Comic Store In Your Future - Free Comic Book Daze

Comic Store In Your Future – Free Comic Book Daze

Posted by March 27, 2017 Comment

Rod Lamberti of Rodman Comics, writes weekly for Bleeding Cool. Find previous columns here.

Free Comic Book Day is coming. Fewer stores are participating this year than last year. Not the end of the world for Free Comic Book Day by any means. Though it’s always better to say it’s growing.

That said not all stores opt in for it. Why do I have my store participate in it? Because quite frankly it would look bad if my store was the one store not participating in Free Comic Day in Central Iowa. Years ago we had one store who charged the actual cost of the free comic to non-regular customers. The reason I know that is because after going to that store some of the people from there came here thinking they needed to pay for the free comics and we were all confused. They are not open anymore. And I would just opt out before even thinking of doing that. We do not have anything to do with the second later in the year free comic day, Halloween Comic Fest. I did that before and it was a total strike out. For Halloween, I give out comics at my house to kids along with candy. Scary fact I learned. The kids dressing up as comic movie superheroes? All of them didn’t even know what a comic book was. Shocked the heck out of me. They only knew the characters because of the movies. Seriously.

Free Comic Book Day has been going on for years and with some minor changes such as limiting how many titles are allowed for Free Comic Book Day nothing much has been improved on for the day. I known Diamond has one employee was whole job is Free Comic Book Day, at least they did years ago. Diamond makes money off it. Which is what a business is supposed to do of course. What I do not understand is why there has not been any real effort to improve Free Comic Book Day. Even my customers who come in for Free Comic Book Day will say yeah it really doesn’t work for getting new customers. One would think Diamond would want actual new customers buying comics at comic stores so they are selling more comics.

After Free Comic Book Day I get to fill out a questionnaire for Diamond. And then usually that is the end everything related to Free Comic Book Day for the year. I say usually because last year I got an email months later stating they undercharged me for Free Comic Days shipping and would be charging me on future invoices.

This year I am going to try our Rod Deals sale and event at the same time as Free Comic Book Day. What am I trying to do? Change peoples mindset. Instead of coming in getting something for free and never returning till maybe next year’s Free Comic Book Day to actually buy something and come back and buy something again. Rod Deals isn’t just a sale it’s an event.

I am surprised that out of all the comic companies that they have not tried something different with their Free Comic Book Day offerings.

Some ideas.

A coupon in the free book good for purchasing the follow-up book. And it would need to be a book that comes out with in a month from the free comic book. The coupon could be for an exclusive comic. Or a discount even. Or both.

To often the free book has no follow-up or one that is months away. Remember that free Magic the Gathering comic advertising the upcoming Magic comic with a free Magic card? It had a lot of interest. But many months went before the follow-up book came out killing interest. And as everyone knows there isn’t a Magic-related comic currently.

A cliffhanger at the end of the Free Comic saying come back next month to see the conclusion of this exciting story! Buy the next issue to find out how the cliffhanger ends.

The companies that put out two books could have a crossover. Part one and part two and then part three comes out next week. Come in and buy it to see how the story ends.

I am one person. Brainstorm. Come up with some creative ideas. If they don’t work then simply don’t try them again.

800x800bbFor whatever reason, the Silver Scorpion comic that came out years ago for Free Comic Book Day has the record for getting the most kids excited here for a comic that was part of Free Comic Book Day. That’s great right? Just one problem there never was any follow-up material. I spent money to give away a one shot with no follow-up material for some reason. Doesn’t make much business sense.

I treat Free Comic Book Day as a customer appreciation day. I have no problem giving back to our customers. That said what happen to FCBD’s aim of getting new people into comics? Out of all the time you have been collecting comics have you heard of anyone getting into comics thanks to Free Comic Book Day? Even online with all the people that post I have never seen one person post they got into comics thanks to Free Comic Book Day.

Have I experimented with doing things different for Free Comic Book Day? Yes, I remember as a comic reader/collector I went to the various stores and picked up the free comics. Usually, they would all be on a table right when you walk in. I walked in got them and left. Along a vast majority of people. Meaning I hardly was in the store. I didn’t really check out the store. I got the freebies and ran off to the next store.

So on Free Comic Book Day, I actually mix the Free Comics into the regular wall of comics. This is to get people to spend some time in the store and to at least notice there are other comics for sale. Yes, a few grumble saying but at the other stores it’s different. The old all comic stores must be the same mentality. We put Free Comics labels under them and the covers say Free Comic Book Day. One of us will stand at the door double checking to make sure people didn’t pick up comics that were meant to be sold as they leave. It also gives us a chance to talk to them more.

So if giving stuff away for free is such a good idea why don’t other businesses do it? Because it’s not that great of an idea. Your telling new customers that the comic or comics are free. That they have no value. But somehow by getting that free comic they are going to come in later and spend $2.99? $3.99? Or more to get into the hobby?

Wizards of the Coast for a few years had Magic the Gathering Appreciation Day. Basically their version of Free Comic Book Day.

A day once a year where people came in and got packs of Magic for free to play.

Then one year unannounced they simply stopped having it. It was like I was the only one who remembered it. I called Wizards of the Coast and was told by the person that they could neither confirm or deny that Appreciation Day will or will not happen that year. They let it quietly die.

I was surprised. Unlike Free Comic Book Day, the Magic packs were totally free to us to give away.

Did not having an annual free day of giving away product hurt their bottom line? It sure didn’t look that way. If my memory holds correctly each year Magic the Gathering keeps making more money. And even if I am wrong it was never brought back.

Rod Deals costs less to have and by itself brings people into buying comics they normal don’t buy. Even a simple sale gets more people to buy comics then a Free Comic Day does.

Now for everyone else, this may be different. I am not arrogant enough to say what I say is the same for everyone. Or that I am god’s gift to comic retailing. Different stores. Different regions. Different ways of doing things. Here in Central Iowa, we have multiple stores hosting Free Comic Book Day. Some comic stores might be the only one in their area or one of the few hosting Free Comic Day.

My criticism of Free Comic Book Day is that out all these years it hasn’t improved much, tried new things, or tried more. I don’t think Diamond would mind if the publishers involved tried new things and experimented. I could be wrong. Publishers just think your comic could be a breakaway success because you tried something new and it worked.

If your reading this and you’re interested check out the official site.

It will help you find a store for you for Free Comic Book Day.

The good news is even if you don’t pay to have your store on Diamond’s Comic comic shop locator and you are hosting Free Comic Book Day you will at least show up for Free Comic Book Day.

Don’t ask my why Diamond has comic stores pay for the comic shop finder service. Wizkids, the makers of Heroclixs, has the stores that carry their products on their website for free. Wizards of the Coast has stores that carries their products on their site for free. For some reason though Diamond wants to charge for the service. Not only that Diamond will charge every store $4 a week to get their shipment on Tuesdays. And hire secret shoppers to watch over stores that get their comics on Tuesdays even if you have been open years. If you have been open for years you should be able to easily figure out when a secret shopper comes in. They always ask for two comics a day early. And when you ask them something like oh are you enjoying the current storyline they are like a deer in headlights since they know zip about comics. The best is when they come in and your busy helping actual customers. Thanks, Diamond.

Back to Free Comic Book Day. It is a day when a lot of people come into the store. It has been around for years. It has the potential to be a great outreach to new customers. Though through out the years it has gotten old, taken for granted, and could use some guidelines to make it better. It short it could use a kick in the pants.

The Heroclix that are given out on Free Comic Book Day what is the point? They are more expensive than comics are for Free Comic Book Day are. What was the whole point of having a blacked out image of the Juggernaut? Any Heroclix play knew who that was. Also, how is a reused Juggernaut going to get new Heroclix players into the game?

As I stated, with the previous years Magic comic and the one shot, why is there comics for Free Comic Book Day that have follow-ups months later? Or not at all? It isn’t like Free Comic Book Day isn’t the first Saturday of every May each year. Setting up a publishing schedule around FCBD should be pretty easy.

DC, for this year, is doing a reprint of Wonder Woman. Sigh. Way to kill excitement. Nothing like telling customers old, and maybe new ones, it’s a reprint. Yes, I will try to use it to get people into her current series and she does have a movie this year. It is better than last year’s Suicide Squad reprint that was from a comic from years ago.

DC Superhero Girls is having a Summer Olympus Review book. The description for the book “This special FCBD issue features an exciting, action-packed story from the upcoming original graphic novel DC Super Hero Girls: Summer Olympus that readers of all ages will enjoy.” So it’s publishing pages that will be in a upcoming book in June? Another one and done book? Last years DC Superhero Girls free comic was a hit. I even had parents asking why there weren’t more DC Superhero Girls reading material in store afterwards during 2016. Because DC can publish two Scooby-Doo titles and Teen Titans Go monthly but, for some reason, they will not have a monthly DC Superhero Girls monthly book.

There are way too many books for Free Comic Book Day 2017 for me to go over. It looks like I am picking on DC this time. I only want to show as a retailer what my thoughts are.

For me, the best use of Free Comic Book Day is after the day is done taking the comics that are left up to the local movie theater and letting them give them away. It is what I have done in the past. It does far better to reach new potential customers since each weekend that Free Comic Book Day is on there is always a new comic related movie out and this year is the Guardians of the Galaxy 2 movie for that weekend.

Do I want Free Comic Book Day to go away? No, I simply want it to be better.

Follow retailers and comic fans feel free to comment and add your own 2 cents. I am but one store and as I have stated before everyone does things differently.

(Last Updated March 31, 2017 9:50 am )

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