Communion Of Dreams


Sharing around the world.

Just a quick reminder: Communion of Dreams is free today! Yay!!

The promotion started yesterday, and so far has had more than 100 downloads world-wide. I still think that it’s fun that people in a wide variety of different countries (as represented by different Amazon portals) download it with each promo. This time the list already includes Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, and The UK. That’s just cool.

So, share the news, and go download it if you haven’t already!

 

Jim Downey



A fool and his money …

Tuesday is April 1, the day when I tend to ignore just about everything said/reported online.

But here’s something that’s legit: Both Communion of Dreams and Her Final Year will be free to download. And just in case you’re like me and tend not to trust *any* special offers on that day, they’ll both also be free to download the next day, as well. And remember, you don’t need to own an actual Kindle — there are free emulators for just about every reader/mobile device/computer.

You’re no fool. Don’t be parted from your money. Get a free copy of the Kindle edition of either or both books.

 

Jim Downey



Get lucky.

“I’d rather be lucky than good.” — Lefty Gomez

* * * * * * *

In a fairly soul-baring piece by Emily Gould about the reality of struggling to be an ostensibly ‘successful’ writer, this should give even the most optimistic person pause:

In 2008 I sold a book-in-progress for $200,000 ($170,000 after commission, to be paid in four installments), which still seems to me like a lot of money. At the time, though, it seemed infinite. The resulting book—a “paperback original,” as they’re called—has sold around 8,000 copies, which is about a fifth of what it needed to sell not to be considered a flop. This essentially guarantees that no one will ever pay me that kind of money to write a book again.

 

* * * * * * *

In a discussion over on MetaFilter, successful Science Fiction author Charlie Stross had some thoughts on the above-cited essay. Here’s an excerpt from his comment:

In 2001 I had a gigantic stroke of good luck: I acquired a [good] literary agent and sold my first novel. It was about the tenth novel or novel-shaped-thing I’d written since 1990, on my own time. The advance was, eventually, $15,000 for US rights (a good first book advance in SF/F) and £3500 for UK rights. Note that a new novelist can’t get follow-on book contracts until their first book has proven itself in print — to justify the advance money the new contract will cost the publisher — so I had to keep up the freelance journalism for a few more years.

 

* * * * * * *

“A gigantic stroke of good luck.”

But Stross is a good writer, right? I mean, doesn’t he deserve his success and popularity? The meritocracy of the marketplace and all that?

Perhaps. From an NPR story the other day:

Several years ago, Princeton professor Matthew Salganik started thinking about success, specifically about how much of success should be attributed to the inherent qualities of the successful thing itself, and how much was just chance. For some essentially random reason, a group of people decided that the thing in question was really good and their attention attracted more attention until there was a herd of people who believed that it was special mostly because all the other people believed that it was, but the successful thing wasn’t in fact that special.

Salganik came up with a clever experiment, one which allowed a large number of teenagers (30,000) access to several dozen songs by promising but as yet unsigned bands. The way the experiment ran created 9 different iterations of ‘reality’, to see whether the same song would become the most popular one in each test run. They didn’t. In fact, the results were wildly divergent:

“For example, we had this song ‘Lock Down’ by the band 52 Metro,” Salganik says. “In one world this song came in first; in another world it came in 40th out of 48th. And this was exactly the same song. It’s just in these different worlds, history evolved slightly different. There were differences in the beginnings, and then the process of social influence and cumulative advantage sort of magnified those small, random initial differences.”

Now obviously there are many different things that have an impact on success and failure — money, race and a laundry list of other things — and after this work, which one person in the field described as a seminal paper, Salganik went on to do similar studies with parallel worlds that suggest that quality does have at least a limited role. It is hard to make things of very poor quality succeed — though after you meet a basic standard of quality, what becomes a huge hit and what doesn’t is essentially a matter of chance.

 

* * * * * * *

Another comment a little after Stross’s in that MeFi discussion offered a different perspective that’s worth considering:

Emily Gould’s example is crucial because she is the primary example of a writer who had succeeded. She did everything she was supposed to do: came to NYC, produced a ton of successful content for a big brand website, then continued on her own to create a huge internet presence, and then branched out into conventional media (the NYT piece) and eventually a six-figure book deal. If you think of the thousands of writers who are racking up credit card debt writing for free or almost on free all those websites we read every day, they are trying to become Emily Gould. Regardless of what they might think of her work itself, that’s the approximate career path they’re trying to follow.

So when people are glibly like, “Oh, she lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, there’s your problem,” what they’re saying is: the pinnacle of this career is one in which you will never be able to afford to live on your own, never mind have kids or financial stability or even a regular writing paycheck, the end. And that should really give us pause.

Because, sure, you can say “She should never have come to New York, she should always have kept a full time job in a different profession, etc. etc.” But to work for Gawker, she had to come to New York. To gain the kind of name recognition she has, she had to work full time posting and networking and Tweeting and, basically, working for free. And when her book failed, it didn’t fail because it was “bad” – because she wrote, in the book, the exact same way she wrote online. For better or for worse, that was what people liked. The real, applicable lesson is that the book failed because the people who read her stuff online didn’t care enough to pay for it in print.

 

* * * * * * *

“I’d rather be lucky than good.” — Lefty Gomez

I used to think that this was wrong. In fact I was quite confident that my intelligence, hard work, and focus could overcome any barrier. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of those things.

But I’ve seen too much life to still believe that. Yeah, I’d rather be lucky than good.

Back to work.

 

Jim Downey



Want a free hand-bound, hard-cover copy of Communion of Dreams?

So, I got these all done:

Finished product.

Finished product.

And I’m really pleased with the way most of them came out.

Most of them. But not all.

The first several text blocks I trimmed, I had the fence on my guillotine set in the wrong place, and trimmed the top margin a little too close. Oh, it’s the sort of thing that probably only I would ever notice (seriously, it’s only about 5mm off), but when it comes to my work I’m a bit of a perfectionist. So I just wouldn’t feel right in selling them for the normal $100 price. Instead, I’m going to use them for promotional purposes. Starting with having a drawing for one now.

So, if you would like a nearly perfect, hand-bound, cloth-covered copy of Communion of Dreams, do two things, and I will enter your name for a drawing:

  1. “Follow” this blog (or “Like” the Facebook page).
  2. Leave a comment below (or on the Facebook page).

You’ve got until Sunday morning, when I log on to see who has entered. Then I’ll put all the names into a hat, and draw one out. That person will get the copy of the book. For free. I’ll even pay the postage. And let you pick which edition number you want of those available. And inscribe it as you prefer (well, within bounds…)

Please, only one entry per person, and open to everyone. If you’ve already ordered a hand-bound copy of the book  (or are due one from the Kickstarter) and you win this one, you can have me either send it to you or to the recipient of your choice. Easy.

Don’t wait — get your entry in now.

Jim Downey



Context matters.

Mel, our new cat, has settled in nicely. Well, nicely as far as she’s concerned. Our older cat, Hil, has a different perception of the matter.

That’s because Hil has largely been supplanted by this young upstart, who is a bit bigger, a lot stronger, and somewhat more aggressive. Hil hasn’t taken to cowering, exactly, but she has kept a lower profile and tends to avoid Mel.

Mostly.

* * * * * * *

People keep saying things like this:

The storyline itself I would put on a par with some of the best SF I have ever read. I felt much the same at the end as I did 50 or so years ago when I finished “Childhood’s End”.

And this:

This book is an unapologetic homage to the “hard science fiction” style of writing and to Arthur C. Clarke himself.

* * * * * * *

It’s not surprising that people see this, since from the very beginning I have been pretty open about both my intent and source material. I mean, here’s what it says on the Communion of Dreams homepage:

Welcome to Communion of Dreams. You’ll probably find that it is closest in flavor to the works of Arthur C. Clarke and the late Carl Sagan, two authors from whom I draw inspiration.

And there’s this passage from Chapter 6:

“Here’s what our artifact makes me think of,” Ng laughed. Slowly the artifact image started to change in a more pronounced way, becoming taller, narrower, and losing the hexagonal shape. The mottling drifted away, replaced by a hard, black, shiny surface. It was the iconic monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

* * * * * * *

Things change. Last month I sold 550 copies of Communion of Dreams. As I noted a couple of days ago, this month it’s dropped off, and will likely end up somewhere around what the April total was (about 275).

Sure, I wish that the numbers had just kept climbing. They had been basically doubling each month. But these things have a natural ebb & flow to them sometimes. Right now other books are getting the attention, getting the reviews, getting talked about. I haven’t spent as much time & energy promoting the book this month, and next month will probably be even worse since I’ll be overseas for much of it.

Still, we’ll see. You can help, if you want, by contributing your own review, by spreading the word to friends and forums. We all need to watch out for one another in this world. Whether you take that as a warning or a comfort, I’ll leave that up to you.

* * * * * * *

Mel, our new cat, has settled in nicely. Well, nicely as far as she’s concerned. Our older cat, Hil, has a different perception of the matter.

That’s because Hil has largely been supplanted by this young upstart, who is a bit bigger, a lot stronger, and somewhat more aggressive. Hil hasn’t taken to cowering, exactly, but she has kept a lower profile and tends to avoid Mel.

Mostly.

See, Hil has long been comfortable going outside. For Mel, “outside” was a New And Scary experience (her previous owners told us she’d never been out). We started going out with her for short periods, letting her know that we were there and she was OK. And then progressed to leaving the back door propped open a bit, so that she could go out on her own, but come running back inside when she got overwhelmed. Finally, we started letting her out and then closing the door behind her.

But only when Hil was outside.

Because, for all that Mel seems to dominate inside, she wants to have Hil around outside. And Hil, with remarkable kindness, stays with Mel, watching over her. If Hil comes in, Mel does too. If Hil comes in without Mel noticing, as soon as Mel does notice she’s howling at the back door.

Context matters.

Jim Downey