This year’s “Christmas in May” for comic book fans is now over, and it was a big success for many of us. Still, I believe some folks don’t quite understand what Free Comic Book Day is all about, so it didn’t work as well in some instances I heard about.
For those who came in late, Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) takes place on the first Saturday in May, and many a local comics shop (LCS) gave out free comics, everywhere from as many as you want to just a few.
I thought I’d review a couple of situations I heard about this past weekend, and make a suggestion or two for next year.
FREE COMIC BOOK WHAT?
There are still some stores that don’t understand what FCBD is all about. At it’s core, it’s an opportunity for local shops to attract in fans and families to sample some books for free. The books a store can buy (at a minimal price, like about a quarter each) to give out that day cover the whole spectrum of the industry, in my opinion, and they were well represented.
Given this situation, I still keep hearing about a LCS here or there that doesn’t participate. Granted, this is a voluntary program, but I think ignoring it or making it a small part of your store is losing out on a big opportunity.
Some store owners say, “Well, my customers just aren’t interested, so I don’t do anything. It’s a Saturday, after all, and nobody goes to my store on that day of the week.”
I’ll get to why I think this perspective is flawed before long, believe me.
FREE COMIC BOOK MORNING
I think far too many shops play it really safe, so they buy enough books to last from opening for a few hours, mainly for their subscribers. If you don’t get there by the time they run out – Sorry, tough luck.
There were many stores that had people arrive quickly, grab the free books they could, then run out so they could read them. After an hour or two, well, there are other comics you could buy, you know.
One store I know of went through their freebies before the person I know could get there. There were just a few books left at 1 p.m., and the owner, who promised to up his order by 30 percent next year, could only shrug his shoulders and see if another nearby store had any left.
The good news was that the store held a trade paperback/hardcover sale, offering 25 percent off. Several people did buy trades, so it helped the day turn out well for them.
I also ran across several people who went to more than one store in order to get what they wanted. While I like having back-up stores just in case one runs out of something I want before I get there, I doubt the shop owners would be happy to find out that’s happening.
WHEN FCBD REALLY WORKED
This year, I went with my friends Richard Rivera from Stabbity Bunny and artist Greg Krivak to Emerald City Comics in Clearwater, Florida. The store was set to open at 11 a.m., but when we arrived at 9:30 in the morning, the line had already begun to form.
I do have to say that this LCS is primo, located in a building that has warehouse-like space. It’s well organized and located near major thoroughfares, so it’s a great place to shop when it’s NOT Free Comic Book Day.
At 11:00, word came to all of us that people were coming in. As they entered, they were to follow a blue tape that took them to the better-known artists to buy their wares. After that, they went past the new comics racks (which were pretty big), then around the corner and into their event room, where the free stuff waited. Also, Richard’s books and Greg’s posters were the next thing people saw after the last of the freebies. Other artists were next, and the last thing that shoppers encountered were staff members who made sure they had the requisite three comics each only, then placed them in a paper bag they would then staple together at the top. I like this system because it made sure nobody could slip in any other comics as they were leaving.
Immediately, the line formed, and it didn’t let up until about 3:00 p.m. I mean, it was a steady stream of folks, many with kids, and they moved at a pretty good clip most of the time while they selected their free stuff. We were impressed with how many people stopped by, then asked about the creations being sold, then often purchasing an excellent amount.
Now, the line may have let up some at 3:00 p.m., but it would re-form many times during the hours, and we stayed as late as we could – 7:00. As we were leaving, we saw even more families making their way in the shop, which would still be open until 9. Yes, some of the offerings had run out, but there was still a decent number of comics for people to pick from, even at that hour!
One important note to mention is that the line, after the people had finished with all of us in the room, checked out other products in the store, and almost exactly that same line moved quickly to the cash registers, and I’m sure they made sweet music to the store’s owners based on what I saw people carrying and waiting to buy.
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
I talked with some of the folks in charge of the store, and they told me that they had done a lot of preparation for FCBD. They had created and distributed flyers, they had used social media, and they had reached out to community officials, including the local mayor, who was given a tour of the facility.
I mean, I was seriously impressed! I’m sure every LCS would love to have a line of people perusing their shop for that many hours.
Trick is, that kind of event takes a lot of effort. They worked hard before, during and after FCBD, but many of us who participated were asking to make sure we could come back next year, things went that well.
Folks, I think THIS is what Free Comic Book Day should be like as often as possible. People discovering their LCS, checking out what they can find in the shelves, with some people who hadn’t read comics in a long time looking at what’s out now as well as fans discovering a new shop they could frequent.
If you work in a LCS or frequent one that doesn’t make FCBD a “thing,” maybe you could suggest it for 2018 or even the Halloween version happening this Fall? It could make the difference between closing doors or thriving.
What about you? What was your FCBD experience like? Did you like what your LCS did? Did you have suggestions to improve FCBD? Whatever your opinion, please share your thoughts in the space below!