Matthew Amster-Burton did something a lot of writers eyeing the ebook market would like to do but don’t know how or even how to start. Amster-Burton did know how, and not only did he make a pretty good start, using Kickstarter to fund his travels and the publication of his story, he ended up writing a pretty good “ichiban” number one foodie guide to Tokyo.
The book, titled “Pretty Good Number One: an Amerian family eats Tokyo,” is also available online as a paperback, but Amster-Burton has decided not to publish the book with a major house, opting to keep control of the work and run the operation himself. I won’t go into a book review mode here, because there are a number of reviews online already, and having read the book myself, I can attest to its fine writing, good humor and dining deliciousness. Amster-Burton not only knows food, he also knows people and what makes them tick.
So when he and his wife and 8 year old daughter went to Tokyo in the summer of 2012 for a 30-day kitchen run, he turned out 27 chapters that are a kind of “Lost and Found in Translation” of the foodie variety, and his love affair with Japan shines brightly all the way through. It was not a vacation, and he was not in ”vacation mode”. It was work. And the Kickstarter approach worked wonders as well.
When asked in a series of emails how the Kickstarter campaign worked out, Matthew told TeleRead: “I did indeed raise over $8,000, sent the ebook to all 381 backers and did a national book tour.”
About bringing the book to larger audience via a major publishing house in New York, Amster-Burton said: “I have a literary agent, and we’ve spoken to one publisher about picking up the book. The issue is the electronic rights. As a self-published author, my paperback distribution is very limited, but my ebook distribution is unlimited. Any publisher would want both print and electronic rights; I’m willing to sell the electronic rights, but not at a price publishers are willing to pay at this point. Perhaps I’m being stubborn, but I doubt it. I’d be trading a steady income from ebook sales for a small advance and a possibility of future royalties.”
I asked again about the possibility of doing “Pretty Good Number One” as a mass market trade paperback with a major house, based on its success as an ebook, but Matthew told me that he didn’t see it that way, noting: “Unfortunately, books about Japan in English just aren’t big business. I have a good relationship with the publisher of my first book, and my editor there read it but said [it wasn’t right for the paperback market]. And I think she’s right. It sells well enough to make me a decent side income. It is becoming a standard read for people making their first visit to Japan, and gets me nice fan mail from readers. It’s a big enough success to be meaningful for me, but not for a big publisher.”
So there’s something to be learned here for other writers looking to write an ebook. Start your engines. Go!
Editor’s Note: Sounds fun, so if you are planning a trip to Tokyo and want to buy it, here it is on Amazon.
[easyazon-link asin=”B00C9T9X2Q” locale=”us”]Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo[/easyazon-link]