When Lorna Sixsmith started ‘Irish Farmerette’ she thought of it as a personal blog. Somewhere she could share her farming life and advocate for farming and Irish food. She’d also always wanted to write a book. It took a blog post about marrying a farmer, a trip to Wales and a crowdfunding campaign to bring the two together.
Listen below to hear the story of how Lorna turned her blog into a writing career:
How did Lorna turn a personal blog into a book?
In September 2012 Lorna hit publish on a blog post that would change her life. She didn’t know it at the time but her post ‘Advice to those considering marrying a farmer‘ would go viral and spur her to finally start on that book she’d been meaning to write.
It didn’t take her long to write the first 10,000 words but she put it on the back burner. Would people really want to read it? Could she get a publisher? If she self-published would she end up with hundreds of copies stacked in the attic like so many others?
Then she went to Wales. It wasn’t a holiday, she was attending a conference and one of the speakers introduced her to the concept of Crowdfunding.
We all know about crowdfunding in 2016. Many of us will have invested in quirky and unusual projects, some of us will have given a dig out to our friends, a few of us may even have run our own campaigns.
Back in 2013 it wasn’t as widespread but Lorna decided that it might be a good way to publish her book. If successful it would guarantee sales in advance. On her return from Wales she discovered that her viral post had hit 50,000 views in a week. All her ducks were in a row, it was time to take the plunge.
Between June of 2013 and Christmas of the same year, she crowdfunded her book, wrote it and published it in time to appear in stockings.
Why such a tight deadline?
Lorna loves deadlines. If she doesn’t have them things don’t happen. Her first deadline was very tight, she had just 3 months to deliver her book for Christmas as she’d promised her crowdfunding investors. The second and upcoming third book have an easier. To me, 1o months is still an insane schedule but it ensures she has the book ready in time for biggest farming event in Ireland the ‘National Ploughing Championships’. This isn’t just a competition for ploughing but a massive trade fair/country show, the perfect place for her to get press coverage.
Is blogging a good gateway to writing a book?
Lorna had struggled to get started with her blog. Her first plan was to write fiction, instead of assisting she found blogging was a form of procrastination. It was good practice for getting into the habit of blogging but it wasn’t until she chose non-fiction that it started to pay off.
The first book ‘Would You Marry a Farmer’ could be written in sections. If she got writers block she’d just tell herself it was a blog post, write 1,5000 words and come back to it for editing.
Getting press coverage
It’s not enough to just write a book, particularly when you self-publish. You need to promote it too. Press coverage is hard to get when you start from nowhere but Lorna found that blogging helped with this too.
She’d been told media wouldn’t be interested in her crowdfunding campaign until she had completed it. So instead of sending press releases she started to update her blog once a week, sharing how the campaign was going. These blog posts attracted the attention of a journalist in one of Ireland’s biggest newspapers ‘The Irish Independent’ who wrote a feature on her in the paper.
Lorna continues to get press coverage, in fact, she’s become a minor celebrity in Ireland when it comes to farming, appearing on current affairs and light entertainment television shows.
She now writes a column for ‘The Scottish Farmer’ a job she got partly because the editor was able to check out her blog and style in advance.
Having a niche
There are other farming bloggers in Ireland but Irish Farmerette stands out. Lorna started it partly as a therapeutic exercise. She shares moments from her farming life but she tries to find humour in even the biggest disasters on the farm. It’s a warts and all blog about farming.
Where should someone who wants to write a book start with blogging?
- It helps you grow your following and your audience. When people read your blog and get to know what your writing is like they are more likely to buy. They’ll also follow you on social media and chat to you there.
- Write in the same style that they will be writing for the book. It will attract the right readers. If you want to write historical fiction write about history and stories around the era that your book is set in. If it’s going to be a humorous blog the content of the blog has to be funny.
- Your blog is a trailer, a sample of what your book will be.
If you could start your blog fresh again today what would you do differently?
I always like to ask people this. For Lorna, it’s pretty simple. She’d like to have started with www.lornasixsmith.com instead of IrishFarmerette. Although she owns both domains and both point at her blog the term ‘farmerette’ has been a bit controversial. Some see it as being demeaning.