I'll refrain from leaving a rating, since I have not read this piece (anyone who looks closely at my bio should understand why I don't find stories about zombies to be particularly appealing), so it would not be fair for my numbers to affect Tom's status one way or the other.
As another writer whose work has climbed quickly, and surprisingly high given the fact that "We Don't Plummet Out of the Sky Anymore" is my first published bit of science fiction, I can see a few reasons—and these are just off the top of my head!—behind his story's success:
• Tom is prolific. Since November 2009, he has posted twenty-three works on Smashwords... and all of them are free. If people read and like one of his stories, they are likely to check out others.
• Looks like Tom has a website, and uses Twitter prodigiously to tout the availability of his stories. If people are following him at all, I suspect they are getting notifications each and every time he adds a new story, along with frequent reminders about any they may have missed.
• Artwork is usually responsible for the first impression a book delivers, and often decides whether or not the reader even bothers to check out the blurb. A lot of Tom's books have interesting covers. Do the math.
• A lot of people really do like zombies. It's probably sort of like the current vampire craze: If you are into it, you know why it's popular. If you aren't into it, you can't understand why it's popular. Either way, there is a large segment that doesn't understand your perspective. A title like "Zombie"-anything is going to reach a few people that wouldn't bother with other sorts of literature.
• Some people will probably read this story simply because it is the most downloaded thing on the entire site. Some of those people are probably also reading my story.
So why does this piece not seem to have any glowing reviews? If any story gets enough readers, some of them will comment. Those who feel the strongest—with either a positive response or a negative—are the most likely to share their feelings. Unfortunately for this particular title, the readers who reacted negatively spoke up first, and the story's prominence as the most-downloaded title on the site raised a few eyebrows.
If you are still curious about why this particular story is currently number one, download it, and read it. Bear in mind, you'll be adding to Tom's number of cumulative downloads if you do, so the story is quite likely to stay up here.
Oh, one more thing! If you read the story, take a moment and leave an honest review. Your words might help someone else decide whether or not they should give it a try.
(review of free book)