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Free Comic Book Day…costs a lot

FCBDFree Comic Book Day. I’m not sure if it’s a success or not. If we measure success by “We spent lots of money and didn’t get see any obvious returns, but people got free stuff”, then it was an overwhelming success.

If we measure success by sales, it was about as unsuccessful as anything could be.

If we measure success by introducing our brand to new people…it was a minor success.

Frankly, Free Comic Book Day might be an idea who’s time has come and gone.

The one thing I noticed from the stats was the proliferation of “deals” sites. Everyone loves a good deal, but I really wish people would realize that All New Comics isn’t Wal Mart, there’s folks on the other end of the screen who actually watch the dollars disappear when they add twelve free comics to their cart (and then ignore the various warnings that are placed across the site saying that any order for more than ONE free comic will be canceled).

This was the standard boilerplate that I had to send out to more than two dozen people yesterday.

Hi there;

Free Comic Book Day at All New Comics is intended to give everyone who can’t get to a comic store a chance to get a free comic. As a result (and because shipping more than one comic for free is very expensive), we’ve limited our offer to one free comic per order.

Because you have placed an order for multiple free comics, we have canceled that order. This was the quickest way that we could make stock available to those who are interested in free comics.

Please re-visit www.allnewcomics and make a selection for one free comic and we’ll be happy to process your order.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

What I really wanted to send out was “Why are you trying to take advantage of a nice gesture? Are you really that selfish?”

The biggest referrals yesterday came from redflagdeals.com, canadianfreestuff.com, forum.smartcanucks.ca, and pricenetwork.ca. In most cases I kind of doubt we’ll ever see the people who came from these sites ever again.

See to me Free Comic Book Day is a transaction. I give you something (a free comic), and you give me something…like maybe a purchase, either now, or in the future. If you’re not interested in ever buying a comic, why take one for free?

When we give stuff away to a hospital or a charity, I feel good about it.  When we give stuff away to regular people I just feel used.

Every free comic book costs me on average 20-40 cents. If I order 200 “free” comics, it costs me about $60.00.

Every free comic costs me about $1.00 to ship. It also costs another 5 or so cents for an envelope and the various labels etc. So we’re looking at around 1.35 per free comic. Multiply that by 200, and that’s about $270.00.

So to break even on Free Comic Book Day, we need to sell about $600.00 in “non-free” comics, either on the day of, or over time. If we do, it’s a success. If we don’t, then it’s not.

Time will tell if that $270 was well invested, or if I should have just put that $300.00 into a big ad on a site like Comic Book Resources.

By Brian Garside

Brian is a digital experience expert, and part time internet superhero. He focuses on digital first design, digital strategies, content management, website usability, and user experience. He was part of the team behind BalanceDo, the co-founder of All New Comics, and the chief strategist at NorthIQ.

14 replies on “Free Comic Book Day…costs a lot”

I have always wondered if FCBD ever did anything except bring out the cheapskates… Because the people that are your customers, will seek you out and patron you because they’re looking for something – not cause they got something free from y’all. Right?

The idea of it was to bring in new people, but I find that much like the problem with all of comics in general, they advertise it to (wait for it) comic people. Sure you get the odd new person in, but mostly it’s comic people who go to Free Comic Book Day.

Today we were at a party in Hamilton, and I brought in a dozen free comics. Giving those out was a way bigger thrill for me than the 200 we gave away yesterday. Seeing kids who just got a comic sit down and read it was pretty cool, and it’s one of the main reasons why I always give out comics at Halloween.

The first couple of FCBD were successful, but as you said, the idea has come and gone (at least, to new people). I do agree, all of the advertisement has been directed towards comic people. In a way, it is tough for Diamond/FCBD to advertise to the general public, which is why I think they are leaving it up to the retailers to do the advertisement for it.

My guess, Diamond’s mentality is that “retailers are buying these books, to give out free… let them figure out a way to make their money back.” Which is why we see stores hold sales, signings, etc. But even that is mainly for regular customers, or comic people.

I guess is varies from store-to-store, and brick & mortar-to-online. For example, Silver Snail was pretty busy when I was there, and there was always a big line to the cash register. They also had people outside of the store, to promote all the happenings at the store. Of course, a Queen St. location helps quite a bit, because you’ll get all sorts of people walking by throughout the day.

You guys getting a referral on redflagdeals (and the other sites), you’re guaranteed to get a whole lot of freeloaders. My assumption is that it’s harder for an online retailer to participate in FCBD, and based on your blog post, not really worth the investment.

Giving comics to kids definitely has positive feeling inside. It’s the only reason why I pick up the kids books on FCBD, to give to my little siblings. Who knows, giving those comics to kids could be a future investment, when they start getting allowance. 🙂

Only time will tell.

Well I totally agree with you Brian. Maybe for an online store the FCBD is not the best. Most of the comics store take the occasion of the FCBD to make specials prices and run some events. Many peoples gathers there and talk and exchange about comics. Most of this is hard to do with an online store. I can say that I am a very good client of ANC and I was only able to select 3 FCB out of 5 since the others were already none available. I don’t have a comic book store in my city and before I discover ANC, I were ordering my comics in Québec city. I doscover ANC via the News@rama website. So yes maybe next time it would be better for you to advertise on a big comics site, but then I wouldn’t get, if only one, my free webcomic book 😉 Thanks Brian for trying hard to have the FCBD for ANC.

You know, John is speaking from experience about the cheapies (no, I’m not referring to him…or am I?). With the roller hockey league, if it was free, people would take five. If we charged even fifty cents, no one would bother.

And Brian — that site you linked — wearecheap.com or whatever the hell it is — they’ve taken cheap to a whole new level. That’s pathetic.

Ditch comic book day. Your idea of almost-free-day is way better.

I was reading the Toronto Star this morning, and one place actually gave away one free comic and charged twenty five cents for each additional one with all the money going to charity.

I wonder if I should do that next year? Charge .50 per comic (because the minimum charge by the processors is .25), and donate the entire proceed to Sick Kids hospital?

Brian: why?

I think you’ve answered your own question. Free Comic Book Day has lived past its usefulness. It doesn’t gain you new business…

Though donations MIGHT get you a little bit of free publicity. But not much.

Good point by you Ryan, the thing that’s bugged me this year is that I feel I’ve done damage to the brand of All New Comics by offering Free Comic Book Day.

We got nothing positive out of it, and it cost Pete and I $300.00 in real cash, which will not gain us the $600.00 in new business needed to break even.

When we looked at the orders from folks who participated in “Almost Free Comic Book Day”, we found that they were ALL customers who have at least one other paid order with us.

I could have achieved the same results by sending out an email about Almost Free Comic Book Day. Total cost: $0.00

Oh, I forgot to add an email that I got this week too.

“Hi, Just checking up on the following FCBD orders, to see if they were shipped out. 2 of them are for my daughters. ANC-5341 ANC-5337 ANC-5335 Thank you and have a nice day!”

Sent on Tuesday, 2 days after Free Comic Book Day ended, at that point I was working on packing up all the comics in my spare time and hadn’t changed the status on anything…I didn’t see that this guy was getting 3 free comics out of me until he alerted me to it via email.

LOL! Poor guy! I think that peoples REALLY think that the FCBD are FREE not only to them but from those that give it to them.

I’m sure this guy only have good intention and are not doing this to make any trouble. He is simply not aware of what this supposely FREE event might cost to the owners of comic book store.

Brian,

I am one of your regular online subscribers. I got my notice for your free comic but didn’t take advantage of it for a reason. I really believe that the free comics is a tool to get people into your store and hopefully buy something while they’re in there. As much as I appreciated the chance to get a free book through your online store, I find it counter-productive to you as the dealer. I suggest that next year, if you decide to participate in FCBD again, you should limit it to in-store only. And I actually think the 1 free book and .50 cent per after (with proceeds going to charity) is a great idea.

As a subscriber who LOVES & NEEDS All New Comics’, that’s my two cents. I want to see you guys thrive for years to come!

Davis Dewsbury

I agree with many of the posters that FCBD mostly brings out the freeloaders.

I was(and still am) more than willing to pay ANC up to a dollar an issue for any FCBD issues(some FCBD titles relate to continuity. ie. this years FCBD X-Men) that you send my buddy Dave and I along with the weekly shipments we get shipped to Belleville(provided you allow subscribers to select in advance what titles we want).

I totally agree that the the cost of FCBD outways the benefits to ANC.

Next year I suggest that you charge a dollar(cover the cost of the issue and bag/board,etc.) for each issue and only offer FCBD titles to current subscribers. You could even make each FCBD title available on your subscription list a couple months in advance of FCDB so that your subscribers can choose what issues they will pay for.

“There is no such thing as free”.

IMO, I think that ANC money would be better spent on advertising, as that is how my friend and I came to learn about you’re awesome service and subscribed with ANC.

In closing. Keep FCBD but make it a part of you’re subscription service as a perk to you’re subscribers(cover the costs of FCBD while you’re at it) and let the brick & morter shops welcome the freeloaders.

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