WOULD YOU MARRY A FARMER?
by Lorna Sixsmith
Actually, the title sort of sums it up. When you see the book’s cover with that catchy title you straightaway get a feel for how this is going to read. And when I downloaded the book from Amazon Kindle I found I was spot on.
I sensed it was going to be full of humour. But I also felt there would be a serious side to Lorna Sixsmith’s book. And I wasn’t far wrong. The book is essentially a blend of the author’s own personal experience laced with a backdrop of the social history of marriage in rural Ireland.
What Lorna found was that when she married her farmer she had also married the farm. When a woman ties the knot with a farmer she ties herself to a life of non-stop physical work out among the animals or crops.
As well as being immensely informative on all that’s involved in a life on the farm, Lorna’s book manages to be quite funny, hilarious in places.
In the early chapters the author brings us on a stroll through the social history of marriage in Ireland from the early days of the twentieth century to recent times. Light-hearted but informative, her research is never allowed to become dry or academic. She serves it up in an entertaining way which will grab your attention right from the start.
Being a farmer’s wife herself she’s in a good position to show all sides of the equation in her unique style. No woman reading this book will be under any illusions as to what’s involved. Make no mistake about it, it’s a seven days a week, 365 days a year commitment.
Lifted and lightened by the humorous drawings scattered throughout, this book is also a good read for the general reader looking to be entertained as well as informed. I guarantee you’ll enjoy Lorna’s book as much as I did.
Now read my interview with Lorna Sixsmith.
PJC….Hello Lorna. I feel privileged to welcome you to my blog. Can I start by saying I found your book both informative and entertaining? What prompted you to write Would You Marry a Farmer?
LS….Thank you Paddy, it is great to hear you say that. I was inspired to write the book by the popularity of one particular blog post which was entitled ‘Advice to those considering marrying a farmer’ which covered advice such as the requirement to be telepathic and how to stand in a gap when moving cattle. It was enjoyed by farmers and farmers’ wives the world over which gave me the idea that people might enjoy a book on the topic.
PJC….The book is rich with references from newspapers and journals right back to the early 20th century. Do you enjoy this type of academic research?
LS….I do but haven’t done any research for many years. I have a degree in English and History and I also completed an MA in Irish Studies when I lived in England. I never thought of doing a dissertation on the topic of the rural life of farmers and farmers’ wives at the time – I guess I was too close to it having being brought up on a farm myself, it just didn’t seem that it was interesting enough to research but it is – it’s a fascinating topic.
Part of me wonders if the first part of the book could grow to a whole book – you never know what might happen in the future. I was worried some people might find it boring and tried to inject as much tongue in cheek humour as I could. Feedback has been really positive and many non farmers say it is their favourite part of the book as it offers such insight.
PJC….You married a farmer and have two lovely children. Do you yourself come from a farming background?
LS….Yes, I was brought up on this farm. My husband and I lived in England for twelve years, he was brought up on a farm too. Brian has a PhD in biotechnology and I was working as a teacher. We came back to Ireland to farm when my father retired in 2002.
PJC….Were you good at school and what was your favourite subject?
LS….I saw myself as average and I suppose I was a ‘B’ student in most subjects. English was my favourite subject but I also enjoyed Science. I made the error of choosing Chemistry over History for the leaving cert which was silly as I scraped a C in pass Chemistry and I probably would have got a B in Honours History. Hindsight is great! I took a few ‘gap years’ and went back to university when I was 24. I loved every minute of my MA, soaked it up like a sponge and thoroughly enjoyed the research. Margaret Ward (author of Unmanageable Revolutionaries and Hanna Sheehy Skeffington: A Life) was a wonderful lecturer in Irish Women’s Studies. The academic achievement I am most proud of is my distinction for the Masters Degree.
PJC….What was your very first job?
LS….I took a variety of jobs when I left school – reception work, dental nursing, secretarial work, then I decided to do an A Level in English at night to check that was what I wanted to do. I discovered I loved it, going back to college at 24 meant that I enjoyed every minute of academia.
PJC….You undertook to publish the book yourself. What did that involve? Was it an expensive process?
LS….Yes, I decided to self publish and rather than just publish it as an ebook, I wanted to print it as I believed my target market would prefer to read the printed version. It cost almost €9,000 between the editor, illustrator, new website, miscellaneous costs, ISBN numbers and of course, the printing of a thousand hardback copies.
I ran a crowdfunding campaign last summer, partly to see if there was a demand for the book and test the market and partly to raise funds via pre-sales. I raised €6,000 towards the self publishing costs which was a huge help both in terms of finances but also in building my confidence and providing me with a much needed deadline. The difficulty in self publishing for many writers can be the temptation to keep editing and editing.
I was proved right in terms of people preferring the physical copy and have sold over a thousand copies since 1st December 2013. It is also available on kindle.
PJC….Who edited your book and how did you find your editor?
LS….I have known Derbhile Graham for many years so she seemed like the obvious choice. I didn’t worry about finding an editor for a specific genre as my book is non fiction. Getting the right illustrator was important too and as it happened, Joanne Condon is a farmer’s wife too. It took a while to come up with the right image for the ‘farmer’ but once we had him sorted, it was fun coming up with the images for the interior of the book.
PJC….I couldn’t help being grabbed by the quirky cover. Do you think the cover is important for sales?
LS….I do – I hope my cover suggests that it is a humourous, tongue-in-cheek look at life in farming. The idea behind the farmer holding the huge diamond ring and the pitchfork with the dog beside him is to suggest that you may get the romance but you’ll have to share him with the farm and his best friend, the dog.
I do think it can be a good idea to have different covers for kindle and the hard back books – I feel this cover is too busy for a thumbnail image on the kindle / Amazon and perhaps the title isn’t clear enough. However, creating a new cover for the kindle book isn’t something I am going to do as yet as I am concentrating on the sales of physical books. In many ways, it is a small coffee table book, the kind of book you can dip in and out of and find something to chuckle at each time you pick it up.
PJC….How did you set about letting people know about your book?
LS….I used social media to drive the crowdfunding campaign and it received print press coverage during the campaign. I got radio PR before the book was out as Hector interviewed me at the Ploughing Championships. I was also interviewed by Ryan Tubridy on Tubridy 2FM, Louise Denvir on RTE Countrywide, Joe Duffy on Liveline (on his programme about self published book) and Ivan Yates on News Talk which really helped to drive sales before Christmas as many people bought the book as a gift. It also got some print coverage in the farming print media. It has been popular as a wedding prop and engagement gift purchase too.
It can be hard work keeping up the PR, trying to think of new angles to attract journalists. I have sent it to some radio presenters and will be interviewed soon on some local radio programmes. I’m judging the Blue Jeans Country Queen festival in Meath during the June bank holiday and will be doing book signings there too so I hope this will increase awareness too.
I’m continually using my blog, facebook, pinterest and twitter to increase brand awareness too.
PJC….Do you plan a follow-up and if so what will it be?
LS….Yes, I am currently writing a ‘farming memoir’ planning it to include the highs and lows, the tragic and the funny parts of our farming lives.
I have sent ‘Would You Marry A Farmer?’ to an American agent. In many ways, I would be so intrigued to hear what an editor might think of it, how they would propose altering it for an international audience particularly if they wanted to emphasise the ‘Irish farmer’ for the target market. Who knows what might happen but for the moment, I’m happy spreading the word about it within the Irish market and keeping it as a self published book.
PJC….What else have you been doing by way of writing?
LS….I blog regularly on Irish Farmerette about farming and self publishing. I am also including blog posts from Maggie Moo, an Irish dairy calf and am toying with the idea of writing stories for children about Maggie Moo. I also blog at Write on Track about social media marketing and usage. I recently co-wrote an ebook entitled ‘The Banter, The Craic, the Business: Ten Ways Being Irish Can Boost Your Business’
PJC….It can’t be easy, helping out on the family farm and at the same time finding the time to write. What are your coping strategies?
LS….It is certainly busy. I am an owl and tend to write late at night. It’s busy at the moment as calves have to be fed morning and evening and I work about 3 hours a day on the farm plus I ghost blog for clients, offer social media training and there’s the children too but there’s only 24 hours in a day and they get filled. I’m never bored!
PJC….What are you reading at the moment? Do you have a favourite author?
LS….I’m planning to read at least 52 books this year and am reviewing a book a week on my blog. I really missed reading during the latter half of last year as I just didn’t have time when writing my book to such a tight deadline. I don’t have a favourite author. I do love crime fiction and my favourites would include Louise Phillips and Jo Nesbo. I’m connecting with many more authors now via facebook groups and linkedin and as a result, I’m reading a huge variety of genres at the moment but my favourites are contemporary Irish fiction, historical novels, farming fiction and biographies, and crime fiction.
PJC….Do you have any advice for other authors?
LS….Set yourself a deadline for publishing the book otherwise it is very easy to edit and edit. I could easily still be editing my book if I didn’t force myself to have a deadline because of the crowdfunding. Leave sufficient time for editing it too and do not scrimp by not getting an editor. It’s very difficult to edit your own work effectively and pick up on those typos.
PJC….Would You Marry a Farmer is available where? And in what formats?
LS….It is available on kindle. It is also available to purchase online on my website www.irishfarmerette.com and in independent Irish bookshops (although some of them will have to order it – they usually have it in within 24 hours then).