Build it and they will come.
Party game. We made one. This is part three about how we did it.
Here is the approximate Game Off Timeline:
April - Decision to try and make a card game.
May - First edition written. Work with designer. Quotes from manufacturers
June - Go to Indonesia for a month. Good holiday.
July - Editing. Re-writing. Tweaking graphics.
August - Created business "Captain Fats Limited". Opened bank account.
September - Launched Kickstarter campaign. Opened Amazon account.
October - Ordered 4000 games to be made by Ludofact in Germany.
November - Set up website and social media stuff.
December - Game Off delivery arrived 2 weeks before Christmas.
This is where stuff gets serious. I have a piece of paper somewhere from April 2017 which has all these questions on it.
Stuff like: Print it ourselves? Get it made in UK? China? Where?
Sell to stores? Ebay? Amazon? How easy/possible is that?
What is Kickstarter?
We found a graphic designer locally. www.createonsight.co.uk and worked with a smashing guy called Leigh. Everything was done by email and phone calls. The process took two or three months of back and forth. Thing is, in the beginning you don't really know what you want, so you start of by saying things like "bold colours please" but then as it unfolds your vision becomes clearer. By the end, you are focussing on the tiniest details like "can the guy's smile be a fraction to the left?" or something.
When it came to the manufacturing process, Leigh was INVALUABLE. Ludofact were very specific about layouts for their machines and made some strange requests about "bleed areas" and other stuff which we had no idea about. Leigh solved it all.
In summary, unless you are very good with graphics and photoshop, or have a friend who is: get a graphic designer on board. It will cost you money - perhaps £1000 - but I don't think you have any alternative.
Dead easy. Go here. It's the only place to buy barcodes from in the Uk.
Cost - about £200
With games, you can't copyright them. Just not possible. You can however trademark the name and image. You will need to do this if you plan to sell on Amazon, as it opens your page up for more detail and imagery. Go here for trademarking.
Cost - about £200 per trademark (so £400, really).
A couple of years ago, our cousin Dave had an idea for a fantasy card game and had a go at making it. He bought artwork, a fancy printer and a big paper guillotine. His plan was to make it all himself. Good idea, but in practice much harder. He got tired of the whole thing after a few months and didn't even get so far as a prototype.
I say this not to have a go at Dave, but to point out that his plan was always the more difficult path. We never intended to make Game Off ourselves. Instead we went on google and got some quotes.
Pros, doubts and cons of manufacture in:
UK - Quick turnaround. Expensive.
Europe - Fair price. Turnaround time? Shipping costs? Communication? To deliver one pallet of games (approx. 2000 units) costs about £300. Communication with Germany is no problem at all. Turnaround time is 8-12 weeks.
China - Best price. Shipping complicated? Communication?, long turnaround time. China has the best price - particularly in big volumes. (10,000 units or more). Shipping looks to be more effort but not really too expensive. Communication is good. Turnaround time is around 3 months.
So we went with Ludofact who are the biggest manufacturer in Europe. Very happy with this decision so far. They have competitive prices compared with China and they also deliver our shipment directly to Amazon in the Uk.
START A BUSINESS
This is easier than you might expect. For £15, you can go to Companies House, choose a business name, fill in some deets and bingo - you are now the Managing Director of your own firm. You can be anything you want, apart from Captain Fats Limited, because that's us.
Importantly, we had advice from our accountant to use a company called Jordans who set up legal stuff like minutes and... other important things which you will really need if your business turns out to be a success. Which it will. This costs something like £200. It's probably easier to go down this route if you are starting the business with your friend/family member also.
Find an accountant.
Our accountant is an old friend and someone I trust. Ask around and see if you can find someone similar. If not, google it, I suppose. If you want your business to succeed and you aren't good with numbers, you're going to need an accountant. Things like VAT could be on the horizon.
Open a Bank Account
Again, easy enough. You will need to google it and choose your preferred bank. I would say this, however - Yorkshire/Clydesdale offered us the best deal at the time (25 months free banking) but it took a month, A MONTH, to set up the account. Their online banking sometimes feels like it belongs in the 1980's. However, they finally released a mobile app, which is good. I couldn't recommend them over any other bank. They're all only after one thing in the end.
On that note; you will also have to get used to the idea that once you start a business, EVERYONE wants a slice of your pie. Banks will want to charge you for every paper transaction (depositing cheques) and charge £5 per month just to have the account. This is just the beginning. You get the distinct feeling that while you really care about your project, everyone else only cares about bleeding you dry. Capitalism, innit.
Here is our kickstarter page.
It's not the best page that ever existed. I know that because we only just hit our funding target (thanks Mum).
I might be in a minority here, but I do not have fond feelings towards Kickstarter. Their image is of this community who can help fledgling businesses make their dreams come true with this super kind of hippy vibe.
In reality, they are just a shop like any other. They take 10% of everything you sell through them which means they support the big sellers and let the little guys drown. It's survival of the fittest and it's brutal.
The best sellers spend MONTHS advertising BEFORE they even launch their Kickstarter campaign, just to hit the ground running. They have big budgets for marketing and fancy images and slick videos.
Maybe we were naive, but we had none of that. We were (still are) a fledgling business that wants to grow organically. What i'm saying is, don't just sign up and jump in. You will drown.
Also, one other big negative for us came later. If you want to sell on Amazon, it is very important that you get good reviews. In the beginning, these will likely come from friends & family who bought your thing. To avoid phony reviews, Amazon only allow reviews from people who actually bought your product through Amazon. So, if all your friends and family bought it already through Kickstarter.... you're boned.
There is a lot of information on the internet about selling on Amazon. Here's what I think:
1. Easy to set up an account.
2. You are in charge of all the decisions.
3. Biggest retailer in the world. Big shop window.
4. They can take control of storage, handling, postage and packaging, if you want. They definitely want that.
5. Prices are pretty fair as long as you sell well. £30 flat fee to have an account. Extra for the rest.
1. Seller Central (the interface) is awkward and takes a long time to get used to. You feel like you need a degree in Amazon Studies to get a handle on it. Not for dumdums.
2. Sponsored ads can bleed you dry. You pay per click, but you set the rate. For example, if you set it at £1 per click, you will probably go to the top of page 1. However, if a customer clicks, has a look and decides not to buy your product, you still pay Amazon £1. We currently pay about 20p. I've spent many hours trying to beat the system, which feels a lot like gambling. Just know this: the house always wins.
3. The description area is extremely limited. You can't change the font or even use paragraphs. It feels somewhat oppressive. You will need a trademark for both NAME and IMAGE to open up your page.
4. Competition is fierce. If you get your product in there and expect to sell huge volumes... think again. It's a process that takes time and effort. There are no guarantees
5. They automatically label the products you send them. This costs 17p per unit. If you have barcodes, you don't need their labels. Finding the button to stop the labelling process is near impossible. I found it once, but I would struggle to find it again. This non click of a hidden button cost us nearly £800. It feels like a scam.
6. Sending stock to Amazon is stressful. They have strict procedures and will turn a delivery van away if the driver so much as sneezes. We made a big mistake by putting the wrong labels on our first shipment (told you Seller Central is awkward) and were turned away at the gate. This ended up being the most stressful week ever. Our games went back to Germany, back again, got lost for a few days and all sorts on nonsense. Imagine having a suitcase with £50,000 in it disappear. That.
7. Storage. After six months selling with Amazon, we got an email saying they are going to charge us for storing unsold stock.
- After six months they charge 500Euros per cubic metre.
- After twelve months it's 1000Euros per cubic metre.
Measure out a cubic metre - it isn't very big. This came as a shock because a)I thought storage was covered in other fees and b)we have now 7 cubic metres of stock in their warehouse. (We over manufactured the game to get a better price). If we don't sell it quickly, we will be charged a small fortune. Talk about pressure.
Sometimes, I absolutely hate Amazon.
This blog is long enough now.
p.s don't forget to have a look at Egon.