This past Saturday was Free Comic Book Day – which many have characterized as a great idea, often poorly executed. One of our local stores celebrated FCBD with some local promotion and an event. They had a good-sized crowd at the outset. They had lots of kids in the store. They had professional artists there signing their stuff. All the basics of a fairly decent FCBD. But they also made some pretty basic mistakes – some of which would be relatively easy to correct.
To begin with, the store needs to promote better. We knew about their FCBD because our friend and son’s school classmate printed up a bunch of flyers and distributed them at our school. But what about the other 15-20 grade schools in town? What about the library? We realize comics stores don’t have much budget for marketing, but even a spot in the local alternative weekly paper would have helped.
Get your website straight. This store’s site happened to be under construction, slow to load, and generally awful on the one day of the year you want to project competence.
Other issues have more to do with store/event layout and execution:
- Have your bathroom clean/accessible. This day of any day, with lots of little kids in there, would have been the one to go the extra mile and clean up the toilet. Have it ready. We were told we had to go to the Hardee’s across the parking lot.
- Organize your free comics alphabetically and by content. Separate the mature stuff from the kids stuff (please!) my son picked up two books he didn’t really need to be reading, because they were all mixed together.
- Set up your free comics display at the back of the store, obliging your customers to filter through and see everything. This store we visited uses a lot of shelf space on toys and collectibles, but with the free comics at the front of the store, they missed an opportunity to showcase.
- Have extra staff available for checkout and be sure everything is working. When we left, one guy was working one register (even though they appeared to have three registers) and the line was growing. With over a hundred folks in the store, that’s not good.
Don’t get us wrong, this store did some things right. They did have pro artists (three of them) there to sign books and promote. They did have a few guys in costume. The store was clean, the layout not ridiculously over-crowded. They appeared to have a lot of free comics. We’re sure they considered the day a success. However, your bottom line on an event like this isn’t your bottom line for the day; it’s how many people will you convince to return to your store.
The comics industry itself could be a little more helpful here. As we’ve noted for years, there’s just not enough good content for younger readers. If you have a kid, 12 or younger, interested in comics, super-heroes, sci-fi, most of the books just aren’t meant for him or her. The themes are too adult, the content too graphic. My son ended up with a DC Futures End book like this – I’m sure he grabbed it because it has Batman looking like Batman Beyond on the cover and he likes that cartoon.
The favorite of the day picked out by the kids: Itty Bitty Hellboy. They read it, re-read it, laughed, and laughed. Of course the title might be enough to put some parents off, but I was more annoyed that I couldn’t find any other issues (Dark Horse has done at least five). We’ll be on the lookout for this book in the future.