Daily Archives: November 9, 2010

Cooks Source Apology

A real one, it seems (real meaning “from Judith Griggs”). It’s up at the Cooks Source site.

The good news is that there’s an apology to Monica Gaudio, along with the assertion that indeed a donation has been made to the Columbia School of Journalism, as Ms. Gaudio requested. So that’s good.

The rather less good news is that the apology seems generally to be avoiding the fact that Ms. Griggs’ letter to Ms. Gaudio plus the extensive examples of articles wholly taken from other sources without clearance or payment make it clear that the issue with the Cooks Source was not “an oversight of a small, overworked staff.” It also attempts to imply that the problem with Cooks Source was not Ms. Griggs’ “The Internet is a buffet of rights-free material” philosophy but that contributors playing fast and loose with other people’s material were somehow to blame.

The final little annoying touch is the attempt to suggest that the real victims here are the people that Cooks Source “assists,” i.e., its readers, etc. Well, no. In fact the real victims — the ones who have suffered verifiable material loss — are the writers and rights-holders whose work was appropriated without compensation. It’s nice that Cooks Source has caved and given Ms. Gaudio what she asked for; I wonder how it and Ms. Griggs plans to compensate everyone else it took work from without compensation.

In all, I give this apology a D+, and that passing grade is entirely for compensating Ms. Gaudio as Ms. Gaudio requested. Otherwise, let’s not pretend that if the Internet hadn’t fallen on Ms. Griggs’ head, that even this grudging effort at an apology would exist. This is the apology of someone who is sorry she got caught, not the apology of someone who feels she has done wrong. And, well. She did do wrong, and she should have done better.

“Fuzzy Nation” in the UK; “Coffee Shop” at Tor.com

Two things:

* First, I was asked whether Fuzzy Nation will be out in the UK at the same time as the US. My answer: Dunno. At the moment we’re shopping FN to UK publishers, so it’s really a matter of who wants it and then I suppose whether they want to time its release for the US release. Which is to say it’s not up to me. Of course, if you’re a UK science fiction publisher and you’d like a crack at FN, go ahead and contact my agent, he’ll be happy to talk with you.

* Second, over at Tor.com, Brit Mandelo has started a series of post on writers who have written books on writing, and has started that series with me, and my 2007 book You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop. Fortunately for me, her review is generally favorable. You can read the whole thing here.

There is a small irony in that in discussing the book, she points readers to the SubPress catalogue page for the book, which tells folks it’s entirely sold out. And it is sold out — in print. However, over at Webscriptions, there is an electronic version available for the entirely reasonable price of $6. Go, electronic media!

“Election” Results

Last week Subterranean Press and I did an experiment, by taking “An Election,” a short story SubPress bought from me, posting it here and running ads in it for SubPress product. When one publicly announces one is running an experiment, it’s fair to then also publicly present the results of the experiment for people to analyze and discuss. So here are some stats, etc to chew on.

First, numbers-wise, the story was seen and at least partially read no fewer than 25,828 times as of this morning, going by the number generated by WordPress’ stats package. Per my earlier discussion of how WordPress generates stats information, I consider the WordPress stats in this case to be a lower bound rather than the true number of readers, which I suspect based on experience is somewhat higher; if I had to guess, I’d go with something in the 35k – 45k range. But in terms of visits I know the story got, 25.8k is confirmable, so let’s use that.

How does 25.8k views in eight days compare to how the story might have fared elsewhere? It’s hard to make exact comparisons, but here’s some data on two points:

* In 2008, when I published “After the Coup” at Tor.com, that story was visited 49.5k times in two weeks. That was part of the debut of the entire Tor.com site, which didn’t hurt in terms of exposure. I also think at this point, most people acknowledge Tor.com as the most-visited sf/f-related online site which regularly publishes short fiction.

* The current circulation numbers for the largest SF print markets in the US are 15,491 for Fantasy & Science Fiction, 16,696 for Asimov’s and 25,418 for Analog. One wants to be careful comparing direct views on a Web site to general circulation numbers for various reasons — for example, not every one who reads a magazine reads every story, which means you may have fewer actual readers than the circulation… but more than one person will read each copy, which means you may have more readers than the circulation number, too — but circulation numbers are a reasonable baseline for estimation.

So, 25.8k views in eight days compares reasonably well with both top print and top online sites, in terms of getting the story read to a large audience. So in that respect I think we can declare the experiment a success.

I asked Bill Schafer, publisher of Subterranean Press, for his thoughts on its success in terms of advertising, etc. He said:

I’m plenty happy with it. We saw a small but noticeable spike in Kindle sales of the advertised titles. And really, I did it mostly because it was a new way to get the SubPress name out to readers. Business overall is good, which is the best way to quantify the stuff we’re trying.

So it’s a success on that end as well. And of course I’m happy with it, not in the least because selling the story enabled me to get a new computer monitor. So overall, I think we can say our little “Election” experiment worked pretty well.

BUT: is this sort of thing replicable? It’s one thing to something like this one time and get attention for it, on the grounds that it’s something new — as far as I know no other science fiction author has been paid pro rates by a publisher to publish his fiction on his own Web site — but it’s another thing to do it again and get the same sort of numbers.

The short answer to this is “we’ll have to try it again and see how it goes,” but the slightly longer answer is that there is another similar data point that suggests it might be doable. About a month prior to “An Election,” I posted a short short entitled “When the Yogurt Took Over.” I posted it for my own amusement rather than trying to sell it (I mean, it was really short, and also about yogurt taking over the world), but over the course of eight days, it racked up 26.4k views, i.e., numbers very similar to those garnered by “An Election.” While not definitive, it does suggest that fiction presented here will perform within a certain bound, as long as, you know, it’s entertaining. And that’s good to know going forward.

The next question, as you might expect, is whether I plan to make a regular habit out of this sort of thing. And the answer there is: Who knows? One, I don’t write all that much short fiction — usually a story or two a year. Two, it’s almost always on commission, so it typically already has a home. Three, most publishers, I expect, want to bring work they purchase into their own magazines or sites; SubPress in this sense was throwing an idea against a wall to see if it would stick. It worked for SubPress but then SubPress had books it wanted to advertise. Most short fiction venues don’t have the same dynamic going on, as far as I can tell.

I’m certainly not opposed to doing this again — just ask me! — but I suspect this will be a rare treat rather than a regular sort of thing. On the other hand, regardless of whether someone is paying me or not I like trying out things here, and it’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility that I’ll put something up here just because I feel like it. So again, we’re at: Who knows? Just keep dropping by and we’ll see what pops up for you.