In case you didn't know or forgot, tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day. Details can be found here. I'll be dropping by my local shops to see what's going on. I'll be honest, I'm hoping to grab two free books in particular (the Mouse Guard one and the Stuff of Legend one) and since I feel bad just grabbing the books for free I'll probably find a graphic novel or two to buy. I feel a little mixed on grabbing the free comics. I know it's mostly to get new readers in to the stores and buying these books but I really want to read those two in particular.
There are three participating stores that I can get to with some ease (one is very easy, the other two are a bit of a trek) and I'm generally disappointed with two of them when it comes to Free Comic Book Day. Perhaps I just see what some stores do online with people coming in to sign or draw sketches and I should just be happy these stores are taking part but on the other hand I just get disappointed that they aren't really putting much effort in to getting more people into their stores.
The first is very close by and in a mall. I don't really get along with the owner so perhaps I'm biased but in the past he has limited his orders to the gold books for the most part but does order quite a few. He puts the comics on the counter inside his store and sometimes puts up the small sign in his window amongst all the sports memorabilia put up there. He then grumbles that he has so many left over. He's in a freakin' mall in a pretty high traffic area. Put the comics out front or at least the advertising of it in a prominent area where kids and parents can't miss it. He also has a lot of space out front of his store (in the mall) where he could be doing so much. People in costumes or something to advertise it. But comics don't seem to be a concern for him, they're his steady income but most of his store is sports memorabilia now.
The second is the store I normally shop at. It's out of my way but at least it's a comic store, as opposed to the first. They don't do very much either. Though maybe that's not fair. They'll have more prominent posters in their windows, they'll order more variety than the first store, and they'll usually put some of their toys and graphic novels on sale. But it doesn't really feel like an overly friendly or exciting place to go to. I find they rely on their core customers.
The third goes the extra mile. To start, I've been hearing advertisements on the radio for their two locations. They'll have people in costume like the Star Wars guys, maybe a couple other models in Supergirl/Wonder Woman costumes, and their staff usually dress up. And they have plenty of staff on hand which is nice. Their store is actually more open with space for these people to hang out and get pictures with the kids. The odd time they've had people (comic writers or B-movie directors) come in. I've also seen sales on their stuff for the day. It's open, it's friendly, and there's some excitement about shopping there. The only thing I might suggest is having some local comic artists (even if they aren't professional) doing free sketches for the kids or something.
I'll probably drop by all three shops, just to see what's going on this year. But I think the third store will win out again in my opinion even if it does cost them a bit in the short term (giving out more free comics than the others, though perhaps their increase in sales for that day compensates for it, I don't know). I hope more store owners go this route, actually putting the effort out there to attract customers by making comic buying a positive experience.