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 James Tabor

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:

 

First, this was an incredibly fun exercise in paying tribute to books that shaped my mind and directed my life. My selections:

 

Fiction


The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
I read and reread this book countless times between the ages of 6-10. It touched some deep mystic chord and instilled a love of horses which lasts to this day. Equally, it demonstrated how a book could take me out of one world (no nice place, alcoholic father, blah blah etc.) and put me into one that was safe, exciting, and beautiful. I loved that other world and lived in it until the real one became something I could love.
 
Light Years by James Salter
James Salter is perhaps better known for the screenplay he wrote for Robert Redford's breakout film, Downhill Racer. In Light Years he works such magic with language that it is like watching a great magician perform astonishing and inexplicable tricks. But there is no sleight of hand in Light Years. The magic is all real, word after word. It's humbling to behold such mastery, but reassuring to know that a human is capable of it. I had the great honor of meeting James Salter once, for lunch, at his home. Light radiates from every sentence he writes and, I'm happy to report, from him as well.
 
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Woolf' was the first author I read whose prose writing is autistic (a compliment, here), dreamlike, non-linear. In the beginning, it was infuriating for an A-to-B-to-C guy, but once I let go and allowed myself to be carried along on its flow, it worked. Exquisitely. I do not understand how a brain produces such prose, but neither do I really understand how clouds (which are, after all, water, and water is heavy) float in the sky. Doesn't matter. The mystery and beauty are what matter, and they are real for all to see.
 
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Leguin
"He grew wild, a thriving weed, a tall, quick boy loud and proud and full of temper."  So wrote Leguin about her young wizard, Ged. Knowing the true name, and therefore the pure truth, of a thing is the source of Ged's power. I think that discovering the pure truth of things is what all real writers struggle to do.  Why else would we stare at half a sentence until (as one put it) drops of blood start to ooze from our foreheads? Leguin writes about magic and wizardry, but she is a mage and wizard herself, and, as they say, it takes one to know one. I suspect that she is really seven hundred years old and has a cottage in some ancient, dappled forest where she retreats to weave  spells and webs of words.
 
The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
"A book that changed my life," said documentarian Ken Burns. Mine, too. I was born a Southerner. My great-grandfather, Pvt. Russell Tabor, rode for four years with J.E.B. Stuart's rebel cavalry. I thought I knew the Civil War, but The Killer Angels showed me that I did not. It inspired me to go to the battlefield and on a July day walk through shimmering, waist-high hay the same long, hot mile Pickett's men themselves traversed. By the time I reached The Angle I was near to fainting and openly weeping. I don't think I could do that march again, but I can't stop reading the book.
 
The Dune Trilogy by Frank Herbert
In the right hands, science fiction can be as much belles lettres as any story of love or war. (Both of which abounded in TDT, of course.) Talk about transport to other worlds--if you have not taken Shai-Hulud (Dune's great sandworms) for a ride, you've not lived. What I did not realize at the time was how prescient Herbert's vision may be. That knowledge makes the books more painful to read today, but no less rewarding. Do not diss, nor dismiss,  sci-fi until you read these.
 
 
 

Non-Fiction

 
Dispatches by Micael Herr
The magic of fiction and the truth of nonfiction: "Holy war, long-nose jihad like a face-off between one god who would hold the coonskin to the wall while we nailed it up, and another whose detachment would see the blood run out of ten generations, if that was how long it took for the wheel to go round." Not just the greatest Viet Nam War book, but one of the greatest books of all time, period, that just happens to be about war. Like The Red Badge of Courage and The Great Gatsby, a blurt of genius about the miraculous tragedy of Homo sapiens on earth. And, like those other two, tragically never repeated. But perhaps a creation of such sheer magnificence is, by nature, an only child.
 
The Face of Battle by John Keegan
Keegan's debut history of war, the book by which all other military histories must now be measured. Better than any gory movie ever could, this book made me feel what it was like to stab knights to death at Agincourt, to form square against Naploeonic cavalry at Waterloo, and melt away on the Somme under the muzzle flames of Maxims and Vickers. The nonfiction Red Badge of Courage.
 
The Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon
National Book Award-winner, and no wonder. For anyone who struggles with depression the book is a godsend. Not only did it compile every bit of cutting-edge data on the disease--something no one had ever done before--it read like a good novel, as Solomon buttressed the information with his personal torment. The magazine publisher Frances Lear said that what we writers do, whether we're Shakespeare or Danielle Steele, is wrap information in entertainment. Well said, and The Noonday Demon does both beautifully. It is also the only book on my lists that is likely to be saving the lives of certain desperate readers every day.
 
War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges
My father, a Great Santini-like, career Army officer, fought in WW I, WW II, and Korea. (I know, hard to believe, but I have the service records and medals), which may help account for my interest in--okay, fascination with--war. The horrible red reality of war seeps through every page, and Hedges is wise enough to let the horrors do their own work. But he also reveals what work those horrors did on him, and it was radical psychic surgery. Without sword or rifle he went to that black place where the warriors go, his only armor a belief in the need to show us what he found there. Every boy who thinks of enlisting should be made to read this book before signing his life away.
 
Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Yet another war book, but one of a very different kind. We live in a universe of great oppositions--light and dark, joy and horror, good and evil, infinity and nothingness. For me, the greatest evil of all time, The Holocaust, is as impossible to truly conceive as infinity. Which makes its apprehension all the more essential, of course. But I fear that its full horror is as impossible to behold as the naked sun with bare eyes--too white the heat, too fierce the agony. Anne Frank's diary holds a mirror up to the thing, allowing me, as it were, to at least glimpse the demon. It is a thing I shrink from but Anne Frank could not and for that reason alone, I think, I must not.

 

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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