Free Comic Book Day 2006 – The Final Chapter.

§ May 9th, 2006 § Filed under free comic book day Comments Off on Free Comic Book Day 2006 – The Final Chapter.

Some final comments on this year’s Free Comic Book Day:

I’ve had a few reports show up in my comments sections from over the weekend (1, 2) which make me very glad things went as smoothly as they did our store. Commenter Jamie in particular has my sympathies, judging from his description of how his local event went, with people grabbing comics out of kids’ hands and loud, obnoxious people driving out other paying customers.

Fortunately, we also didn’t have any problem with people assuming everything was free and walking out with a pile of, say, the new Infinite Crisis. We avoided that problem by setting up a couple big tables right by the front door, spreading out all the FCBD books, and having the people manning those tables let people know as soon as they walk in the door “hey, all the free comics are right here.” And, as in past years, we divided the comics into three age groups – kids, teens, and grown-ups – and packed the comics into color-coded bags. Kids got the bag with all the kids comics, teens got the teen bag and the kid bag, and adults got all three. Thus, no panic grabbing…comics were handed out in an orderly fashion, and if people didn’t want all the comics, they could pick and choose off the tables.

I had a question from someone asking if our business improved for that day…business as in “taking in money,” not just “warm bodies milling about the store,” and the answer is, yes, sales were up for that day. I know that wasn’t the case for everybody, particularly those stores afflicted with the magpies who just want to grab the free stuff because it’s free. However, we had enough new faces come in the door that day who took a look around the shop and found items that they hadn’t been exposed to before and just had to buy. For example, we had that boxed set of DC Direct Justice League action figures that had been kicking around the shop for a while…a dad came in with his kids, saw the set, thought that was just the neatest thing he’d ever seen, and purchased it for his children. We had another fellow who used FCBD as an opportunity to finally come in and ask about work by Los Bros. Hernandez and Dan Clowes…and came back the very next day to use one of our discount coupons to buy one of Clowes’ books.

I know there is some concern as to whether or not FCBD actually does anything to generate new comic book readers to any sizeable extent, and the only real answer is “I don’t know.” Like Tim says, there is no industry-wide method of keeping track of new customer influx aside from, say, someone like me noticing a fellow like the guy who came back and bought a Dan Clowes book. And maybe, in the short run, no, the industry as a whole may not get a whole lot of new converts to the cause, but if we got a couple, certainly there must be a few more, somewhere. At the very least, FCBD does the job of increasing the general public’s awareness of comic books. I don’t think I’ve had the comment of “oh, comic books, they still make these?” in quite a while.

Even if it doesn’t bring in a lot of new people, there’s still the chance that, as I’ve noted in the past, regular customers will be exposed to comics they wouldn’t otherwise have tried. Queen & Country and Courtney Crumrin benefited from FCBD in previous years. It’s too soon to say which will be the breakout title this year…but it better be Owly. That was my favorite from this new batch.

Another question I had was just how much it would cost a retailer to participate. Well, the minimum buy-in is $5 worth of each Gold Sponsor book, for a total of $50 (which, assuming an average cost of about 25 cents, gives you 200 comics to give away). That doesn’t sound like a whole lot, which can make people wonder how some stores can claim they can’t afford to participate. I certainly thought that, until I considered something. Say you’re a store, and you bought the minimum number of books. You have 20 copies each of 10 different books that you’re going to give away on FCBD. If you have 200 people show up at your store, you’re either going to have to give everyone just one free comic (which will make most of the customers complain) or you can give 50 people four copies each, or 20 people one of each comic…or however you do it, you’re gonna run out in short order. So, realistically, you’re going to have to order way above the minimum…which may then be cost-prohibitive for smaller stores with smaller budgets. At least, I hope that’s the reasoning behind the folks who say it costs too much, and not “Fifty bucks!? Why, that’s seventy-two and a half 69-cent tacos! Forget it!”

We always order lots of extras, especially on the kid-friendly books, as we continue to use them throughout the year. I’m still giving away copies of Teen Titans Go from…was it last year? I don’t remember. Anyway, I’m still giving them to kids who come in the store, along with the Disney books, and they’re almost always well received. Plus, when our local libraries make their regular comic purchases from us, we also donate a bunch of the FCBD comics to them as well. And my girlfriend gives them away to the kids she teaches at Sunday school…we get plenty of mileage on the FCBD books all year long.

So was it a success? Well, we gave away a lot of comics, made a bunch of people happy, made some money, and hopefully got a new customer or two out of it. In the long run, that’s good for business, even if in the short run, it looks like it made only a small impact on expanding the customer base. It takes small steps, sometimes.

That was a lot to plow through, so here, have a panel of Linus JUST SAYING NO:

Hotlinked by a Myspace user in 3…2….

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