By Author Mary Yuhas, who has over 49,000 reads on Scribd of the first three chapters of her memoir, Quit and Be Quiet, about growing up with a severely mentally ill mother.
Ingrid Ricks is a Seattle-based journalist, author, marketing consultant and teen mentor. Her debut memoir, Hippie Boy: A Girl’s Story, was number 20 on the New York Times on the June 16th bestsellers list. Her memoir is the story of a feisty, teenage girl who escapes her authoritarian Mormon stepfather and the suffocating religion and poverty at home. She joins her dad on the road as a tool-selling vagabond until his arrest forces her to take charge of her life. http://www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-books/2013-06-16/e-book-nonfiction/list.html
Ingrid also wrote, FOCUS, a memoir about her journey with the blinding eye disease Retinitis Pigmentosa, and, A Little Book of Mormon (and Not So Mormon) Stories. Currently, she is working on, Determined to See, a memoir about her yearlong quest to heal her eyesight and was awarded a 4Culture artist grant to work on it. Ingrid is also blogging about her journey at www.determinedtosee.com
Additionally, she recently co-launched WeAreAbsolutelyNotOkay.org, a nationally recognized mentoring/publishing program that helps teens find their voice by writing and publishing their personal stories.
Ingrid lives in Seattle with her husband and two daughters.
Q. How did you learn that your e-book, Hippie Boy, was number 20 on the New York Times bestselling e-books?
I woke up that Thursday morning, and there was an email from an editor at a large publishing house congratulating me for making the list and asking me if I would be interested in potentially pursuing a deal with them. I later spoke to my agent, Jenny Bent (The Bent Agency,) and we decided to send Hippie Boy to a few publishers for consideration. She knows I’ve always been interested in having my book made into a film, so we are exploring that route as well.
What was that like?
It wasn’t until I saw the listing myself a few days later that suddenly I got really excited about it. I said, “Wow! An editor at the New York Times wrote a blurb about my book!”
I’ve loved the freedom that comes with being an Indie author, but I’ve been doing it for a year and a half and realize that going it alone is hard. I’m interested in partnering with a publishing house and benefitting from their expertise and relationships.
How did you market your book?
I have worked as both a journalist and a marketing/PR consultant and realize how important that background has been for me.
I launched Hippie Boy in late October of 2011 and that December, Amazon launched its KDP Select program for authors. That program gives you the opportunity to advertise your book for free. (For 90 days, authors agree to sell their books only on Amazon and in return, receive five days to offer their book for free to generate exposure.)
Because I understood the power of product sampling and promotions, I immediately signed up and went from selling a couple hundred books over a two month period to having 4,500 people download my book for free in a single day. Over the next few days, I sold 700 copies.
I continually build exposure for Hippie Boy by writing stories for different blogs, cross-promoting with other books, doing speaking engagements, running occasional book promotions and participating in live story-telling events. Last year, I shared a story from Hippie Boy on KUOW, a Seattle NPR affiliate. That story was so popular that a clip from it was featured on NPR’s national storytelling show, Snap Judgment. Using Hippie Boy as a catalyst, I also co-founded the Teen Mentoring/Publishing Program that helps teens write and publish their stories. http://snapjudgment.org/road-again
There are now well over a million books on Amazon so I understand that if you don’t get out there and constantly drive exposure and awareness for your book, it won’t go anywhere.
What I love, love, love is that there is no shelf life with an e-book. Before, a book had six weeks to build momentum and then your window of opportunity was over. Now, thanks to e-books and print on demand (POD,) your book can be available forever, and you can build slowly. The opportunities are endless. Hippie Boy was out there a year and a half before it hit the New York Times list.
How long did it take you to write it?
It took me, on and off, ten years. I had to learn to write narrative nonfiction, and I had to give myself permission. I got serious about it in January of 2010, had it done in six months, wrote a book proposal and landed an agent two months later. But that’s when I discovered that the publishing industry had changed dramatically and that having an author platform was critical to selling my book to publishers. I spent several months building a platform, but I felt the book still needed work before shopping it to publishers so I put the agent I was working with on hold and hired an editor I had met at a conference. She was so good that she was booked out six months in advance so while I waited to work with her, I continued building my author platform. Hiring her was the best decision I made. She came back to me with seventeen pages filled with notes on how to improve it. My 60,000 words became 80,000 words. I spent six weeks rewriting and at the same time, had the book cover designed for Hippie Boy. At that point, I decided to publish it on my own.
What is the hardest part of writing for you and how did you overcome it?
Writing has always been my passion, and I love storytelling. Giving myself permission to do it was the hardest part. Because I write nonfiction and memoir, I did not want to hurt my mother. I also didn’t want people to think I was attacking the Mormon religion. What happened to me could have happened in any religion. My parents have both supported me, which has been a huge gift.
Have you written any other books?
I wrote, FOCUS. As my vision closed in, I saw what really counts. I also wrote, A Little Book of Mormon (and Not So Mormon) stories. It’s a collection of stories growing up Mormon with stories that didn’t fit in to Hippie Boy. It’s both funny and poignant and focuses on life lessons learned.
What do you recommend to aspiring writers?
Really focus on the craft of writing because all of the marketing in the world is not going to matter if you have a poorly written book. When I started out ten years ago, I thought that if I could just find an agent, it didn’t matter that I didn’t know how to write. It wasn’t until I attended my first memoir workshop that I understood how much I had to learn about dialogue, description and character development.
I also think getting involved with open submission platforms like Scribd is critical. Scribd helped me build my name, and not only through the sense of community. They featured my work, which in turn drove more exposure and helped me gain confidence as a writer. I can’t say enough good things about them.
And, finally, believe in yourself and give yourself permission to make your dreams come true. If you write a story that readers want to read, you’re going to find an audience. It doesn’t have to be an overnight success so just take the time to do it right, and it’s never too early to build a platform.
I am focused on healing my eyesight and writing a story that goes with it (Determined to See.) I want to see my daughters grow up and my husband grow old. I really want to see, and I’m doing everything I can to save my sight.