Farm News columnist promoting new book
BOONE – No one is interested in collections of columns as book material anymore.
At least that’s what several “in the know” advisors told Jerry Nelson, of South Dakota.
But despite what the so-called experts had to say, he persisted in seeking, and finding, an interested publisher.
Nelson, who pens the weekly Dear County Agent Guy column that is a staple feature in Farm News, has published a book of the same title consisting of selected columns. The book, he said, can be purchased almost anywhere.
Nelson was at the Hay and Forage Expo in Boone, June 22 and June 23, working the Dairy Star booth. He does some part time work for the Dairy Star and was on hand to talk with those who follow his column in numerous publications.
“Reaction to the book has been good,” Nelson said. “A friend of mine told me he bought a copy in Wall Drug (South Dakota) and I thought, ‘Oh wow, it really is everywhere.'”
His start in penning a syndicated column started as a spoof.
It was in 1996, when his South Dakota fields were ponded so long he saw cattails growing in them. He wrote a letter to his county Extension agent asking the best practices for getting the best yield from the cattails.
He showed the letter to the Extension agent, who suggested he take it to the local newspaper in Brookings. The paper not only printed it, but asked for more.
As his confidence grew, he syndicated his work and submitted other types of writing to bigger publications.
Garrison Keillor, host of “A Prairie Home Companion,” used a couple of his radio scripts. Keillor provided a dedication for Nelson’s book.
Nelson started thinking seriously of a book of his collected columns in 2014, thinking self-publishing may be the way to go.
Although he was told by “The Book Doctors,” nationally known Arielle Eckstrut and David Henry Sterry, that no one does collections anymore, he was recommended to a literary agent.
That agent also told him that publishers are not looking for collections.
But Nelson plugged on and it wasn’t long before the agent connected him with New York-based Workman Publishing Company, “who said, ‘Yea, that’s the kind of thing we like,'” according to Nelson.
He said he had to answer farm questions for the urban editors as they pored over his writing such as, “what are these road ditches?” and “what are shelter belts?”
But in the long run, Nelson said the editors told him “‘It’s great to work with a wonderful body of work, and we’re going to make it wonderfuller.'”
“I like that, wonderfuller.”
Through Workman, Nelson has a publicist, Chloe Puton, who arranges his book tours. So far in Iowa, he’s attended book promotions at last week’s Expo, plus in Des Moines, Perry and Decorah.
“I just hope people come away with just a snippet of what rural life is like,” Nelson said about his column.
He said growing up in the 1950s rural life was about “neighboring” and sharing community chores, including threshing, haying and silage times. But now, he said, he doesn’t know his neighbors who live next to him on an acreage.
“I hope to keep that little part of Americana alive,” Nelson said concerning his columns, “and to entertain.”
“It’s a bit of escapism. Each chapter stands on its own.”
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