Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How Do You Reach Thelma?

How Do You Reach Thelma?

Some of you may know that this month is the five year anniversary of our website. Last year, we started doing free book events here in Milwaukee. We’ve reached hundreds of people that I’ve never would have known before doing these events. Now we have an active email and Facebook list of people who have attended our events and we keep them informed of any other book events around our area. With more and more Af-Am authors out here vying for attention of readers, how do you reach Thelma?
Who is Thelma you ask? Let me introduce you to her. Thelma represents the average African American woman reader. She started reading contemporary African American fiction when Terry McMillan made her debut with Waiting to Exhale in 1992. She was in her 20s or 30s at the time and could identify with the characters. As the years moved on, Thelma gravitated to a lot of other contemporary Af-Am fiction authors that came after Terry such as Eric Jerome Dickey, Bebe Moore Campbell, etc. Fast forward to 2010 and Thelma is now in her late 30s and 40s, or even early 50s. She’s a wife, mother, and gainfully employed. She barely keeps up with her email account and is not really a big internet savvy person. Thelma may or may not be a part of a book club, but she still loves to read when she can. Thelma has also expanded her reading options to include erotica, street lit, mysteries, and Christian fiction. Her first love is still contemporary fiction.
The Thelma that I’m talking about in this example is not a real person. But there are readers out here who may have one or more of these characteristics.  

So authors I ask you...Do you even consider them in the marketing and promotion of your book?  How do reach someone like this? What things have you done in this effort?


Author MQW said...

Radiah, this is a great post because I often ask myself that. I mean the reader has to connect with someone in the story. And thelma came up in a different era. I mean the readers are who have to be satisfied and to a certain extent you have to try your best to do that. You have to find a middle ground of pleasing Thelma and staying true to you.

BlackSidePress said...

I am the author of a wonderful book Billion Dollar Winner. I made plugger cards for my book and always have them with me. To date I have put out close to 20,000 cards.

One reaches the "Thelmas" of the world by always having a plugger available and marketing your book whereever you find the Thelma. At the grocery store, cleaners or while riding the train.

I reached my Thelma by word of mouth from one reader to another. I've done radio, blogtalk radio, cable and of course all the social networking sites.

Report Card pickup day is a good way to find Thelma. So are Little League baseball games, park district meetings, aldermanic meetings, day care centers, etc.

Rekaya Gibson said...

I have not done a good job reaching Thelmas. However, I have promoted my book at nontraditional venues. You described Thelma with specific qualities which is the key to truly identifying a target audience. I am still a work in progress. Very helpful post.
Thank you.

Author of The Food Enchantress
and The Food Temptress

Simply Said Reading Accessories said...

Thelma loves "snail mail" that's not a bill.

Dee S. said...

IMO, the Thelma you describe is a group of women, not one person.

The Thelma who read TM in her 20s. Was a young college student in the 90s and is in her 30s now, a professional, lives in an urban setting, has a college degree. May not be married, could be a parent. Targeting organizations like Mocha Moms, visiting hair salons, bookstores with a Starbucks inside, building relationships with public libraries, being shelved in Target stores, being seen in the local community helps you with this group. They possible have Kindles.

There is another Thelma who began reading in her 20s after the movies came out. She's still in her twenties. She read TM's last book and decided her books are too old for her. But just read Essence Magazine and learned that her next book is a sequel to Waiting to Exhale. You reach her on Facebook, hosting events tied to trendy nightspots, reality tv celeb endorsrements, word of mouth, what everyone is reading in college, at the hair salon, seen in Walmart, can be downloaded on a Nook.

There are more Thelmas, but I'm too tired to break them all down. In gist we have to move away from reaching authors based on demographics, but psychographics. How people shop? The psychology of buying and decision making.

Reaching these groups will not work with cookie cutter book marketing efforts. You can't duplicate what another author does. You have to build a campaign that does its best to reach your ideal reader.

Sometimes your ideal client isn't a Facebook adopter, but they are a heavy email user. Sometimes your ideal reader isn't online at all. It requires specificity and a lot o f communicating with that ideal reader.

What my company DeeGospel PR does differently than most literary pr companies is create campaigns that focuses on the ideal reader not what everyone is doing.

Dee S. said...
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Dee S. said...
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D K Gaston said...

With my mysteries, (Lost Hours and Darkest Hours) the main characters are in their mid-thirties and I make plenty of references (music, movies, tv, etc.) that 30's and beyond can identify with. So yes, I think I do consider Thelma when I write my stories.

Many authors these days are marketing toward the young adult, twenty-something readers. It's hard for me to relate to some of the books being published sometimes.

Great question. Good post.

Tracy L. Darity said...

I take my contemporary novels to Thelma. She's at the Saturday Morning Markets shopping for fresh fruit and veggies. She's at the beauty salon where I host happy hour events. She's at the neighborhood park that has a walking trail and offers evening work-out trails...get your work-out on girl and grab a good book on your way out to enjoy while you relax and unwind. She's also at her kids little league games, so be a sponsor and while lil Tommy is playing football and soccer mom can pick-up a book to read between plays.

These are just a few ways to reach Thelma and she will be so glad you saved her the trip to the local Borders or B & N. Lord knows she has eneough on her to-do list.

Much Love,



Lesley E. Hal author of Pleasure Principles said...

I'm a woman that loves to shop and I frequent areas that I'll go when I'm out to spend money.I also have taken the pleasure in going to the beauty shops and interacting with Thelma and doing things like give-aways to make it a fun event. I'm at these places to sell my books yes, but I also like to get to know these women by being approachable. Plus I'm never in a rush to leave once I've collected the money, I act as though I'm one of the girls that they can be comfortable with while i'm in their space which is a huge selling point. Like this past weekend I was invited back by a beauty shop owner for sales made when I left. I also collect contact information and give them mine (general email not personal) and let them know they are more than welcomed to email me to ask questions about the books and to also post their reviews. I've learned that that type of customer service works and besides, people view authors regardless of their standing as special and being able to say I can contact her etc speaks volumes. I've gotten a lot of customers that way. So my thing, while you may be where Thelma is, having a pleasant attitude regardless if she buys your book or not at that time, goes a long way.

Melissa said...

I am still trying to reach Thelmas by doing radio show,going to author/book events hoping she would be there. I make sure to have my business care, book mark with my book information just in case she is standing behind me at the local store.
That's is why site that promote other authors are so important.

Author of Secret Affair