How to Use Google Sheets to Track Your Crowdfunding Expenses

One of the scariest things about launching a crowdfunding campaign is knowing whether or not you have accounted for all the money you have to spend vs. what you collect. The internet is littered with crowdfunding horror stories, where creators lost all their profits – or worse, had to dig into personal finances – because of unforeseen expenses.

Well, I’ve got some good news for you. You can avoid such a situation by planning out your campaign using Google Sheets – and updating it live as your campaign progresses. I’ve used this technique on both my successful crowdfunding campaigns (and I made a profit on both), and I’m going to show you how to do it for yourself.

Fail to Plan? Then Plan to Fail

The title is a cliche, but it’s true. You want to plan for ALL your campaign expenses BEFORE you launch. And then you want to match that up to your goal to see if what you are planning on doing is really something viable that will actually turn a profit.

So what are the key expenses for which you have to account?

The cost of your product

In my case it is graphic novels. So I need to know the printing costs (at various price break levels). But it’s not just printing the book! It’s proof copies, any other related printer expenses (pre-press, for example, if you need it) and very importantly – shipping the books to YOU. (You have to get them before you can send them out!)

Shipping costs

dnf

When you read failure stories, it’s often because of this. People often just leave it out entirely! Not only do you have to account for domestic shipping, you have to account for international should you be shipping abroad. And that can get expensive.

And something else here is important. You want to know almost exactly what it costs to ship your item BEFORE you order it! You need that number. How do you do it without the thing in your hand? Make a mockup, or find something similar. For my books, I found a same-sized book, got the box I would use, and brought it to the post office. I had them calculate domestic shipping (media mail) and international (first class).

And make sure you are accounting for multiple shipments if you are making them. (I suggest you try NOT to do this). For both Marooned and Rock & Tin, everything that could be gotten from the campaign could fit in the one box. I did not have to make any extra shipments to incur extra costs.

Extras and Fees

Stickers, buttons, bookmarks, t-shirts, whatever it is – find out the cost to buy it AND the cost to ship it to YOU (just like the books.)

You’ll pay a % fee for the crowdfunding platform plus a fee for credit card processing. Make sure you look up this information on the platform of your choice.

Setting up the Google Sheet

With all this information at hand, you want to start building your spreadsheet. We’re not going to do anything difficult here, so don’t worry. First, you create a new spreadsheet by going into Google Docs and creating a new Sheet. (If it’s defaulted to docs, you can go to the menu in the upper left corner of the browser).

Next, we create a section up top for expenses. I like using some color formatting to make things easier to read. You can copy what I did, or you can roll your own.

s1

My format is to use 6 columns (the one to the left of notes is just for readability). On each line, enter an expense item. For things that change over the course of the campaign, make use of the quantity column to update things on the fly. For things that won’t – like my button or sticker order, just make the quantity 1 and put in the total amount. The notes field is optional but can help you remember things.

Automatically calculating the cost

We make our sheet automatic by using the SUM functionality. As long as you know basic math, you can use this – it’s not hard ūüôā Examine the image below:

sum

You can create a SUM function by clicking the button highlighted to the right (with the tooltip “Functions”). But you can also just select a cell, and type “=SUM(” to get started. If you look at the SUM I have set up to calculate the cost of my softcover books, you can see how simple it is. The numbers inside the parenthesis are cell numbers¬†of the spreadsheet. “B3” means column B, row 3. (You can see row numbers in the image, apologies!)

So I am multiplying (since the asterisk means multiply) cell B3 by C3 – in other words, 46 books at $6.69 equals $307.74. And the great thing about this is that if you copy cell D3 now and paste it in cell D4 (the next row) it will copy the formula! Now you can keep adding quantity and cost for your rows that way until you are done. And when you change those numbers on the fly, they will be recalculated.

I did the same thing for campaign fees in another section below the first, until I have this:

s2

And you can see the row numbers here as well. Now the next trick is to add all these expenses together.

Showing total expenses

Now that we entered all this information, we want a full picture of the cost.

fees

I’ve created three more rows. And we’re going to use three more SUMs. For the total base expenses, I wanted to add up the “Cost” column for all those rows. That’s easy to do using a simple colon. So in the example above, =SUM(D3:D11) means “add the total of rows 3-11 in column D. That gives me that first total (or “Toal!).

For the total fees, I did the same thing for the bottom section Рjust added D14:D15. Then to get my Total Project Expenses, I added the two total cells together =SUM(D18+D19). Now I have the total money that I am responsible for. (Note, some expenses are estimated, like credit card fees, so be aware of that.) 

Add in the good stuff!

Now that we’re done with the bad news, let’s put in the good news. We make a row above expenses that is for funds raised. If you are still in the planning stage, this is funds projected. Before you jump into this, you definitely want to have some sort of an idea of how much you expect to sell. You should not be going into this without an established audience.

In my case, I knew how much readership I had (and how many Patrons I have on Patreon.com). I did a quick poll to see how many people were interested in buying a book – with the full awareness that polls are not reliable! People who will buy will not answer, and people who say they will buy end up not buying. But still, it’s not a bad idea to get some kind of ballpark starting data to use with all your other insights.

I took that number, what I knew about my readers, what I knew about people who bought things from me before and people I was currently talking to who expressed interest in buying the new book. I came up with a conservative number of buyers, and figured out how many books I’d need for that. This is how I crafted my funding goal.

My projection actually was pretty accurate, if a bit low – which is good because I easily met my goals for both campaigns. So with that row placed, we now have this (remember, this amount is manually entered):

raised

Calculating the live situation

You can probably tell from how we have these rows laid out that we’re going to logically subtract the expenses from the funds raised (or projected if you are just starting) to see how things stand.

So we’ll add one more row called “Gain/Loss.” We’ll subtract the total expenses from the funds raised/projected using the simple =SUM(D17-D20). Note, with all these sums, your numbers will likely be something different, but the examples should show you what to do.

gainloss

Ta-da! Now you have a LIVE view into the current state of your campaign. Each time you change a cell, all the values will update. So the complete sheet looks like this (as of halfway through my campaign):

sheet

And I can see that I am currently $840 in the green. Now I can adjust the funds raised each day, add to the number of books to print, adjust the shipping (I like to keep a running total of each shipping method as I go) and so forth.

If another expense comes up, you can add a row in. If it’s in between your SUM range (Like D3:D11) then the sheet should just automatically update.

The only thing missing from here would be taxes, but I feel like that really doesn’t fit in.

Ideally, you make this spreadsheet BEFORE you launch. Estimate what you think you can realistically raise (even if it’s only an educated guess). Then you can put your funding goal in as that number to start, and you’ll see if you need to adjust.

As your campaign goes on and you meet your goal, this spreadsheet will be an invaluable tool to help you decide how to implement stretch goals or add-ons, and how those costs will affect your bottom line.

Now go forth and conquer!

7 Great Animated Films to watch on Amazon Prime

Animation and comics are kind of like blood-brothers, so it’s no surprise that I am a lover of animated features. It just so happens that there are some really wonderful animated films you can watch on Amazon Prime for free. If you’re a fan of animation like me, you’ll want to fire up your watchlists and add these films. Here they are (in no particular order):

catinparis

A Cat in Paris

This hand-drawn Oscar nominated film comes from the animation studio¬†Folimage. The first reason you want to watch this film is the unique and lush visuals. It’s like watching a modern museum painting move. Really wonderful character designs, color and movement style.

Dino is a cat that leads a double life. By day he lives with a little girl named Zoe, but at night Dino works with Nico, a cat burglar. Everything is not right with Zoe and her mother – a strong, local police detective, They are both struggling with the death of the father. All these characters, along with the local mob, intersect to provide a very interesting and satisfying story.

One reviewer stated the film is “practically an anti-Disney kids’ movie: it’s stylish and unpredictable.” And this is very true. You’ll revel in the beautiful drawings, and you’ll be riveted by the story.¬†The¬†American distribution has Marcia Gay Harden, Anjelica Huston and Matthew Modine as¬†vocal talent. This film is suitable for all ages.

kells

The Secret of Kells

Another Oscar nominated film, and another film with amazing visuals. This time, the drawing style is a geometric style that leads the animation style to present something really unique and visually delightful. The character designs are amazing, the colors are wonderful, but maybe the coolest thing is the way the backgrounds are as much a character as anything else, and play a part in the animation.

The story revolves around Brendan, who dreams of scribing¬†the greatest book of all time, but he’s stifled by his uncle, Abbot Cellach, who wants Brendan to focus on helping the villagers to build¬†a wall around Kells to help protect them from an impending Viking attack.

But when¬†the famous Brother Aidan turns up from another village that’s been attacked by the Vikings, Brendan is fascinated by his work. Eventually Aidan¬†asks Brendan to help him finish the now legendary Book of Kells, which would be a dream come true (instead of building a wall). Now, Brendan must defy his uncle and venture into the forest outside Kells and confront his fears of the “Dark One” to find inspiration to finish the great Book of Kells.

Poetry, Vikings, mythical creatures, family, wolves, even a little romance – this story has everything that you will love. Also suitable for all ages.

momo

A Letter to Momo

The only anime movie on the list, this movie has a powerful story. While not a Studio Ghibli movie, it certainly will remind you of one with both the quality of the art and the story.

The last time Momo, a young teenage girl, saw her father they had a fight – and now all she has left to remember him by is an incomplete letter, a blank piece of paper penned with the words “Dear Momo” but nothing more. This final event with her father torments Momo as she and her mother move to a new island home.

As Momo¬†tries to make sense of these two words and guess what her father was trying to tell her, some strange incidents occur on the island, which is otherwise tranquil. People’s orchards are ransacked by an unknown person, and some of their prized belongings start to go missing. Momo also starts to hear strange sounds coming from the attic in her house.

Unable to convince her mother of the strange sounds, Momo embarks on an adventure to discover the source of these disturbances, and finds herself involved with some very strange creatures. Momo will discover that all these occurences, even the death of her father, are interconnected.

A really great movie to watch with your whole family, and deals in a wonderful way with the death of a loved one. It even manages to have a real nice feel good ending.

nocturna

Nocturna

Once again, with Nocturna you’ll be subjected to a creative style and beauty that is lacking in mainstream animated films (especially those of the hand drawn variety, as few as they are.)¬†Nocturna is a Spanish-French animated film¬†produced in 2007 by Filmax Animation.

Tim lives in an¬†aging orphanage, where the¬†nights are something special for him. The light reflected from the stars is the only cure for his fear of the dark. The other kids think he’s a little crazy, and¬†get mad at him¬†after he refuses to retrieve a ball that fell into the basement¬†because of his fear. The kids steal the doorknob to the shutters of¬†the window that Tim used to watch his star, forcing Tim to travel to the rooftop. Once there, he manages to spot it, when suddenly it dissapears. Unfortunately it’s not going to be the last one.

Tim meets the Cat Shepherd, who takes him to see¬†Moka, the guardian of the night within the Night World, and pleads for him to return the stars to the night sky. Moka pays scarce attention to the boy’s pleas, so Tim asks the Cat Shepherd to take him to the Lighthouse of the Stars, where he thinks he may find the answer to the strange phenomena. They race against the clock to stop the threat known as “The Darkness” and save Nocturna.

Another unique story that you will want to revisit more than once. Suitable for all ages.

enest

Ernest & Celestine

A film which has won boatloads of awards (including of course, an Oscar nomination), it’s¬†based on a series of children’s books of the same name published by the Belgian author and illustrator Gabrielle Vincent. But do not be put off because these are based on books for kids. This is a wonderfully heartwarming story that everyone can enjoy.

Once again, we have a foreign-made film that simply looks beautiful. There’s some amazing animation here, with fun chase scenes and perfectly done character movement. There’s a couple scenes where a large number of mice are animated as one entity, and it is just fantastic.

This gorgeously animated film is the story of an unlikely friendship between a bear, Ernest, and a mouse named Celestine. Celestine is collecting bear teeth (the mice use them as replacements) when she gets trapped in a garbage can. Ernest has woken from his winter slumber hungry, and he finds Celestine. She convinces him not to eat her, and instead break into the candy shop where he can eat all the sweets he likes.

When he gets caught the next morning, Celestine offers to free him for one big, huge favor. Their partnership leads to a massive upheaval of both mouse and bear culture. This movie has become one of my all-time favorites, and I admit, I keep watching it over and over.

point

The Point

This one has a special place for me, because I first watched it way back in elementary school – and depending on which version you watch, it has Ringo Starr as the narrator.¬†Think of a feature-length version of a Schoolhouse Rock video, and you’ll get a bit of an idea how this movie feels.

Directed by Academy Award-winner Fred Wolf, “The Point” tells the story of Oblio, a round-headed boy living in the land of “Point,” where everything and everybody has one. But unfortunately, Oblio was born with a round head – he has no point!

When Oblio offends the son of the nasty Count, the King is forced to banish Oblio, along with his trusty dog, Arrow, to the Pointless Forest. Oblio has a wild adventure and comes to find out that even the Pointless Forest has a point. Then Oblio begins his return journey to the Land of Point to face the count and give an account the King.

The tale is narrated by Ringo Starr and includes songs written and sung by Grammy Award-winner Harry Nilsson. It has a real fun 60’s feel to it – almost like an old Beatles video mixed with Saturday morning cartoons. The songs are catchy (especially “Me and my Arrow”) and fun. Not only is it a great bit of nostalgia, but it’s also a great film with a good message, too.

The Last Unicorn

The newest addition, this 1982 feature just got added to Prime. There’s so much to love about this animated feature. First, it’s a Rankin Bass creation. If you are old enough to know who Rankin Bass is, then you know most everything they made was wonderful in some fashion.

The Last Unicorn is the story of a unicorn who goes out into the world to find out what happened to all the other unicorns. She soon comes to find that a mysterious creature called the Red Bull has driven them all away into the kingdom of King Haggard.

Along the way she is captured and then befriended by a wizard and a serving maid, and they make their way to the King Haggard’s castle to see if they can solve the mystery of the missing unicorns.

The movie is based on the famous book by Peter S. Beagle, and he also wrote the screenplay.

The animation is well done and definitely has that Rankin Bass feel (some of the characters feel similar to those of The Hobbit in design). But the Lady Amalthea/Last Unicorn definitely has a slight Anime feel to her, and it’s a very appealing mix.

What is unique about this movie is that it really has an all-star voice cast, long before such things were a staple in animated features. I think this is partly because some of these actors were just getting started in their careers. Notably:

  • Mia Farrow as the Unicorn / Lady¬†Amalthea
  • Alan Arkin as Schmendrick the Magician
  • Jeff Bridges as Prince Lir
  • Angela Lansbury as Mommie Fortuna
  • The late Christopher Lee is King Haggard

Lastly, the film features a wonderful soundtrack by the 70’s band America. The songs are really wonderful.

Taken as a whole, The Last Unicorn is a real treat to watch, and has plenty of fun and entertaining moments, as well as some sadness for the plight of the unicorns. Definitely don’t miss this one if you have never seen it.

So what are you waiting for? Head on over to Amazon Prime and get these into your watchlist. You’ll be happy you did!