One of Newsarama's regular columns is Mike San Giacomo's Journey Into Comics. Not one of my favorite columns, but this week Mike's topic was Free Comic Book Day. FCBD is interesting, it's intent is fabulous, the execution however, is a bit tricky. Although it's designed as an event to draw in new readers, or new customers, FCBD is often referred to as "customer appreciation day". As the event draws existing customers to shops to get free books. Which, is not the events intent. Sure, the books are there if the customers want them, but it's problematic.
The forum posts in response to FCBD kind of speak to the polarization that occurs, where you have those in favor of making the event an internal thing, as opposed to focusing on the broader purpose, drawing in new customers.
Here are my comments taken from the FCBD thread on Newsarama, that sum up my take:
If retailers, customers, and even publishers treat FCBD as an internal promotion, is anyone surprised the event isnt growing by leaps and bounds?
Im not saying small press publishers, or retailers shouldnt do this, but to not even acknowledge that it is not the events intent?
The event is designed to bring in new readers, point blank.
Thats what its supposed to be about.
Sure, it can be other things, but it should always be first and foremost an event to bring in new readers, new customers. When it becomes about being something else, then its failed, at least in the spirit from which it was created.
It just feels like this is the case, and the event is being adapted more and more to cater to respective business needs, as opposed to the overall need of the industry for new customers. As long as the ultimate goal of bringing in new customers isnt taking a back seat to improved sales from the existing market, things are fine, and its up to the FCBD committee, or non-partisan folks to determine that. Certainly no one can fault businesses for using the event as they see fit, that's up to the FCBD folks to drive.
I'm not trying to be all doom and gloom here, if the event takes on a life of its own (or perhaps already has), and still brings success to the industry, than thats fine, as long as we try.
As I said, the event is tricky in many regards. Something I barely touched on above is the Publishers participation. I certainly can't fault small press publishers for trying to use the event to get attention from the existing market, but I do question the bigger publishers offerings. You see Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse generally cater their offerings to children. In itself, that's hard to fault. However, if you really look at it, that's a problem too. A big one. Because the market is not about kids, it hasn't been for years, almost decades, and if you continue to cater all of your outreach product to kids, you're just reinforcing false perceptions of the industry, and the medium, and doing more harm than good. I think. That's not to say there isn't kids material, or shouldn't be, but it's by far in the minority. Something that's too often neglected within the bigger comics promotions.