The Cost to Create a Book: Derby Life - Kickstarter Magazine

Content and preproduction: $4,994

When I launched the Kickstarter project, I was around 70 percent finished writing the manuscript (or so I thought), with one research-intensive history chapter remaining.

The preproduction and content costs came in quite high compared to what I had budgeted, especially the typesetting cost. The book ultimately ended up being around 80,000 words, plus 15 pages of images and several appendices. When I finally finished the manuscript, I had 320 pages rather than the 276 I had planned on.

This increased the cost of copyediting, proofreading, and typesetting pretty substantially. I was able to cut a few areas I had budgeted for, including paying someone to write a foreword, paying beta readers, and paying for the cover. I didn’t end up including a foreword, and my beta readers were extremely generous Kickstarter backers who backed at a level to get involved in the process. I worked with a friend and traded my editorial skills for his design skills for the cover and the Gutpunch Press logo, so I didn’t have to spend any money out of pocket for those elements.

I had budgeted $2,795 at the top of my budget; it ended up costing $3,279. Typesetting cost a lot more than I had budgeted for.

Derby Life research

Printing: $4,336 (1,220 paperback copies)

Manufacturer: Edwards Brothers Malloy (now defunct)

There are several ways to print a book, and I got numerous estimates before making my choices. The highest-quality option I investigated was offset printing, which typically requires a minimum run of 750–1,000 copies but offers significant cost savings when printing more than that number.

Once I added the photos to the book, it was especially important for me to use a high-quality printer. I was hoping to be able to use offset printing, especially since I really liked the quality of Edwards Brothers Malloy, a printer I had favored in my previous life as a publisher. They offered me a 10 percent discount because of our previous relationship, which sealed the deal. I decided on a print run of 1,200 — a number high enough that I would have plenty of copies to sell post-campaign, but low enough that I was banking on not having hundreds or thousands of unsold copies left over to gather dust.

I coordinated carefully with the printer, but one challenge I hadn’t really expected was the delivery. It was most economical to have the books delivered by truck on a pallet. I had to ensure that the truck had a lift gate, since I didn’t have access to a warehouse with a loading dock. My extremely generous parents offered to let me have the books delivered to their garage in the suburbs of New York City rather than having over 1,000 pounds of books delivered to my third-story walkup in Brooklyn.

On the day of the delivery, I got a panicked call from my father about how the driver was trying to back an 18-wheeler up my parents’ extremely windy driveway. I thought for a moment that they would have to drop the pallet at the end of the driveway and we’d have to get the books to the garage from there, but somehow the miracle worker of a driver managed to back the truck up the driveway. My father sent this picture as evidence:

Kickstarter rewards fulfillment: $1,719

I sent 216 print copies of Derby Life to backers and saved another 80 or so for contributors and the people featured in the book. Shipping costs were a bit higher than I had budgeted for ($1,112 total, rather than $850) since I had more backers than I expected, including more international backers. I bought a laser printer for printing notes, labels, and more, which cost $248 but saved me infinite headaches (and probably also some money) in the long run. I also spent $120 on Shipstation software, which let me upload the backer information, buy postage, and print labels at home.

I was careful not to offer extraneous items (like T-shirts or tote bags) as rewards that would be costly or annoying to produce and ship. I had a leftover bag of bottle-opener keychains that we had produced to promote the website, which I offered as part of a higher-level reward tier. I also offered postcards, which were very inexpensive and easy to fulfill, and e-books, which the typesetter produced for me inexpensively.

There were a few higher-tier rewards: one opportunistic one was a copy of a book by Damon Runyan (who helped create the full-contact version of roller derby) which I had discovered at a used bookstore in the Bay Area. I also offered a set of Derby Cards, custom sports memorabilia I had been dabbling in before starting this project.

The cost to fulfill the rewards overran my predictions by around 40 percent, which makes sense because I added the purchase of a printer and had to fulfill more rewards than I had initially budgeted for.

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