A post on Jason Richards’ RIOT shop blog asked about the “ultimate comic book shop” where space and money is no object. My response, which turned out a little more generally-applicable:
ultimate comic shop:
-many comfortable chairs, some with tables
-bar bar (for after hours :D)
-come to think of it, i really like the idea of barstool seating with a counter… just imagine a line of people sitting there reading comics…
-people are welcome to stay as long as they like
-visually awesome (LOTS of art on the walls… but really classy stuff… if possible get Chris Ware to turn one wall into a giant comic strip)
–barcode point-of-sale technology
-a high-quality web site
-don’t carry any comic unless there is at least one store employee who absolutely loves it
-knowledgeable, smart, and charming staff
-staff are pro-active in recommending books to people who would like them
-shelving by theme
-hold events like comic-making workshops, and the crazy promotions that the Isotope runs
-have a “bring a friend day.” If a regular customer brings in a friend who’s never been in your store before, they both get 10% off. or a free comic, or whatever.
-carry every title on the Comics Journal top 100, and label them as such
-label Harvey/Eisner/Ignatz winners and nominees
-label staff favorites, with a little hand-written paragraph from the staff member, a la independent bookstores & video stores
-hang up posters around the store; little reading guides like “a guide to Grant Morrison” or “the best Batman stories” or “black-and-white hipster autobiography comics”, and list a dozen items with a little pitch for each one. be sure to stock everything on the list.
-either commit to a broad and full coverage of the comics field, throughout the 20th century and across the world, or else narrow your focus to one thing and do it REALLY well
-be a hip and attractive destination every day of the week, not just Wednesday. be a cool place to bring somebody on a date. be a logical response to the question “let’s go hang out somewhere… but where?”
-have equal numbers of male and female customers
-encourage customers to come to special events to meet each other and build community. comics is too solitary a habit sometimes.
-host reading groups kind of like Oprah’s book club. get people coming in on a regular basis to talk about their favorite comic. Female readers especially, in my experience, tend to form REALLY strong attachments to books, and they LOVE to talk about them with other people. Do one volume of SANDMAN or PREACHER or TRANSMET or FABLES a month.
-understand that goodwill, positive associations, and loyalty are worth their weight in gold. Letting somebody read four books for free, find one that they absolutely love, and come back every month to get it, is better than letting them read no books for free and never come back because nothing sparked their interest.
–sell books to your local library. like a ton of them.
-sell books to local college students. another ton. Get permission from the school to visit the campus and market comics. set up a table with several sample books (proven college-kid favorites) and get people interested. Get some contacts on campus. talk to the school anime/manga club. get word of mouth going.
-have your primary goal be providing a service to the community, not making big bucks. If your community is not better because of you, you’re doing something wrong.
My brother’s additions, with which I mostly agree:
Sell subscriptions to the store “archive,” which is everything that’s not for sale, including 1 of every major graphic novel ever published in English (including a bunch of foreign stuff). Let subscribers come in and read whatever they want in the archive, but it’s not a lending library, so they can’t take stuff home. Sell “day/week passes” as well as monthly subscriptions, in case someone just walks in and is dying to read as much Promethea or old Prince Valiant as they can possibly consume in a single sitting. Or if they’re trying to do research. Encourage people to value the experience of reading comics more than the value of owning them.Get knowledgable folks to give lectures on comics in your store and invite local students and professors to attend. Provide free food and drinks.
Aside from the cool bar-stool idea, have an area where people can just sit or lay around on the floor or on an unending sea of couches, relaxing with comics or in a pile of their friends. Have a place where you can have Story Time and read books aloud to a gathered audience.