Funded! This project was successfully funded on March 14, 2013.

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An American family spends a month in a 260-square-foot Tokyo apartment in this humorous food and travel memoir.

UPDATE (February 26, 2013): Thank you for funding my book!

The outpouring of support for this project has been awesome and overwhelming. Thank you so much!

Please keep the contributions coming. $8000 will be enough to fund a limited US book tour. And all backers will get a sneak preview of the book cover immediately after the project funding closes. It's striking and a little scary.

Pretty Good Number One: An all-new, full-length ebook from the author of Hungry Monkey

From the introduction:

The directions to our apartment begin like this:

Go out the north exit of Nakano Station and into the Sun Mall shopping arcade. In a few feet, on your right, you’ll see Gindaco, the takoyaki (octopus balls) chain. Turn right here into Pretty Good #1 Alley. Walk past the deli that specializes in okowa (steamed sticky rice with tasty bits), a couple of ramen shops, and a fugu restaurant. Go past the pachinko parlor, the grilled eel stand, the camera shops, and the stairs leading to Ginza Renoir coffee shop. If you see the bicycle parking lot in front of Life Supermarket, you’re going the right way.

During this two-block walk through an average neighborhood, you’ve passed more good food than in most mid-sized Western cities, even if you don’t love octopus balls as much as I do.

Welcome to Tokyo.

Read the rest of the introduction right now.

About the book

In Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo, I'll introduce you to this most exciting and misunderstood of cities through the eyes of three hungry Americans. We'll send our 8-year-old, Iris, out into the streets of Tokyo on solo errands (really); ride all over town on every conceivable type of train, from funicular to bullet train; and eat ramen, sushi, yakitori, hot pots, udon, eel, dumplings, and lots of octopus balls.

We'll visit a doughnut shop with better customer service than a four-star restaurant, meet a soba chef who may or may not be a ghost, decipher the world's most challenging garbage-sorting rules, and eat like sumo wrestlers.

Cold noodle salad in Nihombashi
Cold noodle salad in Nihombashi

About the author

Matthew Amster-Burton has been a professional writer for 13 years. He's a personal finance columnist for Mint.com and co-host of the hit podcast Spilled Milk. He is the author of Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater; has written for Gourmet, the Wall Street Journal, and the Seattle Times; and has been featured five times in the annual Best Food Writing anthology.

Umbrellas in Hakone
Umbrellas in Hakone

Why an ebook?

When I started writing about food in 1999, there was no such thing as a blog, so I created my own website and learned food writing in public. In the 13 years since, I've written for dozens of publications, online and off, and writing for digital media is more immediate, more responsive, and more fun than writing for print. I don't want to think about print design, choosing a print-on-demand provider, and fulfillment; I just want to get my book into your virtual hands as soon as possible. When I fix that error that slips through, or go back to Tokyo and add a new chapter, I want to you to benefit from that right away, for free. That's not possible with a paper book.

Boarding the Yamanote Line
Boarding the Yamanote Line

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the title mean?

It's my ham-fisted translation of the name of a street we walked down every day in our Tokyo neighborhood.

What will you use the money for?

The funds I raise through Kickstarter will be used to

  • hire an artist to design the cover
  • pay a professional copy editor
  • design and host a website for the book
  • fulfill Kickstarter rewards

Stretch goals, if I raise $10,000 or more:

  • go on a book tour covering major US cities
  • translate the book into Japanese

Why do you need an expensive cover designer for a self-published ebook?

A great-looking cover is more likely to be promoted by Amazon, Apple, and the other ebook stores. Also, I don't want to put a lousy cover on what I honestly believe is a great book.

How long will the book be?

Twenty-seven chapters, about 58,000 words, the equivalent of 225 pages.

Is Pretty Good Number One a guidebook? A cookbook?

It's a travel book, like A Year in Provence, but less French. The book is loaded with stories of adventures and great meals we had in Tokyo, and it will definitely be helpful if you're planning your own trip, but it's neither a guidebook nor a cookbook. Chapters include:

  • The World's Greatest Supermarket
  • Crush Hour
  • Izakaya Nights
  • Japanese Breakfast
  • and many more

Will the book contain recipes?

Only one. I didn't cook a whole lot in Tokyo because it was 177 degrees in our kitchen and because you can get an astonishingly great meal at a restaurant for about $6.

Will the book be available in print form?

No. I'm excited about publishing an ebook. I promise you'll be able to read it on any PC, Mac, smartphone, tablet, or ebook reader. The book will be sold through Amazon, iBooks, Google Books, and other retailers, and will also be available in independent bookstores (via Google Books) and in a DRM-free version which you're welcome to print.

I enjoyed your last book. Will I like this one?

I certainly hope so. Like Hungry Monkey, Pretty Good Number One stars me and Iris, and it's full of food adventures and humor. Unlike Hungry Monkey, this book is pretty much devoid of recipes and parenting tips, unless you consider "send your child out unsupervised into the world's largest city" a parenting tip.

Nakano at night
Nakano at night

What people said about my last book

"A very timely and excellent book."

Anthony Bourdain

“Matthew Amster-Burton is smart, funny, a terrific writer, a great cook and on track to be voted father-of-the-year every year for the next decade, at least." 

Dorie Greenspan, author of Around My French Table

"Matthew Amster-Burton cast some sort of enchantment over me as I read about his all-too-real-life culinary adventures with his daughter."

John Thorne, author of Outlaw Cook and Mouth Wide Open

"Matthew Amster-Burton has written a wonderful book."

Paula Wolfert, author of The Food of Morocco

Tokyo SkyTree
Tokyo SkyTree

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Here's the status of the project as of today:

* The draft manuscript is complete
* I've contacted a prospective cover designer and copy editor for the book.

What could go wrong after the project is funded?

* I'm depending on the designer and copy editor to do their jobs well and on time. I'm confident that they will, but any collaboration can go awry. If editing and design take longer than anticipated or I need to restart the process at any point, the publication date will be delayed.

* The copy editor may find more problems with the manuscript than I anticipate. This would require me to spend more time revising, and the manuscript would then go through another round of copy editing. The result would be a better book--but later and more expensive to produce.

* This is my first time publishing an ebook. I'm learning how to produce the file in the proper formats and submit it to the major ebook stores. I believe the manuscript will be done with editing and cover design by May 1, which will give me a month to work on producing and submitting the ebook. Even if the book isn't successfully listed at the major stores by June 1, however, I will still be able to fulfill the ebook rewards as long as the files themselves are ready.

If the book is delayed for any reason, I promise to keep backers informed. I'll let you know what's going on with the book, what I'm doing to fix any problems, and when you can expect to receive your copies and other rewards.

FAQ

  • No. I've tried this out and haven't come up with a way to do it that doesn't look inconsistent and amateurish. However, the book will have a great website (funded by you!) that will include a photo gallery featuring several dozen well-captioned Tokyo snaps.

    Last updated:
  • No. I was hoping to be able to do this, but my publisher controls the ebook distribution of Hungry Monkey, and the best I'd be able to do is gift it via Amazon at full price. If you want an ebook of Hungry Monkey, please buy one via any ebook retailer, and then drop me a private message with your receipt and I'll be happy to send you a copy of PGNO when it's published, no matter how much you donated to the project.

    Last updated:
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    252 backers

    A copy of the ebook in Kindle, ePub, and PDF formats.

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    90 backers

    Your name in the acknowledgments and a copy of the ebook.

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    15 backers

    A handwritten thank-you postcard from the author, featuring the book cover on the front of the postcard. Plus your name in the acknowledgments and a copy of the ebook.

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    3 backers

    Hungry Monkey Fan Pack: An inscribed copy (not an ebook!) of the author's previous book, Hungry Monkey, plus the postcard and the ebook with your name in the acknowledgments.

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    Tea Lovers Pack: You'll receive a custom Pretty Good Number One blend of spring-harvest Japanese tea (3 ounces) created by tea master Anthony Arnold of Seattle's Remedy Teas, where the book was written. Ships in packaging suitable for a gift or for enjoying yourself. Not available in stores. Also includes the postcard and the ebook with your name in the acknowledgments.

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    Book Club Pack: Copies of the ebook for your entire book club (up to 20 people). Plus, Matthew will appear at your book club to discuss the book with you, either in person (Seattle area) or via Skype. And, of course, you'll receive the postcard and your name in the acknowledgments of the book.

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    1 backer Limited (4 left of 5)

    Planning your own trip to Tokyo? Get a personal consultation with Matthew via email, phone, or in person. He'll recommend restaurants, neighborhoods, and itineraries tailored to your preferences. You'll also receive the postcard and the ebook with your name in the acknowledgments.

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    Live in Seattle or planning a visit? Have lunch with Matthew at a Japanese restaurant (Matthew pays!), then go shopping at Uwajimaya Japanese supermarket (you pay!), where you can hit him with all of your most burning questions about Asian ingredients. You'll also receive the postcard and the ebook with your name in the acknowledgments.

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    0 backers Limited (2 left of 2)

    Matthew will come to your city (US or Canada only), set up a reading, call you out personally at the reading as his favorite local patron of the arts, go out drinking with you and your buddies, and tell stories that didn't make the book. You'll also receive the postcard and the ebook with your name in the acknowledgments.

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