I had planned for things to start around 11, half expecting, half dreading a crowd to be waiting outside of our doors, but that was not the case. Besides a handful of regulars, there weren’t many people waiting anxiously to get inside. As I looked at the sparse crowd, I began to wonder if I had made a mistake. After all, wasn’t there supposed to be people? Didn’t… didn’t my friends say they were coming? I put on a brave face and smiled as people paged through product, none going so far as to stake a claim and put a book in their hand for longer than a cursory glance. I was sure this whole thing would be a failure.
Ten minutes later, all hell broke loose.
Partyin’, Partyin’ (Yeah)
01. SEVEN A.M., WAKING UP IN THE MORNING
When DC started hinting at the possibilities of a midnight opening to launch their new universe, I got excited. I had never done a midnight opening before – or at least not a proper one. To be fair, about a year ago, the store opened at midnight to sell the last volume of Scott Pilgrim to a fairly sparse crowd, but that doesn’t really count. For whatever reason, there had been a mis-communication between the store owner and myself, and I didn’t know about the party we were throwing until, oohhhhh, let’s say 12 hours before the release. Oni Press had put it up on the internet, and suddenly, I was getting calls.
Anyway, that all worked out fine. I managed to put on something resembling a good time after hastily buying some Ring Pops and the obtaining several small ponies to guard the book. (Their names were Apples, Steve, Margaret Thatcher, a Sparkles Gluestick – items from James’ personal collection.) I gave everyone in store a discount, to goose extra sales a bit, and the whole thing went quite well. But I knew if I ever got the opportunity to do a midnight release right, I would rock the friggen house with it.
And so it was.
02. TICKIN’ ON AND ON, EVERYBODY’S RUSHING
Of course, having the idea to do something is the easy part. Actually putting it all together is another thing entirely. The first hurdle was clearly the whole “permission” thing. Would DC actually pull through and let retailers sell copies at midnight? It didn’t take long before they gave the green light and I was off and running.
The first thing I wanted to do was simple. Or simple-ish. I wanted to use the night, and the increased traffic to raise money for breast cancer research. We had done something similar with Free Comic Book Day, allowing anyone to take pretty much whatever they wanted, so long as they gave a donation to breast cancer research. The difference with this event, was the fact that the product would have to come from elsewhere. Also, I’d have to figure out a way to make sure people were getting things that they would want in exchange for their moneys.
In short order, I started going through my things. I’m not quite sure I’ve shown everyone pictures of all of my stuff, but I’ve got a lot. Too much. Which made it easy for me to go through and pick out some items that I really didn’t need. I grabbed a bunch of back issues that I had since gotten collections for, grabbed a whole bunch of collections that I would either never read again, or had since bought even bigger collections for, and grabbed a few hardbacks. I brought all those into work and used them as cheap product to sell for breast cancer research. I also managed to scrounge up a few prizes too for a nice little raffle. With all of that ready, it was time to create a spectacle. There would only be one problem: I had no budget.
03. KICKIN’ IN THE FRONT SEAT, SITTIN’ IN THE BACK SEAT
The comic shop business isn’t one that responds all that well to traditional forms of advertising. Or at least, that is what I suspect. You don’t see a lot of people advertising their comic shop on the radio or in newspaper ads a whole lot, and I have to believe the reason for that isn’t just apathy. I know that before I arrived at the store, the owner had tried advertising but had seen little to no response from it. Part of this involved a coupon for cheaper stuff, and as the story goes, only one of those made it back to the shop. So details of this night were to go out primarily through word of mouth. The trick, obviously, was to get the word out there.
The first step, of course, was letting customers know. This was easy, as they generally stop in the store about once a week. We also dropped the information on our website, and pushed the festivities on our newsletter and Facebook. But in those places, you’re just preaching to the converted – which can still get you a crowd, just not a very big one. And so, to help spread the word, I printed up a whole bunch of fliers and had them at the ready when needed. I also hit the twitter pretty hard, using my account and the store’s account to promote the event using the #yeg hashtag, denoting our city. Honestly, it was this that really did the trick. More than anything else, being persistent (and not spammy) and pushing the news out into the proper twitter community really brought everything together. And the proof of that came shortly after we opened the doors for our party.
04. PARTYIN’, PARTYIN’ (YEAH)
After a light trickle to start, things swiftly got to a rousing start in short order. The store was filled with people. The local news showed up and even members of the competition dropped in to see what all was happening, both of which were shocking and interesting and baffling for various reasons. People started buying TONS of tickets for the draws, which featured such amazing items like signed product from Jim Lee, Geoff Johns, Gail Simone, Ethan Van Sciver, Matt Fraction, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Travis Cherst and just heaps more. The owner manned the till and did his best to keep up with people trying to make purchases. In the end, we ended up raising a total of $1010 for breast cancer research (which the store matched, for a total of $2020) and got a few people super excited about comics, which, as always, is the goal.
05. FUN, FUN, FUN, FUN, LOOKING FORWARD TO THE WEEKEND
The day after (a Wednesday) was a blur. Both myself and the store owner were drop dead tired from the night before (we may have underestimated the whole “customers-to-workers” ratio), but man, was it worth it.
Oh, and the best part? Was telling people who decided not to show up how busy the store was. In almost every instance, when they would ask how the night went, they would respond with a somewhat shocked “really?” – which was both hilarious and frustrating. Because truth be told, I had no idea what to expect. As far as I suspected, the night was going to end with me crying in a corner after nobody showed up to the party. But dammit I know the next time I throw an event like this? More people are going to be there – if not because the first one went so well, then because they missed out on something rad, and won’t want to skip out on the next one. And there’s gonna be a next one. But… after I take a few months to sleep.