Every now and then, I would sneak into the walk-in freezer and take my head off.

It was Free Cone Day, a Ben & Jerry’s institution. I worked at a Ben & Jerry’s in Charlotte just out of high school, and one year I was elected to play the cow. Cone Days were hot days, and I melted in that suit worse than a glob of Wavy Gravy on the sidewalk (that’s a caramel cashew brazil nut ice cream with a chocolate hazelnut fudge swirl with roasted almonds, which I didn’t have to look up!)

Free Cone Day is only surpassed by Free Comic Book Day, the best day of the year for us geeks (a notch above April 4th). You line up and fill a bag with free comics from Marvel, DC, Image, and so on. Reprints of first issues get you hooked on a series you missed. And previews get you anxious for what’s new and next.

The best thing about both of these days for the shops is that they clue shoppers into where they are located. It’s a reminder that the shops exist for some and that we all love ice cream and comics for others. For those new in town or those just coming of comic-and-ice-cream age, it stamps these locations into our spatial memories with an endorphine aftersplash.

Why don’t publishers and bookstores do the same?

Publishers already give away mountains of books. Amber and I were getting around ten hardbacks a week back when I was a book reviewer. At the bookstore in Boone, we drowned in free copies of books. And at BEA, publishers give away tens of thousands of books, and that number is set to rise as BEA becomes more commercial and more about the readers next year.

Why don’t we spread the love and expand this idea? Let’s get people into bookstores once a year to remind communities that they have a bookstore and that they are awesome. I’d love to see this be an American Booksellers Association program. I would be tempted to leave the mega chains out altogether and just do this with the independent stores. If your community doesn’t have an indie shop, then do it through the local libraries, which could use a reminder too.

Readers could show up for FBD and grab two or three books apiece. Here’s a chance to launch new names and new careers. A debut author would be extremely fortunate to be selected by their publisher for FBD. It might even be part of their contract negotiations. Local authors could be on-hand to sign copies of their books. Maybe you have a tent and tables outside where authors can set up—indie and traditionally published alike. For those not selected as part of the publisher FBD, they can still bring their own copies, hand them out, and meet readers. It’s what me and a dozen other indies did at BEA this year. I gave away copies of SAND at my own expense, and I was happy to.

FBD could be an annual orgy of reading and celebration of literature. Time that puppy near the start of summer. Comic book shop owners will tell you that it isn’t just about free comics; they sell a ton these days as well. Placing a second Christmas in June would be great for everyone’s bottom lines, including readers. FBD would be a great way for publishers to give back to bookstores and libraries. And the thought of families lined up, kids running around squealing, books for all ages, gives me goosebumps. I could handle that once a year.

20 responses to “FBD”

  1. Considering how many books have their covers ripped off each year, surely publishers can support free book day…

    Great idea. Honestly, anything that promotes reading is a plus in my…err…book :)

  2. A hopeful prediction: bookstores will implement this asap- maybe they’ll start sending you pics of their FBD. Right around now when school is out would be perfect. They can talk with the nearby public and private schools to have the FBD give away a book on the kids summer reading list. Good stuff!

  3. All right! I’d love to be a part of it when my book is released!

  4. That’s a brilliant idea! As a reader, I would participate.

  5. I’d gear it even more so towards children and teens.

  6. Do you know about World Book Night? ( http://www.us.worldbooknight.org/ ) It takes place in late April and is very much in the spirit of this idea. People do use libraries and bookstores and distribution points for it, which is cool. The problem is that WBN is a non-profit organization trying to make this happen, and their resources are limited. Thus, they have a limited number of distribution points/people they can approve, and a limited number of books they can give each distributor. This makes it less fun. We asked them if they could increase the numbers for us so we could really rock it at our library, but they said, “no.” :-(

    You’re right that the publishers give books away anyway, and have the financial power to make it happen. But their motivation has been to get the ARCs into the hands of reviewers and book buyers, which is understandable based on their business model. I think they should actively ENCOURAGE all book reviewers, booksellers, and librarians to GIVE THE ARCS AWAY to customers/patrons once they’ve been read, thus increasing their promotional reach, being more green, and making many people irrationally happy to receive free books. A win all the way around.

  7. World Book Day? This is aimed at children, certainly in the UK – every school age child gets a voucher which can be taken to a bookshop and swapped for a free book (usually a special “world book day” edition of an established author’s series, with an aim of hooking you in to that series) or money off another book…is this less global than the name suggests??

  8. I know it started in the UK, and I don’t know what form it takes there. But here in the states, it’s definitely not geared towards children, though a handful of children’s titles are included. Here’s the list of titles that were distributed in April of this year:

    2014 Book List

    The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman
    Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
    Zora and Me by Victoria Bond & T.R. Simon
    Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
    The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
    The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
    After the Funeral by Agatha Christie
    The Ruins of Gorlan: The Ranger’s Apprentice, Book 1 by John Flanagan
    Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
    Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Large Print edition) by Jamie Ford
    The Lighthouse Road by Peter Geye
    The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
    Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin
    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
    The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
    Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
    Pontoon by Garrison Keillor
    Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim
    Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
    Miss Darcy Falls in Love by Sharon Lathan
    Bobcat and Other Stories by Rebecca Lee
    Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean
    Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
    Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan
    Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers
    Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
    The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan
    The Raven’s Warrior by Vincent Pratchett
    Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
    When I was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago
    Cuando Era Puertorriqueña by Esmeralda Santiago
    Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
    Where’d You Go, Bernadette (Large Print edition) by Maria Semple
    Wild by Cheryl Strayed
    Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow
    Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
    This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff
    100 Best-Loved Poems edited by Philip Smith

  9. I would LOVE to see this implemented. I know that FCBD has a huge impact on my local comic book store (and my wallet) every year. Giving readers a “second Christmas” to call their own would be fantastic.

    The question for you, Hugh, is would you be willing to dress up as Libby the Book (the mascot of FBD that I just made up)?

  10. Solas Nua, an Irish Arts group in DC, gives away 5,000 books on St. Patrick’s day at metro stations and on the street and an NYC Irish arts group did it this year. It’s a great way to celebrate Irish culture. NPR did a story on children’s book author, Mary Pope Osborne, who visited 1,800 schools and gave away her Magic Tree House books. Wonderful way to celebrate literature and give people a present.

    I have a librarian friend who came to a Halloween party as the book, Crime and Punishment. I can ask him if he still has the costume. :)

  11. I’m in! My first indie goal is to give away 100 copies. (Setting an achievable goal first of all.). I’m half way there. Harder than it sounds since I want to give them to people who actually dig speculative fiction and they aren’t exactly hanging out on street corners.

  12. I’d love to see that done here in Australia, and done in a way that the message it’s happening gets out well before the event. A problem I’m noticing here in Australia is that we seem to have more marketing after the event than before it. Mainly due to the news coverage of the event.

  13. SpringfieldMH Avatar

    “Every now and then, I would sneak into the walk-in freezer and take my head off.”

    Great opening line!

    1. I was just thinking the same thing. Hugh should host a short fiction contest to write the best piece with that opening line.

  14. Awesome idea. Hugh love your work, keep em coming.

  15. Love the way you think! This could be such a beautiful community thing to get people excited about reading! :-)

    Right now, guess we have to settle for Kindle giveaways. That’s still pretty cool, but it doesn’t reach people without dedicated readers, or reluctant readers, or little kids…

    Hm. This could be so great…

  16. If Felicia Day can start “International Table Top Day”, then why can’t you and you’re followers start Free Book Day? I think it’s a wonderful idea. I’d donate books for that!

    1. Hi, Crissy. How you doing?

      I’d one up that idea, as I’m presently on Wattpad, trying to find the real readers in the tall grass of people who abuse the system to promote their books.

      What we should have is a free reader day. Instead of yet again, one more ebook for me to add to my pile, all those who read please line up and pledge to read ONE indie you’ve never read before and give them feedback.


  17. Funny you should be talking about freebies. I was checking out Talenthouse by way of an ad for a collaborative campaign and came upon this group. Not to say SOME people aren’t collaborating but the impression I walked away with was this:

    Absolut Vodka, instead of using artists as ‘content’ for their alcohol, should just get a license to stand on the corner and hand out vodka.

    To me, this is what spoils it for artists seeking support. Hugh some of money are being ‘channeled’ (from business ‘investors’ and such) all in the many of ‘artist as charity’ when a lot of what I see on their youtube account are large name people. Hm. Not as simple as this, yes, but hey …

    Put your mouth where my mouth is

    I’m not here to promote ever more money for corporations.


    Heather, touching that elephant

  18. This is brilliant! Many comic stores offer 10-15% off of all their books during Free Comic Book Day. Half the people who go to get the free stuff, buy several new books at the same time. It’s a great way to debut books / authors / series and SELL.

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