How ‘The Science of Yoga’ book might be hurting yogis
Like most yoga-related media, when “The Science of Yoga” came out earlier this year, we felt obligated to talk about it.
Of course, as with a ton of the yoga media, we approached the book with a certain amount of animosity given its big pre-release was via a New York Times magazine article that focused on how yoga can hurt you.
The intent was obvious: controversial title, get eyeballs, gain readers. It’s among the oldest ad tricks around.
But, as I talked about before, I think it backfired. The book pretty much came and went. It never cracked the top 10 on the New York Times best-seller list, as best as I can tell. Within a few weeks of its publication, based on Amazon metrics and other (admittedly) guestimates, it already was just selling in the hundreds, perhaps low thousands, of copies.
With a potential audience of 10 to 20 million, that’s not exactly bringing the agni.
I chalked it up earlier to the book’s marketers getting things wrong. Instead of leading with the salacious, they should have led with something substantive but still surprising. What did that book have to tell us that all of us yogis didn’t know? (We know yoga can hurt us, after all. It just takes one distracted second to learn that lesson.)
That should have been the first New York Times story. It might have gotten fewer curious, non-yogi readers, but it would have made the potential buyers of the book interested and not, instead, disinclined to shell out $20 or so.
Now there’s a potential book out there that seems intent on telling yogis a bunch of stuff we don’t know. It’s the Mark Singleton and Jim Mallinson project, “The Roots of Yoga.” Singleton is the author of “Yoga Body,” which seems to have been the successful model that the “Science of Yoga” failed to emulate.
Singleton, in other words, has proven publishing credibility. Both have academic and research cred. The research they intend to do? In part it will involve translating yoga source books into English that haven’t been translated before.
By default, it will be bringing yogis stuff we don’t know.
And that’s why I’m still curious that they have gone the kickstarter route to try to raise $50,000 to fund the research of their book. As of this week, about halfway through the time for their fundraising, they aren’t half way to their goal. I think we can say it has an uphill battle.
Why this route? Why not a more traditional book advance, especially given their backgrounds?
I know I bring to these questions a certain preconceived idea of kickstarter. I think of it as enabling people who couldn’t find funding through traditional means — movie studios, publishing houses, art benefactors — to cast a wide net and see if they can find people who believe enough in their idea to put a little something into its creation.
In my mind, Singleton and Mallinson don’t quite fall in that category. And their book — unlike some 20-something director’s short film — could end up making them some real money. (Maybe the emphasis is on some, but that’s still more than a short that runs on Vimeo.)
Right? Or is that the rub?
As I’ve been thinking about their kickstarter campaign, two rationales for it keep returning to me. One is that they didn’t want to lose a certain freedom in their research. But I don’t see how an advance would limit them.
The other, then, is really the one I’m left with. They made some inquiries (ala the comment in our earlier post suggests) and didn’t find any, or the right, interested parties.
And how could that be, with their bringing to millions of potential readers new information about yoga?
The answer: “The Science of Yoga.” I wonder if its lack of big success didn’t poison the well and make their sales pitch an impossible one. (If you don’t think that happens, check out this take down of how Mars movies have crashed and burned.)
If that’s in any way the case, then “The Science of Yoga” now actually is hurting yogis. And while, to be honest, funding this book project strikes me as not exactly what kickstarter is all about (because I feel like they somehow could find the money), I feel like I’ve found a compelling argument to get in on this look at yoga’s roots.
Have you yet? Less than two weeks to go.
Posted by Steve