In Good Night Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Bedtime Story (2015), first-time children’s book author Mariam Gates showcased children performing yoga poses to wind down at day’s end. This picture book also marked the children’s publishing debut of Sounds True, a multimedia Boulder, Colo., publisher dedicated to inspiring and supporting personal transformation and spiritual awakening. It proved to be a fortuitous entry into the kids’ market for the company: Good Night Yoga, which features illustrations by U.K. artist Sarah Jane Hinder, has sold close to 79,000 copies since its April 2015 release, and has spawned a sequel. In March, Sounds True will publish Gates’s Good Morning Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Wake Up Story, also illustrated by Hinder.
Gates has spent two decades working with children, as an elementary school teacher and as a yoga instructor, and founded Kid Power Yoga, a yoga teaching program aimed at children and instructors. Now in her 40s, Gates first discovered yoga in her 20s, when, she explained, the public interest in yoga was minimal and there were very few outlets for learning the practice. Gates recalled watching a 30-minute video in which a “woman in a pink leotard” introduced yoga poses. That instructional method didn’t quite speak to Gates, who recalled, “I was aware that the woman in the video was talking about something I didn’t have – an awareness through my body, a connection, calm, stillness – but I instinctively knew I had to keep going with it.”
Gates’s perseverance paid off, and she learned to fully appreciate the benefits of yoga. “I came to realize the difference yoga made in my overall physical health, flexibility, and strength,” she recalled. “And over time, there was an emotional and mental shift as well. I felt more optimistic, more at ease. It was a big shift for me, in the best way.”
After introducing children to yoga in both the classroom and yoga studio, Gates decided to expand the reach of her knowledge and enthusiasm via a picture book. “I wanted to find a way to reach and support more children and families than I can teaching yoga in a school or a studio,” she said. “I’ve always loved stories and love to write, and I realized that a book entirely focused on kids could deliver the excitement of yoga right into their hands and help them take ownership of the practice.”
Though Gates recognized the challenge of visually “conveying something so fluid and expressive as yoga into a two-dimensional structure,” that concern evaporated when she found Hinder, after reviewing the portfolios of many illustrators from around the world. “I wasn’t sure how yoga, which is not at all static, could be shown in a static way,” she added. “But when I saw Sarah’s art, with its explosion of color and perfect balance of whimsy, beauty, and joy, I knew she had captured everything I wanted to communicate.”
Breaking into the Marketplace
When Gates tried unsuccessfully to find a publisher for Good Night Yoga, she shelved the project, but hardly forgot about it. As she continued to teach kids yoga, she recalled, “I kept feeling that this book needed to be out there, but that was 10 years ago, and interest in yoga was not yet at the tipping point, so it was difficult for me to communicate to publishers what I was saying in the book.” After deciding to self-publish and launching a crowd-sourcing effort to fund the project, Sounds True, Gates said, “caught wind of the book, and the rest is history.”
Good Night Yoga immediately clicked with Jennifer Brown, Sounds True’s acquiring editor, who had learned of the book from the author’s husband, Rolf Gates, also a yoga instructor and author of several adult books on meditation and yoga. “Mariam’s book fit squarely with our editorial mission, to provide tools and instruction in transformation, growth, and well-being,” she said. “We also strive to publish material that is evergreen, and we believe Mariam’s books are.”
Though Brown had rejected a number of children’s book submissions in her 11 years at Sounds True, “since selling children’s books was outside our area of expertise,” she felt that Good Night Yoga was the right picture book for the company’s initial foray into the kids’ arena. “The entire editorial team was so excited about this book and about working with Mariam – we had all hands on deck from the beginning,” she said.
Now in-house enthusiasm is focused on Good Morning Yoga, which Sounds True is backing with a trade and consumer marketing campaign. Highlights include Gates’s two-week blog tour, launching February 29; a retail display; a targeted mailing to teachers and librarians; a downloadable Yoga Story Hour activity kit; a book trailer, and a video of Gates reading her new book aloud (an instructional video featuring the author is still in development). Also planned are outreach to traditional media and alternative parenting magazines and yoga media outlets, and trade advertising and promotion at industry shows and conferences.
Brown reported that advance sales of Good Morning Yoga have been “very strong,” adding, “We expect the book to meet and even exceed sales of Good Night Yoga, which was Sounds True’s biggest seller last year.” The publisher has previously had success in both B&N and independent bookstores, as well as in general gift shops, New Age stores, and natural food stores, and hope for a similar response for the sequel.
“To see how quickly people embraced Good Night Yoga was rewarding,” Gates said, “since it has been such a passion project for me for so long, and at the beginning I worked so hard to convince people that this was a book that kids and families need. I am really inspired that so many children and adults are enjoying the book and feeling a benefit from it. I think we all want a way to give our children tools to manage all of life’s moments, with a calm confidence.”
Good Morning Yoga: A Pose-by Pose Wake Up Story by Mariam Gates, illus. by Sarah Jane Hinder. Sounds True, $17.95 Mar. ISBN 978-1-62203-602-8