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HERd Management: How I got published: My experience writing farm-focused children’s books

Jessica Peters for Progressive Dairy Published on 01 November 2021

There are two types of people in the world – dreamers and doers. Most farmers are doers; we like to visibly see the progress we’re making. But I’ll admit I’m a bit of a dreamer. I need a creative outlet.

I write songs, silly poems and even books during those times my hands are occupied but my mind isn’t. It started out as a hobby, then led to a nursery song book about our own farm for my nephew. Now I’ve published two children’s books with a third on the way. With each book, I get messages from people with ideas of their own wondering how the publishing process works. In the spirit of hoping more farmers use this avenue to share their story, I thought I’d put my experience into words.

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The ideas for each book came from working around the farm. My first book, Farm Nursery Songs, was inspired by a book my nephew loved about construction equipment. I thought, “Hey, I could do that.” I wrote it to give my nephew a piece of the farm to look at when he was back home in Florida. At the urging of friends and family, and some well-asked questions from his teachers, I realized how much good a children’s book written by a dairy farmer could do. Not only would kids learn the truth about farming from a young age, but someone has to read the book to them. Whoever that adult may be, they’d be learning about farming too. That’s the thought that made me decide to publish.

I was referred to a company called Page Publishing based out of New York City. I went to their website, requested a “New Author Submission Kit,” and in less than a week, I had a phone call from a local representative. I told him about my book and was convinced to submit a manuscript. I’ll admit I was a little skeptical and a lot nervous about the whole thing. For some reason, I had a profound distrust of the whole thing. I didn’t personally know anyone who had published a book and was afraid they’d somehow take my concept for their own or that I’d get screwed in the process. I wasn’t necessarily in it for the money, but I also didn’t want to spend a lot or see someone else take credit for my ideas.

In less than two weeks, I got the phone call that they wanted to publish my book and was sent a contract to look over. I painstakingly read every word twice. Having very little concept of what it took to publish a book, I was initially surprised at the cost I’d have to put in. But the fact that the publisher wasn’t taking any money for themselves until I was paid back the full amount helped put me at ease. I also had full control over each and every step of the process. Decisions were made in steps, and no step was complete until I was satisfied. They assigned me a publishing assistant who helped keep me on task and answered all of my questions, even the dumb ones. They illustrated the book for me using computer animations in a style that I chose. I described each illustration in detail and even sent photos for them to replicate. I have to admit: You haven’t lived until you’ve seen yourself and your family in full cartoon animation.

I was impressed at how accommodating the whole process was. There were times I almost forgot I was in the middle of publishing a book because farming got so busy, and they had to remind me I had edits to look over and approve. I was so worried they’d push me into a direction I didn’t want to go because I assumed they knew more about publishing books than I did, but they never pushed. Every decision was mine to make. I specifically remember that the last decision I made was the colour of my name on the cover. I must have tried six different colours before I settled on one, and they kindly made every edit I asked of them. Also, as part of the contract, they’ve made both books available for sale online via Amazon and Barnes & Noble. My newest book, The Confused Cow, is even available online through Target.

I’m not an expert at this, but I will say that all the misapprehensions I had with the first book were absent with the second. And I can’t speak for other publishing companies, but I can give you some advice if you’re looking to publish an idea of your own. Go into the process knowing what you want and ask for it. Don’t leave any questions in your head. This is your idea and your book. If it doesn’t come out the way you want it to, no one is going to blame the publisher.  end mark

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Jessica Peters is a dairy farmer in Meadville, Pennsylvania. Follow her farm on Facebook: Spruce Row Farm. Search for “Jessica Peters” on Amazon to find her two children’s books with a dairy farm focus.

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