Think back to the roasting hot summer we had last year. I know it’s hard in the weather we are having at the mo! It was early evening and there was a group of us gathered in the gorgeous afternoon light, ready to shoot the cover shot for Elizabeth Cairn’s book The Empowered Entrepreneur.
Elizabeth’s dear friend (and mine!) Fiona Humberstone was styling the shot. She had brought lot’s of gorgeous props that reflected Elizabeth and her brand.
We knew we would have a table and chairs in the countryside at sunset but everything else came together on the shoot. Whilst Fiona was working her styling magic I was shooting various different angles to see what looked best.
This was the first shot. Angled slightly to the left of the final shot. It just didn’t work as well because there was too much dark green. Which means the eye is drawn to the lightest part of the image, which is the dry grass in the middle of the image. Not where I wanted it to be!
So the table had to move and quickly as the sun was going down rapidly and everything needed to be restyled!
Things take time as well because we need to work out (rapidly) what looks best. Cushion on the chair, yes or no? Glass vase with Angelica in camera left or right? Luckily there were lot’s of people to help move things so I could concentrate on shooting as soon as it was ready.
We decided this was the best position and everything was perfectly styled. But then we thought maybe it looked too bare at the top of the image. As originally I had been further back and the tree branch at the top of the left image was showing. I Photoshopped it in later to see what we thought. Fiona also needed to play with the cover text and see what worked best.
We decided this was the shot, everything was perfectly in place, apart from the light. As you can see the gorgeous light is blowing out too much of the image and everything looks too soft as a result. Great for a shot within the book perhaps but not the cover. The cover shot needed gravitas, it needed to be taken seriously, as well as attract Elizabeth’s ideal clients to pick it up.
On the way to all my shoots I do an energy pull. So driving here I did exactly that and asked to capture the energy of Elizabeth and create the perfect book cover to attract all the people who needed to read this book!
So not long after this shot was taken Elizabeth sat in the chair and we played with angles, whilst waiting for the light to move off slightly. We really didn’t have to wait long!
The final shot Elizabeth chose is the one with her in it, where the sun has dipped behind the trees. You can see Elizabeth pops more and you still have the warmth without the blown highlights of the gorgeous golden hour.
Elizabeth went with that image (despite loving them all) as her instinct was so overwhelmingly in favour of that one. “I knew the instant I saw it that it was right.”
The above image was another possible shot for the cover. Elizabeth said “I know Fiona wanted the cooler quieter one but I really wanted it to be warm and have some humanity.
I also sent the three options to five of my muses to get their opinion and they all spontaneously and immediately came back with the same choice as me. I also asked a few other people I know in publishing.
Everyone wanted to see a person on the cover so it was a no brainer choice in the end.”
So that was a behind the scenes look at a shoot and the reasoning behind everything. You can see more of me in action in the videos at the end of the post.
But for now I thought you’d like to hear from Elizabeth herself on what inspired her to create such a beautiful & meaningful book!
Where did your inspiration to write the book come from?
The inspiration came from my work over the last 20 years of so, first in corporate life and then with entrepreneurs and business owners. I noticed common themes cropping up and knew that there were simple paradigm shifts that could make a big difference to how people saw their business and approached their life that ultimately would bring more joy, fulfilment and a sense of empowerment. The inspiration in the actual process of writing was more about getting into a flow state, using my connection to nature, keeping my vision for the book front of mind and keeping my readers close at heart all helped.
What do you want people to feel when they first see your book?
I really hope that the book has been created in such a way that each reader has a unique experience and feels what is right for them at the time. Books have always been quite magical to me, coming into my life at the right time for the right purpose and there are books that have stayed with me for years and years and each time I pick them up something new is revealed in the pages. People tell me that the Empowered Entrepreneur is working a little like that. Whatever feeling drives people to find find the book in the first place I hope is what is answered as they first experience it and enjoy the journey through it.
People have told me that they feel hope, inspiration, anticipation, peace, curiosity, light and acceptance which really speaks to the power of the image you have created for the cover, that it can hold so much.
Ultimately I want the reader to feel empowered, that they have choice over how they engage with their work and their life to make it more successful fulfilling and ultimately meaningful.
Why did you pick me to shoot your cover?
I love your work. Your ability to capture nature and light in a way that is authentic and beautiful was exactly what the cover needed. I knew from past experience that working together would be easy and enjoyable which are also pre-requisites for any dream team I work with, and it all just came together at the right time.
How long did it take you to write it?
That’s a tricky question really. The seed for a book was sown many years ago and I feel like I’ve been priming my brain with the content for my whole working life. I remember the moment I committed to writing it with gusto though. I was sitting in meditation autumn 2017 and the title of the book came to me. It was as if the book said
‘Right, it’s time, I really want to be written and as you’re here and you’ve been thinking about it, I’m going to give you a shot, but you need to get on with it because if you’re not going to do it now, I’ll find someone else…”
I still have my journal pages of that ‘conversation’ with my unconscious where I promised that I would be true to the book, that I would see it through, and countering all the internal doubts and reasons why I couldn’t do it and didn’t have time blah blah blah. Ultimately I felt at that point I made a contract, with myself, the book, the universe, whatever you want to call it, to get the job done. Shortly after, at the start of a workshop I delivered in November 2017, I made a promise to myself that by that time I delivered the workshop the following year I would be gifting my book to the participants. It was at that moment that I had a tangible vision, (me putting my book into the gift bags) something I could hold in my mind in a clear moment in time that galvanised my commitment like nothing else.
I knew that it had to go to print by July if we were to make it in time, which meant the creative piece and styling had to start early spring. I was homeschooling my two children and working evenings so I knew I really only had school holidays when my husband would be home from his teaching job to get the actual words down so I did a big chunk of the first draft over Christmas. Most of that didn’t make the cut and then about 30,000 of the final words were written in 4 days of February half term. There’s nothing like a deadline to make things happen.
It went on sale October 2018 and at Vision and Vitality 2018 it went into the gift bag for my lovely guests.
How did you stay on track?
Vision and inspiration pulled me through the project if I’m honest. Once you have commitment and are excited about the creating then it mostly takes care of itself. That said, I am a fairly organised person who can focus when I need to and not get distracted, I thank my years of meditation practice for that. I had such limited time I just had to crack on. Less time is often more helpful than more time. And a deadline. Having a very clear fixed end point meant that everything needed to happen by a certain point. It’s also fairly straightforward with a book project as you know that there are certain things that need to happen in a certain order for it come come together in the most efficient way.
Did you have a muse when you were writing it or many?
Yes, whenever I write either for my clients or myself I always have two or three key muses in mind as it really helps focus the voice and bring the content to life. Having worked with thousands of entrepreneurs in the last 18 years or so I was lucky enough to have lots of people I could call to mind.
In a very general sense I was writing to a creative small business owner who has an inkling that there might be a better, easier more fulfilling way to work but might be too overloaded, overwhelmed or unclear to navigate their way there. I was also writing to those people who long for their work to be a deeper expression of who they really are, who have something to say in the world that they feel is important but find it hard to see past all the conventional rules of life and work.
Why did you decide to go the self-publishing route?
My husband and I started a publishing company a few years ago. He is a fiction writer and we knew that, at the pace that he writes, we needed to be in a position to publish frequently and not be constrained by the publishing house model of book creation. When it came to The Empowered Entrepreneur it was a straightforward choice. I had made a commitment to myself to write the book in a certain way, to be true to what I felt needed to be written and I didn’t want to be swayed by thoughts of what might sell well or the agenda of a traditional publisher. I also love the freedom that self publishing gives you of being able to work with a team that you choose and that was very important to me. Working with a dream team of creatives that were all personally invested in the project really mattered.
How did you find a book distributor?
There are actually very few distributors in the UK that will take on self published works so the show list was an easy one to get to. In the end I went with the ones that I know had done a great job with ‘How to Style your Brand’ and ‘Brand Brilliance’, the two wonderful books I edited for Fiona Humberstone.
How are you marketing it?
At the moment, if I’m honest, the marketing effort so far has been pretty light as my focus is on my clients and their projects and I have a fairly limited number of working hours a week, but the book is doing incredibly well. It seems to have a life of its own and has reached over 15 countries so far I think. I imagine that, as with most of my work, the majority sales have come through word of mouth and recommendation. The community on Instagram have been very supportive and I’ll be ramping up the marketing effort this year and next with a book tour and a few other things I have in mind.
What were your best/worst moments in the whole process?!
The worst, in the final stages of proofing when I worried if all the I’s were dotted and the t’s were crossed, literally. No matter how many times you read a manuscript or how many eyes are on it, there is always something that slips through and that niggles me. The moments when dear Fiona was so excited to get started and was asking me for the manuscript before it was finished and I had to hold my nerve and wait until it was complete.
The best moments, gosh there are so many. The beginning, when I knew it was time to get started, I love the energy at the start of a project when there is so much possibility. The photo shoots which were such fun and reminded me of my days in event management. Seeing Gail’s illustrations in the flesh for the first time. They took my breath away she had put so much love and care into them. The moment I put the books into the gift bags and saw the project come full circle. The very best…my first spontaneous email from an unknown reader telling me how much they had got from the book, that was pure magic.
What have you learned from writing it? Would you do anything differently?
Mainly the book has been an affirmation of itself really, it’s been a living example of what it holds in the chapters: That if you follow inspiration and create the conditions for flow that you can create something of value that will go out into the world in quite a magical way. That if you stay true to what’s most important and let go of everything else that life becomes meaningful. That if you don’t try to control everything or push through and wait until the time is right and everything is aligned that everything comes together in the end. That time really is an illusion and when you have vision, inspiration and commitment a heck of a lot can be achieved in a very short space of time. I thoroughly enjoyed writing the book and honestly I don’t think I’d change anything. I felt it was dance between me and the muse and that what we’ve created together is something I can be proud of and will hopefully be of value to the bright and brilliant souls it was written for.