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  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2017

    The Most Transparent Crowdfunding Campaign

    I’m endeavoring on the possibility of a crowdfunding campaign for a stationery product I’ve been developing. I thought it would be useful to myself and others’ future success to document the process as best I can and make this one of the most transparent crowdfunding campaigns ever. Many successful funders have shared their "Tips and tricks" and some good advice. I've not found any that shared every action taken, obstacle encountered, and penny spent on the process. I'm going to take a crack at it. Even if my campaign is not successful, there should be some lessons to be learned from this when all is said and done.

    Stonemaier Games KS Lessons:
    Your Kickstarter Probably Sucks:
    Kickstarter Campus: I have no community:
    Forbes: Getting Your Campaign Noticed:


    My name is John Morton and for the last two years I have been working on building my own small business, Neat & Keen. To date all my output has been hand pulled silkscreen art prints with one of my goals being to get into the “Gigposter” scene making limited edition prints for rock shows. However, I also keep a list of “BIG IDEAS” that I would also like to slowly incorporate into my business. These BIG IDEAS run the gamut from furniture design, musical productions, art projects, etc.

    One of my more recent ideas is for a variation on dot grid ruling. I’ve been calling it Vari-Dot.

    My initial plan was to run a crowdfunding campaign to fund the production of a large run of a single size book, 9 x 12 inches. However, now I am leaning towards running a campaign to fund a large format pigment based printer and offer the Vari-Dot in three different sizes that I can create myself. This comes about after receiving my most recent quotes for notebook production (See OCTOBER 24) .

    The printer I am wanting is the Epson P800 Screen Printing Edition.
    What it does for me:
    •Allows me to continue printing pages for handmade books with better inks, increased accuracy, and improved paper handling
    •Allows me to print 17” wide positive films for screen printing. There is not a service nearby that will do this for me. Ordering and shipping films to me is costly.
    •Allows me to print archival quality giclée prints (also up to 17” wide) and professional quality greeting cards which I can offer for sale.

    Those are the three main points. Basically it’s a tool that allows me to get my art out into the world in various formats without having to order multiples of a design at a high upfront cost. The printer currently sells for $1795.00, though it frequently has a $300 rebate.

    The benefits of running a crowdfunding campaign with the different size notebooks as rewards are as follows:
    •Provides important data on what sizes are most popular
    •Gives the opportunity to get feedback from a larger pool of users before being locked into a final design for mass production
    •Funding goal can probably be about 1/3 of the amount it would take to produce 500 books in a single size ($2500 vs. $7500).

    Basically I have decided I would rather have a small campaign be successful than a large one fail. There’s certainly no rule that says I can’t try bigger later. My long term goal is to be self-employed selling items I have designed (and sometimes produced) myself. If I raised $250,000 I could definitely venture out and try self-employment. $2500 will just get me a little further up the ladder.


    •Digital download of Vari-Dot grid ruling in various sizes and colors for DIY users. More designs/features added with Social Stretch goals (Also included with all higher levels)
    •3-pack of small size Vari-Dot stapled notebooks
    •3-pack of small size Vari-Dot stapled notebooks w/ covers made from hand pulled screen print tests (Limited Reward)
    •One Medium size Vari-Dot perfect bound notebook
    •One Large size (9x12 inch) Vari-Dot designer’s pad perfect bound
    •One Medium size Vari-Dot with hand sewn pages and covers made from hand pulled screen print tests (Limited Reward; probably only 20)
    •3-pack small, one medium, one large pad
    •3-pack w/ special covers, medium with special cover, one large designer pad (Limited Reward)

    That seems like a long list, but it is basically three different physical items and different combinations that they can be ordered with each other.

  2. #2
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2017

    JUNE 29
    First mention of Vari-Dot design on my blog. Free downloads offered with company logo in lower corner:

    Shared link for free download at /r/notebooks and received 13 up votes and 4 comments.

    Purchase: Facebook ads promoting blog post, $30
    [2210 impressions, $0.53/click, 57 clicks]

    JUNE 30
    Made a spreadsheet of stationery bloggers and reviewers. For each entry I included their website/blog, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+. Most are based in the US, with a couple being in Europe. Some focus on pens, some on notebooks, some on bullet journaling. Some have a social reach over 300,000. The least followed has just 505 followers, which is still significantly more than myself.

    JULY 5
    Made an inquiry about note size preference at /r/notebooks and received some useful insight, but maybe most importantly that there is no one size fits all. Everyone has different notebook needs.

    JULY 7
    Purchased the following:
    Skilkcraft Pens ($9.99, pack of 12)
    Muji A5 Dot grid notebook, $10.90
    Bullet Journal for Beginners $10.90
    Northbooks Notebook $7.99
    Leuchtturm1917 Softcover $17.95
    Westcott Stainless Steel Ruler $3.84,
    Milko A5 4-pack $12.18

    Total: $73.75 + $0.92 tax = $74.67

    These were purchased for evaluation purposes. What dot sizes and spacing do I like best? What does the competition look like? The inspection is mostly visual and most of the items were included in a future promotional giveaway on my website.

    Purchases to date: $104.67

    JULY 8
    Second mention of Vari-Dot on blog:
    Took a digital caliper and compared Muji, Leuchttum1917, Miliko, and Northbooks dot-grid journals.

    JULY 24
    Personal change. Going from working third shift to working a weird weekend shift: Friday - Monday, 10 hour shifts. Occasionally forced to work a fifth day (Tuesday or Thursday) for an 8-hour shift. Had been working 58-hour weeks on average since April (I think?). This change got to me to days after 11 years of third shift and gets me working no more than 48-hour weeks giving me more time to work on my small business.

    AUGUST 31
    Inquiry at /r/kickstarter about the most transparent Kickstarter. It’s sort of the impetus for this documentation.

    Purchase at UPS Store: $6.38 for prototype dot print outs

    Took new dot designs on a thumb drive to the UPS store to get printed. My inkjet printer was setup to with refillable cartridges using black ink in all carts for use in making dense black positive films in screen printing. As such, I can’t print subtle gradients of gray and have to take them elsewhere.

    Nine different color and size combinations tested. Dots are mostly gray, but in CMYK mode. Some feature a slightly higher mix of cyan and or yellow to slightly warm or cool. Size of main dots ranges from 0.0185” to 0.0225”. Blog posts previously used metric measurements, but as the ruling is 0.25”, I’ve switched to Imperial with conversions sometimes listed.

    Purchases to date: $111.05

    Purchase at UPS Store: $4.76 for prototype dot print outs

    More prototypes printed. Got smarter and have each sheet feature different size/color or dots in each quadrant. 16 new combinations of color and sizes. Main dot size varies between 0.0190” and 0.0200”, so only a difference of 0.001”. Overall color of these dots are lighter than before with 12% values for cyan, yellow, and magenta being about the average.

    Purchases to date: $115.81

    Purchase Rafflecopter Subscription, $13

    Subscribed to Rafflecopter to help manage and promote giveaways

    Purchases to date: $128.81

    Received first quote from manufacturer. Some descrepenancies make me question if they are clear about the product specs. Cost is $1985.00 for 100 produced digitally in 9 x 12 inch format.

    Revised quote received. Price is same, but specs are updated to reflect what I’m looking for.

    Third write up on Vari-Dot at blog:
    Giveaway of bullet journal supplies. Saw many more comments on this blog post as a result of the giveaway.

    Shared new downloads at /r/notebooks and received some encouragement from a reddit user who successfully raised $14,633 for a crowdfunded notebook folio. (Goal was $4,400). He said his strategy to grow his e-mail list to 2k was similar to mine with the giveaways. He even offered to share information about my Vari-Dot design with his list and suggested some Facebook groups for me to join.

    Purchase: Facebook ad promoting blog post and giveaway, $40
    [2798 impressions, 64 clicks, $0.63/click]

    Purchases to date: $168.81

    Received sample from manufacturer. Was expecting only a few sheets of paper to compare, but they actually bound 100 sheet of blank paper. The chipboard was far from my expectations

    Purchase: HP Premium Choice Laserject 32lbs 120g/m^2, 1500 sheets, $31.99.
    Approx 2.1 cents/sheet. $1.36/64 sheets means I have about $1.50 in raw materials in a 128 page (64 leaves) handmade book.

    Purchases to date: $200.80

    Purchase: Refillable Cartridges and ink for Epson 1430, $70.19

    Rather than continue to have to run to the UPS Store every time I want to print new prototypes, I purchased a second set of refillable carts to convert my all black printer back to color. It should also allow for making handmade prototypes of full books.

    Purchases to date: $270.99

    Giveaway ends. Resulted in a grand total of 56 names on my e-mail list (combined with a previous giveaway unrelated to Vari-Dot) Also yielded some survey results which I have yet to completely sort (As of November 5), but started to make me feel like the 9 x 12” format is not going to be as popular with others as it is with me.

    Received two new samples from manufacturer. One had the chipboard I’m looking for, although it was all black. Some of the specs were still off.

    OCTOBER 10
    Purchase: Rafflecopter Subscription, $13

    Purchases to date: $283.99

    OCTOBER 14
    Open studio for Neat & Keen artwork over the last two years. Had hoped to have a display up for Vari-Dot, but didn’t get it done in time. Turn out was not good (flash floods + Chicago Cubs in playoffs), but a friend of mine stopped by and gave me some evaluation on my design. He is an engineer who does technical documents and manuals for a living. He enjoyed the ruling, but thought the samples had too much paper. That almost seems absurd to me as more paper should equate to a better value. However, the more I thought about it, the more I thought he might be right.

    OCTOBER 17
    Called my contact at the manufacturer. Discussed the specs being off. Previous quote had been for a short digital run (100 pieces), but I mentioned I need to see numbers for a larger offset printed run. If the finished prices aren’t low enough, I can’t make the product at a competitive price point. Asked for quotes including 80 leaves (160 pages) in addition to 100 leaves (200 pages)

    OCTOBER 24
    Received new quotes from manufacturer.

    At a quantity of 500 my cost per unit is $12.67 with 100 leaves or $11.39 with 80 leaves (Works out to be 6.4 cents per sheet).

    At a quantity of 2500 my cost per unit is $8.66 with 100 leaves or $7.38 with 80 leaves. Total costs respectively are $21,650.00 and $18,455.00.

    Best price break is at 10,000 units at $7.57 and $6.35 per unit (100 and 80 leaves respectively).

    Thoughts: Might be able to make it work with a retail/crowdfunded sale price of $20/unit with a minimum order of 500 units. After shipping, packaging, and handling costs the profits are pretty thin with only $8.41 to work with before buying shipping material, paying for postage, and possibly hiring someone to help package orders. Would really love to include shipping costs to US orders in the pledge amount and not add it on later. If I raised $7050 strictly on pledges for books (with $705 going to Kickstarter), that would result in shipping 353 books and having 147 books to sell at a later date, but would not have any extra money for website improvements, advertising, etc. If I managed to sell all 147 at $20 each, my end profit is $2940 before tax and covering purchases to date. It’s not enough to buy another run of books to have in stock. May or may not be worth the time and effort I’ve put into this project since June (probably not), and it assumes I manage to sell all the remaining books after a funding goal of 100%.

    Around this time I began to evaluate the possibility of shooting for a smaller financial goal with the aim to not mass produce one size alone, but to offer digital downloads of the the ruling for DIY makers, and handmade examples in varying sizes.

    OCTOBER 29
    Purchased the following:
    PVA 16oz adhesive, $9.85
    Linen thread 50 yards, $7.89
    Awl w/ heavy duty ball handle, $9.64
    Bone folder/scorer, $6.81
    Binding Needs (5 pack), $5.75
    Glue brush, $6.07
    Chipboard (3 pack) $3.37
    Xacto blades (100pk) $27.19
    Xacto X2000 holder (x2) $11.22

    Total: $87.79 + Tax = $95.46

    Purchases to date: $379.45

    These items will all be used in handmade prototype books. I usually have the #11 Xacto knife blades in stock, but I was running low and will not likely use 100 in the process of making books.

    Purchase: HFS 17” Stack Cutter, $149.99

    This item helps in book making allowing me to trim hand bound books to their finished size. Ran 300+ pages through the printer having converted back to color from all black.

    Purchases to date: $529.44

    Completed seven book blocks with 64 leaves (128 pages). They will get softcovers and cloth binding tape on the edges with a finished size of 5 x 7 inches. These prototypes will be sent to prominent stationery users to get honest feedback. Also printed out 8.5” x 11” versions for a larger scale pad. Have plans to acquire a box of Domtar Lynx 70# text at 13 x 19 inches (1000 sheets). This will allow me to prototype 9 x 12 inch pads as well as 6 x 9” books. Will also prototype a smaller staple bound version similar to Field Notes, which are typically 3.5 x 5.5 inches. Might go as large as 4.5 x 6 inches (half of a 6 x 9 book) and as small as 3 x 4 inches.

    Documentation started. Went through receipts, blog posts, reddit posts, etc. to piece together the last five months. Still no tentative launch date. December seems like it would be lousy, but haven’t seen any data that actually suggests this.

    TO DO:
    Order Lynx 70# Text in 13 x 19
    Write messages on Vari-Dot, photograph for Instagram
    Share info about similar campaigns
    Share additional thoughts
    Prototype and finalize sizes for small and medium format books
    Order cover stock
    Get quotes for small runs of small and medium format books (backup “too successful” plan)
    Make more notebooks
    Look into backup manufacturer
    Find, follow, introduce myself to more stationery fiends
    Send samples to prominent stationery reviewers
    Host at least one more giveaway before launch with the option to win prototypes before they are available for sale
    Consider options for crowdfunding video, write script, shoot, edit
    Determine ideal launch date, campaign length
    Rally initial support on Thunderclap
    Consider campaign advertising options


  3. #3
    Thank you for the thorough documentation of the process.

  4. #4
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    What makes it so transparent though?

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