Communion Of Dreams

A “best seller”? More or Less.

This past weekend a broadcast of the BBC show/podcast “More or Less” caught my ear, as it was discussing the economics of conventional trade publishing. I would encourage listening to the entire thing (about 9 minutes), but the basics are:

  • Of about 50,000 new titles published in a year, just 0.4% will sell more than 100,000 copies
  • To ‘break even’, a title needs to sell about 5,000 copies
  • Some 86% of all titles sell fewer than 5,000 copies
  • Something like 15% sell fewer than a dozen copies


I knew the numbers weren’t good, and that I had been relatively successful with self-publishing my own books (after years of trying to land a conventional publishing deal), but I had no idea that they were that dismal.

For perspective, all three of my books broke that 5,000 threshold the first year that they were available. And two went on to break it again the second year. Total downloads (ballpark numbers) for each of my books so far:

I’ve been mildly disappointed in the performance of St Cybi’s Well, but that is largely in comparison to Communion of Dreams, which was published a decade earlier (and which has continued to see strong sales/downloads each year). This kind of puts that into perspective.

One thing I want to mention: free downloads. Yeah, that skews the numbers a bit, but not as much as you might think for the two novels. For those, free downloads account for about 15% of SCW and about 20% of CoD totals. HFY saw a much larger percentage of free downloads, but that was because we saw the book more as a public service to other care-givers than a moneypot.

Oh, and “best seller”? Other info I’ve seen indicates that about 50,000 copies is typically considered a best seller in the trade publication industry. Now, that’s for one-year sales, not cumulative sales over a decade. But still, it makes me feel pretty good about how CoD has done.

Jim Downey

“My God, it’s full of stars!”*

I’m no mathematician, and I won’t claim that the imagery used of the ‘artifact’ in Communion of Dreams was intended to reference this, but if you think about it (and have read the entire book), this kind of explanation would work with higher orders of dimensional reality:

Mathematical Impressions: The Surprising Menger Sponge Slice


Jim Downey

*Of course. Which also fits with CoD, since it was an explicit homage to the first movie/book.

A higher level of order.*

Sometimes I feel like this bit from Chapter 17 of Communion of Dreams:

“It’s all right, Jon, I’m awake,” said the scientist, still not opening his eyes.

“Tops says . . . ”

“Probably that I’m acting a little strange. It’s true. I came to a little while ago, but my head has been spinning. Not with any sense of vertigo, but with ideas. Like some kind of wild holographic sculpture of equations, moving and changing, solving themselves and giving rise to new ones, flowing, growing, gleaming from within. It’s easier for me to keep my eyes closed, so I can follow all that they’re doing, I hope you don’t mind.” All of this came pouring from the small man at a pace so quick that Jon almost missed some of it. He continued, “I’m going to have to discuss with Duc whether this is how he perceives his artwork before translating it into a form that the rest of us can see. For me it is like for the first time having direct, conscious access to my subconscious. You know that the human brain is capable of truly phenomenal computational power, but it usually happens below the threshold of awareness. I feel like right now, for this time, I can witness the full glory of the mind at work. No matter. I wanted to see you because I have come to realize what was bothering me before.”

We just placed the order for the special edition printing of Communion of Dreams. And yesterday I ordered several hundred dollars of archival bookbinding materials to execute the cloth hardcover bindings. Exciting — I love these kinds of beginnings!

Jim Downey

*Chaos theory. The ‘scientist’ in the quote above is Robert Gish, a central character in the book, and something of an alter-ego for me.