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A thought about “Free” Comic Book Day

Brian Hibbs

The first Saturday in May is coming soon, and with it Free Comic Book Day.

I Love Free Comic Book Day. Adore it.  It’s the happiest day of the year, as far as I am concerned. But one thing it very much isn’t is “free” for the retailer.

I count fifty-seven FCBD comics for 2014. If your retailer were to let you have one copy of each release, her cost would be $16.83. That doesn’t count the shipping, either. Figure about another $2.85 to get those comics into the store. The total, then? $19.68.

It’s just something to bear in mind when you rush down to FCBD — Just three comics for you can be over a dollar (depending on which books you pick) for your retailer.  And while most of us are happy to do the outreach (I am!), you should take a little pity on your local store when you make your selections, and don’t take things just because they are “free”, but because you actually want them!




13 Responses to “ A thought about “Free” Comic Book Day ”

  1. I love taking my 7 year old daughter to FCBD and She always finds a few extras to put on the pile.Add to that the great sales that Things From Another World does out here and Oregon and I hope they are making a little extra off this event.

  2. […] Brian Hibbs points out the same thing I was reminding people about seven years ago now — retailers have to pay for their Free Comic Book Day comics. […]

  3. I’m probably the only person in the world, but I HATE Free Comic Book Day. The vast majority of the output (especially from the Big Two) is garbage, not worth the $0 price tag. This already offends me on principle, since hey common fucking sense, if this is supposed to work as an in for non-comic-fans, then how about showcasing some material that illustrates the value of the medium, instead of offering the same mindless, advert-filled pap year after year?

    But okay, so just ignore it, right? Nope, impossible. Every year my Uncle (God bless him) snags himself and (despite my repeated urgings) me a haul of 20+ comics neither of us has any interest in reading. He and his buddies brag about the “free” comics they spent 3 hours waiting in line to acquire, affirming to all that their time is actually worth nothing.

    FCBD, ugh, 102 days to go according to their website, and I’m dreading it already. Free Copies, Bad Drivel.

  4. As a small publisher, FCBD is a tremendous opportunity to get our books into the hands of a lot of retailers who might otherwise skip the back of the PREVIEWS catalog where are regular issues are found.

    I recognize that it is largely the retailers who make this event the success it is, and want to respect that. To that end, ComixTribe is offering:

    EPIC #0: Pilot – In addition to being a extra-sized 32-pages of story, on the last page, we’ve included a little note reminding readers to thank their retailers (with money.) See here: http://www.comixtribe.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Capture_EPIC_0_Thanks.jpg

    SCAM #0: CROSSWORDS – We’ve put a crosswords puzzle on the back cover, and will give out FREE graphic novels to a number of people who successfully solve the puzzle…AND give copies to the retailer who gave them the book.

    We’re trying to do our part to help make the event a successful and profitable one for everyone…including the retailers.

  5. I’m pretty shocked that retailers have to pay for the “free” comics as most of them are just promotional material for things publishers want to sell you rather than actual, full comics.

    As a consumer and parent, Free Comic book day also confuses me ; because there are so many teaser comics for kids comics, and all the rest of the year I struggle to find anything my small child can read when we go to comic shop. I think my daughter has grown to see the comic book store as a place of disappointment! And the Free Comics are a part of that holding out the false sense that there are lots of comics for kids!

  6. I don’t know about other shops but my comic book guy always has sales in connection with FCBD and I always pick up a few things. I get some good reads, like a Dark Horse Terminator Omnibus or that first Zorro trade from Dynamite, and he gets a little back on his sunk costs.


  7. @Sleepy Reader:

    “all the rest of the year I struggle to find anything my small child can read when we go to comic shop.”

    Your shop is doing something wrong. Every week there are between 4 and 8 periodical comics aimed at kids. There are actually too MANY in my opinion….


  8. @Brian Hibbs
    Too many kids comics….or not the right ones, I wonder. Last years FCBD offerings included Strawberry ShortCake, Tinkerbelle and Molly Danger–just to name the ones that come to mind immediately–none of which ever turned up at my comic shop again..I’m not even sure if those really are comics one can buy anywhere…

  9. @Cass “Such terrible food! And such small portions!”

    @Sleepy Reader There is a line of Disney Fairies graphic novels at $7.99 each that your LCS should be able to get, along with the Strawberry Shortcake issues and digests. Molly Danger is a HC graphic novel, also available to order.

    If your LCS does not have a dedicated kids section, ask them to! Your request may be the tipping point for the store to add one. If they brush you off, it may be time to check out other LCS in your area.

    While my kids section hasn’t historically driven a lot of sales, they are growing slowly and steadily. A lot of our regulars are glad to have a place where their kids can browse while THEY browse other sections of the store.

  10. “I count fifty-seven FCBD comics for 2014. If your retailer were to let you have one copy of each release, her cost would be $16.83.”

    But who on earth would actually do that? Are there people who go into comic shops expecting to get 57 free comics? I get that this program costs retailers money. That’s an important point to note. But your example isn’t a very good one, because it’s as far away from the normal “one free comic per customer” model as you can possibly get. Evidently many retailers are evidently fine paying with $17 to get 57 customers in the door.

    I also can’t let your use of the feminine pronoun here slip by without rolling my eyes. Oh to live in a world in which the average hypothetical comic shop owner were female. I guess the thinking is that if we just construct our grammar to pretend that this is really happening, then it will tear down the walls of oppression. Is “his/her” deemed sexist now because it has some trace of masculinity left in it?

  11. “But your example isn’t a very good one, because it’s as far away from the normal “one free comic per customer” model as you can possibly get.”

    I don’t think that “one free” is the average model any more than “57 free” is.

    But, I absolutely know of stores that offer to give “sets” to their best customers, I know stores that carry EVERY release, and I know stores (MINE!) who pretty much let anyone take anything they like — though I don’t carry all 57, normally, no.

    I was struck by the number of FCBD comics this year, and I was curious to see what full sets will cost me for a (I think) pretty awesome promotion I am considering this year. I thought I would share. Sorry if that made you feel all snarky!

    “Oh to live in a world in which the average hypothetical comic shop owner were female.”

    At the Image Expo retailer meeting, it appeared to me that at least a third of the retailers-only portion of the audience were female. But go ahead and roll your eyes all you like!


  12. Hey Brian as a comic store worker in SF in the old days… I worked C&C Irving… I would so support the day with a personal contribution for FCBD…. I have a local shop not I try to support as much as I can… I’ll be by in the middle of the next week on my way to take a short vacation… I think FCBD is awesome….
    A three dollar contribution would be ok to me to get access to the day but hey that’s me….


  13. It’s the 20% off the (good) Sydney stores do that brings me in on FCBD rather than the books themselves. It’s better than a normal sale because it’s on a set date, so can be planned and saved for. I tend to use it to try new stuff out, especially if it’s a nice edition and price had been a barrier.

    2-4 books is the standard hand out at the shops, and some have additional give always to those who come early, or dress up in costume. One had such a line last year the cafe next door set up an outside barista.

    I’ve not talked to retailers in Sydney about FCBD, except staff telling me they love and dread it at once, but know one in Brisbane who told me he uses the Free Comics as a loss leader to a very profitable day (He takes out radio ads and has face painters and such as well, to drive customers in).

    @Cass – The trick is not to go for the big two output! I only see their free books because one of the stores gives them to everyone, and you’re right, they’re terrible. Almost pointless as the only people who can understand or care about the toss in them would have paid for it anyway.
    But Oni, Image, Archaia and several other publishers do complete new comics, Fantagraphics, IDW and others do decent samples of their reprint books – a complete Judge Dredd storyline for example – and I usually grab kids books for the niece/nephew, which tend to go down well.

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