Sunday, May 06, 2007

Adventures in Retailing: Free Comic Book Day 2007

Wow, was that a long (but rewarding) week.

This was my fifth Free Comic Book Day. I've worked every one since the beginning (aside from 2006, when I had a family reunion to attend instead) and they're always a lot of work, but very rewarding. It's even moreso (on both fronts) when you're the store owner.

We had a great Free Comic Book Day. We ordered just enough, for the most part. We even have a few Spider-Man, Bongo and Justice League left over for next year. My fears of running out of the Umbrella Academy sampler or Spider-Man didn't come true. My only regret is that we didn't order more Astounding Wolf-Man, as we ran out of that about mid-day, and I would have liked to have had it into the night. But in general, everybody got the comics they wanted. We started off giving out three to a person, but in the early afternoon moved to five per person, and by the end of the night it was "one of each of what's left" which equated to somewhere between 6-10 per person, depending on how close it was to the end of the night.

From noon until about 3:30, we had comic book creators in the store signing and sketching. Paul Benjamin was clearly in his element, working the crowd, cracking jokes and signing plenty of autographs. We sold quite a few copies of his Pantheon High manga from Tokyopop, and he signed a whole bunch of his copies of Marvel Adventures Two in One Free Comic Book Day offering. Scott Kolins sold several gorgeous prints of pin-ups and covers he had done, as well as doing many a sketch and signing copies of Omega Flight and other works. Billy Tan had two lithographs (one of Hepzibah, one of the X-Men, I bought both for the store) and two sketchbooks (one guys, one girls, I bought both of those as well) and some gorgeous character illustration pieces, and we sold a few of his Uncanny X-Men issues to sign as well. Billy did quite a few sketches as well (including a Corsair for me and a beautiful inked Batman for a customer). Everybody seemed to have a good time, and we were packed to the gills while the creators were there.

Next year, I definitely want to figure out how to get more press coverage. I sent out a press blurb to a ton of folks, including local TV, radio and news and all the comics news sites, and literally nobody picked it up. Many ran press releases for the big Zeus event CAPE (and that's a great event, if I wasn't running my own FCBD I'd be there every year) and a few also ran press for the last-minute mini small press Con being done by Austin Books (again, great store and a good idea for an event.) I was a little frustrated to be ignored when I thought we had a pretty good event put together and I had taken the time to send out press info in advance, but that's the way it goes. Next time, a full fledged press release, even earlier, and more follow-up. Certainly the lack of coverage didn't cost us anything in terms of attendance.

I worked about 14 hours that day, and well over 40 this week getting ready, but it definitely paid off. Tons of kids and adults came in and got free comics. Everybody seemed to have a good time. And I'd do Free Comic Book Day even if it cost us more money, but instead it was our biggest day for the store yet, even counting our five year history. We did about three to four times our usual Saturday business, and even with the expense of free comics, advertising and related costs, it was a very successful day for us.

Already looking forward to next year, and to figuring out what cool event we can run at the store next.

One of my customers, Dave Figueroa, took pictures, so there's a slideshow below.

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