Travis Talaric
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Hi all,

The above subject line pretty much summarizes my question, but to be more clear:

"At what quantity of games produced does it become more cost effective and/ or beneficial to enlist a professional fulfillment company instead of self-fulfilling game orders?

For all of the games funding on KickStarter with 1,000 or less copies sold, is it better to have your manufacturer send them straight to you and you self fulfill or do you have these sent to your fulfillment company to then get them to your end customer?
 
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Gil Hova
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To best answer this question, I think we should get some terminology right.

A "distributor" is an entity that buys games from you in bulk for a tiny percentage and sells them in bulk to game stores for a slightly higher percentage.

A "fullfiller" is an entity who ships individual games or sets of games to various customers (usually crowdfunding backers or pre-order customers) around the world.

So I think you mean "fulfiller" here, not "distributor."

I think the answer to your question depends on you as a publisher.

* Do you have a large space to store the games, like a garage or a spare room?
* Can you easily get a pallet of games to that space? If there are stairs in-between, or anything that would block a pallet jack, the answer is likely "no".
* Do you have several employees who can help you fulfill? If not, do you have friends you can bribe over the course of 1-2 weeks with free dinner?
* Do you have many backers in the EU?

If you can answer "Yes" to the first three questions, and you're based in the US, then you can fulfill a small project. Maybe 500 backers or so.

Keep in mind: If you have 500 backers, and you can ship out 100 packages in a day, then fulfillment will take you 5 days. That may be slower than you've estimated; be sure to be realistic. Having employees and friends certainly helps.

Also, keep in mind that your local post office may not be able to easily handle your coming by with 100 packages every day, especially if you're just driving up and standing in line. You may need to arrange a special pickup.

Now, if the answer to any of these questions is "no," you'll want to use a fulfillment service. They're not that much more expensive than doing it yourself.

In my case, I live in a 1-bedroom apartment, second-floor walkup, in the NYC metro area, so there's absolutely no way I can hold these packages in my home! I can highly recommend Funagain for US fulfillment; they're relatively inexpensive, extremely responsive, and they will handle exchanges for you.

If you really want to squeeze pennies, you can use Amazon FBA. But using Amazon is difficult and stressful, and they're not very good at packaging board games safely.

EU fulfillment is special, because if you can use a fulfillment center within the EU economic zone, your backers will not have to pay VAT on your shipment. (That VAT still must be paid, of course... by you!) I've used Spiral Galaxy in the past and will happily continue to use them until Brexit kicks in.
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Travis Talaric
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Thanks Gil,

(As a side note, just got The Networks a few weeks ago and am looking forward to my first playthrough of it)

Yes, I definitely meant fulfiller then, not distributor.

So for my game (about 110 poker cards in a tuck box), I did some research on US fulfillment options and it looks like I can use Amazon FBA for about $5.96 a game and blackbox.com (Cards Against Humanity's fulfillment company) for $6.00 a game....

I understand that shipping to myself and then mailing via USPS will be much more time intensive, but about how much would this cost per game to buy the packaging and mail to US backers?
 
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Gil Hova
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From what I understand, you save a bit of money shipping to yourself, but not a great deal. I don't know the exact numbers, though. I do know that Amazon (and some larger fulfillers) can get you better deals than you'd get on your own, because they ship out to USPS in higher volumes.

The fact that you have a small game really helps. It can theoretically go in a bubble envelope and survive. That will cut your costs dramatically.

Amazon FBA presents itself as a great deal, and in theory, it is. But a) there are a LOT of hidden gotchas you'll encounter, and b) there are hidden fees, like when Amazon decides to ship your games from one FC to another and bills you for it.

Blackbox is new. Definitely get feedback on people who have used it to fulfill games before committing. I can refer you to some people offline who have fulfilled through Blackbox and fulfilled themselves, if you'd like.

There's an excellent series of articles about fulfilling through Amazon, and negotiating through their thorny system, here:

https://gameswithoutstrings.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/using-a...
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Travis Talaric
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Thanks Gil,

Very helpful. I just want to have numbers for both shipping outcomes in case my (potential) KickStarter funds.

If you have any contacts who would want to provide a brief review of blackbox, I'd greatly appreciate that!

In the meanwhile, when I find a reliable quote for USPS self-fulfillment, I'll post it here in case anyone else is curious.
 
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Gil Hova
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Geekmail sent!
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Isaac Shalev
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You can get significant cost savings if you're able to use 1st class mail. If your game is under 13oz you can use 1st class parcel rate, which could run from about $2.60 to $4 each. You can find prices here http://pe.usps.com/text/dmm300/Notice123.htm#2353761

Packaging isn't expensive. You can get self-adhesive bubble mailers in bulk for maybe 20-30 cents each. If you can take on the work, and your package is within weight and size limits, first class mail is a good approach, and includes tracking. Otherwise, you're not going to save much money doing it yourself. In fact, based on the volume discounts fulfillment houses get, it could well be more expensive to do it yourself.
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Travis Talaric
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Thank you both for the input.

If an average 52 card deck of playing cards weighs 3.3 ounces, I'm assuming a 110 card deck should be able to get below the 13 ounce threshold.

In Summary

Factors to consider in self-fulfilling vs hiring a fulfillment company(To add to Gil's criteria):

* Do you have a large space to store the games, like a garage or a spare room?
* Can you easily get a pallet of games to that space? If there are stairs in-between, or anything that would block a pallet jack, the answer is likely "no".
* Do you have several employees who can help you fulfill? If not, do you have friends you can bribe over the course of 1-2 weeks with free dinner?
* Do you have most backers in the US?
* Will the weight of the game be under 13 ounces (Depends on per card weight, but should be less than 200 cards)?

If yes to all of the above criteria, self-fulfilling will probably be the more cost-effective method, but more time-consuming. Thus, it would seem best for lower quantity production runs.
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Gil Hova
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Tsquared025 wrote:
* Do you have most backers in the US?


Probably better phrased as "If you're a US creator, are most of your backers in the US?"

That's because the backer will likely have to pay import taxes on what you send them. Most notoriously, anything that goes into the EU is subject to a VAT of about 20%.

Now, rules are different for different territories. For example, some territories have a minimum value threshold. If your product is under that, the backer won't have to pay VAT. But that threshold is going to vary wildly from one territory.

That said, I had my last two projects fulfilled in the EU through an EU fulfillment shop. That doesn't mean the VAT doesn't get charged. Instead, I pay the VAT instead of the customer.

Your game is small, so you may be able to get away with sending it directly to customers. But you'll have to do your homework here to figure that out!
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