Communion Of Dreams

The $1 freebie.

Wait, what? How can something free be priced for $1.00 ?

Easy: today Communion of Dreams, which normally sells for $4.95, is completely free for anyone to download. Please – go get it, if you haven’t already. In fact, if you have already gotten it, delete that one and go get it again anyway. Why? Well, it’ll help my rankings if you do.

But I’m doing this today to help promote the Kickstarter for my next book: St. Cybi’s Well.

Currently the Kickstarter is just a bit under halfway over. It is also just a bit under halfway to the funding goal. So far, so good.

The thing is, though, that only 28 people have backed the project so far. Now, I love the level of support from those backers, and greatly appreciate the contributions. But so far this year over 20,000 people have downloaded Communion of Dreams for free. And the previous version of the novel had been downloaded over 35,000 times.

If each and every person who got the book for free just this year would kick in $0.50 — fifty cents — no, not him — we’d surpass the Kickstarter goal and I could concentrate on getting St. Cybi’s Well finished and published.

But that is unlikely to happen. So I’m asking for those who see this to do two small things:

  1. Go over, kick in a buck on my Kickstarter. Just $1.
  2. Tell others about it. Word-of-mouth is excellent promotion — it’s how some 60,000 people have heard of Communion of Dreams. Now, let’s convert some of that into support for my Kickstarter.

Self-publishing is incredibly powerful. But it is also damned tough. There’s no ‘advance’ from a publishing house to allow me to concentrate on writing the next book. There’s no budget for advertising and promotion. There’s no design department handling the cover and book layout. There aren’t editors to go through the text. There aren’t copy editors to pore through the proofs. All of that has to be handled by me, one way or another.

Communion of Dreams has gotten praise from people around the world. And not just for the story. Also for the professional quality of the text. That takes a lot of hard work and attention to detail.

I don’t mind that. I take pride in the finished product. But I could use your help. If you got Communion of Dreams for free and enjoyed it, please help me out today. It’ll help get St. Cybi’s Well out that much sooner.


Jim Downey

“The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy”

That’s the title of a NYT article a friend sent me. It’s long, more than a bit depressing, and probably something that every aspiring author should read.  More than that, it’s probably something that every book consumer should read. Because if you’re going by book reviews listed online, well, you might be reading nothing more than “artificially embellished reviews” in the words of one former business owner who brokered such reviews for authors.

Why do people do this? Money. From the article:

In the fall of 2010, Mr. Rutherford started a Web site, At first, he advertised that he would review a book for $99. But some clients wanted a chorus proclaiming their excellence. So, for $499, Mr. Rutherford would do 20 online reviews. A few people needed a whole orchestra. For $999, he would do 50.

There were immediate complaints in online forums that the service was violating the sacred arm’s-length relationship between reviewer and author. But there were also orders, a lot of them. Before he knew it, he was taking in $28,000 a month.

And why do authors seek such services? Same reason. Gaming the system to have a bunch of fake reviews posted helps to boost sales, building the dynamic which leads to a self-supporting “best seller.” People love the idea of being part of something successful. This is why marketers of all sorts seek to create “buzz” — that kind of attention is the Holy Grail of selling anything. Again, from the article:

One of Mr. Rutherford’s clients, who confidently commissioned hundreds of reviews and didn’t even require them to be favorable, subsequently became a best seller. This is proof, Mr. Rutherford said, that his notion was correct. Attention, despite being contrived, draws more attention.

So, what to do about it?

There’s no easy answer, for either a writer or a reader. Ideally, you should be able to read a review and tell whether the person actually read the book or not. But you can’t trust that. Believe me — I wrote advertising copy for several years after college and before grad school, and I got to the point where I could convince almost anyone that whatever product I was writing about was *FANTASTIC* whether or not I had ever even tried the product, let alone whether I liked it. Any competent writer could churn out ‘reviews’ for books they’ve never read by the dozens.

So, what then? Because reviews really do make a difference — having a solid body of honest reviews has helped others decide to give my books a try. That’s why I keep asking people to do them: it helps. A lot.

But what I think helps even more is word-of-mouth. Well, the internet equivalent of it, anyway. Which is people — real people — posting their thoughts/recommendations about a book on their favorite forum/blog/twitter/Facebook wall. I haven’t hit this mechanism nearly as much as I probably should since the initial launch of both Her Final Year and Communion of Dreams, but that’s because I hate bugging people.

But I’m going to swallow my pride and ask when it comes time to kick off the Kickstarter Project for St. Cybi’s Well that I keep mentioning. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that the Kickstarter will either succeed or fail according to how much promotional support it gets from people who have read Communion of Dreams.

So if you read that book, and enjoyed it, and would like to read another component in my over-arching story — be ready to help spread the word.

Thanks. In advance. There will be more tangible expressions of my appreciation coming soon.

Jim Downey

PS: Editing (Sept. 3) to add another link addressing this problem: RJ Ellory’s secret Amazon reviews anger rivals 


Earlier this month I had mentioned that Communion of Dreams had more or less stabilized at an Amazon ranking of about 30,000.

Well, since then things have changed. The big Kindle promotion last weekend was one. But as I noted the other day, evidently some other things have changed as well. The spike in sales of Communion on Thursday (total of about 50) dropped off a bit on Friday when there were just 25 or so. But then it picked up again yesterday, with about 40 total. With the result that the Amazon ranking has moved up to about 5,000 – sometimes a little higher, sometimes a little lower – and Communion of Dreams has pretty consistently stayed somewhere in the top 50 “Science Fiction – High Tech” category. And other than blogging a bit here, I haven’t done much to promote the book this week. So it’s entered a kind of self-sustaining reaction, like reaching critical mass.

What I find interesting is that in trying to track down and understand what happened to help promote the book, I discovered that a number of sites are starting to list the book as a “recommended read” of one sort or another. Usually this is being done as part of an Amazon affiliates program, where if you buy the book via their site they get a small commission. No complaint from me – this is all advertising, as far as I’m concerned, and I’m happy that others are able to generate a bit of income to support their sites.

Now, what’s curious is trying to figure out what it will take to kick the whole thing up another notch. What is the equivalent of “tickling the dragon’s tail” – of pushing the self-sustaining reaction just a little further, so that it speeds up but doesn’t just figuratively blow up in my face? The story of Louis Slotin remains a cautionary one, after all.

I suppose we’ll see.

Jim Downey