Hi everyone – I just wanted to share the news that my new novel White Lies is now available for pre-order on Amazon and will be released on Tuesday 27th June.
If you would like to find out more click on the image and there’s an excerpt below to whet your appetites.
White Lies by Ellie Holmes
Sam Davenport thought she’d imagined it: the driving rain, her husband Neil’s shout of surprise, the sickening crunch of metal on metal, the explosion of inflating airbags.
A bad dream. That was all it was. Why, even now, they were on their way back to Meadowview Cottage with its thatched roof dipping low over leaded-glass windows and a welcoming fire burning in the TV room to keep the children and their sitter cosy in their absence.
Yes, it was a bad dream. Soon, they would be home and Neil would take off his clothes in the bedroom while she took off her make-up in the ensuite and together they would dissect the party and their friends.
Except, they wouldn’t. Because she hadn’t imagined it. The Range Rover was skewed at a crazy angle across one of the main roads of the Essex market town of Abbeyleigh and picked out in its headlights was the shape of a motorbike and, a few metres on, the body of its rider.
Realising I was suffering from burnout I underwent a digital detox for a week. Feeling rejuvenated as a result, I took some time to step back and think about all the things that had led to my suffering from burnout in the first place.
All of the projects I am involved with are long term undertakings that will take time and effort over a number of months if not years to complete. As a perfectionist, I want to tie things up in a neat bow and then walk away. Sometimes that just isn’t possible and that’s a hard lesson to learn for a perfectionist to learn.
If you are an indie author running your business you don’t have a boss telling you it is time to leave the office. You are the boss and the office is probably the kitchen table or, if you are lucky, a desk in the spare room. The only person who can make you walk away is you.
Human beings are not machines. We cannot mechanically perform the same duties and tasks over and over without a break. Whilst we do not possess an off switch in the traditional sense our minds and bodies do have an emergency off switch they can throw if it all gets too much – we get ill and then we have no option but to slow down and recover.
I know what it is like to suffer from a series of colds, barely getting over one and then coming down with another. My immune system was under performing because my natural resources were stretched too thinly. It was my body’s way of saying enough is enough. Heeding the warning signs and acting on them is one thing. Far better, however, to not be in that position in the first place.
We all get ill, of course but feeling run down is usually something we can do something about. Prevention is better than cure so they say.
None of this is groundbreaking stuff but occasionally we all need to be reminded of the basics.
If you want to feel more contented and fulfilled you have to structure in down time. You then have to ring fence and protect that down time as ferociously as you would protect your writing time. There have to be limits. I will work for two hours and then I will take an hour off to recharge my batteries before I move on to something else. It takes discipline to put limits on the time you give each project or part of your day but ultimately it is the only way to get things done and still have time for yourself.
It took a while to get used to my new routine but as I did so I began to feel more at ease with myself. A sense of fulfillment even began to creep up on me and amazingly I got more done than I did before. With less time I was more focused and because I was not stressing as much about lots of different things at the same time I was more present mentally for the task at hand. What I had thought would be a necessary but ugly compromise was slowly turning into something more satisfying. Who knew?
Every person will have different priorities. The timetable that works for me won’t suit anyone else. It takes time and effort to develop the structure that works best for you but if long term sustainability is the outcome, it is surely worth the effort?
So I started with the best of intentions on my digital detox. My expectations were not set unrealistically high. I would take a week out – seven days but it would not be a complete shut down so far as my devices were concerned. There were still urgent emails to deal with regarding my next book release that could not be ignored and a couple of other deadlines that were immovable. Beyond that, however, freedom lay.
Interesting choice of word freedom and yet it had been on my mind a lot. Because I was feeling burnt out I was also feeling trapped – imprisoned by my commitments. An ailment of modern life given that most of the commitments were generated by my own fair hand and things I had entered into willingly.
It was therefore definitely time to step back. The first morning when I would normally be checking social media and scheduling blogs I removed myself from all my electronic devices and went and sat in the sun lounge. I had breakfast overlooking the garden and enjoying the birdsong and the sunshine.
In the background I could hear my iPad chirruping away with updates and alerts. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs I could feel my attention being pulled back to the world of social media which was merrily tweeting and facebooking away without me. What if the notification was not a standard one but an important one? Shouldn’t I check just to make sure?
I resisted the temptation – recognising it for what it was – a craving for my usual fix. Instead I struck a deal with myself that I would check the various platforms and emails during the lunch hour but would only respond if it was absolutely necessary. For one week, the world could do without me.
For once, I got ready for the day without the burden of buzzing thoughts. I arrived at work early and relaxed. At lunch, I limited myself to a few minutes of checking the platforms and emails. With my new mindset, I decided nothing there could be classed as important. With some satisfaction, I shut them down and read a book. The evening was more of the same. One quick check then freedom. That word again. Suddenly I had an open space mentally and physically to do other things.
The rest of the week continued in the same vein. I felt better almost instantly and that feeling multiplied as the days went by. It was as close to going cold turkey as I am ever likely to get. And I learnt two important lessons during my digital detox week:-
I didn’t miss the whirl of social media
The wheels did not come off my career by taking a few days out
So, if you are struggling with burn out, give yourself as complete a break as it is possible to have. You will feel better for it.
You cannot however dwell in a digital free cave in the long term unless you are happy to ditch the writing career. Nowadays I do not realistically think you can have one without the other. You also do not want to end up back where you started in burnoutsville so what to do?
At the end of the week and with the headspace to actually sit and think I devised a fresh approach which I will share in a blog soon.
In the meantime, if you have been suffering with burn out please get in touch and let me know what worked for you.
Over the years I have got good at juggling: family commitments, the day job, my writing…..the list goes on as I am sure it does for all of you too.
Every now and then I have added more on to the end of the list. When you migrate from writing to indie publishing, suddenly there are even more plates to spin.
If you are not careful you can get sucked into a whirlwind of activity and find that you are running just to stand still and paradoxically you aren’t actually achieving half as much as you did before.
If I had been on the outside looking in, it would have been obvious that I was straying into dangerous territory but we do not often have the luxury of looking at ourselves like that, do we?
A few weeks ago the blindingly obvious became, well – blindingly obvious and I hit a wall – emotionally and mentally.
Everything had become a slog, I was no longer enjoying what I was doing. Worst of all, I wasn’t even writing any more because I was too busy to write. How did I go from being an indie author to an indie author running her business who was too busy to actually write anything? The ludicrousness of the situation would have been funny if it were not so sad. I should have been living the dream but the dream was in danger of becoming a nightmare.
With no choice but to step back and think things through it became clear that I was suffering from burnout.
Examining all of my commitments I concluded that I could not easily shed any of them and there were still only twenty-four hours in a day last time I checked so what was the answer?
If I could not change the commitments and I could not change the amount of time available to me, the only thing left to change was my attitude and approach. Arguably, those things are the hardest of all to change but if I wanted to put the enjoyment back into what I do, I did not have a choice.
The one thing I was yearning for was to live my life like a normal person, if only for one week. Define normal? Don’t eat breakfast with one hand and schedule tweets with the other. Don’t spend your lunch hour answering indie business emails and checking stats. Don’t leave one desk to come home and sit at another. Sound familiar?
I wanted to give it a try, to take a holiday from my writing self but did I dare? The commitments were still there, piling up around me, could I look away and relax knowing they were all still waiting for me?
I am a conscientious perfectionist. I give myself the hardest time of all. Asking myself to sit on my hands and not get on with stuff is the ultimate punishment. But this was serious. I decided to go cold turkey. Well, sort of…
I will let you know how I get on in subsequent blogs but if you too have suffered with burnout at some stage in your career please get in touch and let me know what worked for you.
All authors are under pressure. Writing is hard work and to then switch to publicising that work is a difficult gear change for many. If you are an indie author, the pressures are magnified because you are your own CEO, your own publicist, your own everything. It takes a certain type of person to thrive in that environment but even the best of us can come unstuck.
Burnout is a danger in many walks of life and writers are prone to it. We live in our heads for one thing, we often have day jobs to support our writing for another and so we write around the day job when we are tired and often not at our best. If we are published, whether traditionally, hybrid or indie, there are other demands on our time. We need to keep abreast of new ideas and innovations, to be aware of strategies to assist with our writing, or the production of our books, or our sales, or connecting with our readers. We can easily become overwhelmed by all the information out there. It’s a tidal wave rushing towards us and it’s easy to get swamped. Information overload takes over.
Although many people would envy our achievements, we know the sacrifices it took to get there. We are also familiar with the pressures. It is a fine line to walk between being busy and pushing too hard.
We are all capable of working hard to finish a big project, throwing all of our mental and physical energy at something just to get it done. But what if the big projects just keep coming? We can only keep going at that pace for so long. Eventually we need to throw the off switch and have some down time and if we don’t our bodies will throw the off switch for us by making us sick.
How to recognise you are heading for or suffering from burnout:-
The things that gave you pleasure now no longer please you.
You have stopped writing anything new (this is different to suffering from writer’s block – that’s when you want to write but cannot because the words aren’t there). Here, you no longer even want to write.
You are tired – mentally. All the time.
Even the simplest tasks seem like hard work.
You keep coming down with bugs and sniffles.
You feel overwhelmed and inadequate.
You are running just to stand still but are achieving less and less.
You question why you ever started this in the first place.
You want to stay in bed and pull the duvet over your head.
Moving to a desert island with no wi-fi connection is suddenly an appealing option.
Sound familiar? This is where I found myself a couple of weeks ago.
Recognising the problem is half the battle. In the coming blogs, I will share with you what happened to me and how I am trying to combat it.
If you too have suffered with burnout at some stage in your career please get in touch and let me know what worked for you.
For White Lies, I asked her to come up with a cover that would help me to build a brand. I wanted something that would be recognisably an “Ellie Holmes cover”. Pinning down that elusive idea was never going to be easy. We made a few false turns on the way but I thought you might find it useful to see where we started and where we finished up.
In order to build the brand we used the same font for my name and the title of the book but not the same colours – hard to use cerise pink for the title when the book is called White Lies. We also used an image of a woman walking away as another echo of The Flower Seller.
My two favourites were the lower two images. I love the autumnal colours of the image on the left but I was initially drawn to the image on the right. We almost went for the summer image but at the last minute I became worried that it was too similar to The Flower Seller.
I wanted to build a brand, remember but The Flower Seller and White Lies are stand alone stories. They may be set in the same location and feature some of the same places and minor characters but they are not part of a series. I was concerned that if I went for the summer cover it was actually too much like The Flower Seller and readers may think I was indicating the books were part of a series. This brand building stuff is complicated!
It took four more contact sheets of the lower two images, with various tweaks along the way, before we finally hit on a version that worked. I think when a reader sees The Flower Seller and White Lies side by side they will identify a brand through the fonts and the figure but not be misled into thinking they are part of a series. I hope so, anyway.
Here is my new cover. I love it. What do you think?
I don’t often use my blog to talk about my achievements when it comes to my writing – it’s usually my sounding board when things are going less well!
On this occasion however I have decided to change things up.
My debut novel The Flower Seller was released in June 2016. I worked hard to make The Flower Seller the best version of the book it could possibly be. As an indie author I was keen for my novel to stand out so I put a lot of thought and effort into how the cover would look and engaged a fabulous cover designer to assist. Step forward the wonderful Berni Stevens http://www.bernistevensdesign.com/index.htm
I also made sure I didn’t stint when it came to the story inside the covers – I worked with an editor and a proof reader to make sure the book was as well presented as it could be.
It was at this stage of the process that I became aware of Awesome Indies. If you are unfamiliar with them here is a link to their site http://www.awesomeindies.net/
Their Mission Statement as stated on their site is as follows:-
“Our editors award the Awesome Indies Badge of Approval to indie books that meet mainstream standards of quality. Readers buy our books safe in the knowledge that every one is a professional product. We are the unique voices of quality independent fiction.” Tahlia Newland, founder.
Their approval is the equivalent of a Kite Mark of quality.
Details of how to submit your novel for consideration are given below:-
Whilst it is nice to be independent, it is still wonderful to be given the approval of your peers.
And I believe anything that can distinguish good quality, well produced indie books from those that are thrown on to the market with very little thought or care has to be a good thing for all writers and particularly for all readers. Don’t you agree?