I’ve had many ideas over the years, most of which curl up and die on the vine. But the idea to create a deck of yoga cards refused to go away. After kicking ideas around, the deck started taking shape. This was the “easy” part: writing content, drawing poses, editing and re-editing. I could have done that forever. Eventually, I had to stop tinkering and face the challenge of finding a publisher.
The first publisher I contacted, Chronicle Books, made me an offer. Yes, you read that right…me, an unknown freelance writer. Miracles apparently do occur! Unfortunately, it wasn’t much of an offer. Trusted friends offered advice along these lines: “An offer is an offer; get your foot in the door, take it.” Conversely, there was: “If this is the best idea you’ve ever had, don’t settle.”
Well, I did think it was the best idea I ever had so, deep breath, I asked for a better offer. They did raise the ante a tad but I still didn’t like the terms. I turned the offer down (ouch) and started looking elsewhere.
Beginner’s luck turned out to be just that. Rejection letters rolled in but some rejections were positive. And “positive rejection” isn’t an oxymoron; many editors provided thoughtful reasons why they were passing on the idea, and no one said it was a bad idea. So, I kept trying.
People with whom I shared my idea were also enthusiastic. One friend offered to front me money to self-publish. With this kind of support, I found it easier – although not easy – to continue.
I almost threw in the cards, so to speak, when I learned of another deck of yoga cards that had hit the market. Crestfallen, I figured that was that. Over. Finito. That’s all, folks.
I shared my dismay with someone I knew who had worked in publishing. “That’s a good thing,” she said. Oh, really? “One book on the shelf about Princess Diana,” she explained, “won’t sell as well as it would with 30 books on the shelf about Princess Diana.” Plus, she reminded me, I would put my own spin on the deck. Buoyed with her advice, I kept on. But the process was wearing me down. Perhaps it was time to find an agent.
I contacted a friend I knew who was acquainted with a literary agent in Boston. Since the deck wasn’t a literary project, I didn’t think the agent would be interested but I hoped she could point me in the right direction. My friend encouraged me to call.
Which I planned on doing but I procrastinated. For weeks. The agent was a bit of a big fish in a small Boston pond and I was, frankly, intimidated. I finally decided to send her a letter, then follow up by phone. I spent the better part of a morning writing the first draft – by hand, on a yellow legal pad – explaining who I was, what the yoga deck was, the history of trying to get published, including the offer from Chronicle Books…all in 150 words or less. Write, rewrite, re-rewrite. Finally, I turned to my computer to type it up. As fingers met keyboard, the phone rang.
I answered. “Is this Olivia?” a woman asked. I said it was. “Hi. This is Leigh Anna from Chronicle Books.” Yes, she was an editor calling from Chronicle Books (the very publisher whose offer I had turned down, in case you’ve forgotten). More than a year had passed since they first made me an offer I could not not refuse. She was 3000 miles away in San Francisco. I was about to contact an agent. It was a goosebumps moment.
She said she was calling because they had been approached by someone with a proposal for a deck of yoga cards. Goosebumps disappeared. “We didn’t like the idea and turned it down.” Now we’re talkin’! “It made us wonder whatever happened to your deck?”
I’m here to say that the Universe does indeed work in strange ways. Her timing, I remember telling her, was impeccable. I explained that I hadn’t found another publisher and was about to contact an agent. She asked if I wanted to resubmit my proposal. I hesitated for, oh, a nanosecond, and agreed. They made me another offer (the good news is they didn’t offer me any less than before!) and The Yoga Deck was published in 2001, a year and a half later. Fast forward: it has sold over 500,000 copies, has been translated into several foreign languages and spurred 8 other wellness and exercise decks, including the most recent The Healing Yoga Deck.
When I look back on The Yoga Deck’s journey, I’d like to share some lessons I hope you’ll find helpful and inspirational:
Follow your instincts. Seek advice but trust your gut. I’m glad I didn’t listen to those who said, “Just accept the offer.” I would’ve always wondered if I could have done better. After trying unsuccessfully to find another publisher, I was ready to accept the offer. The Yoga Deck ended up where it started…and where it belonged.
Get support. “Isolation is the dream killer,” says author and motivational speaker Barbara Sher, who developed what she calls “success teams,” groups that meet for regular brainstorming and support sessions. I’ve been in a success team for over 20 years and my yoga cards idea wouldn’t have flourished without my teammates’ support and suggestions. Join a writer’s group or other professional network. Feedback and encouragement are crucial.
Trust that things happen when they should, not when you want them to. This philosophy can help when you push and push with seemingly no results. Believe in the process…and proceed with conviction.