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Talking About Bulk Book Sales
When Stephanie Chandler asked me to speak at this week’s 2019 Nonfiction Writers Conference about Bulk Book Sales, I immediately turned to Martha Rhodes, author of 3,000 Pulses Later to get a feel for how an author I worked with is using that strategy.
I knew much of Martha’s success had been through bulk sales and her relationship with the company that has bought the bulk of her books, leading to:
- 3,000 Pulses Later being featured in the New York Times
- 16,000 print books sold and over 5,000 ebooks
- A speaking tour during Great Britain’s rollout of TMS technology (trans magnetic cranial stimulation, a drug-free treatment for depression).
During the Nonfiction Writer’s Conference, I’m going to share strategies I’ve learned from authors, literary agents and a former publishing professional who was in charge of bulk sales (or special sales) for a major publishing house.
In today’s interview, Martha Rhodes shares the amazing experiences that opened up for her after approaching Neuronetics about bulk book sales. Martha also shares how she nurtured the relationship from the start.
Martha Rhodes’ Experience with Bulk Book Sales
Lisa: What were your goals in writing 3,000 Pulses Later?
Martha: Since Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) was only FDA cleared and brought to market in
2008, and since there was absolutely nothing available for me to learn about it when I searched for an
alternative therapy to ineffective medications, I wanted to spread the word about it for other patients
who were also suffering with treatment resistant depression.
I suppose another originally unintended subconscious goal was to create a cathartic writing experience
for myself by incorporating helpful information about TMS into my personal memoir and give credit
to what brought me through one of the darkest periods of my life after surviving a suicide attempt.
Lisa: It was powerful to witness that healing journey you took, as you went deeper during each draft of the book. It’s also been amazing to see you reach so many people with your message. How did your first corporate book sale come about?
Martha: I was introduced to Neuronetics, Inc., the company that created the Neurostar TMS Therapy System, shortly after I had published the book. It was basically my “calling card” at that time. The President and several others at the company found it to be a compelling story they wanted to share with other TMS practicing physicians and their patients because they felt having a TMS patient’s success story would resonate with the then grossly uninformed public.
Lisa: Since selling bulk copies to Neuronetics, they have re-ordered multiple times. How many books have they bought?
Martha: Neuronetics has bought over 14,000 books as of today, and I’m told they’ve projected the need for another 1,000 before this year’s end. The marketing department has also informed me that they have included ongoing purchases of 3,000 Pulses Later in their 2020 budget. (I keep my fingers crossed on this.)
Lisa: What have you done to nurture that relationship?
Martha: I’ve visited the corporate headquarters in Malvern PA several times for various events, e.g. new corporate office grand opening and a summer BBQ employee event. I was asked to give an employee “lunch and learn” slide presentation supporting the HR department’s internal values initiative and I’m now a member of the Neurostar Patient Advocate Advisory Council that meets quarterly.
Lisa: Neuronetics has also helped you with publicity and opened up other doors. Can you share the
exciting things that came out of this relationship?
Martha: Wow – I’ve almost lost count there have been so many wonderful opportunities thanks to my
relationship with Neuronetics. They’ve given me access to both of their PR firms in Philadelphia who
have connected me with several media outlets such as US News & World Report, The NY Times,
Sirius XM Radio, The Daily BUZZ TV, and several online media channels.
Also, Neuronetics nominated me for and I was subsequently awarded the 2016 PM360 ELITE Award (Exceptional Leaders, Innovators, Transformers and Entrepreneurs representing the most influential people in the healthcare industry) in the Patient Advocacy category.
One of the founding investors in Neuronetics’ introduced me to Emory University’s Office of Technology Transfer whose doctors and scientists developed the original Neurostar. I spent two days in Atlanta make a series of informative videos for a program they produced called, “Put A Face On
It.” I wrote an article about it and if you scroll down to the bottom you’ll find several links to the individual videos.
Multiple Channels for Special Sales
Lisa: You’ve done other bulk sales to doctor’s practices. How have those come about? Did you initiate or did they? How did they initially find you?
Martha: All of my bulk sales have come to me thanks to my website, the Internet, word-of-mouth and public awareness that the book exists as a compelling depression/suicide story with a happy ending thanks to
TMS. Nevertheless, I’m now considering doing a marketing solicitation via email and direct USPS
mail to all the TMS practices throughout the United States who may not realize I offer bulk rates to
their practices so they can either loan or give a book to existing/ prospective patients, or sell them
directly to patients from their offices.
Lisa: What advice do you have for authors interested in bulk sales?
Martha: Find a market niche and industry for your topic, and more important, make sure your content is
cogent, user-friendly, and a direct “value add” to their customers’ needs.
I also recommend offering the option of printing a personalized edition for the corporate sponsor so
that their own branding and marketing goals are enhanced, thus enhancing the author’s branding and
marketing goals. It’s wise to remember — you’re not monetizing the book, you’re monetizing the
Lisa: What percentage of your sales are special sales or bulk sales (and how many books)?
Martha: Eighty-three percent of my book sales are through bulk orders. As of today the total number is
14,000 books (out of close to 16,000 books sold all together). And I’m planning another print run in December for 3,000 books! That’s doesn’t include the 5,000 plus ebooks I’ve sold.
Lisa: Holy cow—that brings you up to 21,000 with the ebooks and 24,000 when you sell the books in the new print run! Have you ever produced any customized books where the company or institution adds a letter at the beginning or something on the cover and gives it away? How has that worked?
Martha: Neuronetics sends a book to anyone who visits the Neurostar website and provides their contact information.
They also give three books to every medical practice that purchases a Neurostar Therapy System. Neuronetics places a disclaimer on the inside front cover of every book they give away.
Lisa: What if a corporate sponsor doesn’t need your entire book and only wants a part of it, or a
condensed version of it, or even wants you to customize interior sections for their industry?
Martha: One of the benefits of self-publishing, especially with Print On Demand (POD), is that this can easily
be accomplished. The other option (but only if the bulk order is large enough) is to do a special print
run for that customer, although bulk pricing will definitely depend on the quantities requested.
Lisa: What else is in the works?
Martha: My audiobook will be published in early 2020. It’s a daunting process but I’ve decided to narrate it myself after listening to several audition voices that just don’t sound like what I had in my heart when I wrote the book. Sean Pratt is my narrator coach and I’ll be recording in a professional studio in Boston.
Lisa: How exciting! Good luck and let us know how it’s going!
Nonfiction Writers Conference: Join Me!
Readers, join me for my talk on Bulk Book Sales Opportunities at the Nonfiction Writers Conference on Nov. 8 (and sign up for all the great talks that week starting on Nov. 7.
The theme is “Promote and Profit.” Stephanie Chandler will be speaking on Tribe Building for Authors; Barbara Winter on Make a Living Without a Job; Matthew Bennett (who’s sold over 5 Million Books) will talk about Outselling Booksellers. Discover all the speakers and topics here.