Years ago I had a good friend who whose job it was to visit bookstores on behalf of a major publisher and convince the owners to stock the publisher’s new books on their shelves. This was in the 1980s and early 1990s – pre-Amazon. Amazing as it may seem now, back then lots of people actually read books, and would go to their local bookstore to explore the latest offerings!
Later my friend became a Feldenkrais Practitioner and we would often discuss the challenges we faced in promoting our type of work – I had already become a teacher of the Alexander Technique – given it’s unique nature.
My friend told me that one of the lessons she learned during her publisher representative days was that she should always be able to answer this question from a store owner about a book: “What shelf would it go on?”
For many new books, the answer was obvious. Shelves had titles like History, Art, Fiction (which had sub-categories like Westerns, Science Fiction etc), Travel, Biographies and the like which were easy fits for many books.
But if she didn’t have a good answer for a book whose shelf wasn’t obvious, the owner or buyer would pass it up no matter how interesting it might seem. Space was limited and with limited shelf space, a book that couldn’t easily be categorized was too risky.
As she went about marketing her Feldenkrais work, she took that lesson to heart and made sure she had some possible “shelf” categories to describe her work.
I think you can guess where I’m going with this. The Alexander Technique isn’t likely to have its own shelf in one of the few remaining bookstores, although it might be at home in the the Self-Help or Personal Development shelves. It does have its own “shelf” on the web – as does everything and everyone – but a very small and obscure one, facing a huge amount of competition.
In recent years, it’s become so small, as a proportion of all web activity, that Google no longer bothers to provide analytics for it.*
If a typical bookstore back in the day was too small for the Technique, today’s web is way too big!
On the other hand, as Alexander teacher Niall Kelley has pointed on several occasions (twice at American Society of the Alexander Technique meetings) there are categories that have a large and growing “shelf” on Google. He argues that these are all categories we can legitimately attach ourselves to.**
The categories suggested by Niall include Mindfulness, Back Pain, Posture and Stress, among others. The Technique can certainly be considered a specific form of mindfulness. It has a long track record and several medical and scientific studies showing it can help with back pain. And a lot of teachers and students see it as a way to improve posture and reduce stress.***
Needless to say the shelf size of categories like Reaction to Stimuli, Primary Control and Use have an even smaller shelf than Alexander Technique. From a purely marketing point of view, there’s not much point attaching to them!
If you’re an Alexander Technique teacher, what categories have you attached yourself to, and why?
If you’re an Alexander Technique student, did a particular category lead you you to take Alexander lessons?
If you’re hearing about the Alexander Technique for the first time, what category is most likely to get you to learn more about it and perhaps even take a lesson?
I’d love to hear your answers. Please post your answers below and/or on Facebook.
*Alexander Technique searches have declined sharply as a share of total searches. In absolute numbers, after growing sharply in the early days of the web, for the past 15 plus years the number of Alexander searches has grown very slowly.
*** How can you attach yourself to these categories? The easiest way is to mention them by name on your website, blog posts etc. Google will find and remember these listings almost instantly and it then becomes more likely that people interested in them will discover the Alexander Technique when they do a search for those topics.
There is one Alexander teacher who makes it a point to declare that the Alexander Technique is not about posture. Many teachers, myself included, believe he is incorrect but oddly enough his mention of “posture” actually increases the interconnection! Google is fantastic at finding and connecting, not so great at understanding!
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