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Thursday, March 24, 2005

Seven Ideas for FCBD -- Comic Book Galaxy's Marc Sobel weighs in now with some thought-provoking ways for retailers to better utilize Free Comic Book Day to their advantage:

Free Comic Book Day is a little over 6 weeks from today (Saturday, May 7, 2005) and with the fourth annual event starting to seem a little familiar, here’s a list of seven recommendations for retailers to make the most out of this otherwise dreaded event:

Get out of the comic book store – this may seem counterintuitive, since the idea is to drive traffic (i.e. – customers) into the store, but the customers who are there already know about your store, and ones who don’t aren’t going to just wander in off the street. Take the comics to the people. Give them away on the street. Set up a booth in the local shopping mall. Or the library. If you want to reach new customers, you have to go to them, not expect them to come to you.

Give comics to as many kids as possible – the offerings from Marvel, DC, Disney, Archie and at least a few other independent publishers are usually geared toward attracting new children to the hobby. Why waste these on 20-30 year old men?

Don’t give in to fans’ sense of entitlement – many collectors will come in, expecting a stack of every publisher’s comic. I’ve seen it; they’ll be lined up before the store even opens. It doesn’t make them bad people, I’ve been there too, but we should all remember the purpose of FCBD in the first place, which was to reach a wider audience, and demonstrate the diversity of the comic book industry. If you warn people ahead of time that this is your store’s policy, you’ll avoid a lot of grief on the actual day.

Advertise creatively – the idea here is not to take an ad out on a comic book website, but to think about your local newspapers, bulletin boards, grocery stores, libraries, YMCA’s, shopping malls, elementary schools, day cares, etc. Any vehicle that is relatively cheap, or even free, and allows you to reach the non-collectors will do. And since these are comics, use pictures as much as possible. It makes a big difference. The idea is to get the word out, starting now, so people can plan ahead. Trust that if there’s free stuff, people will show up, no matter what it is. And that’s the point.

Use the “complements of” stamp – there’s a reason each comic is printed with a large white box on the cover. It’s a place to put your store’s name, address and phone number, but surprisingly few retailers take advantage of this. This is free marketing at its best and to ignore it is a waste of free advertising. People should know where the comic came from, and where to get more, especially if you follow recommendation #1. You may not hear from them for months, but come Christmas time, you’ll be glad you added that stamp.

Don’t give the entire stock away in 1 day – yes, it’s called free comic book DAY, but that doesn’t mean you have to liquidate. The idea is not to give each customer a stack of 40 free comics. Believe me, if you do, each person will actually read maybe 5-10, flip through the rest, and either file the rest away in some box, sell them on E-Bay (a despicable way to profit off free books) or just toss them out. Why not instead keep giving 1-2 comics away for a month, taking opportunities to introduce existing customers to new titles, rather than deluge them, and targeting those few new customers (and they’re usually not hard to spot, i.e., mothers looking for gifts for their children, etc.) instead.

Have additional issues available for purchase – for example, if Dark Horse decides to give away Conan #1 on Free Comic Book Day, make sure people know they can get issues 2-6 so they can enjoy the entire story. It’s common sense, but in the rush of collectors, it’s often forgotten. Make these other issues as visible as possible, even shelving them together with the free books, and make sure people know its part of a larger story.

I hope this helps. We all want to increase the sales of comics. It’s good business for the retailers, good exposure for the publishers, and ultimately, more collectors equals more diverse titles which is good for the fans, too.

-- Marc Sobel


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