Working Together

Another interview.  Unlike this interview about ghostwriting, we focused more on my background and past projects. Taken together the two hopefully answer questions you might have about working with a ghostwriter.

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As a ghostwriter I don’t have to worry about book printing costs or deciding whether a publishing contract or self-publishing makes better sense.  But since I worked in book manufacturing for almost twenty years – for R.R. Donnelley, biggest book printers in the world, and then for Von Hoffmann Graphics, which was bought by Vertis and later by R.R. Donnelley and proves it really is a small world – I do understand the book manufacturing process and the costs. 

If you’re considering self-publishing, you should too. 

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If you decide to self-publish - which also means self-print - you'll have to understand the basic components of a printed book. Even though I'm now a ghostwriter, I worked in book manufacturing for almost twenty years and still do productivity improvement consulting for larger book manufacturers. 

Here's all you need to know about how books are made.  We'll start with the basics:  Hardcover and softcover books.  (Don't worry, I won't go all Wikipedia on you.)

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For anyone considering self-publishing, a major consideration is the cost of printing.  To give you a sense of the process, check out the following text from an actual quote from a major book manufacturer.  (I did strip out identifying elements, but the basics remain intact.)  If nothing else you'll be surprised how inexpensive printing your own books can be... under the right circumstances.

 

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Questions about hiring a ghostwriter?  Here's the transcript of an interview I did for an Australian magazine that may provide some answers.

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Recommended

Here's the story behind Book Recommendations from... If this doesn't answer your questions feel free to write.

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Timothy Snyder is a professor of history at Yale and the author of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, a history of the political mass murder of 14 million people in eastern Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, and the Baltics. 

I can't say it's a light read, but if you appreciate rethinking and gaining a radically different understanding of significant historical events, Bloodlands is perfect.

Professor Snyder is also the author of, among other books, The Reconstruction of Nations and The Red Prince.

And I bet he teaches a mean history class.

Here's what he sent me:

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Mary Roach is the bestselling author of Stiff, Spook, Bonk, and the recently released Packing for Mars, which just hit #6 on the NY Times bestseller list. 

Reading Mary's books is like sleep learning - except in her case the process works. She's effortlessly funny and consistently engaging.  Ever wanted to know what happens to your body at 600 mph?  Or what happens to, um, human waste by-products in space?  Or how cadavers serve a key function in the space program?  (If you didn't - you will.) If you're packing for a 14-hour flight to Australia from the U.S., make sure Packing for Mars is in your carry-on.

 

Check out Mary's list of favorite books:

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Chris Palmer is the Distinguished Film Producer in Residence and founder and director of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking at American University and the author of Shooting In the Wild, a behind the scenes view of the moral and ethical dilemmas involved in making wildlife films.  Credentials aside, he's also won two Emmys and was nominated for an Oscar.  (In his case, those who teach also can.) 

Shooting in the Wild does include a touch of tell-all.  For example:  "When the king snake ignored the rattlesnake, the filmmaker tried again and again to engage them in combat, with no success. Finally, a crewmate came up with an idea: he put the rattlesnake into an empty mouse cage for a day so it smelled like a mouse. Problem solved - the king snake soon seized and ate the rattler."

But it's a lot more; the majority of the book focuses on achieving an honest, accurate documentary while entertaining and engaging an audience.  If you love nature films but have never considered how they are made - or the process behind creating what you see on film - you'll love his book.

Here's what Chris sent me:

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James Tabor is the author, most recently, of Blind Descent: The Quest to Discover the Deepest Place on Earth. His last book before that was Forever On The Mountain.  A former Contributing Editor to Outside magazine, he was also the host of the PBS series, "The Great Outdoors."  He has climbed in Alaska, dived around the world, and explored wild caves in the U.S. and Canada. He was the Executive Producer of the 2007 History Channel special Journey to the Center of the World. (By the way; Jim likes likes to hear from other authors, in particular younger writers, who might have questions about writing and publishing - so feel free to contact him.)

Exploring caves is like rock climbing, diving, and mountain climbing all rolled into one - in conditions of complete darkness, poisonous gasses and limited oxygen, and a wide variety of ways to get stuck.   Plus cavers often spend months underground; it's physically and psychologically harrowing.  Blind Descent is not just an outstanding introduction to the science and culture of caving wrapped up in an adventure tale - no wonder it was chosen as an Amazon Best of the Month and Jim chosen to be interviewed by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.

Here's what Jim sent:

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Customer Satisfaction Book
Signed contract as ghostwriter on a book on customer satisfaction measurement and implementation strategies for CEOs and managers of Fortune 1000 companies.  Theme is determining and measuring consumer and B2B intent, behavior, and subsequent actions to deliver quantitative satisfaction metrics and improvement strategies.
 
Book Recommendations from Marcia Bartusiak

Marcia Bartusiak is the author of The Day We Found the Universe, the story of how scientists discovered the universe is ever-expanding and filled with galaxies.  

The Day We Found the Universe is her fifth book; she's also an Adjunct Professor in the Graduate Program in Science Writing (who knew a program like that existed?) at MIT and a columnist for Natural History magazine.

I'm hardly a science buff but I found it a fascinating read, not least because she focuses on the personalities - and the competition, cooperation, and missteps - behind the science.  If the words "science book" make you recoil, think again.  I mentioned to Marcia that I'm hardly a Bill Nye the Science Guy type... which is the audience she was writing for.

Here's what she sent me (interestingly, much lighter on science than I expected):

 

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Book Recommendations from Dan Ariely

Dan Ariely is a Professor of Behavioral Economics at Duke University and the author of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions.  For a scholar he has a wonderfully disarming and down to earth writing style and a flair for turning what could be complex, dry descriptions into witty and entertaining explanations about why we make decisions. 

For example, he describes an experiment where volunteers were jolted with minor but still painful electric shocks and then were allowed to purchase fake pain pills that cost ten cents or $2.50.  Either pills "reduced" the pain; the expensive pills were much more "effective."  (Guess that explains all the people riding $5k to $10k bikes at triathlons.)

Other topics include the effect of "free," why your neighbors always price their homes too high but yours is a great deal, making choices based on comparisons, and how expectations color experiences and decisions.  All in an engaging and fun style.  (Makes me wish I'd had Dan for Econ.)

His next book, The Upside of Irrationality, will be published this June.

Here's what Dan sent me:

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Book Recommendations from Wil Haygood

Wil Haygood is a writer for the Washington Post and the award-winning author of Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson.  Often the tag "and times" is a throwaway promise for a biography, but Wil comes through:  Sweet Thunder illuminates Robinson (not his real name; he borrowed another fighter's ID card in order to fight for the first time as an amateur and decided to keep the name) but also provides a rich history of the period and of 1940s Harlem in particular.

Haywood is also the author of Black and White, a critically praised biography of Sammy Davis, Jr., and King of the Cats:  The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.

One of my favorite lines in the book is from Red Smith, who described Robinson as "a brooding genius, a darkly dedicated soul who walks in a lonely majesty, a prophet without honor, an artist whom nobody, but nobody, understands.” 

Maybe so, at least then... but Wil certainly understands him.

Here's what he sent me:

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Book Recommendations from Dirk Hayhurst

When I was young Jim Bouton's ground-breaking Ball Four was considered to be "dirty" by people like my parents, so I hid it. If you liked Ball Four then Dirk Hayhurst's The Bullpen Gospels is a must read - it's better.  But the Bullpen Gospels isn't an expose or a TMZ-style look at baseball; it's "just" a fun and poignant story of a guy trying to live the dream.  As he said, "...to this day the only person rendered bare in my writing is... myself."

Dirk started his writing career writing a blog about minor league life, later wrote a column for his local newspaper, and then landed a book contract for The Bullpen Gospels.  (So for all of you who write asking how to get your writing career off the ground... it all starts with having something to say.)  He's currently in the Blue Jays organization.

Not only is Dirk a gifted storyteller but he writes really well.  So let's see:  His book hit the NY Times bestseller list and has been praised by Bob Costas and Keith Olbermann... and he has a 90 mph fastball.

On second thought, he's kinda easy to hate.

Here's what Dirk sent me:

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Book Recommendations from Sam Sheridan

Sam Sheridan is the author of A Fighter's Heart and The Fighter's Mind, worked as a yacht crewman and wildland firefighter, fought in Muy Thai and mixed martial arts, and is a Harvard graduate who taught me "dropping the H-bomb" means telling a girlfriend's parents you go to Harvard.

I interviewed Sam as part of another project and had a blast.  He's sharp, witty, down to earth, very self-aware (in a good way, not the "it's all about me" way)... good guy. 

Affter talking to Sam I picked up Fighter's Heart and thought it was outstanding.  Great story arc, keen insights, very engaging - well worth a read whether you enjoy "combat sports" (my term, not his) or not.  

 

Here's what Sam sent me:

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Book Recommendations from Elif Batuman

Elif Batuman is the author of The Possessed, a hugely entertaining and insightful (not a combination you find every day) look at Russian literature, travel, writing, grad school... and above all the love of literature. 

I have lots of favorite passages, but here are two:  When Aeroflot loses her luggage, she's told, "When we find the suitcase, we will send it to you.  In the meantime, are you familiar with our Russian phrase 'resignation of the soul?'" And:  "I stopped believing that ‘theory’ had the power to ruin literature for anyone, or that it was possible to compromise something you loved by studying it. Wasn’t the point of love that it made you want to learn more, to immerse yourself, to become possessed?"

Check out The Possessed; while you're entertained you might also better understand why you love the books you love. And learn how to select a Uzbek watermelon.

 

Here's what Elif sent me:

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Book Recommendations from Johan Bruyneel

I know. If you've heard of Johan Bruyneel you don't think "author," you think Tour de France and Lance Armstrong.  The director sportif of Team Radio Shack (head coach/general manager), he's arguably the most successful professional cycling team director in the history of the sport.

What you may not know is he also wrote a surprisingly good book, We Might as Well Win, a look at his own career as a rider and as a director for Lance's seven Tour de France victories and Alberto Contador's win in 2007.  (After the book was written Contador won in 2009, also with Johan at the helm.)  I say "surprisingly good" simply because most books in the genre are little more than puff pieces.  While I admit I'm currently in talks to ghostwrite a book for a MMA fighter, I've passed on similar projects when I realized the client really didn't have anything interesting to say.   

Johan does.

We Might as Well Win works even if you're  not a cycling fan.  Running a cycling team is like running any business:  Developing plans, creating strategies and tactics, reacting in the moment, managing the skills and talents and egos of your team....  Johan's success is based on building teams largely made up of people willing to sacrifice their individual goals and work towards achieving a clear, specific team goal... which all sounds great in theory but is incredibly difficult for any leader to pull off in practice. 

And along the way he shares a lot of cool anecdotes.  I have to wonder what stories they left out... makes me jealous I didn't work on the project.

 

Here's what Johan sent me before leaving for South Australia and the Tour Down Under:

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The Journey Back
Signed a contract to ghostwrite a book on exercises and activities that can help people with a range of disabilities, disorders, injuries, and illnesses improve their prognoses and long-term conditions.  Client runs an Australian non-profit providing training, counseling, rehabilitation, and life skill services to people with disabilities.  Audience is physical therapists, healthcare professionals, and families.  While a complete change of pace for me, promises to be incredibly worthwhile and personally rewarding. 
 
Book Recommendations from Michael Hirst

Michael Hirst is the creator, executive producer, and writer of the Showtime series The Tudors, as well the films Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age. (The final - sadly - season of The Tudors begins airing in April, 2010.) 

He's also writer and executive producer of the new Showtime series The Borgias, scheduled for 2011.

In short, he's the king of period drama, with a wonderful talent for weaving history into a compelling narrative.  (Hey, he's kept me hooked for thirty hours or so of viewing, no mean feat.)

Here's what he sent me; in return I owe him "A glass of Jack Daniels - or two!":

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Book Recommendations from Nicholas Dawidoff

Nicholas Dawidoff is the author of The Fly Swatter, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, last year's The Crowd Sounds Happy, and the book I read based on Bonnie D. Ford's recommendation, The Catcher Was a Spy

A visiting professor of English at Princeton, Nicholas started his career at Sports Illustrated and has also written for the New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker.  He's also a Red Sox fan, proving even Pulitzer Prize nominees can suffer lapses in judgment.

The Catcher Was a Spy is outstanding; halfway through I had already ordered two more of his books.  I'm particularly eager to read The Crowd Sounds Happy, his "own version of the coming-of-age stories I read as a child."  

Here's what Nicholas sent me:

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In The Works

Signed a contract to be the ghostwriter for a book on Social Entrepreneurship.  Client is a leader in the social entrepreneur movement, focused on helping people overcome poverty and social disadvantage through small business ownership.  In short, think assistance, guidance, and leadership instead of charity.  I'm excited to work on a project that uses business principles to create lasting social change.
 
Signed contract as ghostwriter on a book on private lending for real estate investments, including meeting compliance and regulatory requirements for pooled funds, fractional ownership, and passive investment.  Dry?  Nah - we'll make it fun.
 
Signed contract as ghostwriter on a book on legal (and practical) strategies for foreclosure defense, loan modification, and loss mitigation.  Client is a bankruptcy and debt relief litigator in Florida.
 
Signed contract as ghostwriter on a book on customer satisfaction measurement and implementation strategies for CEOs and managers of Fortune 1000 companies.  Theme is determining and measuring consumer and B2B intent, behavior, and subsequent actions to deliver quantitative satisfaction metrics and improvement strategies.
 
Signed contract as ghostwriter on a book on online marketing for a client whose company ranks in the top 1% in terms of online marketing revenue; book will focus on how companies (and individuals) can better leverage content strategies and partnerships to increase value-add income.
 
Signed a contract to ghostwrite a book on exercises and activities that can help people with a range of disabilities, disorders, injuries, and illnesses improve their prognoses and long-term conditions.  Client runs an Australian non-profit providing training, counseling, rehabilitation, and life skill services to people with disabilities.  Audience is physical therapists, healthcare professionals, and families.  While a complete change of pace for me, promises to be incredibly worthwhile and personally rewarding. 
 
Signed contract as ghostwriter  on a series of books on entrepreneurship for an Australian client.  Can't say more... extremely tight NDA... but I'm thrilled since it has the potential to be a multi-stage, multiple-media ghostwriting project.
 
Signed contract to ghostwrite a book on marketing for entrepreneurs and small businesses.  Client is based in Holland but publishes regularly in the U.S. as well as Europe and the Middle East.
 
Extended contract to ghostwrite small business resource guides for U.S.-based financial institution.  This next series focuses on financial statements, metrics, and performance, as well as forms of corporate ownership, tax planning...
 

Signed contract to ghostwrite a book on starting and building a law practice by leveraging technology and non-traditional marketing strategies.  Client is a courts-martial (yes, I used the "s" on purpose) defense lawyer who has defended cases across the U.S. as well as in Europe, the Middle East, and the Pacific.

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News

Congratulations to our client whose book we wrote together has hovered in the top 30 on Amazon for the past six weeks and hit the NY Times bestseller list (among a bunch of other lists) over the past month.  As always, it's fun to see our hard work - and the author's original vision for the book - pay off with both critical acclaim and outstanding sales. 

Looking forward to the next one ---

 

Cervelo Test Team rider Ted King is the leader in the clubhouse in terms of book recommendation page views.  He's also building a merchandising empire; check out Brandy and Patricia (two of my kids) with one of his "I am not Ted King" t-shirts.

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Tom Zirbel, a rider I met at the Tour of Shenandoah in 2006, lost his ride with Garmin-Slipstream after testing positive for DHEA.  Tom contends he did not knowingly take any banned substance, and if you know anything about quality control measures at the average supplement production facility, it's easy to believe him.  He's a nice guy - anyone nice to my kids is automatically considered a good guy - and I hope it all works out for him... but the way the system works it's unlikely.  Sadly, cycling doesn't presume innocence.
 
The Tour of Virginia hopes to start back up in 2010 after a several-year hiaitus caused by lack of funding.  If you're a deep-pocket organization with an interest in cycling check them out.  Quick disclosure:  We did web work for them a few years ago, as well as helping with print brochures and photography.  Another quick disclosure:  Their current website is not a product of our work.
 

Congratulations to Tom Zirbel, who just signed with pro cycling team Garmin-Slipstream.

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I'm in the early stages of research for a book I'm ghostwriting that will blend Brazilian jui jitsu principles and strategies with personal finance and investing.  Since I know nothing about jui jitsu I asked Beau for help. 

Very nice guy, but he's as tough as he looks.

I wrestled in high school with mixed results, so I have some sense of grappling, leverage, etc, but jui jitsu is in many ways a completely different world.  Beau not only has a knack for making the complicated simple... he's damn good.
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I was recently featured in a video discussion about how jewelry manufacturers, retailers, and the wedding industry can leverage social media marketing.  (Odd they chose me to participate since my face is made for radio...)

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Brandy, Patricia and I finished fourth in the relay category at this year's Luray Sprint Triathlon.

Luckily I have fit (and smart and sweet) daughters.

We finished behind the third place team by 5 minutes, so while that sucks we also don't need to torture ourselves with thoughts like "if only I'd pushed a little harder up that climb."  Wouldn't have mattered since we could never have made up that amount of gap.

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