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What Worked: The Anatomy of Hatha Yoga Story

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Because Anatomy of Hatha Yoga has exceeded everyone’s expectations (including mine) as far as reader receptivity and sales are concerned, I’ve taken a look back to see what might have fueled its success.

To set the stage, here are some figures:

    • The first printing of 5,200 copies–publication date October 2001–was done in Indiana by RR Donnelley and Sons.
    • Our second printing of 12,000 copies (RR Donnelley) went into circulation in January 2002.
    • The third printing, also 12,000 copies (printed in China), started circulation in January 2003; it’s now more than half gone.
    • The fourth printing of another 12,000 copies (again from China) will begin distribution in late summer 2003.

My new distributor (Tom Doherty at Cardinal Publishers Group) picked us up starting with the third printing. He believes that sales will keep building–especially as we continue to make systematic inroads into the chains. We hope to benefit from the chains’ inventory control methods for making books available in their stores (once they have begun to stock them) according to increasing or decreasing consumer demand.

 

Identifying the Ingredients for Success

Clearly, the Ben Franklin Award was very helpful, although it’s difficult to come up with precise numbers and documentation. And, to my surprise, so was Amazon. At the 2001 Publishing University in Chicago, I complained heatedly to Jan Nathan that Amazon was discounting my jewel by 30%, and she gently informed me that pricing decisions of retailers were out of my hands once I had started making a title available to wholesalers. Well, my lack of power to restrain trade and dictate retail prices turned out to be my good fortune, and I am now an enthusiastic supporter of Amazon. If you go to their website, select Books, search Yoga, and then arrange the 2,200+ books on the list according to best-selling, mine usually comes out #1, with my overall Amazon.com sales rank ordinarily ranging between 200 and 2,000. Amazon’s readers’ reviews also rated the book highly, which I’m sure also helped. In any event, these ratings seem to me to be remarkable for a $40 retail trade book that looks at first glance like a college textbook.

Twelve other ingredients also helped:

 

  • Having the right book at the right time

 

      and priced for a targeted and growing audience, with no meaningful competition

 

  • Clear illustrations

 

      , both halftones of yoga postures and anatomical line drawings re-processed in Adobe Photoshop, Streamline, and Illustrator from superb copyright-expired illustrations from the late 19th and early 20th centuries

 

  • Numerous reviews

 

      , including reviews in trade journals such as

Choice

      ,

Doody’s Reviews

      , and

New Age Retailer,

      and consumer and professional journals such as

Yoga Journal, Yoga International

      ,

Yoga & Health

      (UK),

Spectrum

      (UK), and

International Review of Yoga Therapy.

      We also had

excellent reviewers’ blurbs

      (some from the reviews mentioned)

for the back cover of the book

      , beginning with the second printing.

 

  • Several ads

 

      in

Choice

      ,

Library Journal

      ,

Yoga International

      , and

Yoga Journal

      , all containing quotes from reviews of special interest to readers of the particular periodicals

 

  • An attractive and eye-catching, yet simple cover, including the Ben Franklin medallion

 

      (which first appeared with the third printing)

 

  • Word of mouth

 

      that the book–surprisingly for most people–is actually quite readable and is as carefully edited for the lay public as (for example) a science column in

Newsweek

  • Professional credentials

 

      with regard to both anatomy and yoga (see bio at the end of this article)

 

  • Robust binding with sewn signatures and a loose-back spine

 

      which allows the book to be broken open fully and to lie flat without damage, a feature which facilitates photocopying and hands-off study

 

  • A complimentary Foreword from Dr. Timothy McCall

 

      , a medical doctor and professional medical newswriter who is also devoted to yoga,

plus an index, author’s bio, and a list of references

      , all of which added touches of professionalism to the finished book

 

  • A website

 

      (

www.bodyandbreath.com) for making the book available to readers who were not initially able to find it in the marketplace

  • Personal contacts with several wholesalers

who, although skeptical, were willing to take a chance on offering retailers a self-published book from a new publisher with only one book; these wholesalers included Baker & Taylor, Bookpeople, New Leaf, Himalayan Institute Press, and Integral Yoga Distribution, with special thanks to Baker & Taylor for handling Amazon’s orders.

  • And finally, advice from and helpful association with PMA, which–along with awarding the title the Ben Franklin Award for Health, Wellness, and Nutrition–continues to support my writing, designing, and publishing adventure.

 

David Coulter has taught microscopic, neuroscience, and elementary gross anatomy courses, served as a principal investigator for federally funded neuroscience research, and practiced and taught a style of bodywork called Ohashiatsu® in New York City and elsewhere. To learn more, visit www.bodyandbreath.com.

 

 

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