks you’ve hopefully avoided by heeding points 1 and 5 above, the risk here is that you vastly underestimate the retail demand for your product. You haven’t lost money, but you’ve lost potential sales when the product is hot. The buzz may die down by the time you can reprint the product.
Here are a few stories about what we did:
- For the original print run of Viticulture, I needed about 1300 backer copies, and I made 2500 total (800 were for retail). I was surprised and delighted that those 800 copies sold out to distributors on the first day. I didn’t reprint Viticulture until the Kickstarter campaign for Tuscany about a year later, which was well after the buzz died down. However, it was long enough that there was pent-up demand for Viticulture, resulting in a strong start for the Viticulture/Tuscany combo.
- For the original print run of Euphoria, I needed 5700 backer copies, and I made 9000 total copies (3300 were for retail). It took several months to sell through those copies, and just as we sold the last copy (I think it was in May 2014), Euphoria was selected as one of Mensa’s games of the year. Suddenly we had lots of interest–including a buyer who wanted 1000 copies–but we had no games to sell.
- For the first Treasure Chest, I needed about 5000 backer copies, and I made 7500 total. I didn’t realize how much of a niche product the treasure chests would be, and it’s taken a long time to sell those copies (over a year). It’s for that reason that on subsequent treasure chest projects–including the Token Trilogy–I only make enough copies to cover pre-order demand plus 5-10%.
- For Between Two Cities, I needed 7300 backer copies, and I made a total of 10,800 (3500 were retail games). We sold through them in about 2 months, and we’re currently on our second print run.
- For Scythe, I needed about 21,000 backer copies. It’s a very expensive game to make and we had strong retail support during the project, so I only made 5,000 retail copies for distribution. We’ll find out in a few months if that decision was correct. :)
What do you think? Did I miss some important questions/considerations? If any creators want to share their experiences with determining the size of their first print run, I’d love to hear about that in the comments.
If you’re interested in watching me talk about Kickstarter, particularly in regards to board games and marketing, here’s a video of a recent discussion I had with a group at the University of North Texas.