Recount!

Well, this is kind of depressing. And no, I’m not talking about the election; that’s still a few hours off. No, I’m talking about the stats for downloads of the ebooks—especially Sunborn. Turns out that my web logs analyzer, a program called Analog that I’ve used faithfully for years, has been lying to me about the number of downloads.

Well, not lying exactly, just being stupid.

I think this applies mainly just to the PDF downloads rather than the others, because people can actually open the PDF file right in their browser without downloading the file to their hard drive. And when they do, the file is sent to them in little packets, which you would only notice by the repeated little message at the bottom of the browser indicating activity. As I discovered to my dismay last night, each of those little packets gets its own line in the logs. And Analog has been counting each of those packets as a separate download request! And fooling me like a politician greasing a gullible audience.

To paraphrase one such politician of the past*, let me make one thing perfectly clear. I am not a crook. However, previous reports of the downloads of Sunborn and the other PDF files are exaggerated. A lot. A real lot. As nearly as I can tell, actual complete downloads of Sunborn are in the low-mid hundreds at this point, and the highest, Neptune Crossing, is at maybe a thousand. All told, the cumulative ebook downloads are in the thousands, but I’m not even going to try to guess a more exact number. That’s not cottage cheese, but it’s nowhere near the 20K plus that Analog was selling me.

To say that this discovery was a downer would be no exaggeration.

Anyone know a better free (or cheap) web-logs analyzer? (I’ve tried a few, but none quite fit the bill yet.)

*For the young’ns among you, or those outside the U.S.: Richard M. Nixon, the worst president in U.S. history prior to the current one.

“From my close observation of writers … they fall into two groups: 1) those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and 2) those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review.” —Isaac Asimov

Concord (er, Lowell) SF Panel

Our panel at Umass Lowell, as part of the Concord Festival of Authors, went very well. Panelist and new writer Chris Howard blogged about it, and said everything I would say, except that he gave a nice big plug to Sunborn while he was at it. Thanks, Chris!

Funny thing: I clicked on Chris’s Amazon link to Sunborn, and noted with my usual scowl that Amazon already listed used copies for sale, three days after the book’s release. Then, out of curiosity, I clicked to look at the actual listing—and saw, first of all, that most were actually new, not used, copies from Amazon Marketplace sellers. But here’s the funny part—some sellers listed used copies for over $40, or more than twice Amazon’s price for new books! Do you suppose anybody would actually buy one of those? It’s good work if you can get it.

Nobody’s emailed me yet to request a free ebook, but there have been over 4000 hits on the Sunborn PDF in just three days!

Publishers Weekly Thumbs Up on Sunborn

Actually, I haven’t seen the full review myself. Didn’t even know there was a Publishers Weekly review until I stumbled across a post about it on Mobileread.com. Here’s the excerpt someone put there:

“The long-anticipated fourth entry in Carver’s Chaos Chronicles (after 1996’s The Infinite Sea) is space opera at its most agreeably and classically science fictional. . . .With such a large cast and a parallel plot involving a threat to Earth itself, character development is necessarily sketched broadly. Some may find the narrative overly stage-managed, but Carver skillfully rotates viewpoints and weaves the choreography directly into the plot. This installment is a cut above the earlier books and will be entirely accessible to any reader who appreciates high-powered stellar and n-dimensional physics blended with old-school space-faring.”

Or maybe that is the full review. I don’t get PW, so I guess I’ll find out when someone tells me. I tried to scope it out online, but couldn’t get to it.

But I can live with what we’ve got right here!

P.S. Over a thousand downloads of Strange Attractors in one day! I think I only posted here and on the above forum, but word virused out with amazing speed. Rob Sawyer posted a very nice notice on his blog. Don’t know where he first saw it, but thanks, Rob!

More On Free E-Books

There’s been a lot of interesting stuff written in just the last few days, fortuitously (some of which was brought to my attention by Charlza in his comment to my last post). Simon Owens has a long article about the Tor free e-book program on his blog, bloggasm. He notes several authors’ impressions that book giveaways have helped sales, and quotes extensively from Tobias Buckell, a newer writer who seems to be doing very nicely. There are some provocative comments from readers, on both sides of the question.

Rob Sawyer responds on his own blog with a much more analytical approach to the question. Pointing out that there’s really no hard data for us to base judgments on, he does a nice job of extrapolating some likely ranges for increased sales (and earnings) for writers. In his view, the benefits are probably far more modest than suggested by anecdotal reports. A key point in his argument is that Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi, who have reported such apparent good results, are not necessarily typical cases. Both of these writers have huge online presences, and probably got way more downloads than the average writer would. (Certainly they have far more active blogs and web sites than I do.)

So where does this leave me? I learned from reader Pascal that a fair number of my earlier novels are already up on Bit Torrent networks in pirated PDF editions. He got copies to me so that I could look at them, and I see that they range from barely readable hack jobs to thoroughly professional-looking work. I must say it was a shock to see how many novels by how many SF writers are floating around in pirated editions. I’m of two minds about it: On the one hand, it’s clear copyright infringement, and to a significant degree badly done infringement. On the other hand, it’s free publicity.

One of my workshop students suggested, why not find the pirate scanners who did the good job and see if I can get them to scan in the first three Chaos books for me. Then I could put at the top of the PDFs:

“This electronic edition, and no other, has been distributed with my consent and co-operation. Those who approve of courtesy (at least) to living authors will download it, and no other.”

(If you don’t recognize the source, it’s from Tolkien’s note in the Ballantine Books edition of The Lord of the Rings, following the Ace pirated edition, many decades ago.)

So am I any closer to a decision on whether to post Sunborn for free when it’s published? Not really. But leaning now towards putting the first three up to introduce new readers to the series, then letting the book carry it from there.

But we’ll see.

“Advice from this elderly practitioner is to forget publishers and just roll a sheet of copy paper into your machine and get lost in your subject.” —E. B. White

Spring Is Here!

Spring has sprung here in Massachusetts! And most welcome it is! I don’t know why, but this last winter felt like the longest I’ve ever known. I’ve been counting the interesting species of wildlife I’ve been seeing right around our house here in the Boston ‘burbs: cardinals, bluejays, black-capped chickadee (I think), mockingbirds, crows (making a comeback after nearly being decimated by the Nile virus), a cute little rabbit, a toad, and—just a few days ago—a wild turkey. (It practically cut me off as I was coming up on my moped; it was flying up the street at an altitude of about six feet, then landed in a neighbor’s driveway.) Oh and, yeah—termites.

Blasted termites ate a piece of wood paneling in our downstairs rental apartment. So now I’ve got to hire a Terminator. Jeez, that’s an expensive proposition! And it’s not just a matter of getting estimates and picking a terminator; I have to decide which approach I want to take—pesticide injection into the ground (the tried and true method), or bait trapping (much less pesticide, but newer, less tested, and more expensive).

Which reminds me that my wife and I have become big fans of the new show, Sarah Connor Chronicles. I just read that it’s been renewed for next season. Yesss! And BSG has started up again. We’ve only watched one episode so far, but clearly they’re going to be messing with our minds for the rest of the series. And I mean that in a good way, of course.

I haven’t had as much time to pursue my Roomba hobby as I’d hoped, but I did bring an ailing Scooba back to life! Turned out have some defective soldering inside. I never would have found it if someone on Roombareview.com hadn’t suggested that I solder a couple of leads for a voltmeter in there, so that I could see what was happening. Lo and behold, the act of doing that solved the problem. And I just got a very nice note from someone in Italy, telling me that my method worked for him, too! (No, he didn’t put leads in, but he did remelt the solder on the crucial connection—and that fixed his Scooba, too.)

In keeping with the theme of BSG and Roombas, I present here a couple of funny videos I stumbled across on youtube. The links will open new windows in your browser.

And I, Roomba, a Roomba love story, of sorts (a little long, but cute):

(I tried embedding the videos, but they played erratically for some reason.)

“Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.” —Cicero

Copyright Infringement Strikes Close to Home

Before I start: One reason I haven’t posted for a while is that I’ve actually been focusing on working out some things about the storyline of the new book—not Sunborn, but the following book, The Reefs of Time (working title). It’s been sending out shoots in some unexpected directions, which I guess is consistent with the theme of The Chaos Chronicles—but disconcerting.

There are a number of things I’ve been meaning to write about here, but what actually kicked me into gear is a just-discovered case of copyright infringement involving one of my short stories. I have several stories up for free on my web site, and each of them has at the top a copyright notice, along with a plain language statement that it is not permissible to reproduce them elsewhere on the web. Nevertheless, someone named “Jim” has chosen to do just that.

The story in question, “Shapeshifter Finals,” was published in 1995 in the anthology, Warriors of Blood and Dream, edited by Roger Zelazny. I’ve had it up for readers to enjoy for quite a few years. Earlier today, I did something I’ve done from time to time but not lately, which is to take a line at random from my online works and run a search to see if anyone has stolen the source. To my astonishment, I came up positive with this story. It’s been posted online, in its entirety, on a blog called Tales and Tributes. The blog owner apparently lifted it directly from my website, and gave me credit as the author but neglected to ask for permission, or to reproduce the copyright notice—thus giving the false impression that the work is in the public domain. The work is not in the public domain; it is copyright © 1995 by Jeffrey A. Carver.

I would contact the blog owner, but the thing is, “Jim” has no contact information on his blog. Apparently he doesn’t want to be contacted. Another thing is, according to a Whois.com lookup, the domain name, jimblogs.net, was created on the very same day my story was posted. How odd is that?

I have contacted the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) to see if they can assist me in dealing with this, and I’m sure we’ll get to the bottom of it eventually. But in the meantime, if any of you out there in blogland know anything about jimblogs.net or “Jim,” I would appreciate hearing from you.

“The problem is when you’re not writing you don’t know if you’re lying fallow or if you’ll never write again.” —Norman Mailer

Firefox on the Mac and My Blog

I spent a couple of hours tonight trying to isolate the problem (which is more widespread than I had realized) of my blog causing Firefox on the Mac to freeze. It wasn’t the most recent entry that was at fault at all. It seemed I was offending Firefox/Mac in several ways. As nearly as I can tell, Firefox/Mac:

  • Doesn’t like it when I have italics in the title of a post
  • Doesn’t like it (sometimes) when I have an Amazon ad for a book in a post
  • Doesn’t like it (sometimes) when I use blockquote in text

It took a while to root all of those out, or at least those going back a little over a year. None of them caused trouble in Firefox/Windows or Safari/Mac (that I know of). Anyway, this blog no longer freezes my wife’s Mac, which is a hopeful sign.

I’d appreciate hearing from anyone who has had trouble viewing my blog in the past. If you could leave a comment letting me know if you can view it now, that would be very helpful.

Thanks!

Paradigms to the Right of Us, Paradigms to the Left of Us

Okay, I haven’t written an entry in over two weeks. Time to get going. One reason I’ve been away is that I’ve started to pick up some traction on the new book (working title, Reefs of Time), and didn’t want to distract myself from that. On the other hand, my last entry (or something, anyway) caused both my wife’s and my brother’s browsers to freeze when they view my blog in Firefox on a Mac, and because I have no idea what could be causing that, it sort of took the wind out of my sails, blog-wise. If any of you out there has a clue what could cause that, please let me know!

Anyway, since I last posted, a lot of notable events have occurred. Doris Lessing won the Nobel Prize in Literature! Who would have thought they’d ever give the Nobel to someone who wrote science fiction?! Woo-hoo! (I haven’t actually read her books, though, so I can’t really make any comment on the appropriateness of their choosing her for the prize, instead of, oh, say, me.)

Also the Red Sox have made it to the World Series again, which is an equally drastic paradigm shift. Now, I really pay very little attention to baseball. When I flew from Cleveland to Boston recently, my seatmate asked me if I was an Indians or a Red Sox fan. I replied that I only paid attention if the Sox actually made it to the playoffs. She looked at me in amusement, tapped the newspaper, and said, “They’re in the playoffs.” So after that, I started paying attention. I even watched a couple of games! I’m even planning to watch some of the first World Series game tonight! (This is the biggest paradigm shift of the three, I think. I watched the Indians on TV, growing up, but watching professional sports on TV is something I almost never do now.)

And for one last paradigm bender: What do you think would happen if a hungry, VW-sized polar bear happened upon a leashed sled dog? Maybe not what you think. Watch this slide show: Polar Bear and Husky.

Then read about the Hippo and Tortoise.

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” —Groucho Marx

Strange Visitations

As I’ve mentioned before, I like to check the Site Meter logs to see how many people have visited my blog (and my other web sites), what countries they’re from, and so on. One of the things I can see is what the referring sites are—that is, where someone clicked a link to get here. The vast majority of links to my blog—or at least those which are identifiable—are either from my regular web site or my writing course, or from search engines. It’s the search engine clicks that are interesting, because they show me what kinds of queries land people on my blog.

Lately, hands-down, the winner has been Daisy the Goose. I cannot believe how many people have searched for the Daisy the Flying Goose story and wound up at my blog. There has, in fact, been an upswing in visitors the last couple of weeks, and at least part of that is attributable to the goose. Another perennial search favorite is information about snakes, such as someone recently looking for “cool names for snakes.” Google searches for images of “girls wrestling” are pretty common. I wondered at first if they were people looking for mud wrestling or whatever, but then realized they were coming from search pages that actually showed the images of high school wrestling, so I’m guessing it really is mostly people genuinely interested in girls participating in the sport of folk wrestling. More than a few people come looking for articles on intelligent design or “will people steal my story ideas.”

Hardly anybody ever clicks through on the ads, by the way. After two years, I finally racked up enough earnings to get my first check for a hundred big ones. (I mistook the envelope the check was in for junk mail and nearly put it through the shredder.)

The blogosphere’s a funny place. But you already knew that, right?

Read the Comments

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Since I know lots of people probably skip over the comments, I just want to note that the posts below this one have a number of interesting comments from readers, some of which I have responded to. I invite other readers to contribute, also, lest it become the Jeff/Tim/Marco show—and that invitation goes double to those of you from other countries around the world, who might have different views to offer. We’d like to hear from you.

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