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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Book Recommendations from Tim Blanning

Tim Blanning is a professor of modern history at Cambridge, a fellow of the British Academy, and the author of The Triumph of Music: The Rise of Composers, Musicians and Their Art.  I'm no musician; fortunately Triumph of Music focuses on the history of music in social, political, and cultural terms. 

And if that's not enough, it's filled with cool anecdotes.

Like:  Liszt was one of the first performers to combine musicianship with showmanship; he was the first pianist to play from memory and the first to turn his piano sideways so the audience could see his profile.  Or:  The Paris Opera House included a specific area where members of the corps de ballet could be approached at intermissions so, um, dates could be arranged. 

Among other books, Tim is also the author of The Pursuit of Glory:  The Five Revolutions that Made Modern Europe; just started, so far also excellent.

Here's what Tim sent me:

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Entrepreneurship Series
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.
 
Book Recommendations from John Thorndike

As John Thorndike’s father fell victim to Alzheimer's, his main hope was to stay in his own house. The Last of His Mind is the story of the year he spent taking care of his father.  

It's a heartwarming and heartbreaking book with an incredible story arc. Run out and get it - now.

I also appreciate John's feelings about books:  

"I probably have a reading disorder, because if I go without for a day or two, I get twitchy. I can live without a cell phone or a television, but I'd be laid waste if books were forbidden. I think of the Roman poet Ovid, banished by Augustus to a town on the Black Sea, where no one spoke Latin and books were hard to come by. Ovid kept writing, but after ten years of exile from Rome and his language, he died. How glad I am that instead, we swim in a sea of books."

How could I not ask John for his list of recommendations?  Here's what he sent me:

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Book Recommendations from Thomas Bisson

Eminent historians are back!  Thomas Bisson is the Henry Charles Lea Professor of Medieval History (emeritus) at Harvard University and the author of The Crisis of the Twelfth Century: Power, Lordship, and the Origins of European Government.

(To everyone who emailed saying I'd lost my history edge, take that!)

He's stirred up a little controversy in the history world, but that's half the fun.  A major theme is how "government" was actually the use of personall power, and how violence and exploitation ruled the day.   Europe was without a real system of government and Bisson shows how the average person suffered as a result... and how that eventually led to systems with greater social purpose.  I have to admit it's not a book for the faint of history heart; Professor Bisson is a scholar and not a pop-history writer.  But it's a great book.

Plus there are lots of knights.  What's European history without knights?

Here's what Thomas sent me:

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Book Recommendations from Josh Sundquist

Josh Sundquist is the author of Just Don't Fall, the story of how he lost his leg at age nine to cancer... and eventually competed for the 2008 U.S. Paralympics ski team in Turin.

 

He's also an outstanding speaker; check out his blog for his unique perspective and the occasional quirky video.(In particular, check out What Do 15,000 Screaming FFA Students Sound Like?

 

Since he grew up in Harrisonburg - and Just Don't Fall hit #2 on the Washington Post bestseller list - Josh is one of our local boys done good.

Here's what he sent me:

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Book Recommendations from Andrew Ross Sorkin

Andrew Ross Sorkin is the New York Times chief mergers and acquisitions reporter and the author of Too Big to Fail, arguably the best and easily the most readable account of

the banking crisis. He also edits DealBook, a daily onlilne financial report on the NYT website.  If you're a high finance geek it's the place to go.

I write business books so I don't tend to read them for pleasure, but Too Big to Fail was definitely an exception.  (I read an excerpt in Vanity Fair and was hooked.  Thanks to VF for his photo.)  Andrew weaves an incredible amount of detail into a character-driven narrative that - forgive the cliche - reads more like a thriller than a business book.

By the way. If you've never seen a $9 billion check, visit the source documents section of Andrew's website.

Here's what Andrew sent me:

 

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Business Success Book
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.
 
Book Recommendations from Kathleen George

Kathleen George is the first fiction writer included in my Recommendations section.  I rarely read fiction, but after reading her Edgar Award-nominated book The Odds, I was eager to find out what she enjoys.

In addition to The Odds, Kathleen has written other novels including Afterimage, Taken and Fallen. She is also a Theater Arts Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and has written several non-fiction books. (And she writes great reviews of some of the Pittsburgh-area restaurants that appear in her novels. I've eaten at Peppi's... and she's right.)

Kathleen took a different approach to her recommendations.  Here's what she sent me:

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Building a Successful Legal Practice Book

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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Book Recommendations from Lew Paper

Lew Paper is the author of Perfect, the story of Don Larsen's perfect game but more importantly the lives of the nineteen players. In his day job Lew is a partner at Dickstein, Shapiro in DC.  (Hopefully I'll never need him.)

For writers it's a nice lesson in how to weave biographical detail into a narrative; for sports fans it's simply a great read.

I'm not the only one who thinks so - Perfect made the Washington Post Best Books of 2009 Holiday Guide.

I'm a sucker for nostalgic, golden age sports books describing a time when players lived in the neighborhood and worked off-season jobs to make ends meet.  If that's you, check out Perfect.

Here's what Lew sent me:

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Book Recommendations from Alison Weir

Alison Weir is the bestselling author of the novels Innocent Traitor and The Lady Elizabeth and a number of historical biographies including Henry VIII, Queen Isabella, The Princes in the Tower, and the recently released The Lady in the Tower.

I especially enjoyed Princes in the Tower since I read it after Sharon Kay Penman's The Sunne in Splendor (another great book)... all of which made visiting the Tower of London fun for me but possibly less so for my family. (A quick note for people who will again remind me I read a lot of English history - I know.)

I like Alison's approach to her work:

As a non-fiction author, I write 'popular' history. The term has sometimes been used in a derogatory sense by a few people who should know better, because all historians use much the same sources. History is not the sole preserve of academics, although I have the utmost respect for those historians who undertake new research and contribute something new to our knowledge. History belongs to us all, and it can be accessed by us all. And if writing it in a way that is accessible and entertaining, as well as conscientiously researched, can be described as popular, then, yes, I am a popular historian, and am happy to be one.

If you like Showtime's The Tudors you'll like Alison's work... and note the difference between history and dramatic license.  Not that there's anything wrong with dramatic license - a good story is a good story.

Here's what Alison was kind enough to send during a break from promoting The Lady in the Tower:

 

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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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