I met a veteran at the Scrapyard Release Party.
I should point out that there were probably several vets there, but this young man introduced himself as such, and pointed out that he got hooked on the comic while on tour in Iraq.
He asked me, in a quite goodnatured way, with no guile whatsoever, if my practice of sending free books to APO addresses was a marketing thing.
That was a tough question to answer, but today, Memorial Day, is a good day to write about it. See, no matter how charitable that act, the fact that it is good for my business will always call my motives into question. Whether or not I meant it to be good marketing, it IS good marketing, and that casts a long, long shadow.
The practice is a simple one. If an order comes in that is to be shipped to an APO address, Sandra and I put extra books in the box. We include cardstock bookmarks explaining ourselves. They read something like this:
Hey, look at that. A free book!
It’s yours because I respect what you’re doing to help me live in a free country. “Free Country” may not always mean “Free Book,” but for you and your buddies, today, it does.
I know that you’re part of the finest military the world has ever seen, and that you are a force for good. I know that you stand in harm’s way so that me and mine don’t have to. My prayers and the prayers of millions of others around the world are with you every day. We are thankful for your service, and humbled by the work you do.
Enjoy the book, and pass it around your unit. I fully expect it to be dog-eared, heat-warped, and hammered inside of two weeks. “Mint condition” is a waste of perfectly good reading material.
You can find more Schlock Mercenary online and it’ll always be there, so don’t worry if you don’t have internet access right now. Just be sure to come home safely. We miss you.
I asked this young man, this honorable veteran, whether he’d gotten the bookmark. He had, but he seemed to want to hear those words with his own ears. I couldn’t remember exactly what I’d written on the bookmarks, but I told him that the free books are something I do because they’re something I CAN do. They’re a gesture of gratitude, albeit a small one. I understand there is an epic level of boredom out there, with an underlying tension that is equally epic. If a good book and a good laugh dispels that just a bit, maybe for an hour or two, I feel like perhaps I’ve helped.
He told me that the extra books ended up on a bookshelf there in his camp, and were getting passed around pretty regularly. I was very, very happy to hear that.
He bought more books at the party, and I thanked him. But he and I both knew that I wasn’t thanking him for buying books.