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A darkly funny novel, set in 1979 San Francisco, about a brilliant young man desperate to undo the wrong he did to the woman he loves.
A darkly funny novel, set in 1979 San Francisco, about a brilliant young man desperate to undo the wrong he did to the woman he loves.
A darkly funny novel, set in 1979 San Francisco, about a brilliant young man desperate to undo the wrong he did to the woman he loves.
413 backers pledged $33,431 to help bring this project to life.

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"What I Did To You": a novel by John Shore

$33,431

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"Minimum funding goal met—and you STILL want money, John? WHY?!"

I am pleased beyond words that What I Did To You has reached its minimum funding goal.

But wait! There's more!

Lower down on the page, under the header My Stretch Goals, you'll find this paragraph:

"If I raise a total of $32,500—$10,000 beyond my minimum funding goal—I will hire, for three months, Smith Publicity, Inc., one of the premier book marketing agencies in the world. I've spoken at length with one of their top people; they know my work; they're chomping at the bit to bring What I Did To You to an audience way beyond that of my own. (And the media hook they'll use to make that happen, you ask? It will be that I, a humble blogger, crowdsourced $32,500 to publish my debut novel. As a former magazine and newspaper editor, I can tell you: that's a story. It'll get attention.)"

I am hoping upon hope that before this campaign ends it raises $32,500. If you can in any way help me to achieve that goal, please do.

It's one thing to have in your hands a polished, ready-to-sell book that you know (or ... you know: largely suspect) would become a bestseller if it only got the proper attention. It's another thing altogether to actually get it that attention.

Bringing the media's attention to What I Did To You will require an experienced, well-regarded publicist, one who knows how to run an effective, professional media campaign. And hiring such a publicist ain't cheap. It costs ... well, for Smith, whom I most want to hire, $10,000 for a three-month publicity/marketing campaign.

Please help me raise the funds necessary to not only publish my novel, but, once that's done, to make sure the world knows of its existence.

Read from Chapter 1 of What I Did To You

To read an excerpt from the first chapter of the novel, go here.

What you will not find there, since it's not really part of its opening chapter, is the novel's epigraph, or opening quote. For that I chose this line from the song "Corrina Blues," written by the epically awesome Blind Lemon Jefferson:

The blues ain' nothin' but a good woman on your mind.

"What's the novel about?"

Most of What I Did To You takes place in San Francisco during the final months of 1979. It’s told from the point of view of a lost young man named David Finch, who is living in a motel out by the sea, desperately trying to not just undo the wrong he recently did to the woman he loves, but to comprehend how he could have possibly done such a thing in the first place.

David is an extremely funny guy. But his past isn't funny at all.

What I Did To You is about the raging lunacy, inexplicable durability, and ultimately liberating finality of love.

It's about about the slow-drip toxicity of dysfunctional families. It's about necessary deceits and unnecessary betrayals. It's about friendship. It's about the psychological sinkholes created by broken promises. It's about the real-world damage done by homophobia. It's about the dangers of sliding into isolation as consolation.

It's about the glorious, agonizing, outrageous intensity of the human experience. (What novel worth the name is about anything less?)

Why $22,500?

My funding goal for this campaign—$22,500—is a lot of money.

Though not, alas, when it comes to book publishing.

Typically, it costs a book publisher $45,000 to bring to market a paperback book, and $60,000 to get a hardcover book onto the shelves. (And that's not counting any author's advance.)

The figured-down-to-a-nickel fact is that $22,500 is the break-even number for this campaign. That is what it will cost to have What I Did To You edited, proofread, designed, typeset, prepared for print, formatted for e-readers, mounted for sale on all primary online bookstores, made available for ordering at brick-and-mortar bookstores, and produced for those who made this campaign successful in the first place.

People often think it's inexpensive to self-publish a book. And it is! Unless you do it right.

Now, if I'm able to afford publishing this book properly—if I reach my funding goal—that will be awesome. Party at my house, for sure. (Come if you can!)

(The party we'll throw if this Kickstarter campaign is successful will look nothing like this.)
(The party we'll throw if this Kickstarter campaign is successful will look nothing like this.)

But, as you might imagine, I have goals for What I Did To You beyond "just" breaking even with this campaign.

My Stretch Goals

1. Marketing. If I raise a total of $32,500—$10,000 beyond my funding goal—I will hire, for three months, Smith Publicity, Inc., one of the premier book marketing agencies in the world. I've spoken at length with one of their top people; they know my work; they're chomping at the bit to bring What I Did To You to an audience beyond that of my own. (And the media hook they'll use to make that happen, you ask? It will be that I, a humble blogger, crowdsourced $32,500 to publish my debut novel. As a former magazine and newspaper editor, I can tell you: that's a story. It'll get attention.)

I cannot be held responsible for what might happen to your hair when you listen to certain passages of "What I Did To You."
I cannot be held responsible for what might happen to your hair when you listen to certain passages of "What I Did To You."

2. Audiobook. If I raise $15,000 beyond my goal, I'll probably momentarily lose consciousness. Once back on my feet, I will get busy producing an audiobook of What I Did To You. Because sometimes your ears want to read, too. 

3. Twice the marketing. If I raise $20,000 beyond my goal, I'll stumble over to the couch before I come crashing down. Once I've convinced my wife that she can stop slapping me because I'm awake already, I'll hire Smith Publicity for another three months. And then watch for me on Oprah! Or on Reading With The Stars, if that ever becomes a show. Which I fell asleep just thinking about, so never mind.

First Readers' Comments

After I'd finished writing What I Did To You (and rewriting it, six times—and honing and adjusting and tweaking and buffing and polishing the text till you could see your reflection in its shine), I emailed the manuscript to seven of the most sensitive, smartest, and down-to-earth people I know. (Save for one, I'd never met any of my first readers in person: each was an online acquaintances whom I'd come to respect.)

I asked them to respond to the novel in whatever way they wanted to. I knew that I could trust these people to be honest with me; I knew that whatever they said about the novel, they'd mean it.

The moment I sent the manuscript off, I felt a little like this guy:

It was not long before five of the seven people had read the novel. (I am still pointedly shunning the two who failed to. How dare they not find the time to read the 90,000-word book that I wrote and out of nowhere sent to them? Sure, as I later learned, one of them was going through the worst divorce since the American and African continents parted ways, and the other was almost literally living on airplanes trying to hold his three new businesses together. But does any of that have to do with me? No. Gah. I swear, some people just don't get it.)

Here is what its five advance readers had to say about What I Did To You:

"I LOVE LOVE LOVE this novel. I devoured it in two days. It grabbed me and didn't let go. The ending hit me like a ton of bricks. Wonderful, amazing. The mother was one of the most hateable creations ever. Like something out Dickens, yet completely believable. The literary style—what can I say? So many perfect passages. Just stunning work." — Elizabeth F.

"Love the novel! I thought it was great. Your descriptions are awesome; I sometimes read them through a few times, and thought 'that's a perfect description of what it's like.' The story was intriguing (and sad). It kept me wanting more." — Hillary S.

"First off, I laughed and cried. No shit. Actual laughter and actual tears. I’ve read some of your previous essays on your childhood experiences; I won’t guess how much of your novel is autobiographical, but there's no denying how clearly your characters are defined. The language, the pathology, the mood, the tone—the whole thing. Just a heartbreaking story, in so many ways. The simple language is heartbreaking. That’s what got me over and over. So much of the impact was the fact that the narrative voice was so direct. The whole Thanksgiving with Georgia scene just floored me. Enraging. It’s a good sign for the novel that I got really pissed off at a fictional character. The scene on the beach—where David says, “Dad is the nice one!”—killed me. Just killed me. Brilliant. Revelatory. Your novel meant a lot to me personally, John. I wish I’d been able to read it when I was 19. It would have saved me a lot of drinking." — Pete L.

"I really enjoyed the story. It reminded me a little of Maupin’s Tales from the City—and being a former San Franciscan, I greatly enjoyed the setting of the book. The plot was well thought-out; your dialog writing is very accomplished and natural sounding; the ending was very good. Great, great stuff."— Charles M.

"John Shore's novel "What I Did To You" is a story about the most important things in life: love, loss, choices, consequences. Never pretentious, never dull, and never predictable, Johns's sparkling prose, sharp insights, and inimitable style offer equal measures of hilarity and heartbreak. Whether you read it as a careful study of psychological motivations or simply as a page-turning tale about life in San Francisco in the 1970s, "What I Did To You" is a novel that will stick with you long after its final page." — Daniel W. [who, as you may be able to tell, is an Actual Book Reviewer].

After reading those I felt like this guy:

The Cover Photograph

Park benches, 1979
Park benches, 1979

“What I did to you” is part of something crucial that the novel’s protagonist, a young man named David, says, in the novel’s final scene, to the woman about whom he’s been insane since the book’s opening scene. (Which, again, you can read here.) The two of them are sitting together on one of the green benches which cover the concourse before the Bandshell in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. It is December of 1979.

My wife, Cat, took the photograph above of those exact same benches in December of 1979.

That photograph, titled Park Benches, 1979, will be used for the cover illustration of What I Did To You. We're also offering a limited edition print of the photograph as a reward at the $250 level.

To see more of Cat's (amazing) photography, visit her website. (You'll find "Park benches, 1979" in Gallery #3: Seated.)

Speaking of photos, I bought from Dollar Photo Club usage rights to all the photos on this page not otherwise credited.

Endorsements from my writing/editing clients

Photo courtesy of my cell phone.
Photo courtesy of my cell phone.

This past July I made myself available as an Editor and Writing Coach (as I periodically do, because I greatly enjoy such work). I took on three clients: Nicholas C., Lynne H., and Jenn K. Just before launching this Kickstarter campaign, I asked each of them to write anything they wanted about what they thought of working with me. Here are their responses:

"John Shore is a genius and a brilliant writer/coach! John did much more than take my writing to a whole new level—he made me believe in myself as a writer. Working with John has changed my life by giving me the confidence and the skills that are needed to succeed as a writer. If you are someone with a story to tell, or a message that you want to share with the world, John will give your words the attention and expertise that they deserve." — Nicholas C.

"I have an extremely difficult story to share, one that I attempted to write on my own multiple times, only to scrap it because it was just too hard. Being so close to the details made it a painful experience. I also do not possess to technical skill to do my own story justice. It is for this reason that I hired John. Never did I realize the relief I would feel to see my story come to fruition under his expertise, as he gave power to my words, writing my story almost as though he was there. John is attentive, compassionate, professional, and extremely comfortable to work with. His ability to write my story almost as though it came from my own mind still has me stunned. He managed to turn my painful story into a piece of art and the process was freeing for me. I don't think just anybody can do what John does." — Lynne H.

"I am happy to report John is a great writing coach! He's insightful and honest in his assessments, and speedy in communications. He's the kindest taskmaster I've ever worked with. He didn't pull punches, but was respectful as he told me the things I needed to hear. He puts the “love” in “tough love,” which was necessary for me, since I'm a little scared of criticism. (Also, if you're a little shallow, like me, get this: I utterly enjoyed the surreal joy a personal hero emailing me about my writing!) I participated in a Coaching Block, which he makes very affordable (thanks John!), but I wish I had the income for him to kick my butt every day." — Jenn K.

The Wedge Pledge

In my description of the $150 reward, I mention our going to the Wedge, in Asheville, NC's amazing River Arts District. (Said river being the mighty French Broad River, which [mind bomb alert!] is the third oldest river on the planet.)

This afternoon (being Nov. 18) I took a couple of photos of the outside part of the Wedge:

But, you know: you have to imagine the place when it's not rainy. And cold. And too early in the day for them to even be open yet.

Anyway, we'll have fun together. And if not at the Wedge, than at any other ridiculously excellent Asheville brew pub that you might prefer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Have a question about backing this or any other Kickstarter campaign? Chances are it'll be answered on Kickstarter's Backer Questions page.

Here are a few key Q & A's from that page:

How do I pledge?

To pledge to a project, first make sure that you're logged in to your Kickstarter account. Then, just click the green “Back This Project” button on any project page.

On the next page, you can select the reward tier your'd like to receive and your pledge amount will automatically populate.

If you don't want a certain reward, select "No thanks, I just want to help the project" and enter your desired pledge amount.

After selecting "Continue," you'll move on to confirm your payment details. If you've backed a project before and saved your payment method details, you can use them over again. If not, you'll need to enter the information manually. And lastly, click "Pledge."

Woo-hoo! Then you're all set. You'll receive a confirmation email within moments of completing your pledge.

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To back a Kickstarter campaign, must I open a Kickstarter account [I'm posing and answering this question myself, because people have asked me about it.]

Yes, you must. And it's a good thing. Your Kickstarter account facilitates three important things: Your payment information being secure; your receiving the reward that you purchased (insofar as Kickstarter provides project creators some wonderful tools for fulfilling orders); and your card being charged only if, and when, a project has concluded, and was successful.

Be assured that the only messages you will ever receive from Kickstarter will be updates and pertinent information about the Kickstarter campaign(s) that you have supported.

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How can I change my reward selection?

Visit the project page and click the blue “Manage” button that appears next to your pledge amount.

On the next page, select "Update your pledge," and then change your selection. Just a reminder that it's only possible to select one reward tier.

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How can I change my pledge amount?

Visit the project page and click the blue “Manage" button that appears next to your pledge amount. Select "Update your pledge" on the following page. Then choose the new reward tier you'd like to pledge for and your pledge amount will update automatically. If you don't want to receive a reward, select "No thanks, I just want to help the project." and enter your new pledge amount.

Note that you are not adding to your existing pledge; the amount you enter will be the total amount collected if the project is successfully funded.

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If you are already a backer and you would like to make your question public, you can post a comment on the project. The creator will be notified by email when you do.

"It's one thing to have in your hands a book which you believe could become, with the proper attention, a bestseller. It's another thing altogether to get it that attention.

"Bringing the media's attention to "What I Did To You" will require an experienced, well-regarded publicist [such as Smith Publicity, Inc.], one who knows how to run an effective, professional media campaign. And hiring such a publicist ain't cheap."

Risks and challenges

The writing of "What I Did To You" is finished. The are no risks or significant challenges in bringing it to publication.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Questions about this project? Check out the FAQ

Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    POSTCARD FROM THE EDGE

    Like the handwriting on the cover of the novel? It's mine—and you'll get a personalized version of it when I pen my thanks on the back of the postcard I'll be sending you. Front shows book cover. Matte finish. My special, genetically unique saliva included FREE on the back of each stamp.

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    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    E-BOOK HOOK

    You receive the digital edition of "What I Did To You," formatted for the e-reader of your choice (MOBI, EPUB, or PDF), plus bonus points for being all turned on and tuned in.

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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    PAPERBACK, JACK

    You receive a trade paperback of the novel, signed by me. Suitable for reading, fake-reading in order to avoid unwanted conversations, rolling up and smacking on your palm to emphasize a point, and, if absolutely necessary, smooshing insects.

    Thank-you postcard included.

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    Pledge $20 or more About $20

    "WHAT I DID TO YOU" and "UNFAIR"

    You receive one softcover copy of "What I Did To You," and one softcover copy of my breakthrough book, "UNFAIR: CHRISTIANS AND THE LGBT QUESTION."

    Both autographed.

    Thank-you postcard included (and meant!)

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    PAPERBACK and E-BOOK

    You receive a paperback edition of "What I Did To You," signed by me. You'll also get the digital edition of the novel, formatted for the e-reader of your choice (MOBI, EPUB or PDF), signed by me in another dimension of time and space, but not, alas, in this one.

    Thank-you postcard included.

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    Pledge $30 or more About $30

    HARDCOVER for the HARDCORE

    You will receive the weighty, solid, dust-jacketed, hardcover edition of the novel, along with my undying gratitude that you, like me, are a book freak. Book also autographed by me, with just a pinch of prideful panache.

    Thank-you postcard included.

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    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    YOUR NAME IN THE BOOK (IN EVERY EDITION) + E-BOOK

    You receive the digital edition of the novel, formatted for the e-reader of your choice (MOBI, EPUB or PDF). But wait! Has your e-reader short-circuited and zapped you? No, that's just the electric thrill you'll experience upon seeing your name on the Acknowledgments page—which will also be included in the paperback and hardback editions of the novel. Because you paid $25 for that amazingness.

    Thank-you postcard included.

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    Pledge $40 or more About $40

    YOUR NAME IN THE BOOK (IN EVERY EDITION) + PAPERBACK

    You receive the paperback edition of the novel, signed by me, along with the slightly disturbing sensation of your cockles suddenly warming when you behold your name on the book's Acknowledgements page.

    Thank-you postcard included.

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    Pledge $55 or more About $55

    YOUR NAME IN THE BOOK (IN EVERY EDITION) + HARDCOVER

    Tired of your friends stubbornly refusing to acknowledge your superiority? Just wait'll you nonchalantly whip out a signed, beautifully produced hardcover novel by a major American writer—in which you personally are acknowledged.

    Verily will they bow unto you.

    Unless they, too, purchased this reward. Then ... group hug!

    Thank-you postcard included.

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    YOUR NAME IN THE BOOK (IN EVERY EDITION) + EVERY EDITION

    The hardcover, the paperback (both signed), the e-book, and your name on the Acknowledgments page. It's all yours, you glorious reading machine.

    Thank-you postcard included.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    EVERY EDITION + "UNFAIR" + RAPIDLY VANISHING "PENGUINS"

    You get everything in the $75 reward above: signed hardcover, signed paperback, e-book, your name in book, postcard.

    You also get a signed copy of my book, "UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question."

    You also receive one of the last 50 copies in existence of my hardcover book, "Penguins, Pain, and the Whole Shebang."

    Published by venerable Seabury Press (publisher of John Shelby Spong's first books), "Penguins" has the distinction of being the first book in Seabury's long history for which it paid an author advance (being $5,000). Winner of the 2005 San Diego Book Award in the category of Best Spirituality/Religion.

    Seabury printed 5,000 copies of the book; the 50 in my office are the last of those. This is your chance to own one of them, signed and inscribed by me.

    Thank-you postcard included.

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    Pledge $125 or more About $125

    ONE-ON-ONE TALK WITH ME FOR AT LEAST AN HOUR

    Have a personal problem you'd like my help working out? Perhaps there's some aspect of your creative, psychological and/or spiritual life on which you'd like my input. Whatever it is, and whatever it's about, I'm all ears—and all yours, for at least an hour. Skype or phone, whichever you prefer.

    You also receive a signed hardcover edition of "What I Did To You," your name in the Acknowledgments, and the thank-you postcard.

    (The shipping cost below is, of course, for the book.)

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    Pledge US$ 150 or more About US$ 150

    BEER WITH ME IN ASHEVILLE

    Come have a beer with me at any one of the amazing brewpubs in Asheville, NC—or, as it's long been named by a host of national polls, "Beer City USA." (Leave where we go to me, and we'll visit The Wedge, in Asheville's amazing River Arts District. They know me there. They pretend like they don't. But by now they must.)

    You. Me. Beer. Beer City. A memory you're sure to treasure, or at least vaguely recall after you see the photos of our time together that I'll try to remember to send you the next day.

    Included is a signed hardback copy of "What I Did To You, your name on its Acknowledgments page, and a thank-you postcard.

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    2 HOURS EDITING / GHOSTWRITING / COACHING

    If you're looking to become a better or more effective writer, I can help. We'll start off talking about where you're at with your writing; then I'll learn where you want to BE with your writing, and together we'll start moving you toward your goal. You'll be amazed at how much I can truly step up your writing game in just two hours.

    Includes a signed paperback edition of "What I Did To You," your name in the book, and a thank-you postcard.

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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    BOOK CLUB SPECIAL

    8 signed trade paperback copies of "What I Did To You," and at least one hour of my discussing the novel with your book club over Skype. (If you don't belong to a book club, start one! Now! Right now! Get on the phone! And I'll go pour myself another cup of coffee!)

    You also get your name in the book—as well as 8 thank-you postcards.

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    LIMITED EDITION PRINT OF COVER PHOTOGRAPH

    You receive a limited edition (of 25), museum-quality print of "Park benches, 1979," the moving photograph used for the cover of "What I Did To You."

    Title: "Park benches, 1979"
    Artist: Cat Shore
    Size: 20.75 X 12.9 inches; 22 X 28 archival mat
    Format: archival pigment
    Features: signed by artist; edition of 25

    Included is a signed hardback copy of "What I Did To You," your name on its Acknowledgments page, and a thank-you postcard.

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    Pledge US$ 375 or more About US$ 375

    5 HOURS EDITING / GHOSTWRITING / COACHING

    Are you a writer or blogger looking to step up your writing game—to be more successful, more focused, more motivated and inspired to do your best work? Have a book idea you'd like me to thoroughly evaluate and/or help you develop? A full or partial manuscript you'd like me to read, comment upon, or edit? Perhaps you'd like help writing a letter to someone. Maybe you'd like me to write a story about you.

    I have long done all this sort of work, for writers who've never published a word to New York Times bestselling authors of both fiction and non-fiction. And I'd love to do it for you, too.

    Includes a signed hardcopy edition of "What I Did To You," your name in the book, and a thank-you postcard.

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    Pledge US$ 500 or more About US$ 500

    KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCKIN' ON YOUR FRONT DOOR

    If you live within 100 miles of Asheville, NC, I will come to your book club meeting or in-house gathering to read from, and discuss in depth, "What I Did To You."

    Includes 8 autographed paperback copies of the novel, your name inside of the book, and 8 thank-you postcards.

    Besides delving into such areas as the novel's informing emotional themes, and the parallels between its protagonist's story and my own, during our time together I am likely to tell up to four extremely funny jokes, two or three that I alone will find hilarious, and at least one that will move you to quietly take hold of your cell phone.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    I WILL DEDICATE THE NOVEL TO YOU

    Simple as that.

    It would honestly be an honor for me. Five hundred dollars is a lot of money.

    Includes autographed copies of the hardback and paperback editions of "What I Did To You," the digital edition formatted for the e-reader of your choice (MOBI, EPUB or PDF) and a thank-you postcard.

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    Pledge US$ 750 or more About US$ 750

    10 HOURS (or more) EDITING / GHOSTWRITING / COACHING.

    See the description of the $375 reward above. This is 10 hours of that.

    (For each additional hour over 10 that you'd like to purchase, simply add, at checkout, $75 more dollars.)

    There are few writing goals that you and I, working together for 10 or more hours, can't accomplish or come near to it. We could write a whole book proposal in that much time; we could work up the complete outline for a novel or non-fiction book. We could set you up with a solid, well-designed blog, and plot out your first thirty posts for it.

    Wherever you want to go with your writing, in 10 or more hours we can either get you there, or make certain that you have a car full of gas and a clear roadmap for how to get you there.

    Includes a signed hardback book, your name inside of the book, and a thank-you postcard.

    Includes a signed hardcopy edition of "What I Did To You," your name in the book, and a thank-you postcard.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    I WILL DEDICATE THE NOVEL TO YOU, and YOU NAME A CHARACTER IN THE NOVEL

    I will include you in the dedication line of "What I Did To You" (as in the $500 dedication reward above).

    In addition, I will name a character in the book after either you or anyone you choose. (We'll work together to find the perfect name-to-character match. That'll be fun.)

    Includes autographed copies of the hardback and paperback editions of "What I Did To You," the digital edition formatted for the e-reader of your choice (MOBI, EPUB or PDF), and a thank-you postcard.

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    Pledge US$ 3,500 or more About US$ 3,500

    I'M LEAVIN' ON A JET PLANE

    I will come to your book club meeting or in-house gathering to read from and discuss "What I Did To You."

    Think I'm awesome online? Just wait till you meet me in person! Because I'm not. But by the time that begins to dawn on you, I'll already be sunk deep into your couch cushions, shedding like a molting Yeti, and boorishly hinting that you could always run to the store to buy some more Oreos.

    And you'll STILL beg me to stay another day.

    Which I'll do. At your house.

    Where I'll also stay well into the following week.

    It's all gonna get pretty weird, actually. But in the end, you'll have what just about everyone wants: an author living on their couch. So, you know.

    Included are 8 signed paperback books, your name in the book, and 8 thank-you postcards.

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Funding period

- (29 days)