The Official Website of Felicia Day
Blog
WHY HELLO. YOU’VE FOUND THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF FELICIA DAY.

My Crash Course in Businessing

83 comments
Share on Google+0Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

I have mentioned in interviews that one of the reasons I love being a web content producer is that it requires me to learn something new every day.   Before I wrote “The Guild” I had no idea what producing a scripted show entailed.  During the shooting process, I learned about pre-production, script revisions, casting, props, production coordinating and more.  After the show was shot, I  learned about a whole new set of skills; editing, video uploading specs, sound mixing, Photoshop for credits and graphics, YouTube and more.  After picture was locked I had to learn about marketing, raising awareness of my show, getting press, promoting, retaining audience, WordPress programming, RSS etc:  It was definitely the biggest set of skills and the most important part of making the series what it is today.  And these past two months I learned a whole OTHER set of skills about DVD production.  It was a sharper learning curve than anything before, believe it or not. I suppose it’s because I’ve been exposed to TV and movie productions for years, so learning that stuff was easier since I had experienced it firsthand.  The steps in actually manufacturing a DVD were a lot more complex because I’d never been exposed to it before.  But I feel quite proud now having gone through it.  The DVD looks great.  I couldn’t wait to share it with everyone.  But nothing, my friends, has exhausted or tried my patience more than this last phase:  Shipping and Handling.

Don’t get me wrong, part of this was my fault.   We put the pre-order button on the website several weeks before the DVD was actually finished, partially to help us gague how many we needed to manufacture our first run.   We offered free shipping as incentive.  Not that much of a problem, except we underestimated how popular our DVD would be internationally:  A full 1/3 of the orders were from outside the US.  This wouldn’t have been a problem EITHER in a theoretical universe.  We had calculated the average shipping and, besides shipping to Malaysia and South Africa, we didn’t have to eat that much more shipping than we anticipated.

No, all of this could have been handled fine, had we not decided to ship everything out at once on August 1rst, and use PayPal as our service.  O M G.

If PayPal were a man, I would punch him.  I would cold-cock him into tomorrow, even if I had to break my hand.  I think this is a perfect example of a monopoly gone wrong.  The useability of the site is a nightmare:  The documentation, laughable.  Combine this with a Brother Q500 label printer that is bundled with software that was created on Fortran, and you have the perfect storm for driving a girl over the edge to a day job, abandoning web video forever.

Paypal, you suck.  Yes, I had too many orders piled up to do at once, I understand that might have been my problem, but your Multi Shipping option is a nightmare.  What, you say?  When you import orders 100 at a time there’s no indication of the number of DVDs they ordered, and hence, no way to tell if their packages need more postage?  That’s retarded.  Hmm?  You mean, there’s no documentation anywhere about what kind of labels the label printer needs to print properly?  It couldn’t be that no one in the city of Los Angeles or surrounding areas would carry such a label size, that would be ridiculous!  I mean, it seems natural that you’d use a readily available technology instead of having to order it overnight on the internet!  Hmm.  OMG, are you serious?!  You mean, despite not indicating it ANYWHERE, you CANNOT IMPORT ORDERS PAST 14 DAYS INTO THE MULTISHIPPING SOFTWARE?!?!  I HAVE TO HAND ENTER 300 USA DVD LABELS MYSELF!??!

Breathe.  Yes, my friends, the nightmare was partially my doing, but oh, it was a nightmare.  I still can’t move my right hand properly.  The repetitive motion of clicking through 300 individual DVDs and printing their labels one by one, waiting for Paypal to load, 2 out of 10 times having it or the printer lock up and having to relog in…I shut off my brain in a way that I never knew possible in order to accomplish that phase of the task in an 8 hour stint at my computer.  I ate a lot of junk food and ice cream to get me through the day.

Oh, and I forgot.  The international DVDs?  Well, here’s a little tidbit:  Paypal doesn’t allow you to either automate in batches OR print First Class shipping for anything other than the US.  Their only option is an expensive $20.00+ Priority Option, because they insist on delivery confirmation.  Thus leading me to my secondary nightmare:  Exporting all the international orders (know what a .csv file is?  I do now!) and print them out on a DIFFERENT kind of label, THEN HAND PRINTING ADDRESSES ON EVERY SINGLE CUSTOMS FORM.

I have since learned that stamps.com can do that for you, the customs forms and international labels.  Thank you Twitterers for letting me know that.  Thank you Wil Wheaton for giving me a lot of great advice to alleviate these things next time I do this.  I wish I had asked sooner.   My producer Kim Evey has Carpal Tunnel now, I think.  She has lovely handwriting, if you are in Canada or Australia you will see it.  If it’s chicken scratch, that’s my claw working.  We were desperate to get the orders done because we had promised August 1rst shipment, and it was August 5th already (due to waiting on labels and learning software), so we cobbled together this totally crazy system where I had to learn how to use the 1980 software that came with the Labelmaker Printer in order to import a database and print only the international addresses.  Mmm, I’d say 4-6 hours total on that.  I’m actually laughing now, because it’s so absurd and instinctual:  Never let hundreds of orders pile up and do them in 3 days time, especially if you don’t know how to do it already.

Oh, and the post office:  Surly Postal Worker, I understand you get hassled all day, I empathize.  But when my producer comes in with 75 neatly filled out international DVD packages, all nicely arranged in boxes, maybe you should do your job and enter the information in the computer?  Maybe DONT FORCE HER TO BUY $4.30 STAMPS AND PUT THEM ON HERSELF!  And maybe don’t, upon seeing me enter with a wobbly dolly cart that spilled over two times in the parking lot (thank you sweaty construction man for helping me re-pile them), don’t look at me, lock the big dropoff door and then yell: “8 boxes yesterday, 9 boxes today!?  Girl, I’m gonna SMACK YOU!”  That’s kind of the last thing I want to hear.

Learning curve:  Vertical.  Satisfaction: too tired to rate, haha.  I’m so happy they’re out and in people’s hands, but believe me, I’ve learned my lesson:  Some things are meant to be hired out.

Next week?  Accounting and Quickbooks.  Thank God I got a math degree.

  • Awww, sounds awful!

    My advice – less time business-ing and more time violin-ing! I’m a violinist, too. You should play violin on one of the episodes of The Guild. 🙂

  • Knowing this, I will love and cherish my DVD when it arrives! I will give it a shelf of its own… completely out of harm from the other 4,000 DVD discs that rest in my room. I will put up special security next to the DVD…. making sure NOTHING happens. I will have a sign, as well. So trespassers will KNOW what they are getting themselves into.

    This DVD will be the most glorified and honored DVD in the entire collection… and for the future collection to come. Felicia’s nightmare turned Masterpiece… my incredible and lucky gain.

    Thank you Felicia. Thank you.

    – Anthony

  • You deserve some sort of large cookie. I’ll be ordering my DVD soon; hope that doesn’t cause you any more trouble 😉

  • Oh Felicia, I can understand you fully. With our first print-production I did the same. But without paypal. We had about 500 orders. I got them all by mail an the people had to pay it via my normal bank-account. Then I had to take that information of my bank-account and bring them together. Who payed and who didn’t (reminding the people who didn’t). Labeling we did with word, but we had to bring the data into word by hand. Working out how to do print bills in masses too. All packing and off we go to the post-office. There I got stamps. Not one but two for each order. And had to lick them all by myself (so my DNA was on all of them too ;o)). They didn’t lend me their sponge. It was an arrousing feeling sweaty as I was from bringing all those packs to the post-office, sitting there licking stamps and answering questions to customer who thought I was one of the staff.

    I have learned a lot since then. ;o)

    By the way, if you need extra money because international shipping was to expensive I can send you some more via paypal for my order. :o)

  • Dan

    Hey Felicia:

    First of all, I want to say that if PayPal makes you quit the business of show and get a “Day Job”, you’ll have to wait in line behind me to punch it in the nose.

    Next, I can empathize with your post-mailing frenzy. It’s exhausting. As part of my own “Dreaded Day Job”, I can spend days stuffing, sealing, and labeling envelopes (kids, if someone tells you that publishing is a glamorous business, they’re trying to sell ya something). It’s boring. It’s repetitive. My brain stops working half-way through, so I get paper-cuts like no one’s business. It sucks. The only saving grace in my case (and I’m going to channel a little schadenfreude here) is that I don’t have to deal with the Post Office (although there’s been more than one occasion when I’ve given the FedEx website the finger). For that alone, you deserve to be Queen of the Universe.

    Finally, as someone who had the good fortune to pick the DVD up in San Diego, I think I speak for everyone when I say that it’s awesome. We all appreciate the hard work that went into making (and, apparently, mailing) them.

    Thanks again, and good luck with the continued businessing.

  • Dani

    O___________O

    That sounds horrible!

    As Anthony said above, I’ll cherish this dvd even more now! I’ll save the box and put it in a extra special place in my shelf of my special things.

    You know, now it’s late but, I’m sure if you had asked we wouldn’t mind waiting more. I don’t think anyone (not me anyway) got how bad it was reading the twitter messages…

    I’d hate to know that Kim and you got injured because of the dvds. Please, let us know if Kim’s hand get better (and yours too, of course).

    Take care of your hands!
    And again, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

  • Ouch! That does sound like a nightmare. I eagerly await my DVDs, and I will greatly appreciate the effort and pain and permanent muscle damage that went into getting them to me.

    But since I do enjoy punching things in the face:

    *punches PayPal in the face*

  • Pointy

    That was very informative & helpful. Hope it was cathartic.

  • b!X

    My copy of the DVD just read this over my shoulder and feels like it missed out on something since all it went through was sitting on a table at Comic-Con. I told it to be quiet and think of others for a change.

  • b!X

    Hell’s bells, why is some random Flickr URL used on my last comment. Stupid cookies.

  • /crotchety old man/
    In my day we didn’t have paypal and stamps.com. Imagine taking these orders like I did in the mid nineties when frolic.org got published in Yahoo and was flooded with t-shirt orders, all by mail, no paypal, all checks, half were bad…eek.

    Chris 🙂

  • Steve

    I’m glad Wil W was able to give you some helpful advice. After I read two sentences of your post, I immediately thought of his trials and tribulations. Seems like you two have shared a lot of pain together yet separately.

    Take care. Your fans appreciate it. FYI – I bought the DVD without ever watching an episode online since I think this sort of thing deserves our support. I finally peeked and watched the first episode and now I’m really glad I bought the DVD

  • If Paypal was a man, you may have punched it in the nose, but I would aim right for the jiggly parts. And let me tell you – that’s a huge violation of the Man Code (TM), but no jury in the world would convict me.

    Investing in a good quality dolly was the best $50 I ever spent. It even folds up nicely and fits in my car for exactly such occasions. And I’ve learned to love the automatic postal machines, although given the volume you processed, it was probably worth the surly postal worker.

    Fun things to say next time the postal worker gives you the, “Girl, I’m going to SMACK YOU!” comment:
    -Oh, my boyfriend/husband/baby daddy already does that. *pregnant pause* Regularly.
    -Well, this porn’s not going to exactly ship itself, now will it?
    -Don’t you DARE! I might miscarry! I already feel the strain on my back taking all those boxes out of my car.
    -Girl? GIRL!? I’m old enough to be your mother. Oh, but wait… see, I would have raised my children not to make demeaning remarks like that. My mistake.

    And if all else fails, you should just muster a flashmob of your adoring fans to do your postal dirty work for you.

  • you need minions, I think all talented people should have minions. Try shipping furniture sometime, its not easy or cheap, but at least its usually one piece at a time. Would you like a nice little table? I’ll trade you for an autographed DVD.
    http://treefrogfurniture.blogspot.com

  • Jonathan (a fellow Math major)

    Sounds like you need a hug after all that shipping and PayPal exercise. It’s pretty dope you majored in Math. There’s nothing hotter than a smart woman who at one point in their life could prove there are infinitely many primes, could do partial/differential equations, integrate, derive, probability, statistics, and knew how to use the central limit theorem. The really sad part is that (if you were a grader) you probably graded the homework for the engineering and business majors who took Calculus in college. Why do those type of people get the money and make decisions in our world, when they probably could not get the concepts of limits, or derivatives? I find it ironic. Don’t you? Anyways, Math is the most impressive major. It implies you are smart, just because of the reputation of the major! Much success and love to a fellow Math major!

  • Mauro

    Are you going to be selling them at PAX? Mine arrives in the mail tomorrow and I was one of those that pre-purchased more than 14 days before you shipped, so now I feel compelled to buy another one to make up for it. (:

  • Lisa

    Oh my. That is awful! Thank you so much for persevering through and getting the DVDs out. I’ll appreciate my copy even more now!

    Thank you! Thank you!

  • Vlad

    I knew what a .csv file is. It’s a machine-readable file format that is never, ever, ever supposed to be read by humans, unless things have gone horribly wrong. It’s an indicator that something is going in a disastrously calamitous way, and also a terribly horrendous one. A very clear indicator.

    It’s somewhat like finding three feet of burning oil and water on the bridge of a submarine 2,500 ft below the surface. It’s a sort of thing that makes you think “Something does not seem quite right here.” But there is still that doubt there, you know? It might be a feature. This could be a model of submarine that’s designed to have a blazing, watery fire on the bridge. That could have some use.

    Not so with comma-separated files. If you find yourself having to manually pull data from them, it is a wholly unambiguous indication that an irreversible disaster is unfolding. I bet you didn’t know that about CSV files, but it’s true.

    Anyway, good to see you made it through without giving up and becoming a submariner or something.

  • Microsoft Word -> CSV Import -> Script only international addresses -> widely available Commodity labels from Office Depot for all model laser printers -> Mail Merge -> DONE.

  • Oh I forgot to ask you..did you think of getting a different brand of label maker?

  • Winsor

    Having read your blog for a while now, I had to comment on this one because I so completely have had this day. Last November I did the same thing with my first batch of online CD orders, and had much the same experience.

    Paypal sucks, people at the post office are unsympathetic to your plight… but at least when your things spilled in the parking lot you had some help from Builder Joe. The milk of human kindness hasn’t entirely run dry.

    Of course, when I spilled who knows how many packages out of my car in my CD drama, no one offered ME help… but apparently us menfolk are supposedly able to handle such crises in stride.

    Isn’t there some rule that says postal employees cannot threaten to “smack you?”

  • *applauds you for persevering in sending out the dvds and sends virtual punches to PayPal and the surly post office person. oh and a hug for the nice construction worker who helped you with the fallen boxes*

    and this is probably one of the many reasons why we fans love you and appreciate all the work you do. 🙂

  • Ouch! Sounds like a painful crash course in online business/ marketing!

    I’m certain that someone has probably mentioned this to you in some way, but you should check out the possibility of getting a “drop-shipping” company to handle these kind of things for you in the future.

    Most pros who sell online Vids/CDs/Books, etc. use them (it’s basically outsourcing all that nasty logistics work that you just got a taste of). Yes, it costs something, but to tell you the truth , as a fan, I’d have been happy to spend a few extra bucks on the DVD.

    There’s probably loads of other tips for how to automate those icky, unfriendly business processes – just google online business or marketing (but beware the legions of scammers out there, trying to sell you their own products!) A few days of research should give you a solid idea of how to avoid this again in future projects.

    (loved you in LON, BTW!)

  • dreww

    oh man, the only thing cooler than shipping things internationally is quickbooks. you might think that your human math skills would help, but all intuit products are based on demonic calculus. which is only taught at the university of hell’s 4th circle campus, where admissions are suprisingly selective. for being in hell.

  • I’m having flashbacks to when we started our own online store. We did everything wrong at first, and each lesson was painfully learned. Now we have a mostly-nonsucky shopping cart system that allows PayPal as a payment option but doesn’t use it for anything else. (We can define our own shipping rates and options. Yay!) We use Stamps.com and their cool sticky labels on our laser printer, and its latest version does almost all the custom forms for us as well.

    Several times a week we take a van full of a signed novels, RPG game books, and assorted other items to the post office. Sturdy little dolly can handle pretty big loads, but sometimes we go in two-person teams. Everything is pre-paid on Stamps.com, so we ring a little doorbell inside the building and just hand everything over.

    But it took years to figure all of this out. Hopefully you’re over the hump, can make a few changes, and PayPal shall vex you no more.

  • Oh. Dear. Um, I just orderd a DVD, and I’m in Australia. I’m so, so, sorry to do that to you.

  • Next week? Accounting and Quickbooks. Thank God I got a math degree.

    Unless Quickbooks has smarted up the accounting process (can’t really dumb it down, cause it’s already infinitely dumb) your math degree ain’t gonna do squat. My spouse and I do some online business (yes, paypal sucks the big one) and when we had just started out she tried to handle the accounting but ran away screaming.

    Oh, did I mention she’s a PhD’d math professor with grad students and everything? Yeah. What she could never get her mind around was the HP calculator-esq thing of “debit” meaning “add to” and “credit” meaning “take away”.

    Derivations of multivariate stocastic diffy Qs on piecewise measure chains? No problem. Reverse polish accounting terminology? Fuggitaboutit.

    If you can get past that, the rest is cake.

  • John

    Obviously, it’s not useful to you at this stage of the game, but other people have tried to solve similar problems. This was the most entertaining description of one I could find, until I read this post. But Joel’s has a happier ending and more presumed blinking lights and beeping noises, with the requisite higher bill:

    http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/HowToShipAnything.html

    And let me add my voice to the chorus of thanks. My DVDs are happily whizzing their way through Montana at the moment, it would appear. Two packages (for which I apologize), so it’ll be fun to see if they separate at some point.

    (Oh, and I hear tell of a way to tell PayPal to do its stinkin’ job for large datasets, but it requires arcane programming in lost documents that nobody wants to talk about.)

  • MCF

    Oops. Didn’t know you’d have to pay such high shipping fees to Malaysia. 🙁

    And yeah, PayPal does suck. It wasn’t until this year that we could use it in this part of the world.

  • Charlie

    Which post office? I’m sure you could bring down the wrath of your loyal followers (we need a name) upon said Surly Postal Worker.

  • Ferralangel

    My guess is I am going to get chastised something fierce but here it goes…

    Felicia, while my sympathies go out to you, you also might need a punch in the arm. Sorry, the truth hurts and can leave a little bruise in the bicep/tricep region.

    Right now you suffer from one of the worst things a small business owner (and yes, you are a small business owner now) can suffer from. Pride. You have taken it upon yourself to re-invent the wheel for every business process you have to perform. What in the hell are you doing?!

    You have a team of dedicated fans, friends, and staff at your beck and call and you are trying to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Stop. Those people buying your product are appreciative that you took the time to ship them their order with the hassle you had to go through, but don’t care that you are the one who shipped it, they want what you are selling. Imagine the hand writing woes dodged had you invested in a team of local fans armed with pens and shipping labels and you provided pizza and beer.

    Invest your time in what you do best, creativity, imagination, entertainment. Let other people handle the shipping and handling.

    “I’m so happy they’re out and in people’s hands, but believe me, I’ve learned my lesson: Some things are meant to be hired out.

    Next week? Accounting and Quickbooks. Thank God I got a math degree.”

    Clearly you haven’t learned your lesson. Accounting and Math have nothing to do with each other and I can’t think of a bigger impediment to accounting than a math degree. You thought shipping and handling were bad, wait till you try to tackle the tax code. Get an accountant and it will be the best 600 dollars you have ever spent.

    Tough love sucks, I know. And one last things the masses are sure to hate…Don’t ever offer free shipping again, no one thinks about the shipping cost when they are purchasing your product, they will buy because they like what you offer. When you run your numbers on the first DVD sales session you had, you might just weep at what shipping cost you.

  • No one apologize for ordering a DVD, that’s the best part of all this, that people want it! 🙂 This post was meant to demonstrate a little of what Ferralangel is saying: Sometimes don’t invent the wheel, haha 🙂 And a little of the naivety that has served me in good stead, but also bitten me in the butt a little.

    And you guys are right, Quickbooks sucks. I’m hiring a bookkeeper.
    And thanks Jamie, I’m going to switch to stamps.com on the next batch.

    lessons learned indeed! 🙂

  • Omer

    Your dedication to your show and your fans is pretty rad

  • Rohan the Thunde Chick

    A bookkeeper would be great but make sure you get the right kind! I have done books myself and it can be a disaster if you are trained for one thing and the business is another.
    Btw, I just ordered the DVD so you will probably have all the shipping problems fixed which is good. (but also bad for now I won’t get the chicken scratch label!)

  • Thanks for sharing your journey of discovery. You are not alone. I have coped with the annoyances of PayPal and shipping (studies have shown that Chicago post offices are the worst in the country! Hooray!) for my own published works, and I have lately reached the conclusion that the harsh realities of distributing physical media should be relegated to the dark ages, along with whale-bone corsets and eight-track tapes. My next publication will be in ones-and-zeros format and I will be a much happier camper.

    If it’s any consolation, Felicia, in the near future we’ll all look back on this and say “Physical media? Pff. How turn-of-the-century.”

  • John

    I’ll dissent. Me! Me-me!

    Cough. Sorry.

    While it wouldn’t be smart to continue doing your own fulfillment, by doing the first load yourself, you’ve now priced out shipping and know what turnaround looks like for domestic and international packages. That means you can now go to a fulfillment company and ask smart questions to screen out the idiots and give them specific instructions. Those alone will save significant money for the Christmas rush and the second season.

    With this experience, you can also insist on a single shipping method–USPS sounds like it’s working fine–instead of asking everybody to choose one of twelve different options at different prices, then a second choice, just in case FedEx and UPS get into a turf war and go Max Max on the streets, and a third in case civil war breaks out in Idaho.

    Doing this was obviously a little painful, but it’ll help you streamline in the long run. But yeah, don’t try it with the tax code. Total waste of time, and it won’t make nearly as fun a story to tell us.

  • Chris

    And you doing this is #847 why we like having you around.

  • Hey Ferralangel, I deal with an online store every week — and have had “waves” of pre-ordered product that hits. You get a few people to help you, and then things calm down to a reasonable level until the next waves hits.

    Its always tempting to farm out and hire when a bunch of work falls your way, but unless she had reason to believe that overwhelming orders were to come ever week she can probably do it with her inner circle and hold onto more of the money.

    Also, bookkeeping and accounting are two different things. QuickBooks is great to keep track of what’s going on, then you hand the file over to your accountant for tax purposes. You don’t want to spend the cash to have your accountant BE your bookkeeper.

    So my message to Felicia is this: While things didn’t go smooth on the first run, I think you’re on the right track. Change the things that weren’t working and keep on truckin’.

  • aug

    Thanks for sharing Felicia – live and learn is always good – and sharing what you learn helps others! Love that so many people had tips to offer. Great community that is as cool as Felicia is 🙂

  • If you want some help with marketing, I can give a little Adwords advice and set you up with a little free advertising to get you started.

  • Tom

    Felicia,

    You also might want to email Howard Taylor over at http://www.schlockmercenary.com on how he does all his mailings. He has published (I think) 4 books and had to mail them all out to national and international locations.

    So he might have some tricks that you could use. And since I know he liked some Horribleness you recently did.

    Note: I do not know Howard so he has no clue I just volunteered him. Although, from his website, I doubt he would mind. Or even Sandra his wife who coordinates all the mailings and stuff.

  • Sandra S.

    I’m sorry to hear about this. Paypal has long been my nemesis, so you have my sympathies. If you were in Seattle, I’d have been happy to help out with some of the menial work.

    I hope the next batch of DVDs goes smoother.

  • Great post, Felicia and may sweet pastries assail you from all corners to help you get over the shock and awe of shipping/handling 101. It’s probably all Sandeep’s fault, anyway, so blame him.

  • cabri

    Poor Felicia! I’m so glad I bought mine at comic-con and thus saved you the work. Otherwise, mine might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back and the next thing we heard would’ve been you being arrested for attacking Pay-Pal’s CEO. I’ll be so happy to tell everyone I personally saved you from a humiliating trial and life imprisonment!

  • Sorry for apologising. Oh crap! I did it again! Sorry! Ah!

    But seriously, I helped a friend who is a musician with his site, which takes paypal payments, and yes, it is often hard to bend paypal to your will. He also sends out all his own orders, signing each copy, but he doesn’t have the volume you do.
    It makes the purchase more special to know that it’s boxed by the hands that penned the script. Circle of life, kinda thing.

    Thanks for caring!

  • Maribeth Martell

    I got my DVD this morning in the mail and I am THRILLED with it! But you know I would have been patient, and wouldn’t have minded waiting another week or more… I hope your poor hand feels better soon!
    And thank you very much!

  • Ed R

    “Businessing”.

    So THAT’S what it’s called!
    Brilliant;)
    Thanks, FD!

  • Jeff

    Got mine this morning as well with only a 3 day turn-around time, so I appreciate your effort. I’ve e-mailed a couple packages on E-bay before and found that annoying; I can imagine 300 DVD’s would have been…300 times more annoying.

    The commentary, interviews, extras have been crazy funny and entertaining. Kinda made my day, however easy those extras are to make.

  • Tulse

    Felicia, while I greatly admire your geek-girl DIY spirit, is there a reason you aren’t using a produce-on-demand order-fulfillment service like Lulu (lulu.com)? With Lulu, all you do is send them the electronic version of your DVD and your cover art/inserts, tell them the price you want to charge, and they do all the rest related to getting people the product — they will take orders, duplicate the DVD on demand, ship it out, and send you the revenue (with a small cut for themselves, of course). Using a service like this means a) you have NO inventory to produce ahead of time, so b) no initial capital layout (not even a setup fee!), and c) you don’t have to do ANY handling of payment or mailing of orders. It’s like having a troop of magic pixies take care of all the boring, cumbersome aspects of your project for you. My organization has used Lulu for various projects, and they’re fabulous. If you need more info, check out http://www.lulu.com/en/products/cd_dvd/.

    Believe me, there is no reason at all nowadays for a content creator to have to deal with merchandise production and order fulfillment. As others have said, don’t re-invent the wheel — let companies that are designed to produce and sell DVDs do that for you.

  • Alan O’D.

    First thing that comes to mind: “Wow, that is one impressive rant” 🙂

    I can see where you are coming from that you wanted to do this for yourself. Not everyone can understand the feeling of needing/wanting to do things yourself. Independence and motivation gets a person far in life.

    You have done a great job, writing, producing, starring in your own web series. not only that, but also in managing the less glamorous work behind that preliminary work. Great independence/motivation shown and proven in this project Felicia! Well done! (err, I hope I don’t come off as pompous at all 😀 )

    Best of luck with the follow-up orders, Season 2 and especially your career!
    Regards, Al.

  • I think I have to disagree that people just want the product and don’t care that she did it all herself. Of course, not everybody does and many won’t even know about it, but personally I consider that better than some hit and run style signature.

    Still was pretty surprised to read she was doing it all manually on her own. The automatic assumption was that someone else is taking care of physically producing and shipping the set. Anyway, when I read that twitter I quickly decided to wait a few weeks with my order instead of piling even more pain on a daunting stack.

    That kind of thing (like all kinds of things) are often painful the first time. Less painful the second and after a while you’ve put together your own set of tools to make the process as smooth as possible. But in this case I agree: don’t do it yourself in the first place. As impressive as your dedication might be and as much as a handwrapped/labelled/shipped DVD set is the epitome of cool for a fan.. I don’t think anybody expects that from you and I feel bad you went through all this (and may do so again for my order).

    On the question of “what were you thinking to do that yourself”. Can I make guess from personal experience? You felt too small for the big fish (tending to take a big cut), but didn’t trust the cheaper alternatives to deliver the kind of quality you feel you’re owing your fans or your inner perfectionist? Or were you simply afraid that they will screw things up and you end up with lots of angry “you got my money, where’s my DVD” posts. Thinking about that, I don’t know if I could ever trust others like that without a lot of positive experiences with them.

    Anyway. Don’t do that to yourself. Don’t insists on doing every step of the process yourself. Well, maybe once or twice, just to be somewhat familiar with it (never hurts to know), but after that: delegate and do “your thing”.

    And about that math degree: wow. Not because you’re a girl, but because after some already watered down lectures in “math for computer scientists” it’s impossible not to respect someone who made it to the finishing line and lived to tell about it.

  • Burton

    Sorry for the physical hardship you suffered fulfilling the DVD orders. Especially the International ones like myself. So how many DVDs have been shipped?

    Paypal sucks. Have been dealing with them on eBay (their parent company) for quite some time. They foisted the USPS priority mail option on you even for items worth only a few dollars if you want postage label from them. That stop many possible bidding on eBay. Strangely enough, Amazon will email you return postage label that you can print out on any printer.

    You actually used a label printer? Those relics have largely been replaced by laser printer and labels available from stores like Staples.

    My suggestion for future DVD sells with Paypal is to have multiple payment buttons. One button each for US mainland, Canada (my location) & Mexico, Western Europe and the rest of the world. As Paypal usually allow only one shipping method per button.

  • Dan K.

    Thank you. I got my copy of The Guild dvd Thursday.

    Guild version of your experience:

    Learning Curve critically hits you – Take 1 week of lost time and serious pain in your hand.

    New Quest now available:
    Find
    – company to handle shipping
    – good business accountant / book keeper.
    Reward = More time to make more art!

    Fortunately, those things are more common than those darn Groddoc and Ironfur livers from Feralas.

    Keep up the good work!

    On a barely related tangent (learning and time use) – you mentioned trying to cook more vs. time available in a previous post. I found Cooks’ Illustrated books – The Best Make-Ahead Recipe and The Best30-Minute Recipe to be really helpful. The make-ahead book has things you can prep and freeze for later (chicken pot pie and muffins ready to bake). The 30-minute book recipies are actually 30-minute recipies by the 3rd or 4th time I make them. They’re clear, concise, and have really tasty results. Links: http://www.cooksillustrated.com/bookstore_detail.asp?PID=358 and http://www.cooksillustrated.com/bookstore_detail.asp?PID=330.

  • Should I feel guilty about heading over the The Guild homepage for a DVD to the UK?

  • Rob

    I feel bad about ordering my DVD to the UK now! Glad to hear it all got sorted in the end though :S

  • John

    I’ve been less impressed with Lulu. I understand the attraction of zero stock and hands-off fulfillment, but they always seemed to me to be overmiddlemanning the situation and driving up the costs. That may have changed since the last time I looked, but it was much cheaper for one project of relatively large (but known) scope to use a low-volume printer for the CDs and then send them separate fulfillment group.

    While I wouldn’t dare speak for anybody else, I also think there’s something to be said in a marketing sense for getting the package out with a “RobotKittenGigglebus Ent.” shipping label than some no-name (and yes, Lulu is the biggest out there, but it’s still no-name) aggregator, just like it was much nicer to buy the DVD from the Guild site than “oh, go find it over on Amazon (or Lulu) or something.” Something about Lulu makes the whole affair seem like amateur night, somehow, and I say this having spent hundreds of dollars on things there.

  • “Girl, I’m gonna SMACK YOU??!!”

    OMG! That shouldn’t amaze me, but it does. That line SO has to show up in a future episode. I don’t want to tell you what to write, but that HAS to somehow be written into he show.

    THANK YOU for The Guild. It’s REALLY good content.

  • Bob T

    Thanks for all the effort!
    My DVD arrived Saturday.

  • Tulse

    John, regarding Lulu, it is indeed a middleman, but that’s what you’re paying for — someone to take care of all the crap that Felicia ranted about. As the saying goes, “time is money”, and all that time spent wrestling with PayPal and printing labels is time that Felicia isn’t doing much more creative and interesting stuff (like writing future Guild episodes). Sure, getting a package directly from Felicia is extremely cool, but that just doesn’t scale, especially for a very small company that can’t afford dedicated order-fulfillment staff.

    All this said, an option like Lulu is obviously just that, an option, and not the only way to go with this. But it can be useful option, and one that would solve all the problems Felicia had.

  • you live, and you learn. Though that learning sounds like it was hell.

  • Hello,

    Thanks for this post. I’m involved in a start-up web business, so this kind of input is useful.

    Can’t wait to hear how you handled the finances.

    Damn I need a life…

    – Richard

  • John

    To clarify, I wasn’t saying “nobody should ever use Lulu.” But the question was why wouldn’t someone start down that route. While I wouldn’t speak for Felicia, since I don’t know her or her situation, I tossed off an answer I happened to have from a past experience.

    I do respect Lulu’s position and appreciate their presence, but I think they’re better designed for very low, trickling quantities than a full-scale business venture (which hundreds of DVDs would be). That’s why I made the alternate recommendation I did: Use a dedicated printer to make the discs, and use a dedicated fulfillment team to fill orders. They label it so that it “comes from you” (important for marketing yourself rather than your contractor) and you have better control (on return policy, for example) at a lower price point.

    Accept my apologies if that didn’t come through in my earlier post, which I see how it might not, since I neglected to say so. Oops. Meant to, though. Swear.

  • Sounds like you’ve had a busy time! I ordered my DVD the other day so while I don’t expect it for a while I appreciate all the hard work you’ve put into it.

  • Korki

    Thanks for the inside glimpse! I knew from Twitter that is was bad, but not THIS BAD! Wow.

    Just think, one day you’ll be able to look back on this, cringe, and laugh a little. I always find the “pioneer days” to be the best and the toughest. 🙂

    Looking forward to Season 2! Maybe you could write some of your frustration off in a guild run… 😉 Thanks again!

  • Now that the kinks are out of the system, I’ve ordered my DVD.

  • John

    In case anybody besides me finds this funny, I should mention that, true to form, the two identical packages got separated. Tracking says that the one that my mailman just handed me is still somewhere between New York and Montana (hint: It isn’t). The other went to the wrong address (Post Office Box, mine), either because PayPal occasional need to lie about where I live or someone in dispatch recognized my name and “helped.” Both have happened in the past.

    In any case, I would imagine that others on the East Coast should start seeing packages as well if they haven’t already. Thanks again for making this happen, Madame Producer. (I should’ve moved out of the country, though, to get one of those snazzy chicken-scratched customs forms! Yes, I’m kidding.)

  • Daniel Schealler

    Hey Felicia!

    If in the future you’re going to be integrating an accounting package (QuickBooks) with a web-based shopfront, it sounds like you’re getting into the kind of territory where middleware might be useful.

    Middleware is my job (tremble, ye lowly mortals, for I am a mighty software developer), so I tend to lose track of what people outside my industry know about middleware. People tend to ask me odd questions, like What the heck are you talking about? and Why would they call it something weird like middleware? That sounds kinda dirty. Are you dirty?

    So I don’t know how much you know about using middleware as a systems integration tool. The hook is that if you’re chopping and changing between two data systems, it can make a surprizingly large number of your troubles evaporate. You’ll never have to export a .csv file again!

    Unfortunately, I don’t know of any middleware provider that’s free – so maybe it will have to wait until you get some real funding. Still, it doesn’t hurt to be aware that the option exists.

    I think that’s enough. If you want to know more, either drop me an email (I presume this blog records the email addresses?) or get someone else to drop me an email for you.

  • Just wow.. this is good to know. My friends and I have made a few shorts and wanted to put them on a DVD and see if anyone wanted to purchase them for a few dollars. I know we wouldn’t have as many orders as you but even so I will avoid Paypal. Quickbooks is a great amazing user friendly program! I am horrible at the arithmetic, but I can use Quicbooks with ease! Intuit should buy paypal and do it right. Also I heart you.. hehe sorry i had to say it.. cause i do 🙂

  • Quite a bit of work there, but I’m glad you got it out, love it! Have you looked into what google checkout can offer over paypal, especially if you’re just going to use stamps.com for shipment?

    And in addition, you should have a small fan meet up dvd stuffing party!

  • Jen

    Just got my copy today, it’s fantastic! Now to wait for the Dr. Horrible DVD… 😀

  • Hi Felicia!

    I discovered The Guild recently and pretty much stayed up all night yesterday watching all the episodes. I loved them!! They remind me so much of my friends. lol When we go out to dinner, they’re talking about gaming. When we go to parties, they’re talking about gaming! *shakes head*

    Great job with the script and the characters. I love it!!

    So sorry about all the trouble you went through with the shipping and handling part! I do need to get a copy soon. Will you have any in hand in Vegas this weekend? 😀

  • Dearest Felicia,

    I SUCK! How am I just seeing The Guild now!? It is so totally radical! I must say, as a fellow purveyor of WoW inspired comedy, I applaud and propose to you. Keep up the good work. I shall wait a few weeks to order my DVD lol.

    Hordefully yours,

    Arthur PWNzerelli aka Rosacrutian

  • Ben

    The forums are down again!

    And wow, 73 comments?? I think that’s a record. Wow!

  • Alan O’D.

    @ Ben… think it’s the reason there’s that record :S

  • Hey Felicia! Just Twittered to you about this, but there is an amazing online setup through eJunkie that will handle all of this for you — and I do mean ALL of it. Feel free to email me for the details…after many moons of driving my post office crazy, I think I’ve finally found a solution that really works.

  • I believe an appropriate response is, “Ouch!”

    Regardless of whose doing it might have been, I still sympathize. Besides, I can think of no good reason why some of those obstacles (*eyes PayPal*) were in your way!

    As others have noted, even though I don’t need a reason to cherish The Guild DVD anymore than I already do, I now have an even deeper appreciation of the energies which went into its production and its distribution. And while I am very glad to have received mine in, what I suspect, was the first shipment, I certainly would have gotten on just fine, waiting a little longer for the DVD, if it meant taking off some of the pressure you were under. Hey, the anticipation is also something to be savoured. 😀

    Congratulations for all the well-deserved success The Guild is swimming in, and thank you so very much for sharing your creative impulse with the rest of us.

    -Greg

  • Whoa, Paypal and Surly Postal Worker are teh epic lame!

  • LOL poor Felicia. That sucks, but hey, you got through it! Big pretty yellow Mario star for you! 😀

  • Word of advice – Never, ever use Paypal to pay for a Ventrilo subscription either. That was a fun lesson learned.

    Delegation and outsourcing – the keys to success. 😉 Thanks for all the effort and hard-work that went into getting these out! 🙂

  • Hey Felicia!

    I used to run a videography business, and I understand your pain.

    I’m not sure if you’re familiar with on demand services. Basically with an on demand service, you send in a master copy and the service takes care of the fulfillment for you. That includes receiving payment, burning the DVD, printing labels, inserts and covers, stuffing DVD cases, packaging the DVD, and shipping.

    Advantages of on demand are you don’t have to do any of the labor. You can focus on your next video project instead. Also, you don’t have to order a large quantity of DVD copies for inventory and hope you sell them all.

    Instead, you see how much the on demand service charges you per copy and you set your DVD price to consumers higher than that and you’ll profit on every single copy. They make each DVD as it’s ordered (hence “On Demand”).

    Here’s a link to an on demand service I have experience with:
    http://www.createspace.com/Products/DVDOnDemand.jsp

    Anyways, I thought I’d share another option for you. Looking forward to your next video projects.

  • Hey Felicia, I’m a friend of Jon London. We (my company and I) are just about to pull the trigger on our first run of DVDs. We’re going to go with http://www.filmbaby.com for stuff ordered online. You’ve probably heard of this before, but I thought I’d throw it out there.

  • bishely

    Two month belated response to this blog, but what the hey – I just got here.

    Having just watched the first series, I’m looking forward to ordering a copy one day, when I have money to spend (living like Vork atm), just wanted to lend my sympathy to your Paypal nightmare. I sold a self-released CD through them a couple of years ago, and while I didn’t have anywhere near as many customers to deal with, I had a similar (much scaled down) experience. The on-demand things mentioned above seem a much better idea, but then frankly selling stuff from a stall on the streets seems a better idea than using Paypal. I mean, they’re ok on the getting-money-from-people-around-the-world side of things, but don’t expect them to do anything helpful towards getting the product to the people who’ve just paid you.

    Of course, this is a pretty useless bit of info, since you’ve already found out for yourself! Just to say, I feel your pain.

    Oh, and well done! Personally, my response to my smaller nightmare was to curl into a fetal position and beg my friends to help me; faced with your situation, I’ve no idea what I would’ve done. So yeah, go you 🙂

  • I just could not leave your web site before suggesting that I actually loved the standard info an individual supply to your guests? Is going to be back continuously in order to investigate cross-check new posts

Upcoming Appearances!

07.18.16

Comicon Schedule!

00Hey all, here’s my COMICON SCHEDULE! Thursday: 12-1pm Geek and Sundry Panel at Indigo Ballroom (Badge needed)...

04.11.16

Paperback Book Tour April 19-30th!

00 Just a heads up I’ll be on paperback book tour starting next week! A lot of...

11.20.15

Goodreads Award Finalist: Please Vote!

00Hey all! So I’m on a hiatus, of sorts. Meaning I burnt out after book tour due...

08.25.15

Embrace Your Weird

08.09.15

This is Book Release Week!

00ITS HERE! I’m on a plane to NYC right now to start my book tour. 12 cities,...

07.27.15

Signed Book Copies

00A lot of people want to know how they can get a signed copy of a book...