Today I want to take a step back and talk a little bit about the challenges and lessons learned from the first six months of 2022. This is a long read, but in all honesty it's been a while since we've done anything like this, and I think it's important in the spirit of transparency and, well, mental health.
This year has been, without a doubt, one of the most challenging years of my life, and the difficulties faced from this campaign and Glow: Book 1 contributed no small part to that.
We didn't handle this very well. In terms of vendors, we thought going with a warehouse fulfillment that was familiar with crowdfunding and our categories - geek products - would be the way to go, but it turned out that we were a bit too small to be a good fit. One thing that we've learned and relearned this year that when looking for vendors and partners, it's always good to match one another, in terms of size, ambition, and demeanor.
Vince and Ray back in 2014, fulfilling our first Kickstarter campaign.
With Quartermaster, I think we just were a little bit too small for them to really matter. Nothing against them, but we found our fulfillment constantly pushed back which was a really tough pill to swallow. On their end, it was a challenging year as well with a lot of the same market forces at play leading to delays everywhere, but unfortunately that often left us as the low man on the totem pole as the queue from their warehouse fulfillment grew with other larger projects.
Another aspect we should've thought more about was geographic location. QML is located in Florida and I'm located in Los Angeles. That's around 2,568 miles or 4,132 km between the two locations. The distance added another layer of complexity to things like ocean freight, and a lot of small customer support issues could've been solved had we been in driving distance. Lesson learned - for our next campaign we're going with a local fulfillment center, which incidentally has quoted us cheaper rates and we have a prior working relationship with (Bear with Me Toys - the manufacturers of the Tanvir Plushie!)
EUROPE / BREXIT
We've known Brexit to be coming for a number of years, but 2022 is where the rubber really met the pavement with regards to tariffs and shipping. Specifically, July of 2021 saw items of less than EUR 22 imported into the EU to no longer be exempt from VAT.
In addition to increased prices, that meant increased handling and holding of the shipments, and an extra payment barrier for you, our backers, to go through if their shipment was held up by the post office / customs. As many of you know, that resulted in a very, very expensive situation for everyone involved.
We've since been looking into IOSS and providing Customs Friendly shipments to our fans / backers in the EU, and that has proven to be difficult as well. The startup fee to obtain IOSS status is somewhere in the $7,000 region, which, given our volume at the current moment, remains prohibitively expensive.
The silver lining here is that we are not the only ones to have faced this issue from the UK to EU, and Bezos, our 3PL Partner in England, has also been working to resolve this issue. As of writing they are implementing some form of customs friendly shipping sometime in August, meaning that orders will hopefully not be held by customs and all postal fees will be baked in.
For our UK backers, Bezos has been a great company to work with. Fast, responsive, with good shipping rates. We're excited to continue working with them and we think that their addition of IOSS clearance will make things better - not great, as yknow, Brexit - for our EU fans.
It's been extremely challenging growing from two projects to five. Although our role as a publisher is very different from that of a creator, there's still be a lot to juggle in terms of project management, communication, manufacturing, fulfillment, etc. This has at times proven difficult from a bandwidth standpoint, especially when you factor in creative work. I've done less creative writing I have this year than maybe in the past five years, and that's been very hard for me personally. I love writing, it feed my soul, and I know at the end of the day it's my fault - don't have anyone else to blame - for not prioritizing writing as much as I should, but finding the balance between growing the business of Mythopoeia and the worlds of Skies of Fire and Glow is something I'm still trying to figure out.
Not withstanding, the past few weeks have been really great from a creative standpoint for Glow. Truth told, I've been blocked on the writing for quite some time now. Last year I wrote a draft all the way through to #8, but just wasn't happy with the story that came out. It felt convoluted, confused, and I didn't really know where to go.
I had an idea of the themes, and a large sort of ... point... where I wanted to hit plotwise, but there were a lot of things that were up in the air. I kept drafting and redrafting, pitching Vince new ideas to which I would see him furrow his brow intently (never a good sign lol). He's been monumental in lighting the way, but it's been a maze of a story this entire year.
So yeah, the struggles. Is there anything more stereotypically writeresque than having writer's block besides maybe procrastinating actually writing? Truly sometimes a miserable form of alchemy, the craft of writing :)
Back when things were looking especially dire, those closest to me urged me to reach out to Kickstarter and communicate what was going on behind the scenes. Somehow, that still was very difficult to me - I have a announce things when there's good news mentality, but I know that can lead to large gaps of silence (like the last few months with Skies of Fire). When I did write that post, the response from all of you moved me.
So many times this year I've felt so... inadequate. Some of it has been out of my control but some of it comes down to my own shortcomings and mistakes. I know how much I have to learn when it comes to handling all of this, but still I need to remind myself that the most important part of my job is communication - to you, our fans, to our artists, Vince, vendors, and everyone else that helps us make these wonderful worlds.
I know there have been times this year where I've been lacking, and I know I need to and will do better. Thank you for being patient with us as we go through all of this. I don't take it for granted one bit, especially not when my butt's being kicked to the curb by *gestures wildly* this.
Thank you for being empathetic to the challenges we've faced.
Thank you, for being critical and helping us get better.
Thank you, for sticking with us and fostering our growth.