Reviewing books makes you a better person

5 Reasons Why Reviewing Books Makes You A Better Person

If you review the books you read, congratulations! This post is all about you and some of the many reasons why you rock. If you don’t review the books you read, don’t worry; this post is going to tell you why doing so is a good idea, and just how amazing you’ll be once you start. Either way, you’ll know exactly why reviewing books makes you a better person.

1. You’re setting a trend

When a book is first published, the author is dancing alone.

Our choices are, at least in part, informed by other people. Have you seen that video of the guy starting a dance party at a festival? Notice how long he dances by himself. He can’t start the party alone. In fact, the ball doesn’t really get rolling until the third dancer gets on their feet. Once the fourth and fifth person joins in, it isn’t long until dozens of people are running to get involved with this huge crowd of cool, fun dancers.

When a book is first published, the author is dancing alone. By reviewing books, you’re joining in, and encouraging others to pick it up, read it too, and get involved.

2. You’re balancing the bile

As a species, we’re twice as likely to tell our friends, family, and the big wide world about a bad experience than a good one. It just seems to be how we’re wired, suggesting that we’re more likely to leave a bad review of a book we hated than a good review of a book we loved. That creates a skewed perspective when a reader discovers said book as they browse for their next read.

Reviewing books you loved helps prospective readers to get an accurate picture of that book and help the author reach new readers.

3. You’re helping out the algorithms

Like it or loathe it, online shopping is fuelled by algorithms, which is a fancy word for the “You might also like” section of every online retailer. These sections can be a real boon to an author because they can put their work in front of potential new readers.

Of course, the algorithms aren’t going to read all the books to figure out the recommendations, so they’ll use pieces of data, such as sales and reviews. Reviewing books doesn’t just feed the algorithms, it also helps encourage sales, meaning a book is more likely to be recommended to other readers!

By reviewing books, you’re helping an author reach new readers!

4. You’re opening doors

There are a lot of books out there. A LOT of books. So authors need all the help they can get in order to reach readers, including promotional services. And some of those services rely on reviews. Bookbub, which is a powerhouse of promotion for authors, factors in both the number and positivity of reviews when considering whether to accept an author’s application (although these aren’t the only things they look at). Other services require a minimum number of reviews before they’ll even consider promoting a book.

As independent authors without the force of a major publishing house’s marketing budget behind them, we need to make the most of the opportunities open to us. By reviewing books, you’re helping to open doors for an author that will help them reach new readers!

5. You’re helping the author pick the right audience

A book description can only do so much. Reviews can do so much more.

By leaving a review, you help the author to better target their audience. Sure, the description might say the book is about a fairy detective whose addiction to edible glitter gets them in deep with the wrong goblins. But it won’t say it has a cliffhanger ending. Or a hilarious, sarcastic secondary character. Or a fascinating subtext that challenges sexual dynamics in the workplace.

But a review that mentions all of those things will achieve two goals. Firstly, it will help encourage new readers who like all those things to give the book a go. But if a reader hates subtext, sarcasm, and glitter-peddling goblins, a review will help alert them that this book won’t be their cup of tea, meaning they’ll be less likely to buy it and leave a negative review about how much they didn’t like the book.

Reviewing books helps attract new readers and avoid negative reviews. A two-for-one!

In short, book reviewers are great

In short, reviewing books helps authors reach new readers, which not only helps them keep their writing rooms warm and well-lit, but also helps them write more books. So write a review and tell the author once you’ve posted it. After all, you deserve to be thanked for your good deed, and acknowledged for being such an awesome person!

And hey, since we’re on the subject, why not click one of these links and leave a review for The Fey Man or The Unquiet Sword?

A copy of The Fey Man with a list of alternate titles

Why I Didn’t Change the Title of The Fey Man

Book titles are important. They serve as an introduction, a signpost to the reader and, hopefully, an enticement to open the book and read the first page (or turn it over and read the synopsis). I didn’t appreciate this until I discovered that US publisher Del Rey had changed the title of Michael A Stackpole’s fourth X-Wing novel, before publication, from Rogues Unbound to The Bacta War. One sounded like a bodice-ripping romance novel. One sounded like a sci-fi adventure novel. Realising that was the first time I began to appreciate that book titles are an important marketing tool.

Fast forward to 2014 and I’m publishing my first novel. I agonised over the title. To say I came up with hundreds of possibilities would be hyperbolic, but not by much. But when I landed on The Fey Man, it felt right. It felt like a good fit for the book, a signpost of what to expect, and it sounded good. I felt confident in my new book title.

Of course, good old self-doubt can kill any good feeling, and I began to wonder if I’d picked the right title within days of publication (this wasn’t helped by one reader who told me I’d misspelt the title; they thought I’d meant to call it ‘The Fay Man’). I knew I liked The Fey Man from a creative perspective. But was it the best title from a marketing perspective?

I began to wonder if ‘The Fey Man’ was more ‘Alice’ than ‘Wonderland’.

A book title isn’t just a string of cool words. It’s a name. And, like a name, you build expectations on it. Imagine I tell you I have a friend who calls himself ‘Scott Danger’. You’ve immediately formulated an opinion about him, haven’t you? Now what if I mention a friend called ‘Keith Brown’. You’ve got an opinion about him too, right?

It’s no different with books. A book called Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland evokes a different reaction to a book called simply Alice (which was Lewis’ original title). The first title has signposts that alerts the reader as to what to expect from the book, encouraging the right readers and discouraging those who are less likely to enjoy it. And I began to wonder if ‘The Fey Man’ was more ‘Alice’ than ‘Wonderland’.

So I began to brainstorm alternatives. Titles with ‘Faerie’ in it, maybe ‘quest’ or ‘war’, perhaps ‘dragon’ (perhaps excessive, given there was already a dragon on the cover)? In the end, I decided that ‘quest’ was a good one to include as well as ‘Faerie’, as both gave readers a good indication as to what the novel was about. Thus my alternative title was The Quest for Faerie. Now it was time to put to the test. My weapon of choice? A Twitter poll.

Spoiler alert: the alternative title won.

So, if the alternative title won, why didn’t I change the title of my first novel?

Well, there’s a lot of work involved. I would need to commission an alteration to the cover, rework the interior files to match, upload new files, publish a new paperback, unpublish the old one, then ask Amazon to link the new paperback to the ebook, then separately ask Amazon to push the updated ebook to everyone who already held a copy. I’d also need to change any references on my website, and forward the inevitable broken links, and so on, and so forth. And call me lazy if you will (“Hi, Lazy-if-you-will”), but I try to avoid unnecessary work where I can.

Taking huge, irrecoverable action based on a slim majority just seems like madness.

Changing the title of a book that’s already been published also carries the potential for confusion. Existing readers who see me talking about ‘The Quest for Faerie’ might think I have a new book out. None of my previous social media posts about The Fey Man would make sense anymore. Paperback owners would be stuck with the old title, ebook owners would have to decide which title they prefer. Although I can unpublish the old paperback, the Amazon listing doesn’t disappear, leaving two book listings with the same cover but different titles. So, no matter how hard I worked at clarifying things, there’d always be a risk of confusing a reader. And confused readers are not happy readers.

Of course, I knew all this going in. But I was prepared to undertake it all in the face of a clear and resounding call for a new title. But there wasn’t one. Frankly, the numbers just aren’t that impressive. And taking huge, irrecoverable action based on a slim majority just seems like madness. Numbers like that speak more to indecision than anything else.

That left the decision up to me. And I decided to go full Disney, believe in myself, and stick with The Fey Man. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with ‘The Quest for Faerie’. But it’s a title very much created as a marketing tool. Whereas The Fey Man, for me at least, feels a little more creative, a little more mysterious, and feels more in keeping with the series as a whole.

Perhaps I made a mistake. But that’s one of the great things about this journey: any mistakes fall on my shoulders (as well as, fingers crossed, any victories). Of course, I’ll always listen when readers tell me that they want something. But, this time, they left me to call the shots. And I let my creative side take the reins.


Cover of The Fey Man by James T KellyIs ‘The Fey Man’ a good title for my first novel? Pick up a copy and find out for yourself!

★★★★★ – “A must read for fans of epic fantasy”

The Fey Man is available now from Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords

A photo of my bookshelves

Why I Got Rid of My Books

I’ve been getting rid of my books. Phew. It feels good to get that off my chest. But let me explain.

Books have always been more than the paper and ink they’re made of. Each one was a vessel for the story or information within. So I was greedy for books, hoarding them like Smaug’s treasure. I loved books, treasured them, rereading them and treating them like they were my own, my love, my precious. I’m mixing Middle Earth metaphors here, but the principle is in there somewhere. I loved books, and I couldn’t get enough of them.

Ebooks have changed all that.

Books have almost become a nuisance to me. Reading a paperback means carting it around everywhere I go. I invariably forget it one day and, rather than go without reading, I get my grubby mitts on the ebook, either by buying it from Amazon or borrowing it from my local library. Of course, this means I later have to rummage through the paperback to find the point that I got to. This repeats for a day or two until I give up and just read the ebook.

So, to return to my Smaug metaphor, I no longer slept on my hoard of treasure. My loot was going dusty and unloved. So I took the plunge. I got rid of my books. The only ones I’ve kept are those I just can’t let go of: reference volumes I’m still using, books with cover art that I like, and books with sentimental value.

I used to have a thousand books. Now I have a fraction of that number. My shelves look great; I’ve got room to display my books properly, so I can see the cover art I love so much. And I’m not hoarding all those stories anymore. Instead I’ve shared the wealth so that other people can enjoy it.

If you’re throwing holy water at your screen and ordering me an exorcist, don’t worry; I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of my books entirely. And, to prove my love for books is still real, here are my top ten physical books.

  1. Ender’s Game – this Orion edition was a gift from my Aunt Judi, and I went on to enjoy all three of the follow-ups (all of which I’ve kept).
  2. Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Quest – although I have the ebook editions, I’ve kept the first two Fitz trilogies purely for the gorgeous cover art by John Howe.
  3. Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice (and the sequels) – aside from the fact that they’re really good books, there’s something about the cover art I really like.
  4. Katharine Briggs’ Encyclopedia of Fairies – if you’ve read any of the Fair Folk series, you might know how many different fay it features, and they nearly all have their genesis in this fantastic book!
  5. Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Sandman’ series – I reread this recently and found it a little pretentious, but it still tells a marvelous story with beautiful art and it showed me that comics can be so much more than people in spandex hitting each other.
  6. Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife – this is one of the few books that somehow feels like it should be read in paper form.
  7. Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves – and this is one of the few books that can only be read in paper form. Seriously, it just would not work as an ebook.
  8. Timothy Zahn’s ‘Thrawn’ trilogy and Michael A. Stackpole’s ‘X-Wing’ series – these books have to be read in paper form because the publisher hasn’t bothered to create ebooks (and I have a soft spot for these Star Wars novels!)
  9. J R R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings – weird, given that I’ve never read the third book and I’m not even a big fan of the writing. But a self-respecting fantasy author needs a copy on his shelves. And I’ve actually got two now; one with John Howe’s beautiful cover art, and a hardback edition.
  10. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens – not because the paperback is especially pretty, not because I wouldn’t be happy to read the ebook, but because ebooks still struggle when it comes to footnotes; a sign that, as good as they are, ebooks aren’t perfect yet!

Ebooks have made the day-to-day process of reading easy and convenient. But a beautiful paperback or a gorgeous hardback can still turn my head. As great as ebooks are, there’ll always be a special place in my heart for physical books.

Cover to Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobb

Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb – Review

We’ve all taken something too far. You joke around with a friend, go too far and now the joke’s not funny. You add too much garnish to a dish and now you’ve spoilt the balance of flavours. And writers keep writing and inadvertently ruin the story. We’ve all seen it happen. Star Wars prequel trilogy, anyone? And, unfortunately, I think Robin Hobb might have done the same. I think she took the Fitz books too far when she wrote Assassin’s Fate.

“Who had that young man been who had thought himself so old and worldly-wise? He was a stranger to me now.”

In order to explain myself, I need to (briefly!) lay out the history of Fitz books. The story of FitzChivalry Farseer (Fitz) began in the ‘Farseer’ trilogy. Fitz is the bastard son of a disgraced prince and assassin for the royal family, who forms a psychic bond with a wolf, Nighteyes, and befriends the king’s Fool, a prophet who wants Fitz to help end the Red Ship War. The ‘Farseer’ trilogy culminates in a definite, albeit bittersweet, ending for Fitz.

The ‘Tawny Man’ trilogy sees Fitz return to the intrigues of court to help secure peace between two warring kingdoms, and embark on a quest to bring dragons back to the world. The Tawny Man trilogy culminates in a definite, sweeter ending for Fitz.

The ‘Fitz and the Fool’ trilogy, of which Assassin’s Fate is the third book, sees Fitz’s sweeter ending spoiled by a nation of prophets who kidnap his daughter, and force Fitz to travel across the world in his efforts to bring her home. And it’s the ending of this trilogy, which Hobb has said is the final and ultimate ending for Fitz, that rubs me up the wrong way.

“But you don’t know what will happen.”
“No. That is our curse. To know that something will happen, and only after it is over, to look back and say, ‘Oh, that is what that meant. If only I’d known.’ It can break your heart.”

On paper, the ending of Assassin’s Fate works. It fits in with the world Hobb has created, linking into lore that was set up in the first trilogy that should have foreshadowed Fitz’s eventual fate but never did. It’s somewhat open-ended, enabling fans to imagine what might happen after ‘The End’. And it ties in with Fitz’s relationships with Nighteyes and the Fool, two characters that are hugely important both to the character and to readers.

But what works on paper doesn’t always work for the heart. Assassin’s Fate‘s path to this ending feels contrived, as if Hobb thought it up first and then tried to twist the narrative to make it fit. It also doesn’t gel with Fitz’s quest to save his daughter, so it feels deeply dissatisfying. Finally, I had the sense that it was supposed to be a happy ending, or a bittersweet one at best. But Fitz’s fate isn’t one you would wish upon a character you’ve followed for nine books.

Ultimately, Hobb took an ending I was happy with, undid it, and replaced it with what, for me, feels like the worst ending Fitz has endured.

I felt a strange sort of peace. As if all the parts of me were finally in one place.

I feel it’s important to note that reading Assassin’s Fate was still a pleasurable experience, which is all to do with the way Hobb writes. Her writing is gorgeous, rich, emotive, and lush. Sometimes overly descriptive, but that’s a fault in many fantasy novels, so she’s hardly the first to spend a little too long describing food, clothing, or locales. Fitz is also very lovable and, in Assassin’s Fate, he is as noble, earnest, dour, selfless, selfish, fierce and foolish as ever.

I admit that at times I became impatient. Hobb has also written two other series set in the same world, the ‘Liveship’ trilogy and the ‘Rain Wilds’ series, and Assassin’s Fate attempts to be a sequel and a coda for those books too. As I never warmed to those books, my experience of Assassin’s Fate suffered when Hobb spent too long on these other storylines.

Nevertheless, her prose is as beautiful as always and, even when I was less interested in the story of a character I neither knew nor really cared about, it was still easy to enjoy her writing.

But a delicious meal can be ruined by finding a hair in the last mouthful.

“Never do a thing until you consider well what you can’t do once you’ve done it.”

A sequel has many jobs to do, but the most important one it has to fulfill is validating its own existence. Once the reader has been given “The End”, there needs to be a good reason to amend that to “The End, but also…” If it fails to do so, it intrudes upon your experience of what came before. For instance, your memory of whiny brat Anakin Skywalker intrudes upon your your experience of Darth Vader.

The ending of Assassin’s Fate intrudes upon the earlier books. No matter how much I try to put it from my mind, to live in the moment, as Nighteyes might suggest, I can never fully forget what lies in wait for Fitz at the end of his journey. I cannot unread that ending, unremember it, or undo it.

I know many people will enjoy the ending to Assassin’s Fate. I don’t hate Robin Hobb for writing Assassin’s Fate, I’m not writhing in righteous anger at what she did, and I won’t rage at anyone who enjoys the ending that left me cold. It’s an entirely subjective matter. But, for me, Assassin’s Fate, and indeed the whole trilogy, serves as a perfect example of leaving well enough alone.

Because while it might be tempting to write another sequel, it’s all too easy to spoil what you already made.

If I haven’t put you off, you can get a copy of Assassin’s Fate here.

It's more important than ever to respect people's privacy, which is why GDPR is great for everyone.

My GDPR Journey

You might have noticed that you’ve been getting a lot of emails from companies about updated terms of service, privacy policies, and maybe even asking you to confirm you want to be subscribed to their emails. That’s because of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a new set of rules that effectively tighten the rules about what can and cannot be done with a person’s personal information. It doesn’t come into force until 25th May, but I’ve enjoyed a rocky journey with it already.

I’m all about privacy

I’m a private person. That doesn’t mean I don’t share; once you get me going, I’m happy to tell you all sorts about me, especially the embarrassing stuff! But I have clear lines around what I will and will not share. I expect people to respect that and, therefore, I respect that the lines other people draw around their lives will be different from mine.

So learning that GDPR would protect people’s personal information wasn’t just my cup of tea, it was the chocolate biscuit on the side too. Until I learnt that…

GDPR will cost me money

I’ve been using two services, Instafreebie and Bookfunnel, to deliver a free copy of The Fey Man to people who sign up to my email newsletter. Both of these services charge me, which is fair enough. But it turns out that everyone who signed up will have to confirm they still want to receive emails from me. Some of them will have only wanted a free book, so that means they won’t confirm; I’ll lose subscribers to GDPR, and that means I’ll lose some of the money I paid to Instafreebie and Bookfunnel. I don’t have a huge amount of cash to spare, so losing it in this way really hurts my ability to market my books.

On top of this, I know plenty of writers who aren’t bothering with GDPR. They think they’re too small to be picked up by regulators and, to be honest, they’re probably right. So I won’t lie; an evil little voice in the back of my mind suggested I shouldn’t bother with GDPR either.

But…

GDPR isn’t about me. It’s about you.

Ignoring GDPR would mean I would be disrespecting your privacy, and your right to control how your who, how, and why your personal information is used. If I can’t respect my readers, why should I expect anyone to respect me?

Anyone who has subscribed to my email newsletter has given me the honour of using their personal information in order to contact them. And having subscribers is a privilege, not a right. I’m grateful to any of my readers who remain subscribed, and I’ll work hard to make sure they look forward to my emails.

So I’m going all in on GDPR.

I’ve written a privacy policy to explain what sort of information I ask for, what I will use it for, and what you can do if you’d like me to stop.

Everyone who is already subscribed to my email newsletter will need to confirm their consent to keep receiving emails. Anyone who doesn’t confirm that they want to receive emails from me will be unsubscribed come 25th May. (They’ll get an email about this with a big button to press.)

And anyone who has any questions about how I use their personal information, or wants me to change how I use theirs but can’t find the link/button/gizmo to change it themselves, can contact me directly.

Everyone’s a winner with GDPR

My readers now (hopefully) know that I respect their privacy and their information more than my own desires. And I’ve gained a new respect for having subscribers, which will push me to make my emails even better than before!

P.S. If you want the full details on GDPR, the official website contains everything you could possibly want to know (and more besides!).

GDPR seeks to protect people's information, and indie authors will have to change what they do to comply with it.

GDPR for indie authors

Have you heard of GDPR (that’s General Data Protection Regulation to its friends)? Don’t worry if you haven’t, it’s an EU regulation about how companies handle personal information. But as an indie author, you might have to take some steps to comply with too. There are plenty of confusing guides out there about GDPR, so I thought it might be handy to compile the stuff that’s relevant to indie authors in one place. So, if you’re an indie author, here’s what you need to know about GDPR.

Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer, so please don’t take this as legal advice. I’ve just done a bunch of reading so you don’t have to.

Double disclaimer: the specific guidelines around GDPR are constantly changing, so I’ll update this post as and when I learn anything new.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s begin.

What is GDPR?

It’s the EU’s new data privacy law designed to make sure companies handle your personal data carefully, store it securely, and don’t abuse it (i.e. they don’t use it to send you mountains of spam or sell it on to other people). GDPR is a good thing. It just means we might have to make a few changes to how we do things.

When does GDPR come into force?

25th May 2018.

Why do I have to comply with GDPR?

Anyone who processes personal data needs to comply with this regulation.

Wait, doesn’t GDPR just apply to people in the EU?

It applies to anyone who holds data about people in the EU. If that’s not you, you can ignore GDPR but, if you’ve got readers in the EU, you’ll have to comply with the regulations.

How do I comply with GDPR?

It looks like there are a variety of ways to comply with the regulation, but it seems to me like the best bet is to get consent.

In the context of GDPR, consent means you presented the user with a clear option to agree to the use of their data.

It isn’t enough to assume consent in small print (you know the kind: “by clicking submit you agree to receiving my email newsletter, daily pictures of my dog, and also I’ll own your soul a little bit”). You need to be able to demonstrate that the user took a specific action to agree to the use of their data. You also have to record and be able to demonstrate how this consent was provided.

So what do I need to do differently?

First of all, I’m not a lawyer, so none of this is legal advice. I’m only writing about this because I have to deal with this in my day job, and I found out some stuff I think might help out indie authors, such as:

1. Forms on your website

Do you have any forms on your website? Whether it’s contact forms, comment forms, or something else, you’ll likely be collecting people’s names, email addresses, maybe even IP addresses. That’s right, WordPress not only collects commenter’s IP addresses, it stores them too. If that seems unnecessary to you (as it did to me), you can stop your WordPress site from storing them using this guide (as I did).

It sounds like you’ll need to change your comment form to include a checkbox and make sure the consent provided is recorded somewhere. This plugin appears to help with this; I’ve installed it myself and it seems to be working so far. If you use a spam filter, your checkbox text will have to inform users that you’ll pass their data onto the makers of that filter.

2. Your email newsletter

Naturally, you collect personal data when someone signs up to your email newsletter; if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be able to send them emails!

The most important thing you need to do is include within your signup form check boxes that a subscriber can select when you subscribe to your email mailing list. These boxes will enable them to provide you with permission to use their data to, for instance, send them emails, or use their email address to create look-alike audiences for online advertising.

It’s also a good idea to send a confirmation email after a user has clicked the subscribe button. Until they click the link in the confirmation email, they aren’t subscribed to your newsletter. This is often referred to as “double opt-in”, and it not only helps you establish consent, but it also verifies that the form was filled in by the same person whose data you now hold (unless this third party has access to their email account too, of course).

3. Growing your list

If you use third party services to build your email list, you need to make sure that they’re obtaining consent and passing the record of it to you. After all, the data is being added to your list, so it’s your responsibility.

Bookfunnel

I reached out to Bookfunnel and they told me that they plan to add a checkbox to their signup form. They’ll also timestamp that consent and pass it along to Mailchimp, giving you a record of the consent provided. This is a great start, but it doesnt allow you to obtain the granular permissions (email, online advertising, etc.) that you might require. If you’re using Bookfunnel, think carefully about what you want to do with a reader’s email address and send a follow-up email to ask for the relevant permissions.

Instafreebie

Instafreebie, on the other hand, aren’t as impressive. When I reached out to them, they didn’t seem to know what GDPR was. And their site uses the dreaded small print, assumed consent (“By clicking a button, you agree to emails etc.”).

Right now, Instafreebie is not GDPR-compliant, meaning you won’t be able to use it after 25th May. I’m waiting for further news and I’ll update this post with any updates. Fingers crossed!

Update: Instafreebie have made changes to their service in light of GDPR, but all they have done is stopped featuring giveaways that require a mandatory opt-in to your newsletter. That isn’t good enough, and my previous statement stands: Instafreebie isn’t GDPR compliant.

4. Selling ebooks on your site

This is something I’m afraid I have no experience with. However, if you’re selling ebooks directly from your website, you’ll need to be collecting personal data in order to send them their purchases. That means you’ll need a clear method to obtain and record your customers’ permission to collect their data and process it. So if you’re planning on adding them to your newsletter after they make a purchase, make sure you can prove they agreed to that!

5. A privacy policy

If you don’t have one, get one. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It’s just a document explaining what data you request, what you use it for, and how users can ask you to stop using it. You can take inspiration from mine, if you like, or Slack has a rather good one (although it’s probably more in-depth than you’d need!)

6. Cookies

You also need express and clear consent that a visitor to your website has provided opt-in consent to your use of cookies (this includes cookies used by Google Analytics). How you obtain that consent will vary depending on how your website is built, but I noticed the ICO (which is in charge of enforcing GDPR) is using this solution. I figured if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us, right?

7. Google Analytics

If you have Google Analytics installed on your website, you’ll know it can tell you all sorts of useful things such as how many people visited your site, what part of the world they’re in, and even what kind of device they were using.

Google has introduced a new tool that allows you to set a period of time after which data is deleted. This allows you to control how long to retain that information. There’s no hard and fast rule as to how long you should retain it; GDPR only says you shouldn’t keep it for longer than is reasonable. So, you know, how long is a piece of string?

And, while Google Analytics doesn’t truck in personal data, it does use visitors IP addresses to figure out what part of the world they’re in. That IP address could be used to identify your visitors, so you’ll need to anonymise IP addresses.

I won’t lie, this is a bit of a tricky one. If you’re using a plugin to integrate Google Analytics into your site, there’s probably an option to you can simply select. Otherwise, you’ll need to change the Google Analytics code you’ve used for your site. This is somewhat beyond my technical skills; if this makes sense to you, you’re a smarter cookie than I am!

8. Asking for consent again

This was brought to my attention by the Self-Publishing Formula podcast which, bizarrely, is telling authors that they’ll be fined for asking their email subscribers to confirm they want to keep receiving emails. And this just isn’t true!

It’s true that two companies, Honda and Flybe, were fined for sending out emails to people asking them to confirm they wanted to receive marketing emails. But they were fined for emailing people who had already unsubscribed! Big no-no.

But, because GDPR raises the bar for consent, it’s possible that the consent you previously received doesn’t match the new requirements. Perhaps the consent box was pre-ticked, for example, or perhaps there was small print saying “by clicking submit, you agree to join my newsletter”. These used to count as consent, but not anymore.

Where you’ve been given consent that doesn’t match the new requirements set by GDPR, you must ask these subscribers to confirm they want to keep receiving your emails. It isn’t just a good idea; it’s set out very clearly on the ICO website, (an entity that enforces GDPR in the UK).

Obviously, asking your subscribers to confirm their consent will mean some people ignore you or even unsubscribe. But that’s okay; you only want to send emails to people who want to receive them, right?

As I said, I’m not a lawyer. I’ve just had to read a lot about GDPR as part of my day job (I have an exciting day job). Feel free to ask any questions in the comments, or to tell me if you think I’ve got something wrong!

Captain Scarlet is the reason some readers don't like Thomas Rymour of the Fair Folk series.

Why Don’t Readers Like Thomas Rymour?

Some people don’t like Thomas Rymour, the protagonist of the Fair Folk series.

“He’s an utter selfish jerk”

“Thomas Rymour is an asshole.”

“a weak and selfish man” [Spoiler alerts for this particular review!]

Yeah, some people really don’t like Thomas Rymour. And it’s all Captain Scarlet’s fault.

For those of you who don’t know, Captain Scarlet was a British TV series created by Gerry Anderson (of Thunderbirds fame). I won’t go into the details, but the title character was immortal. Each week, Captain Scarlet would find himself in peril, and I was bored because, each week, he would die, only to come back to life moments later.

There was no dramatic tension. No sense of potential failure. Scarlet was always going to win, because he couldn’t lose.

The same principle applies to a person’s character. If someone is presented with a difficult choice, and we know they’ll unfailingly do the right thing, it’s boring. They can’t lose, because they always win.

But people aren’t like that. We try to do what we think is right, but sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we’re selfish, or cowardly, or cruel. And sometimes we rationalise our behaviour, sometimes we despise it, sometimes it drives us to do better next time. But there’s always the risk we’ll fail the test again. That, presented with the choice, we’ll choose cruelty over kindness, fear over bravery, or selfishness over selflessness.

That’s why Thomas Rymour isn’t perfect. He tries to do the right thing. But he’s also weak and selfish and, yes, an asshole. When he’s presented with a difficult choice, you won’t always know what he’ll do next. Will he serve his own ends? Or will he rise above his selfish desires and act like a hero? Because, without those questions, his character would be as boring as waiting for Captain Scarlet to snuff it once again.

So if you’re looking for a hero who is stalwart and true, who sees the world in black and white and is unerringly selfless, Tom isn’t going to be your favourite. But if you like a guy who makes a mess of things and isn’t always right, you might like Thomas Rymour. I do.


Cover of The Fey Man by James T KellyFind out if you’d like Thomas Rymour by picking up your copy of The Fey Man today!

★★★★★ – “A must read for fans of epic fantasy”

The Fey Man is available now from Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords

30 Things I Wish I’d Knew Before I Was 30

  1. Don’t live and die by your friends; they come and go.
  2. Always put your family first.
  3. What you wear, say and do doesn’t make you cool.
  4. Being generous, kind and fun makes you cool.
  5. In a years time you’ll have forgotten about that gadget/dress/pair of shoes/whatever it is you must have and you hate your parents for saying no to. Don’t sweat it.
  6. Wealth is determined by happiness, not money.
  7. There’s something worse than rejection: regret.
  8. It doesn’t matter how many friends you have. What matters is what kind of friends they are.
  9. Life’s too short to waste on bad books.
  10. Things are never as bad as you think.
  11. Walnut whips are marshmallow inside. You can just take the nut off the top.
  12. It’s always okay to ask for help.
  13. It’s always okay to offer help.
  14. Being openly enthusiastic can sometimes be daunting but it’s always more rewarding than cynicism.
  15. It’s okay to meet your heroes. Just don’t expect them to remain so afterwards.
  16. Don’t make promises that people want to hear; make promises that you’ll want to keep.
  17. The Cub Scouts told you to be prepared. But so did Scar and look what happened to him. Don’t wait until you feel totally prepared.
  18. Give your parents a break; they’re doing their best and you’re not easy to live with.
  19. Measure twice, cut once.
  20. Start writing now.
  21. Buy stock in Apple. Trust me.
  22. Don’t stress about the little slights and injustices in the world. They’re not worth worrying about.
  23. Your mum was wrong; you should have spent more time playing with computers.
  24. Don’t give up on those art classes.
  25. Or the piano.
  26. Pay attention to Dad when he’s trying to teach you DIY. You’ll need that knowledge. Seriously.
  27. Don’t get too excited about the Matrix sequels.
  28. And don’t even get me started on the Star Wars prequels.
  29. There’s always a hundred reasons to wait or to hesitate. Just do it already.
  30. You still won’t feel like a grown-up.

What I Do When I’m Not Writing Epic Faerie Fantasy

Cover to Who is Branwell Brontë?It’s time for a confession: I’ve been writing other books. Books that aren’t fantasy novels. Books that aren’t even novels. Books that might have something to do Branwell Brontë.

Don’t hate me.

Here’s the deal. I was halfway through The Northern Wastes, the third book of the Fair Folk series. It was going pretty well. I’d already done a rewrite, although there was a subplot that needed fixing. But I was tired. I’d spent too much time with Tom and Katharine and the rest of them. I needed a break from them. I needed to recharge the batteries.

And a change is as good as a rest.

I discovered Branwell Brontë at university. He’s the overlooked brother of the Brontë sisters (of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights fame). Although he wrote poetry himself, and although he was even published before his sisters, he’s been ignored, dismissed, even vilified. That seemed terribly unfair; although he did end lose his life to drink and drugs, it didn’t seem right that he was remembered for that alone. I’ve wanted to write a book about him ever since.

So that’s what I did. You can read more about it here. And now the batteries are recharged. I’m ready to dive in and take Tom’s story into some weird and wonderful places (I guarantee you won’t see them coming, but feel free to guess!)

The fay can be tiny shining sprites or enormous, lumbering woodkin.

What makes The Fey Man a Faerie Tale?

So I’ve written a blog post about why The Fey Man is full of elfs and not elves (TL;DR the word ‘elf’ came first and it feels right). But a discerning reader on Twitter made an excellent point: in the very same post, I called the Fair Folk series a ‘Faerie tale’. Why didn’t I call it a fairy tale?

There are two possible explanations. The first is that there are no fairies in the Fair Folk series. They’re called ‘fay’ instead, and that’s because the word ‘fairy’ actually comes from the Latin word ‘fae’, the singular of ‘fata’ which means ‘the Fates’.

(This, by the way, is pretty well known to fantasy writers, so you’ll often see fairies called ‘fae’. However the spelling ‘fay’ comes from Middle English, and was also used as a word for ‘faith’, which I felt was rather fitting for the Fair Folk series.)

Faerie, on the other hand, is the land of the fay. Usually an otherworldly realm, it’s the place where the fay live. Much like England is the place where the English live, the words are similar, but not the same.

So why did I call The Fey Man, and the Fair Folk series as a whole, a Faerie tale? Well, I wanted to evoke fairy tales, largely because some of the inhabitants or stories themselves can be found in the series. It’s also a hint as to the focus of the series; there’s a lot going on in Tir, but some of it is more important than the rest.

And, last but not least, I thought it was cool. And one of the best things about being a writer is being able to write things I think are cool. Like conversations with dragons, a person with visions of the future, and forests haunted by tree spirits.


Cover of The Fey Man by James T KellyIf you like the sound of an epic Faerie fantasy novel, pick up your copy of The Fey Man today!

★★★★★ – “A must read for fans of epic fantasy”

The Fey Man is available now from Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords