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One journalist's stories and reflections on the journey from lifelong New Zealander to American permanent resident.

On July 4, 2011 I began writing Voyages in America on Stuff.co.nz. As of Friday, October 20, my blog has been cancelled.

The idea for a Voyages in America book funded through Kickstarter has been simmering for a few months now, but with the blog going offline – for now at least – the time has come to make this new leap and I couldn’t be more excited.

NEW REWARD UPDATE, OCTOBER 18: All past and future contributors of more than $25 will receive a compilation e-book of my 20 favourite blogs (with an original intro) and a completed first chapter draft as reward also, as well as all the other good stuff listed to the right!

NEW REWARD UPDATE, OCTOBER 27: Added in a new $10 reward level!

NEW REWARD UPDATE, NOVEMBER 4: A new e-book for the reward pile. All contributors on $10 and over won't just receive a first chapter and 20 of my best blogs, you'll receive three of unpublished long form nonfiction stories, written by me. Fancy!

Why turn Voyages in America into a book?

Voyages in America has done better as a blog than I ever hoped. It’s had an average audience each month of 45,000 readers from across the world and a community of well over 1,500 readers on Facebook have built up around this.

The blog began on the simple notion of me writing about my experience having moved to America. But something bigger has come out of this, part-memoir, part-travelogue and part cultural-analysis. Through 350 posts and more than 300,000 words over the past two years is the story of a hugely important and transformative time of my life.

It is a story with two parts, the first being about me leaving one home in New Zealand and trying to find another in the USA. This narrative has alternated with a series of sometimes funny, sometimes bewildered observations about American life.

I’m motivated to write this book because I’ve seen both parts of this tale resonate strongly with readers. In early October last year my post, “Why are New Zealanders so passive?” was read by 30,000 people in one day. Six months later, my post about the comparative religious enthusiasm of New Zealanders and Americans, “Are Kiwis Godless?” was commented on 619 times and was for a time the most responded to blog post ever on Stuff.co.nz. I’ve covered everything from coffee, candy and tipping to anti-Americanism, gun violence and Rush Limbaugh, resulting always in a heated level of debate. 

And one of the best parts of this work for me is that when I’ve opened up a window into my own life, readers have displayed the same interest. I’ve written about dealing with being overseas for the death of my grandparents, the struggles in keeping an international relationship going and I discussed my own American wedding.

This is a book that I want to write and one that I know will have a great shot at finding a wide audience. I’m infinitely enthusiastic about adapting this last two years of work into something memorable. But I can’t do this without your help.

What is your plan for the book?

The book will not be a rerun compilation of my most popular posts. My plan is to rework, reorder and provide context, using the existing, larger block of words as a starting point and writing in new material around the strongest work within this. The end product will cut from a personal narrative of my experience and journey moving countries to more essay-style writing about American life and culture.

I want to take advantage of the flexibility that comes with being my own publisher and move quickly on this project, but not so quickly that I trip over myself. If the project has been fully funded by the end of this campaign in November, my release date will be set before the end of May next year. This will give me three months to write intensively and two to edit, design, tweak and perfect, with the last month given over to printing, promotion and bringing the book out into the world in the best way possible.

How much do you need? Why?

I’m asking for $15,000 to proceed with this book project. At this level of funding, I am completely assured that I have the time and means to produce at least a 750-copy run of a professionally designed, copy-edited 280-page book, with the ability to release it on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

With this level of support I can know that it will be of a standard that any book lover would want to read and something I will be proud to call my first book.

If I’m lucky enough to raise more than $15,000, any extra money will go toward giving the book the best possible chance of finding a wider audience, allowing me to put more resources toward the most important stages of the process: editing, production and promotion.

What do I get out of supporting Voyages in America: The Book?

I want the production of this book to play off the same spirit of community that made writing Voyages in America these past two years so fulfilling. I’ve tried to tailor my rewards around this idea. I’m not famous enough (or famous at all really) to offer you signed photos of myself with a straight face. But I want to take anyone who contributes on this book-publishing journey along with me and engage with you directly. Everyone who donates will be a recognized piece of the finished product. For $1, you’ll have access to weekly updates from me as I write the book and have your name listed in the acknowledgements. $25 will get you a copy of the book, $50 a signed copy of the book and a thank you call.

If you contribute $100, you’ll get the personally inscribed book and thank you call and also an invitation to the world’s most exclusive book club, with a chance to Skype with me one-on-one after you’ve read it.

For $300, you’ll get all of that and an invitation, that if you make it to San Francisco, or if I’m ever in Wellington, we’ll sit down together for dinner. Consider this an open offer with no expiry date.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

I enter into this project with my eyes open. I’m a professional writer that has turned out over 100,000 words each year for the past three years.

But self-publishing an approximately 75,000-word manuscript will be the largest test of creativity, time-management and organisation I've ever faced.

The thing that I feel is on my side in this is that I have some idea of where these challenges come in.

In 2006, I was responsible for publishing a weekly, 64-page magazine. I learned quickly through this that each error-free edition required an agonizing attention to detail. Each error is an editor’s nightmare.

I know that in publishing, while the end user might not actively consider things like page design and use of white space, seamlessness in itself requires a lot of thought. I’ll counter this by bringing the right eyes in to shaping the finished product.

I want to release the book in both New Zealand and America. And alongside self-releasing the book and selling it directly online, I would like to get the book into stores, which will require mastering a whole new retail landscape and putting my self-promotional abilities entirely to the test.

Then there’s matter of spinning 300,000 words of existing material into 50,000 or so words, and writing in 20,000 words of new material around that, all within three months.

Deadlines. Editors. Designers. Specification requirements.

These challenges, taken case-by-case, will not be new to me.

But there will be exponentially more of them coming many at a time and it will require a completely disciplined act of patience and thoroughness in service of a wider overall vision.

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  • Pledge $1 or more
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    20 backers

    Every contributor to this project will receive two things: their name listed in the acknowledgements section of the book and a chance to opt-in to a mailing list, where I will share my thoughts each week as I go about this journey. I'm sure shenanigans and mental exhaustion will ensue as I throw myself into getting this book out. These dispatches will let you in on how I'm doing and what I'm learning.

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    16 backers

    As well as your name listed in the acknowledgements and access to exclusive updates throughout the book writing process, you will receive a compilation e-book of my 20 favourite blogs (with an original intro) and a completed first chapter draft at the successful completion of this campaign.

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  • Pledge $25 or more
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    135 backers

    Consider this to be just like purchasing the book in advance! A crisp, new book will be sent out to you as soon as is completed.

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    Add $5 USD to ship outside the US
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    67 backers

    For $50 I won't just send you a book and call you to thank you, I'll write you a personal inscription inside the front cover beforehand, thanking you personally for supporting the publication of my debut book.

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    21 backers

    On top of all the aforementioned treats, $100 will buy access into world's most exclusive book club. Once you've received, read and digested the book, let's Skype! Got questions? Hated it? Ideas for book two? Concerns? Thematic curiosities? Let's chat.

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  • Pledge $300 or more
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    7 backers

    Anyone who contributes at this level, receives as open an invitation as I can offer: aside from a Skype hangout, a signed book, a call to let you know just how great you are, if we're in the same part of the world, you have an open dinner invitation. Coming through the Bay Area? Drop me an email and you'll come to my house to break bread. Our paths cross in Wellington? Likewise.

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