Tuesday 30 June 2015

June Beauty Buys

For June, I ordered a blending sponge and Pixi eye shadow palette (in Emerald Gold) from Beauty Bay.  The Grand total was £15.70.  I ordered Missha BB Cream (in #13 Light Beige) from Yes Style.

My Beauty Bay arrived promptly.  I had to wait for the BB Cream to arrive before I could try out the blender sponge so the first thing I played with was my new eye shadows.

Pixi, Mesmerizing Mineral Pallette in Emerald Gold (£13.20)
Wow!  This was not something I needed in my life until I tried it.  

I love when a product can just be opened and used right away.  The brush is of good quality.  The case is good but I had expects it to be hinged along the long side but it's the narrow side.

The shadows are highly pigmented so you don't need much powder to get the colour to show.  In addition, all the colours work well with each other so you can either use the light colours for a natural look or the dark colours for an evening look, you can go gold tones, brown tones or my favourite, green tones.  You can even wear a colour on its own.

My only disappointment is nothing to do with the product.  I stupidly left the eye shadow on the dining room table and my toddler thought it would be fun to throw it on the floor.  Now, the hinge is broken and the lid doesn't shut properly.

All the other eyes shadow palettes in this range are now on my wish list and want to try more Pixi products.

Beauty Bay, Blender Sponge (£2.50)
Missha B, Signature BB Cream in #13 (£21.90)
I bought these to use together as I heard the BB cream applies better when you use a blender sponger.

The BB cream looks a lot like foundation to me - the same consistency and colour.  On my hand, the colour was so close to my skin tone that I could hardly see it.

I put the cream on the sponge and then bounced it all over my face.  I then added some small drops around my nose and the corner of my eyes and used the pointy end to get in close.  The cream went on really well and covered up my blemishes enough that I did not feel the need to apply concealer too. 

From Beauty BayI bought their blender sponge for £2.50 (pink was sadly the only colour left).  I then treated myself to the Pixi Mesmerizing Mineral Palette in Emerald Gold at £13.20 to ensure I got free delivery (free 2 day tracked delivery on spends over £10 otherwise £1.95).  My grand total came to £15.70.

From Yes Style I have ordered Missha B Signature BB Cream #13.  This cost £21.90 with free shipping (7 to 14 days).  I did see I could get it cheaper on eBay but I wasn't sure if it was the real thing.

Maybelline BabySkin Fatigue Blur Primer £7.99
Maybelline BabySkin Instant Pore Eraser Primer £7.99
Maybelline Great Lash WTP - Very Black £4.99 

Boots had a buy 3 for 2 offer, so I also bought my best friend the waterproof mascara which is her favourite.

Both the baby skin products smelled strongly of harsh chemicals which was unpleasant.  

I used the pore minimiser under my BB cream.  It looked like a gel.  It went on easily.  Once applied it created a smooth layer on my skin that was an effective makeup base.  

The fatigue blur is designed to brighten the complexion to give a refreshes awake look.  However, it disappeared under my BB cream making it pretty pointless.  I then tried it as a highlighter over my BB which was more effective but I wasn't that impressed.  

Baby skin wasn't for me and I won't buy either again. 

I gave the mascara to my best friend as I know it is her favourite.  I have tried it myself and it is good.

Dr Organic Snail Gel Cream

For June, I ordered Dr Organic Snail Gel Cream and 4 Snail Gel face masks from Holland and Barrett.  H&B had a sale on  "Buy 2 or more get 25% off.  Buy 5 or more get 50% off all Dr.Organic."  Therefore, my order came to a grand total of £13.97 (£15.96 to include £1.99 postage).

I haven't tried the face mask yet but as soon as the cream arrived I used it right away.

The cream is thick and white and smells of lemons.  It's a lot more pleasant than the thought of how it was made.  My 18 month son was interested so I allowed him to sample some too and it caused no adverse reaction to his young skin.

I have been using this cream morning and night.  To start there were no obvious "wow" benefits from using it but my pre-existing blemishes appeared to be healing and no new spots erupted in response to changing my regime.  One night, I went to bed and didn't use it, my skin flared up.  This happened again today - last night, I went to bed last night without using it (I used my Surge Organic night cream instead) and today, I have a massive spot on my chin.

Now, I am terrified that my snail slime will run out and anger my skin angry from with drawl.  As a result, this cream is likely to become a staple in my skincare regime.

Monday 29 June 2015

Calling All Writers

Last weekend (27 June 2015 to 28 July 2015) was the Felixstowe Book Festival.  The library had arranged for guest speakers and workshops to take place at the Orwell Hotel as well as activities in town for children and at the library.  

I decided to take advantage of the event in the hope that my support would encourage them to continue more in future.  The last event on the programme I attended was a talk by Sara Sheridan.  I made a few notes from their discussion on what it is like to be a published writer and how to become one.

Sara began by warning us that she will be brutally honest with us about negatives of being an author and told us to Google her articles on Huffington Post to read more about that.  This introduction set the pace for Sara's humours honesty, ensuring that any writer that dreams the industry is rainbows and glitter gets a reality check.

Sara went on to inform us that there are a few main reasons why a writer doesn't get published:

  1. The writing is simply not good enough.
  2. It needs editing 
  3. Selective slots - for example, they publisher might print 3 books a month (36 a year).  Many of these slots will already have been allocated to existing authors leaving possible 10 slots for new writers.
  4. Neilson Bookscan - This tells publishers what is selling such as genres or formats.  If a book stops selling it will get pulled from the shelves to make space for something else.  They can gather information of who is buying the book like age.  For example, younger readers are more likely to read on a tablet where as older readers will prefer an eReader.  
Sara pointed out that the Neilson Bookscan helps to identify a trend but the trend can change.  For example, YA Fiction, Fantasy, Children's books is on the increase.  However, if you write crime you shouldn't give up, just wait until the tides turn in your favour.  

When a genre is doing well, Agents are more positive about taking those books on as they are more likely to be bought by a publishing press.  However, if an Agent/Publisher loves your book regardless they will still take it on.  It's all a gamble and down to luck.

Sara's advised that you should write what you enjoy and not worry about what is trendy because it constantly changes.  

Sara spoke about different size agencies and shared her own experience together with what she had learnt from other writers:

  • Small Agency (3 people):  Here you will get a very personal touch.  They will respond quickly to you.  They may have less resources so there is less "clout".
  • Medium Agency (6 people):  Here you will still be known but they will be slower to return your calls.  
  • Big Agency:  Here it is very hard to get hold of anyone unless you are a big name.
Sara spoke about the importance of narrative drive and recommended researching novels similar to your own and study them technically.  How many chapters does it have?  what is the word count of chapters and the novel?  How is it paced?  What have they done well - is it something you could incorporate into your work? 

It is worth getting your novel edited because an expert eye will identify things that you won't.  She spoke about the two different type of editors and that it is worth finding one that specialises in your genre.  She recommended researching what editor the publishing house uses that prints the sort of books you write.  These editors are experience in the field and will know how to make the novel work in a way that will make it popular with readers.  It is best to get your novel to the best standard you can before getting an editor and definitely before sending it out to agents/publishers as it will improve your chances of getting a deal.  

Sara was asked on her view regarding Amazon's Kindle Lending Library only paying writers for how much the reader reads.  Sara felt it was too new that she wasn't sure how it would affect her yet.  She then went on to speak about how much has changed over the years and writers no longer need to take the traditional route to publication. 

Sara talked about a friend who wrote a number of murder mysteries that are set in a rough city but was unable to get an agent or publisher.  It didn't appeal to the white, middle class men who dominate the publishing industry.  In the end she self published on Amazon and they sold really well.  The publishers, who originally turned her down, offered her a contract but she felt they hadn't supported her from the start so went with Hudson Press (Amazon's publisher) to take her book to print.  

To self publish on Kindle Direct Publishing, all you need is:
  • a word file
  • cover
  • price
  • and to fill out a form about the book such as genre
Sara also pointed out that if a writer sells an ebook via a publisher then they will usually earn about 25%  and receive this money after 6 months arrears.  If a writer sells an ebook they self published then they will usually earn about 75% and receive this money after just 6 weeks.

Sara reminded us to foremost enjoy writing because once we get a contract we will be expected to keep submitting and we'll have deadlines.  

Sara recommended joining The Society of Authors (about £85 per year) as soon as you can.  She explained this site is like a Trade union for Authors and can help with contract queries.  However, you cannot join until you have a contract.

My thoughts

Sara's sense of humour made the talk really enjoyable.  She was down to earth and delivered exactly what she promised - honesty.  I had never heard of the Neilson Bookscan and I'd never considered how few slots are available.  It really does seem that once you get your foot in the door, your job is to stay there and that can be almost a challenging as getting in in the first place.  It was also nice to be reminded that the traditional route is not the only route.  I would like to learn more about editors because no matter how long I work on my writing, I can always return to it and find something knew to fix.  

Sara also talked about some of the stigmas attached to "women writers" or "romance writers" and I had never before knew these stigmas existed for other writers but I knew what she was talking about.  I've experienced that smirk when I tell someone I write teen/paranormal/fantasy romance.  Growing up I was always encouraged to NOT pursue writing, to instead pursue a "real job".  Being a writer is a real job and sounds like a lot of hard work.  It's still my dream and I would encourage anyone who wants to be a writer to never give up.  Yes, you need an income but if you continue to aspire to be an author then one day, that can be your income.  In the meantime, my jobs are research for future characters.  

I would attend a talk by Sara again, she was a really likeable person who knew a lot about the industry.  

Some people at the event recommended:

Further links:

Sunday 28 June 2015

Meet The Publishers

This weekend (27 June 2015 to 28 July 2015) was the Felixstowe Book Festival.  The library had arranged for guest speakers and workshops to take place at the Orwell Hotel as well as activities in town for children and at the library.  

I decided to take advantage of the event in the hope that my support would encourage them to continue more in future.  The first event on the programme I attended was a talk by Alexandra Pringle and Patricia Borlenghi.  I made a few notes from their discussion on the differences between a large or small publishing house.

How long is it from contract to publication?

Patricia estimated that this can take about a year.  Alexandra said this is the same for a large publisher from when the contract is signed but that they will take into account when the best time is to publish the book so it may be ready after a year but could be delayed a few months to place the book for sale at the optimum time.  For example, September is not a good time because this is when Christmas books are launched for example celebrity cook book.

Do you need to see the whole novel before offering a contract?

Both publishers said they would offer a contract after seeing a synopsis and some sample chapters if they loved the work.  However, Alexandra pointed out that for a new writer they would want to see the whole thing as they need to get to know you before trusting you like that.  However, non-fiction is often bought on a sample and synopsis.  

What is their opinion on other formats i.e. ebooks/audio?

Alexandra originally didn't like ebooks until she got into publishing.  Her business began by only publishing ebooks.  Now she is a huge fan of them and although also prints, she prefers ebooks.  Alexandra is deaf so has no personal experience of audio books but knows people that do enjoy them.  Alexandra didn't feel ebooks are a threat to print as she often goes on to buy a print version of a book that she truly loves.

Patricia knows people who enjoy audio books whilst driving or on the commute.  She enjoys ebooks for how instantly you can receive the information and spoke about a holiday where she'd finished the novel she had packed and then downloaded the next book onto her kindle.  Now she only packs her kindle as she can then take many books but use less space.  Patricia didn't feel that ebooks to be a threat to print and pointed out that they have made hardbacks more desirable as a gift.  When giving a book it is nicer to unwrap something tangible.  Patricia believed people were more likely to buy an authorbiography in print whereas fiction was preferred as an ebook.  She went on to say certain genres tend to sell better on Kindle.

Cost of books and the risk to the industry?

Patricia spoke about how ebooks can protects the territory rights.  She also spoke about how books are actually relatively cheap and their prices have not increased in the past few years.  She gave an example of how the cost of books has come down.  She spoke about how supermarkets are not able to sell books at bargain prices making the pricing of books very competitive.

How important is it that a writer has an agent?

Alexandra purposefully set up her small publishing house to support writers who don't have an agent and welcomes submissions directly from writers.  Once Alexandra receives a manuscript it can take 24 hours for her to read it.  If she takes you on, you can choose to go mainstream after 2 years.  

Large publishing houses rely on agents.  Patricia felt they are 'everything' due to the sheer volume they receive.  Bloomsbury no longer have a slush pile.  

Both read submissions all day every day.  They only time they have to read anything for their own personal pleasure is on holiday.  

Do you meet a writer before a contract?

Patricia would meet the writer and compared their relationship to a marriage.  She would go through the process hand-in-hand and attend events with them and over see the whole process.  

Alexandra agreed that the relationship is very intense and feels she is nurturing of her clients.  She will attend launches with them and book events.  

What is involved in selling a book?

Patricia pointed out that selling a book can start up to 3 months before a book is even on the market to make the public aware that it is coming.  

Alexandra spoke about the importance of building the brand and the books availability.  She spoke about the importance of social media today and in particular Twitter.  Alexandra spoke about the difference between marketing (paid advertisements) and publicity (reviews).  Alexandra gave examples of situations where marketing and publicity made no difference and book sales were gradual and took 4 years to reach the best sellers list (Eat, Pray, Love).  

Patrica pointed out that despite everything they know about the book trade it is still very unpredictable and a lot like betting on the horses.  

What about books that get rejected and then make it big?

Alexandra pointed out how Bloomsbury took on Harry Potter when everyone else had turned it down.  She  pointed out that when an agent or publisher turns a write down it doesn't necessarily mean it is no good, it means it's not right for them.  Harry Potter was with the right person to make it excel.

Patricia agreed with this and discussed how personal taste is very important.  The person selling it need to have the drive and excitement to sell it.  Pat spoke about Barry and Sara with her on her own novel as well as meeting J.K.Rolling.  Patricia felt that children's fiction is on the rise as parents are becoming more aware of the importance of encouraging reading.  

What genres are doing well?

Alexandra said YA was on the increase.

Patricia opened her doors to Children's fiction in March 2015 (Pudding Press) and has received queries for YA fiction which she currently does not publish.  However, it is something she will be considering for the future - watch this space.  

Is the industry dominated by male writers?

There was some talk about an article by Kamila Shamsie that had been posted in the Guardian about how the publishing industry is very male dominated. She proposed that for 2018 the only books published should be those written by women.   

Both publishers were area that the industry is male dominated and spoke about their experience of this.

Alexandra was supportive of this movement (only publishing women) as 80% of her submissions are from men and she'd like to actively encourage more women writers.  She reminisced about discovering Virago in the 70s and how it exposed her to the world of women in fiction.

Patricia agreed that something needed to be done to address the inequality balance.  She pointed out that we do have the Orange Price to celebrate women writers.  Many awards are male run and notoriously celebrate male writers.  Patricia can think of a writer she felt deserved to win but didn't even get nominated for her work.  Women writers do sell books but statistically don't win awards.

My thoughts

I really enjoyed the talk.  The way Patricia and Alexandra interacted with each other broke the interview up and made it feel like a talk show.  The knowledge they both share from their length of time in the industry was very insightful.  I hadn't been aware of the gender equality issue.  It was also good to see what is involved from their side of the business like why it takes so long from agreeing a contract to a book arriving on the shelf.  The only problem was the hour went too quickly - I wanted more!

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