How To: Free Comic Book Day At Your Library

Kristin cosplaying as Aquaman

Dear Internet,
It’s early spring which means C2E2! This is one of my favorite times of the year as I get to meet up with my CMMRB BFFs, I’m in Chicago, the weather is brilliant, and of course, comics.
This year Kristin was asked to do a panel on setting up a Free Comic Book Day event at the local library, along with reps from Comix Revolution and Diamond Distributors. I live tweeted the very informative session and it was requested I turn the tweets into a blog post for easier referencing.
The session was broken out into four parts. Due to some of the questions asked at the Q&A, I’m going to add a fifth step. To keep the flow, I’m going to bullet point and expand on my original tweets to provide additional/expand on information.
To get an idea of time frame, FCBD is the first Saturday in May every year. (Note: LCS = Local Comic Store, FCBD = Free Comic Book day)
Before you begin

  • Because of time involved, you should set up a workflow to begin the prep for FCBD months in advance. As with many libraries, you should think about costs when doing your annual budget to plan for staff, marketing costs, and other auxiliary costs so the funds are already budgeted when you need them
    • How to get additional funds to support? Donations, donations, donations! (prizes, sponsor, volunteer)
  • You should plan on contacting artists, local groups, vendors, do a call for volunteers, and other related at least six months ahead of time. This is one of the busiest times of the year for the comics industry — it’s like the Christmas season for comic retailers
  • You should also ask in advance for sponsorships, donations, and etc from local vendors and merchants. Take advantage of donations for prizes, business volunteer programs for staffing, and more
  • You should plan programming leading up to and day off at this time, including passive and active programming and think about those associated costs / staff / volunteers
  • Promotion: Make sure to work out hashtags, get sites up, FB pages and events up and running before FCBD to do seamless promos
    • Social media: Make sure someone is constantly updating twitter/tumblr/facebook etc AND interacting before /during event.

 Contact Diamond

  •  You should contact Diamond (via the Free Comic Book Day day website) no later than early January. Diamond will supply you, for free, comic books, marketing and promo materials, templates, and ideas to do press releases and a whole lot more.
    • Diamond chooses the comics and the amount sent, based on library size
    • If you would like to choose your comics or have additional comics, you can pay a nominal fee ($.25 – $.50  per comic) and order via your local comic book store. This also needs to be done before mid-January
    • About 15-20 comic titles are available, ranging from popular to new to one offs. Great way to expand taste and get into new works
  • Diamond sends out promo and marketing materials like buttons, stickers, etc to about 500 libraries each year

Contact Local Comic Store

  • You should reach out to your LCS before early January, even better before
  • Why partner with LCS: The relationship works to exchange new patrons for the library, new readers/customers for LCS
  • In partnering with LCS, libraries could/should set up tables at LCS to sign up new patrons during the LCS events
  • Cross-promotion: This includes different FCBD selections, advertising each others activities, and then having a punch card to get stamped for lottery to win prizes

Plan out FCBD programming

  • Designate time and spaces for events
  • Last year as FCBD landed on May 4th, Kristin’s library partnered with Great Lakes Garrison, 501st Legion; Princess Leia and Darth Vader were on hand to do photo ops, signings, and more
  • There were artist alleys and panels on variety of topics
  • Passive programming included board gaming, color sheets from DC/Marvel (download and print for free), trivia around the library to earn extra stamps on punch card
  • Costume contests! Encourage people to cosplay. Prizes were donations from local retailers
  • Library partnered with other local retailers for sponsorship, volunteers, and prizes
    • Marketing 101: If you partner with anyone, make sure to put their logo on all materials!
  • Library also made sure branches were involved, such as doing Superhero Cinema at various locations, and there was trivia events throughout the month to earn more prizes
  • In addition to FCBD day of events, the library does a month long themed displays and programming leading up to FCBD
  •  Encouraging kids (and adults!) to create their own superhero, turn it into a poster, and public will vote on best one
  • Hold classes during the lead up and on the day of FCBD on drawing / comic book making / writing

Get Volunteers

  • How many volunteers do you need? Break out jobs happening, this includes game masters, manger of speakers, photos, handing out comics, updating social media, and more
  • Where to get volunteers: Teen advisory board, local businesses with volunteer programs, partner orgs will often send staff, friends/family
    • Also local student organizations, local like societies/groups (board gaming groups, anime groups, etc)
  • Remember volunteers are also fans! Relieve them so they can have fun. Encourage them to cosplay. Get group pics to feel valued and part of the event

Here are some of the questions asked after the presentation:
What if you are a school and cannot be open on Saturday?

  • You are allowed to use the materials from previous years FCBD to hold events and such before the current years FCBD.
  • Diamond requests that you DO NOT give out that years books prior to the day of FCBD.
  • If you do not have access to previous years materials, contact LCS to get some. Many (most!) will be happy to help.
  • You can also partner with LCS to hold events before and after the day to cross-promote.
    • Use this to cross-market so students/fans can enjoy FCBD at school/institution and on the day of

How to determine how many comic books to give out per person?
Last year Kristin’s library allocated 1 per person while her LCS was unlimited per person. This year, the library will plan for 2-3 per person.  How to determine how many? Plan on FCBD to be bigger than most of your other events, so for the first year you may want to go with lower number and then use that to base future years.
Spanish language FCB?
Not yet, but coming. there are challenges in getting spanish language books
What to do with extras/left over promos and materials?
Keep them to use as teasers/prizes for next year, donate to other libraries, schools, etc
What if you are an academic library, what can you do?
If you are open on Saturday, you can plan the same events and programming as you would for any other event types. If you’re not open on Saturday or do not have the space to do it, here are some ways you can also celebrate/promote by:

  • Partner with your local public library AND LCS to do cross-marketing for their events
  • Create displays around the library to promote FCBD
  • Create Pinterest boards to showcase your graphic novel collection
    • Also utilize social media
  • Volunteer at LCS and/or public library for FCBD
  • Work with departments to use graphic novels in their instruction, promote their teachings / class list

In addition to the above, for the last year or so I’ve been working on a project called Graphicdemia. Graphicdemia is “a resource for collecting, promoting, and circulating graphic novels at non-research institutions, special libraries, archives, and community colleges.” On the website, I’ve organized and vetted my blog posts, presentations, recommended books, and websites that are applicable to the type of libraries I just mentioned.
You will also find previous presentations by Kristin and I on comics in the library.

  • Contact Kristin
  • Slides from the presentation
  • Kristin’s posts from FCBD 2013
  • My tweets via Storify
  • Free Comic Book Day
  • Diamond Comics
  • Comic Shop Locator
  • Graphicdemia