Monday, May 05, 2008

Free Comic Book Day thoughts

We had a pretty good Free Comic Book Day at the store this year. Last year was only two months after I bought the store, and we had a huge event, with two writers and two artists in attendance, and we had the best day of sales the store has had since I bought it, not to mention having (I'd estimate) about 600-700 people walk out happy with handfuls of free comics.

This year, with CAPE getting bigger and bigger, both the writers decided to head up to Dallas, and one of the artists had moved, but Scott Kolins was kind enough to come in and sign and sketch for us for more than three hours. We had him set up at a table up front, and there was always a big crowd, as he sketched, signed and showed off super-cool prints of his covers for Rogues Revenge #1-2, upcoming Brave and the Bold issues and other stuff. He sold a few prints, signed several comics and did lots of free sketches, and that was great.

At the back of the store, as always, we had set up two tables and broken up the comics into categories of "All Ages," "Ten and Up" and "Mature Readers." I was kind of pleased that this year, the Mature Readers section was less than a half-dozen books, but the "All Ages" section was near overflowing. We had ordered heavily, as always, but we started off with a three per person comics limit (more on that later in the post). At the store manager's suggestion, we bumped to four later on. And we weren't diehards about it. If someone found four or five they liked, they were welcome to take that many. Nobody got greedy and asked "Can I just have one of everything?"

It was a busy day, finally slowing down at around 5:00 or so, at which point we condensed what was left onto a table up front so that the decreased number of employees (we were down to two, and occasionally one) could make sure everybody heard the deal when they came in.

One of the high points was having a young girl come in who used to shop with us buying Crossgen. She had dropped out because Crossgen went under (a fear we'd always had), but now that she was a back, and a little older, we suggested Mouse Guard and Fables and a few others, and it looks like she might find some comics to like again.

We didn't hit the heights in sales that we did last year, but we still had a very good Saturday. We had also made flyers with "What's Cool in Comics," one all-ages with Iron Man, Mouse Guard and a couple others and another with Fables, Walking Dead, Buffy and Dark Tower, which we gave out to everyone, and I'm hoping that'll lure some new readers back in.

I worked a 15 hour day, from 9 AM to midnight (since we do all our reordering on Saturdays), and although I was tired, I felt like we'd put on a pretty good event. I was pleased with the turnout, pleased with how everyone seemed to be happy.

Then I get online a couple days later and find folks complaining about how they *only* got three comics at their local store (happily, nobody seemed to have that reaction to us, but they easily could have, since three was our general limit). One even went so far as to gripe that he went to Austin Books (one of the best comic book stores I've ever been to) and was unhappy with the treatment there, where he was allowed to pick 10 books. Somebody else posted rather proudly (although he disingenuously claimed not to be proud) that he had stolen 20 books rather than stick to the limit of three at his shop. There's even a well-known blogger and retailer who is griping about how so many stores "fucked up" Free Comic Book Day. I know he's not talking about me in particular, I know that he's not entirely wrong, but seeing it from someone who understands the pitfalls and balancing act was just... draining.

I thought I'd gotten to the point where Internet stupidity and the sense of entitlement that often comes with it doesn't bother me, but the aftermath of Free Comic Book Day online has left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. I'm still pleased with how it went for us, but it makes me sad and angry to see folks complaining because they didn't feel that a few free comics were enough, and that somehow retailers owed them a free copy of each book, a sale on everything in the store and maybe a free pony too.


Scott Taylor said...

Its the tooth fairy's duty to bring on the free ponies. You're a mere mortal, there is only so much you can do.

M. Robert Turnage said...

I suppose the tension with FCBD is between using the free comics to expand the general readership and rewarding the die hards who drop a few dollars week in and week out. It is an interesting place to be as a retailer, trying to satisfy these two groups. Sounds like you are doing a good job.

Randy said...

Its the tooth fairy's duty to bring on the free ponies.

It's hell getting those ponies stuffed underneath the kids' pillows, too, I bet.

It is an interesting place to be as a retailer, trying to satisfy these two groups. Sounds like you are doing a good job.

We had a pretty hefty number of both regulars, comics die-hards who aren't regulars and (most happily) families with kids, and I think everybody walked away happy. But ever since the Internet stuff started, I've been paranoid that someone who seemed happy is out there posting about how we suck online.

Not that I should care... but I do. You'd think after more than 10 years of comics reviewing online, I'd be immune to worrying about what people say about me... but it's different when I'm thinking about my business.

Scott Taylor said...

Don't mess with tooth fairies, they have some mad skillz. Regular customers with a clue should realize that an event which happens 1/365th of the year might help the industry as a whole, including themselves, by drawing in new customers and increasing enthusiasm overall. At least a little. If nothing else, it gives retailers a chance to host an event and schmooze with some artists. That right there should be reason enough to tell the punters where they can go.

doc said...
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doc said...

hey this is doc from the itunes podcast: Heroes of Science Fiction and Fantasy, check this interview out. Episode 23 features an interview with Joe Field Founder of Free Comic Book Day. Joe talks about the history of Free Comic Book Day and his store's 20th Aniversary, meeting and later working for Stan Lee, winning the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retail Award, and finally ComicsPro a comics professional retail organization. website voicemail 1-206-333-1297