A LIE AGREED UPON: THE DEADWOOD CHRONICLES
Welcome, hoopleheads! This is the Kickstarter page for A Lie Agreed Upon: The Deadwood Chronicles, a book about the making of David Milch's classic HBO series Deadwood, which recently wrapped up its story with a TV movie, 13 years after its traumatic cancellation.
WHAT WE'RE MAKING: A book about Deadwood that looks like an old Bible, written by me, with an introduction by bestselling novelist Megan Abbott (Dare Me), extensive footnotes, and drawings by Max Dalton that channel dime novels and Charles Dickens illustrations.
PRINT RUN: 5000
UNIT PRICE: $30 per copy
SPECS: 434pp; black-and-white illustrations; faux-leather cover, possibly with gilded pages
DELIVERY DATE: November, 2020
FUNDRAISING TARGET: 150K
ABOUT ME AND THE BOOK
I've been writing about Deadwood for 15 years, starting when I was a TV columnist for The Star-Ledger of New Jersey (two set visits, in 2005 and 2006), and continuing at Slant, Salon, and most recently New York magazine (they flew me to the film set in 2018, and it resulted in an exclusive interview with Milch in which he revealed his diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease).
But here's the thing: Although I've done numerous books about film and TV--including The Wes Anderson Collection, The Wes Anderson Collection: Grand Budapest Hotel, Mad Men Carousel, TV: The Book, and The Sopranos Sessions--this Deadwood book is something that can't be produced within the commercial system. It's too much of a peculiar, obsessive collector's item/art object.
As you can see from the cover mockup, A Lie Agreed Upon will look like a Bible from the early 20th century (it's specifically modeled on my grandfather's Bible), so that if you read it in public, people will assume you're just refreshing your knowledge of the Gospels. Reverend Smith would approve.
The heart of the book is a thoroughly reported history of the series, broken into seven chapters, plus illustrations, footnotes, an introduction, and an appendix of critical essays on all the episodes. Here's a detailed breakdown:
Introduction. By crime fiction writer Megan Abbott, the bestselling author of Give Me Your Hand, You Will Know Me, and Dare Me, and a staff writer on HBO's The Deuce. Fans of my work will also recognize Megan from her marvelous introduction to Mad Men Carousel.
Chapter 1: Beginnings. David Milch before Deadwood. Covering some of his personal history at Yale, as Robert Penn Warren's assistant, as an acclaimed young writer on Hill Street Blues, as a writer-producer on NYPD Blue and subsequent dramas, then finally pitching a show about Rome to HBO, finding out they already had a show in the works called Rome, and changing his pitch to a Western.
Chapter 2: Pilot. The writing, casting and shooting of the pilot episode. This chapter will include origin stories of the principal cast, Milch's hiring of director Walter Hill, and the creation of the main set at Melody Ranch Studios near Los Angeles.
Chapters 3-5: The Seasons. These chapters will cover the production of seasons 1, 2 and 3, including the addition of new cast members, concerns about falling ratings, controversies over the show's language and violence, and the series' place within the pantheon of early-aughts TV dramas built around antiheroic characters. These chapters will draw on my archive of interviews with principal and secondary actors as well as the cast and crew, including so-called "below the line" people who worked in specific craft-oriented jobs and who aren't normally included in a book of this sort. This section ends with the show's shocking cancellation in 2006, and goes into differing accounts of what happened.
Chapter 6: The Wilderness. Wherein Milch tries to get other series going at HBO, with varying degrees of success, including John From Cincinnati (one season), Luck (one season) and Last of the Ninth and The Money (pilot only). Meanwhile, the main cast members move on to other shows, including Justified, starring Timothy Olyphant; House of Cards, costarring Molly Parker, Supernatural, costarring Jim Beaver; American Gods, starring Ian McShane, and Sons of Anarchy, which employed so many former regulars that I've joked was a part of the Deadwood Actors Full Employment Act of 2006.
Chapter 7: The Movie. Self-explanatory.
Appendix: Recaps. Critical essays on every episode of the show, plus the film. These will certainly contain detailed footnotes on the story; the characters' psychology; the ratio of historical fact to Milch's fiction; Deadwood's kinship to Western movies and literature, the Bible, and Shakespeare; and other fun stuff. Many of these footnotes will be written by me, but there will also be contributions from colleagues who are experts on particular aspects of the show and the history it draws on.
As is my policy, the recaps will discuss things that have already happened, but never things that haven't happened yet. That way first-time viewers can use the recap section of A Lie Agreed Upon as a viewing guide.
And now here comes something really cool:
Max Dalton, an Argentina-based graphic artist and illustrator who did drawings for my Wes Anderson books and Mad Men Carousel, is on board to do a series of original illustrations for this book, based on key incidents in Deadwood.
These will be done in a modified version of his signature style, drawing partial inspiration from dime novels and the pen-and-ink caricatures that used to appear in bound editions of novels by Charles Dickens. Here's a rough, early version of a sketch of the shooting of Wild Bill Hickok by the coward Jack McCall. They will appear in the recaps section, always on the page where the event in question is written about, in order to prevent accidental spoilers.
UPDATE: We're offering a set of 6 Max Dalton Deadwood drawings as a reward for backers at certain levels. See the Rewards section for details.
WHAT OUR FUNDRAISER IS FOR
It's to pay to make this book. That's it.
Our expenses are broken into four (4) sections:
1. TALENT. This category starts with me, as I'm going to be writing most of the text, and I've already been accumulating material for A Lie Agreed Upon for over a year already, on my own time. (That's not counting all the stuff I've been building up since 2004.) But to do this job right, we will need to hire a lot of other people, and pay them market rates. On the payroll:
* A text editor and a project manager (hopefully the same person, though it might end up being two people);
* A copy editor and a proofreader (maybe the same person, but maybe not; these are related but different skill sets) ;
* A second interviewer, to handle some of the below-the-line interviews, as well as follow-up conversations and fact checking;
* A full-time interview transcriber who knows the series and American history thoroughly; we're going to have probably 200 new interviews, in addition to the 50 or so I've already done, and that's a lot of transcription;
* A historical advisor who will analyze the show's relationship to the historical record, and recommend places to integrate that information into the book;
* Megan Abbott, for her introduction;
* Max Dalton, for his illustrations.
2. TRAVEL EXPENSES
Based on my previous experience doing this sort of book, we're going to have to take a few trips to Los Angeles and other locations (including the real Deadwood in South Dakota), to look through archives, and do in-person interviews with people who prefer not to talk on the phone. It might be me doing the traveling. Or it might be the second interviewer, or the historian. We don't know just yet. We're ballparking a total of six solo trips, though it could be more or less.
3. CREATING AND PRINTING THE BOOK
We've priced this out, and the minimum print run that we can accept is 5000 copies, because that would get the cost of each book down to $30, the list price of other books of its type. This estimate includes a small cushion for things to go wrong and have to be redone, because nothing every goes perfectly. We don't want to print fewer copies, because it would make each copy of the book more expensive.
4. PACKING AND SHIPPING THE BOOK
We want to have this book delivered by early fall, 2020, so that it can be a holiday gift for people who ordered it. We've estimated the time to pack and ship 5000 copies at 10 business days, if we have five people each day, all working eight-hour shifts.
We also have to rent a storage facility large enough to handle 5000 shrink-wrapped books stacked up on wooden pallets, plus the packers, the tables, and the mailing supplies. Also meals. This is tedious work, and we want to treat folks right.
This is the best solution for packing and shipping, financially, because we did a bit of research and realized that if we contract with an independent packing and shipping service, the cost of the book will go up, to probably $45 per unit. Nobody wants that. Better to bite the bullet and get the durn thing done on our own.
WHAT YOU GET IN EXCHANGE FOR A DONATION
$10 and $20 (Hooplehead and Saddle Bum levels) get you 1 and 2 bars of Soap with a Prize inside, respectively. Frankly, why y'all would just want the soap and not the book and all the other good stuff on here is beyond us. But who are we to judge?
$30 (Prospector level) gets you 1 copy of A Lie Agreed Upon, signed. Shipping costs vary depending on where you are in the world. International shipping is pretty darn expensive, but y'all probably knew that already!
$40. (Schoolmarm level) This level gets you 1 copy of A Lie Agreed Upon plus 2 bars of soap.
$100 (High Roller level) This level gets you 1 copy of A Lie Agreed Upon, 2 bars of soap, and a set of 6 Deadwood drawings by Max Dalton (different sketches than the ones that will appear in the finished book). The sketches are printed on 80 lb. off-white paper and packed flat to prevent damage.
$150 (Madam level) 1 copy of A Lie Agreed Upon, 2 bars of soap, a set of Max Dalton drawings, and a copy of a separate, limited-edition Matt Zoller Seitz book, Dreams of Deadwood. This is a photography portfolio book, full color, 24 pages, landscape style, with original text not featured in A Lie Agreed Upon.
$200. (Saloon-keeper level.) This pledge level includes 2 copies of A Lie Agreed Upon; 1 copy of Dreams of Deadwood; the set of Max Dalton prints; and a complete set of all 4 fragrances of Soap with a Prize inside.
$275. (Impresario level.) 2 copies of A Lie Agreed Upon, 2 copies of Dreams of Deadwood, the set of Max Dalton illustrations, and 8, count 'em, 8 bars of Soap with a Prize Inside! (Two of every scent.) The 8 soaps are packed in a separate, special old-timey package—an ideal gift for that incorrigibly foulmouthed loved one in your life. By which we mean, they also love Deadwood, not that you should wash their mouths out.
We're going to add more pledge levels in the coming days.
Those of you who have already backed the project will notice that the items you selected are no longer available. That's because we've restructured the levels so that every level up adds more things, and incorporates everything from all the other levels below that. IF YOU WANT TO SWITCH YOUR PLEDGE to something different, we've been reliably informed that it isn't too hard to do. However, if you want to stick with what you originally signed up for, that's OK with us!
We have now added International shipping options for some (but not all) of the levels.
Some of you already backed the project from other countries, in a kind of informal arrangement with me, with the understanding that we'd settle up at the end when the project is fully funded. We can still do it that way, but honestly, it would be much better for the project if you switched your pledge to one of the new categories that has international shipping specified on the pulldown menu.
The money you contribute right now towards shipping counts towards meeting our goal. And as you know, every dollar we add to the total increases the chances of this book and all the related stuff actually existing!
ORDERING LOTS OF BOOKS FOR GIFTS OR RESALE
This is fine. Just use the "Pledge Without a Reward" option and enter multiples of $30 per book, and send me a note saying you're ordering in bulk. I've been told that some folks prefer to do this because they just want a bunch of books and aren't really too interested in the other stuff, and that's fine!
Risks and challenges
The biggest risk in this project is not knowing whether a sufficiently large audience exists to fund the book at the level we need to get it done.
There's also the possibility that an even steeper slide into dystopia could slow down production of the book, but if that happens, Kickstarter projects are going to be the least of our worries.
If we succeed in funding it, it'll be my ninth book as a solo author or part of a writing team, and the 15th commercial book that I will have been intimately involved in at the level of production, design, or conception.
What's new is doing it entirely outside of the commercial publishing business. There are a lot of intangibles involved in that, because it's kind of like becoming an independent businessperson after working on projects for various major corporations. The economics of scale, time management, ego wrangling, and logistics are all different, and there are more moving pieces that I have to be personally aware of.
Fortunately, the purpose of seeking funding is so that I can pay professionals specializing in particular areas of book-making to handle their part, rather than doing everything myself, which is the road to ruin, generally. Many of the individuals I'd hire to work behind the scenes are folks I've already worked with in the past, on commercially successful books, several of them New York Times bestsellers.
I think we did a smart thing in deciding to make a book for people who ordered the book, then send it to them directly. That means we don't have to spend time or money trying to get it sold on Amazon or in physical bookstores, figuring out how to publicize it so people can locate and purchase it, pouring money into Facebook ad buys, hiring publicity or marketing people to convince bloggers, GoodReads contributors and/or mainstream critics to write about it, and so on.
We're cutting out every conceivable middleman here and making an art object that will be delivered directly to the people who commissioned it. If you want it, here It is.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)