Rob gets it pretty well surrounded in this reply here.It's damned if you do, damned if you don't. If you don't offer international shipping, you get threads like this. If you do, you get threads where people flip out like "$50 for SHIPPING?!?!?!?!?"
And that's before you ship the damn thing, where shipping can kill you if you have to send replacements (you will) or even send two or three copies of a thing because it gets lost*.
PoD is a possibility but it's not just as simple as sending an email off to a local printer. There are setup costs, quality control challenges and dealing with competing with yourself. And that's just PoD domestic. I can only imagine adding the international complexity of business.
Fred is a smart guy and I think this choice is the best one out of a rack of crappy ones he can make for Evil Hat. Smart business owners don't want to leave money on the table but sometimes you loose more money in pursuit of customers than if you say up front "Sorry, please wait until the thing comes out and order from a store."
*While researching my own Kickstarter, I heard several independent stories about the Horrors of Shipping to Brazil, where multiple parties shipped multiple copies of different projects that never reached their destination.
It’s down to choosing between whether I’ll get a ton of complaints about charging international shipping and whether I’ll get a ton of complaints about not offering it. In the former case there’s a lot of additional expense and hassle and logistics and a big fat pile of additional risk (that’s not all). In the latter case, there’s not. If you were given that binary choice, which one do you think you’d pick? Be honest.
It’s also a massively multi-factor based decision. Anyone offering a one-factor analysis of why something is or is not happening is leaving something out. I sure am, when I’m responding with a tweet, what with the length limitations.
The shipping cost overruns we saw on DFCO were one of several factors that put us into the need-a-$100k+-loan situation. Some tax stuff, some royalties timing, some bad accounting advice, those all went into it too. But when you look at a big fucking shipping bill and less than 20% of the people that it maps to are producing a significant majority percentage of the total cost, you start looking really closely at why you let them into the picture, and whether or not you can truly afford to keep doing that.
But in the Kickstarter specific scenario there’s tons of other reasons for not doing it too. Like, here’s just *one* component of the decision we made this time: shipping can’t cost more than about 1/6th of the total monetary contribution of a tier. That way, we can know that *consistently* a pledge will provide around 80% of its value as *actual funding* towards the *actual goals* of the campaign, with the remainder going towards the scaling costs of KS cut & fees + shipping, which goes up with every pledge. If we provided another tier that provided significantly less than 80% towards the actual goals, we’d have to either a) significantly increase the funding goals of the campaign (in order to ensure we’d still get the same amount of revenue if the worse-percentage tier got really popular, which is a real risk when you put the keyword Cthulhu on something), or b) look at what the shipping cost could be on this hypothetical international tier, and, and make sure the tier’s priced at six times that, in order to ensure the 80% consistency is sustained. That might sound reasonable to you until you plug some real numbers into it. Like it’s very easily conceivable that shipping costs on this could range from $20-$40 internationally on a single $35 cover price book. How eager are you to pay $120 to get a $35 book? I mean, that’s patently ridiculous when I write it out like that, so of course I shouldn’t *do* that if I offer the tier, but it shows how a popular internationally-shipping tier could just radically fuck up the actual funding-towards-a-goal.
To put the implications of that more simply: the problem with an international shipping tier isn’t in the offer so much as in how it can transmute big success into catastrophe. Success magnifies scale; both in terms of reward and risk. And nothing brings more risk to the table than international shipping. So in order to maintain a sustainable business model, it had to go. There are other organizations out there that are much better at logistics than one guy working out of his living room on his laptop (hi there). That’s why we work with them. OUTSIDE of Kickstarters. To get our stuff out into the world.
To hear some folks tell it today, that makes me worse than Nyarlathotep on his nastiest Armageddon bender. I am become Hick’thulhu, Destroyer of Hopes. As opposed to a mere delayer of instant gratification — which is closer to the truth, and I’m not even that, since it is fuckin’ cheap to pledge $10 to get a look at the full text PDF and start playing while you, along with everyone else in and outside the USA, wait for most of the year while we finish the book up and bring it to print.
As has been said repeatedly, by me, by others, this isn’t an exclusion. Our products are available through other sources, eventually, always, following a Kickstarter. So this is essentially just a matter of convenience. I know it’s inconvenient to get a book a few months later than a KS backer did, but it’s not the apocalyptic scenario a few folks have been trying to bludgeon me with today. It’s sad, and I get it. I’m sad about it too. Angry, even. Frustrated, after trying a bunch of different methods for international fulfillment across the majority of the dozen prior Kickstarters I’ve run, only to run smack into that loan situation and ultimately have to downsize the company because I wasn’t excited about getting into a revolving door of debt situation every few years.
But I can’t keep falling on my sword in order to please every potential backer on the planet. I have to choose the company at some point. So I have, and do again, today.