Readercon and E-Books (Part 1)

First of all, let me say that Readercon was great this year—which I measure primarily by the enjoyable and interesting people I talked to. A partial list would include Jim Kelly, Rob Sawyer, Ann Tonsor Zeddies, Geary Gravel, Rosemary Kirstein, Tom Easton and his wife Kate Savage (who let me hold an Amazon Kindle in my hands for the first time, and even put some of my books on it!), Michaela Roessner, Terry McGarry, Paolo Bacigalupi, Jim Freund, Judith Berman, Victoria McManus, Dan Kimmel, and—neither last nor least—a bunch of members of the writing workshops I’ve led with Craig Gardner. In that latter group, Chris Howard was positively glowing. His first novel, Seaborn, is just out. It looks terrific. (Two short sections of it went through critique in our workshop.) And Chris figured he’d made it—because his book was already pirated and up on someone’s BitTorrent site. And probably was before the print version was even available.

Whatever you think about that last, good or bad—congratulations, Chris!

On the subject of e-books and piracy, I participated in a lively panel on the subject of e-piracy versus the rising trend of folks making their work available for free online. Our panel moderator was James Patrick Kelly, who has been in the forefront of putting his work up in audio format, initially as free podcasts, which eventually led to a paid appearance on We batted around a lot of ideas on the subject—which I promise I will talk about tomorrow. It’s late now. Time to get some sleep.

“I write for the same reason I breathe—because if I didn’t, I would die.” —Isaac Asimov

Readercon: July 17 – 20

Readercon happens this coming weekend, just outside Boston. It’s one of my convention-going highlights of the year, being full of people who truly love reading and love science fiction! I’ll be on a few panels, and doing a reading. The full text of the Program Guide is online as a PDF. But here’s my schedule:

Friday 4:00 PM, Salon F:
If Free Electronic Texts Are Good Promotion, What’s Piracy?Jeffrey A. Carver, James Patrick Kelly (L), Cat Rambo, Graham Sleight, Gordon Van Gelder

“Webscabs, who post their creations on the net for free . . . [are helping convert] the noble calling of Writer into the life of Pixel-stained Technopeasant Wretch.”–Howard V. Hendrix, former Vice-President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). In a recent issue of _Locus_, Cory Doctorow summarized the evidence that giving away free electronic versions of books actually helps rather than hinders sales of the printed versions… What are the differences between giving away a text electronically yourself, and letting others disseminate it without your knowledge and/or permission? …If “piracy” is actually good for all except the best-selling authors, how do writers reconcile this reality with long-standing and deep-rooted feelings about intellectual property rights and getting paid for work?

Friday 7:00 PM, Salon F:
Waking Up Sober Next to a Story Idea — Paolo Bacigalupi, Jeffrey A. Carver (L), David Anthony Durham, Kay Kenyon, Barry B. Longyear, Jennifer Pelland

Really, it seemed absolutely beautiful once upon a time. Now that you’ve had intimate knowledge of it (say, midway through the novel), you can see all the less-than-flattering sides. You may even wonder, What the hell was I thinking? How do you recover enthusiasm for the work? Now that you see the flaws, how do you begin the process of fixing them?

Saturday 12:00 Noon, Vinyard: Kaffeeklatsch (meet the author)
Jeffrey A. Carver; David Anthony Durham

Saturday 2:00 PM, RI: Workshop
Writing Jujitsu: Turning Writer’s Block into Stories. — Barry B. Longyear with participation by Jeffrey A. Carver, Barbara Krasnoff, Sandra McDonald, et al.

You can’t sell it until it’s on paper and you can’t get it on paper if things keep eating up your time, nag at you, bully you, or you’re filled to the brim with illnesses, insecurities, or crushing doubts. Longyear presents a how-to workshop for beginning writers and those who have been there on how to turn what’s blocking your muse into stories.

Sunday 1:30 PM, VT: Reading (30 min.) — Jeffrey A. Carver reads from his forthcoming novel Sunborn.

If you’re going to be at Readercon, I hope you’ll come say hello. (I won’t have a designated autographing time. They had too many authors, and since I don’t currently have anything new out, they triaged me. But I’ll be around. Grab me after a panel, or come to the Kaffeeklatch.)

“First you’re an unknown, then you write a book and you move up to obscurity.” —Martin Myers

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

Speaking of Free Books

I’ve been considering the possibility of making Sunborn available for free download, perhaps in installments leading up to the actual pub date (end of October). A number of writers, including Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi, have offered their books for free download and discovered that it seemed to increase their audience and interest in the novels, and thus sales of their books. While there are no doubt some readers who will read only the free version and skip the hardcopy, it seems that many more decide they’d like to own the actual book once they’ve read the electronic version. At least, that’s what these writers have reported. Past experience is no guarantee of future performance, though, as the mutual funds tell us.

I’d be interested in knowing what you folks think. This is new territory for all of us in the fiction world, and I’m feeling my way in the dark just like everyone else.

(I’ve already used this quote, but it just seems to fit, so here’s an encore…)

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow

BSG Novel—Free at!

The e-book version, that is. This week only, you can download my novelization of Battlestar Galactica (the miniseries that began the new BSG) for free from Tor Books. And by the way, if you like e-books, Tor offers a weekly free book. If you sign up for their email newsletter, you’ll get a reminder notice each week when a new title becomes available. You have to act fast, though, because when a new one comes, the old one goes away. (Sort of like, but without the price and the funny descriptions.)

Speaking of e-books, here’s a reminder that many of my novels are available as e-books in various formats. Go to for a complete listing. And, of course, you can also order new, bound-paper codices (books) directly from me.

“The profession of book-writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.” —John Steinbeck

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