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A warm welcome to Samara White, L.Ac., and Troy White, authors of the adorable, educational kids’ book about acupuncture, Maya and Friends Visit the Acupuncturist. Samara wrote and Troy illustrated this book with the hope of expanding kids (and parents’) knowledge about acupuncture, so that they know it’s safe, fun, and effective.
Today we’ll be chatting about the book itself, who it’s for and why they created it, as well as the creative process and self-publishing. Hopefully anyone who has considered writing a book about acupuncture in the past will find inspiration in their journey and success. They’re helping the world understand acupuncture, one reader at a time!
I was really excited to discover this book because there aren’t many kids books out there about acupuncture, which is a terrible shame. I’m always on the lookout for anything that will help educate people about acupuncture, especially in a fun and inviting way.
Storytelling is a phenomenal opportunity to help people experience something from outside their usual perspective. So what better way to help kids (and even parents) overcome their worries about acupuncture than a fun, illustrated romp through a make-believe land filled with talking elephants and imaginary friends? Plus, the acupuncturist is a cat, which speaks to my cat lady tendencies on so many levels. ❤️🐱 ❤️
If you haven’t read this book yet and don’t have a copy in your office, I absolutely recommend it. Aside from being completely enjoyable, it’s a fantastic, low-pressure way to market pediatric acupuncture in your office. It helps people realize that A) acupuncture is great for kids (which they may not realize) and B) that it’s not scary at all.
Maya & Friends Visit the Acupuncturist reminds me of Dora the Explorer, but for acupuncture instead of learning Spanish. The illustrations are really fun and the whole story of Maya’s experience, from first learning about acupuncture to appreciating how much it helps improve her health, is fantastic and totally relatable.
Resources before we get started:
Visit the website: www.AcupunctureKidsBook.com
Today Samara and Troy share:
- Who this book is for (spoiler alert: everyone)
- Why they created it
- The creative process behind the writing and illustrations
- Insight into self-publishing
Okay, let’s chat with the authors!
What are your backgrounds?
Samara: Before embarking on my Chinese medicine education, I was a craniosacral practitioner and yoga instructor. These days I do a lot of treatments combining craniosacral work and acupuncture, and I work with people of all ages, including infants. I studied Psychology in college, and by the time I graduated, I was curious to study more about the body, health, and healing. I am also a musician, a harpist and pianist, and while I do not play music professionally, my musical background does inform my healing practice in certain ways.
Troy: I have been drawing and creating pretty much forever. In my professional life, I became a graphic designer. I ended up specializing in presentation design, as well as litigation design (developing graphics for attorneys to use in court). These pursuits have me very involved in the storytelling process, as well as how to visually convey difficult concepts. It made me an unexpectedly good fit to illustrate a book about Chinese medicine.
Can you outline the book for us, give us a quick overview?
Maya & Friends Visit the Acupuncturist is a book for children, explaining acupuncture and Chinese medicine, and following a girl named Maya on a trip to the acupuncturist. While targeted at children, we find that kids from 2 to 92 enjoy the story, and even learn a lot more about Chinese medicine than they knew before.
With exciting artwork, an adventurous story, and endearing characters, we want to instill a sense of fun into acupuncture, and inspire children to be engaged with their health.
Describing what to expect from an acupuncture visit, Maya & Friends educates children and adults alike about the practices and theories of Chinese medicine.
This book is about empowering kids to take ownership of their bodies and their health, and fosters a sense of wonder and connection with the world around them.
How did you end up writing Maya & Friends Visit the Acupuncturist?
Samara: When I was in acupuncture school, I decided to write a research paper about pediatrics, and specifically about how to communicate Chinese medical concepts to children. I found myself looking for children’s books about Chinese medicine and discovered there were literally zero to be found.
I was talking to my husband about this, and was toying with the idea of writing one myself. When he offered to illustrate it, I started to get excited about writing the book and making this idea really come to life.
So over Thanksgiving break from school, I sat down and wrote the book in just a couple of days, and Troy sketched up some images for the book over the following days after I wrote the initial book draft.
It ended up taking a full year from the time we started until the time we completed this project, as the full illustrations, as well as editing the book and publishing it took a lot of work and time.
Do you feel like this book is educational for adults as well as children?
Absolutely! Some of our favorite feedback is when adults of all ages share with us things they have learned from our book.
What are your goals for Maya & Friends Visit the Acupuncturist?
First and foremost, to be a tool to help parents who are interested in acupuncture and Chinese medicine for their children teach those children about what they are about to experience: What is an office visit like; what is a Chinese medicine practitioner trying to do when they press or needle points, or give you herbs? We also hope it becomes something adults can learn from as well. Finally, as a children’s book, we hope kids just have a really good time following the adventure Maya goes on.
How did you choose the characters for the book? What do you think each character brings to the story?
Samara: In terms of the main character, I wanted it to be a child, and a strong female character, and Troy and I both love the name Maya. The next thing I needed was a best friend for Maya.
When I was a kid, I had a stuffed animal named Bobby Bear, who I took with me everywhere. He had been through several cycles of the washing machine, and had some bald spots where his fur had started to fall off. I remember bringing him to the hospital with me as a kid when my Grandpa was sick, and the nurses there would give me Band Aids for Bobby Bear’s bald spots; they treated Bobby as a real character, and as a kid, I appreciated this.
I wanted the supportive characters in the book to be animals, as children often relate to animal characters, and have stuffed animals and lively imaginations in which these animals really are their best friends. Bobby Bear is Maya’s best friend, and is the one who actually tries acupuncture first.
I wanted another character who was the voice of wisdom, and who would be the one to suggest going to the acupuncturist in the first place. As elephants are wise, Ellie Elephant became this character. Along this same line of thinking, it made sense, and was fun, to have the rest of the characters, including the acupuncturist, be animals as well.
Had either of you ever written a book before?
Nope! This was our first go at writing a book, although Troy and I have always (long before we knew each other) been interested in writing. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer, and I’ve always enjoyed writing rhymes. Troy has long been interested in reading and writing fiction of all sorts.
What was the process like for self-publishing?
An interesting learning process. We first looked into possibilities of finding an actual publisher, but this was such a niche product in a crowded children’s literature field that it seemed like a long shot.
We tried a few different options with various levels of success before we settled on Createspace, which is one of the largest self-publishing options out there. It makes it relatively easy, but you still have to have plenty of know-how.
Troy needed to lay out the book for the right proportions we needed to print, get the text in place in the right way, and upload the book in the correct formats. We got some proofs back and made some edits.
Finally, we ended up with a book that is a quality we are happy with, at a price point people can afford, with an easy way for us to sell it and for people to buy it. So at the end of the day, we are pretty happy with the product.
What advice would you give to others who are interested in writing acupuncture-related books, either for kids or adults (or anyone)?
Do it! Try to get your writing in front of someone who knows nothing about acupuncture, and see if they can understand it. A lot of people who write about acupuncture do so purely from a point of view of someone who has gone to three or four years of acupuncture school. But the most successful books on specialty subjects come from people who can communicate their specialty well.
After the process of this book, would you write another?
Yes! We would love to write other books. Now that we know a lot more than we used to about the logistics of self-publishing, I think it might be a little easier to publish other books.
What do you think you would do differently for your second book?
Overall it was a fun process. We learned a lot and had a chance to create together, so we wouldn’t change any of that. Doing it again, we’d go straight to Createspace, since we had the best experience with that system. We’ve been learning a few things about marketing and book releasing along the way as well. We might do some more promotion leading up to the initial release, for example.
Do you feel like your experience marketing your acupuncture practice has informed your approach to marketing your book, or vice versa?
Samara: In my experience, most of the marketing for my acupuncture practice has consisted of cultivating relationships with other practitioners in the community. This is my favorite aspect of marketing in that I enjoy getting to know other practitioners and their work.
Having the book to market has expanded the reach of my networking, in that I have worked to get the book out there not only to my local community, but to acupuncturists and others all over the world. We are even in the process of translating the book into a number of different languages. The book has allowed me to cultivate relationships with other practitioners in different states and even different countries.
Having a book has forced me to put more work into marketing, since it takes a lot of work to self-publish and therefore market a book oneself; however, this work has helped me to gain more exposure myself, as a practitioner, and the marketing I do for the book helps me to market myself as a practitioner.
I think the main way that my approach to my acupuncture practice has changed as a result of my experience marketing this book has been that I now think bigger in terms of my approach to marketing my acupuncture practice.
How have you primarily been marketing Maya & Friends Visit the Acupuncturist?
The acupuncture community on Facebook has been extremely helpful for marketing the book. When we first published, we posted in a couple of popular acupuncture groups on Facebook, and the support from the community was really encouraging.
We’ve also used twitter and have gotten involved in the “Acupuncture Hour” group (#acupuncturehour), which is a nice international community of acupuncturists who are very supportive of one another.
Some other things we’ve tried to varying success have been press releases, blog posts, writing articles about my book and about pediatric acupuncture for publications such as Try Acupuncture Magazine and the Kids Love Acupuncture blog, participating in podcast interviews such as with Yin Yang Podcast and Everyday Acupuncture, doing a book signing event, and we even created a You Tube book preview video. (We enlisted the help of our young niece and nephew to be the voices of our book characters).
One thing that is not in our control, but that has been very helpful, is that our book has received a lot of positive amazon reviews. We have also given many copies of our book away to various pediatrics offices (including a couple of Children’s Hospital locations) and busy acupuncture offices where we thought the book would be enjoyed in waiting rooms. We also encourage people to request our book through their local libraries as libraries will often order books if they receive requests for them.
It’s possible that the book has been more valuable as a marketing tool for my practice than financially lucrative in itself. It’s hard to calculate exactly, but the book is definitely something tangible that helps me network, that increases my visibility, and that enhances my professional credibility.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Everybody has an idea and they think that’s all they need, but that’s only 2% of it. The rest is getting it done!
Thank you, Samara and Troy, for sharing your experience and creative process with us! I look forward to the fun, educational books you create together in the future.
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