10 April 2017
A few years ago, you designed and produced 1,000 hats for cats. To your surprise and delight, through a combination of crowdfunding, pre-orders, and distribution, you sold your last cat hat last week. Should you return to crowdfunding for a reprint?
Reprint vs. New Edition
Let’s start with a quick definition, as these two are often confused.
- Reprint: This is basically when you tell your manufacturer to make more of the original, with perhaps a few small tweaks (like fixing typos).
- New Edition: This is when you’ve made significant changes to the original (e.g., different art, design, look, feel, etc).
Today I’m specifically talking about reprints, not new editions.
I don’t have any experience running a crowdfunding campaign for a reprint–I’ve never done it. I’ve instead chosen to reinforce my relationships with distributors and retailers by selling all reprints through them, and the results have been great: We’re on our 6th printing of Scythe, 6th printing of Viticulture, 3rd printing of Euphoria, and 3rd printing of Between Two Cities.
The closest I’ve come was when I Kickstarted Tuscany, the expansion pack to Viticulture. There were bundled reward levels that included both Tuscany and the second edition of Viticulture (I had previously Kickstarted the first edition of Viticulture).
Reasons to Crowdfund a Reprint
- Wide range of demand uncertainty: Perhaps you’ve heard from a few people that they want a cat hat, but you really don’t know if there’s anywhere close to enough demand for a minimum production quantity of 500 units.
- Expansion or companion product: Many board game publishers include bundled options of the expansion plus a reprinted copy of the original game. While I’m sure retailers don’t love seeing this, it’s understandable.
- You don’t sell through distribution/retail: Some companies only sell directly to consumers through their websites, Amazon, etc. If you don’t have a relationship with distributors and retailers, you don’t have to worry about damaging it.
- There’s demand and you work with distributors, but you don’t have a source of funding: You know there’s a lot of demand for a reprint of your hats for cats, but you don’t have the funds to pay for a reprint. You can go to your distributors and ask them to front the manufacturing cost, guaranteeing them that they’ll get the exact quantity they want. If they decline, then it’s reasonable for you to pursue a reprint without damaging that relationship–it’s a two-way street.
Reasons to NOT Crowdfund a Reprint
Well, pretty much every other reason.
Crowdfunding is a wonderful way to raise funds, gauge demand, build a community, generate awareness, ship efficiently, and improve a product. But if it is the only way you’re doing those things, you’re going to have a really hard time scaling, growing, and sustaining your business.
Do you rely on distributors/retailers to sell your product? If the answer is yes, you are risking significant and permanent damage to your relationships with those distributors and retailers if you run a crowdfunding campaign for a reprint. This isn’t my opinion–this is what distributors and retailers have told me.
(If you’re wondering why you’d work with distributors at all, here’s how I said it in a previous article: “It’s just a lot simpler to sell and send 1,000 games to 10 different distributors than sell 10,000 games to 10,000 unique consumers. It’s really important to me that I treat customers as individuals, not numbers, and I believe I can best do that if I’m freed from managing 10,000 transactions.”)
The Consumer Perspective
Here’s where you point out that consumers are best served by crowdfunding and pre-order campaigns, because it’s the only way to guarantee you’ll get something you want in a timely manner. You may have had subpar experiences with retailers when you pre-ordered a product that they didn’t receive. I get that.
I think the distribution system works best when we’re all communicating with each other. If you want a specific cat hat, tell your local or online cat hat retailer you want it. Then they can tell their distributor, and the distributor can tell the publisher.
But I certainly understand your frustration if you’ve tried for a while to buy something, but you simply can’t find a place that can keep it in stock. I can see how you would be relieved to see that product on Kickstarter.
Also, you might be the type of person who only wants to buy hats for cats directly from the creator. But you don’t need Kickstarter or pre-orders for that–most companies offer some form of direct purchase of in-stock inventory on their website.
What are your thoughts on crowdfunding reprints?