(sorry, long response)
Pretty much, with one caveat: We still have a list of folks whose books were lost/destroyed/whatever, that we want to do right by. That means getting them a refund or getting them a book. Unfortunately that'll cost about $2.5k that we don't have.
Last year we thought, okay, the right thing to do is halt the store and get everything fixed. Which for the most part we were able to do, but we were about $1.8k short of being able to fix all those orders. And with the store shut we weren't drawing in money to do so... then shipping costs got jacked up, and the cost to satisfy the lost orders got jacked up along with it. So that... kinda sucks. Definitely a head-desk sort of moment there- we went from 'hey we can't quite afford this' to 'hey we REALLY can't afford this'.
We talked about it for a long time and decided that we can't get that money unless we carry on and move forward with the business as a whole. The more sales we have, the faster we'll be able to take care of the fans and orders and issues that really need and deserve the best care ever, because you guys are awesome.
Anyway. The issues for book one fall into a couple chunks (laid out with the issue and solutions as I go):
1: Preorder ran *way* too long. Something like 18 months, which meant too many details were out of date, folks had moved, costs rose, etc. etc.
- By using Kickstarter, we can keep the preorder period down to one month. One month, go no/go, and nobody's left hanging wondering about stuff. Also it gives us a platform to address everyone who is involved very conveniently. None of the communication issues. Our quote from the print company is good for 30 days, so no rising costs either.
2: We didn't calculate our shipping costs correctly. We calculated based on the weight of the sample book using a free, padded mailer available from the post office. Those estimates turned out to be very very wrong. The padded mailers resulted in the loss of hundreds of books as they got smashed, split open, lost, whatever in transit. We wound up having to spend money on shipping and materials that we hadn't anticipated, and *because* the books went to ship about two years after the preorder was even started, our calculated costs were way off from where we'd been at the start.
- The 30 day kickstarter also helps here. The shipping costs from the post office are recalibrated in January and June, so those rates will stay the same from when we plan, to when we ship, meaning no surprises. We've learned our lesson on how to ship books, and now we put them in stiff cardboard mailers with added edge protection and corrugated pads on the front/back covers. We also have giant neon stickers that we put on the front and back to warn that the packages shouldn't be bent. It can't stop *all* of the damage, but boy has it cut down on it.
3: Coding errors in the store. I screwed up, and that was my bad. Y'know how we had problems with the shipping above? To make that even worse, the coding for the store wasn't properly handling the preorders, and certain overseas locations (where shipping is the MOST expensive!) were getting free shipping, if they had other items in their cart.
-Sometimes you just have to admit you suck at something and stop doing it. I no longer do any coding for the store, other than for the cosmetics. We pay for another company to handle our store operations, and it's worth it. Similarly, Kickstarter will be handling the work for the preorder. Their code has been written and checked by lots of other people, and they've been used for thousands of projects. We trust that they can do a better job with that than I could.
4: We picked the wrong print company. While we did get multiple bids and recommendations, the quality problems with these books were simply out of control. Out of about 3000 books printed, we had to destroy 2/3 of the shipment as unfit for sale. While we did not pay the *unit costs* for the books we destroyed, we did still have to pay for all of the *fixed costs* associated with production. Which were then applied to a much smaller print run, meaning that our total cost per book was about double what we had originally planned. Which means our profit margin per book is much lower, and that in turn restricted where we can sell the books and still make money.
- We've selected a different printing company. We've seen their work for the books from A Girl And Her Fed, and we like what they can do. They're a known quantity now, more than the other companies we got quotes from before, and we're confident they can handle our next printing.
5: We had no cost controls, and we had a poorly laid out process. The fixed costs for printing covered things like prepress charges, proofing, changing elements in the book, and that sort of thing. Every time we made some change along the way, it added costs and ate up time. For book 1, we actually went to proofing before we ran the book past our copy editor. That meant a HUGE raft of changes that then had to go back to proofing. These changes hugely increased the cost of printing, and added major delays.
- Now knowing what we did wrong, we sat down and charted out all our production timelines. We're minimizing the time needed to produce the book by doing each step in the right order. And then we'll go to proof with the book as it actually needs to be printed, instead of making corrections on the fly.
6: More shipping delays. The print company for book 1 was located in China. On the surface this didn't seem like a problem, since they gave us a better price... but this made every delay that much worse, and the books had to come by boat, and then go through customs, which added something like a month and a half to the process. (It probably didn't help that Jenny and I are both in the border security database because she's *gasp* CANADIAN)
- Our new printer is based in the US. No shipping delays, no customs delays. The books roll out of the factory, onto a truck, and straight to our location.
7: No contingency planning, and no contingency funds. This was our biggest failure in planning. We had no idea what problems we would face with our first book, so we said, okay, we'll deal with them as they come. But we didn't build in any sort of financial buffer to pay for them. This meant all those problems laid out above hit us where it hurt.
- We have a pretty good idea what sort of problems you can have now, that's for sure. And more importantly, we're adding a funding amount to the kickstarter just to handle those problems.
8: No profit!! Seriously, the way we planned book 1, was that the preorder would just *break even*, and we'd use the extra books that we would sell later as a way of making money. So not only did we not get paid for our time in making book 1, this also meant that we had no overage to use when we had problems that exceeded our contingency fund! (the one we set at a lofty ZERO DOLLARS). We've been playing catch-up ever since.
- We're adding a buffer amount here as well, for the kickstarter. Between the contingency fund and the profit, we're shooting for about 30% more than just 'breakeven'. We absolutely expect some of that to get spent on problems that crop up, but that's OKAY. Because we'll *have* it, specially set aside, to spend on those issues.
So, in the end, once book 2 is printed, and shipped, and all the problems are handled... we'll have money left over. That'll be a nice change from being in the hole. Aaaaaaaaaand then we'll spend that money on customer service for book 1.