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.


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. 


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.)


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.



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



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


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:


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:

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:


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:

Book Recommendations from Douglas Rushkoff

Douglas Rushkoff is is an author, teacher, and documentarian who focuses on the ways people, cultures, and institutions create, share, and influence each other’s values. He teaches media studies at the New School University, serves as technology columnist for The Daily Beast,  and lectures around the world. His best-selling books on new media and popular culture have been translated to over thirty different languages, and his latest book, Life Inc. traces how corporations have become a dominant factor in society.

I'm usually not big on social, political, and corporate activism (if there is such a thing), but Life Inc. is thought-provoking and insightful, even if I don't agree with all the conclusions.  (And I don't think, frankly, Douglas would want me to - I get the impression he loves healthy disagreement and discourse.)



Douglas is incredibly busy writing, serving on boards, and making media appearances (including a recent appearance on The Colbert Report), so he sent a list of favorite books on designer reality he created a couple years ago for The Guardian.   (And as he mentions, since he created if, shouldn't be a problem to recycle it.


Here it is:


My favourite books remind us that reality can and should be hacked. We usually change the world using the rules that currently exist, but we can also raise ourselves above the playing field and change the rules themselves. They are all arbitrary, having been written by people just like us. How does one become conscious of the way in which our world has been modelled, and empowered enough to rewrite the rules? By reading books like these.

Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, by R Buckminster Fuller
Bucky Fuller's most concise and compelling argument for how humankind might be able to survive and transcend its own compulsion for increased industrialization and economic growth - through new, more consciously executed industrialization and economic growth! His brief history of how the 'great pirates' dominated global politics and economics for centuries, installing puppet monarchs and harnessing the resources of entire nations goes a long way towards demonstrating the relationship between power and perception..

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, by Julian Jaynes
Jaynes makes a good case for the theory that human beings, in an earlier state of brain evolution, used to 'hear' the voice of God. What makes this book so interesting to me is less the idea that two parts of the brain used to converse with one another in this fashion, but that real human beings experienced reality in such a fundamentally different way than we do - and that equally profound shifts in our perspective could be occurring right now. How can we tell if the ways in which we conceive of things differ from the conceptions of our parents, much less our ancestors? And is this just a change in perception??

Cosmic Trigger, by Robert Anton Wilson
Bob has been a friend and mentor of mine for 20 years. Longer, actually, because I experienced his extraordinarily-narrated journey into cosmic consciousness when I was just a kid. This book chronicles the great quest to find the underlying order of our reality - and the many perils along this path of inquiry. Cosmic Trigger is at once startling, terrifying, reassuring, and life-affirming. It is a guided tour through the regions of mind that most people never get to, told in a way that forces you to reconsider your relationship to, well, everything.

Chaos and Cyber Culture, by Timothy Leary
This might not be Timothy's very best book, but if you have to choose just one, Chaos and Cyber Culture sums up a whole lot of his thinking about technologies - chemical, digital, and intellectual. Leary, also a profound personal influence on me, believed that expanding consciousness required an almost revolutionary mindset. Getting smarter also means challenging stupidity by daring to question 'authority.' New tools, from psychedelics to computers, become consciousness weapons in the battle for a more cooperative global thought experiment.

Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic, by Bertolt Brecht
Brecht was a German playwright who developed something called "the alienation effect". His idea was that people shouldn't be wrapped up in the plot of a play; rather, they should be made conscious of the fact that they are watching a play all the time. Only then will they have the presence of mind to consider actions to take in the real world. Although Brecht's passions were largely political, his techniques were cosmic. His plays were 'meta'-theatre, in which meaning was transmitted outside the rules of storytelling.

Mindstorms, by Seymour Papert
Papert understands developing minds, and broke all models for how children should be introduced to computers and technology. His LOGOS computer language, developed for kids, is responsible for introducing thousands of today's programmers to the freedom to create underlying software development. His explanations of how information can be transmitted to students in ways that allow them build concepts for themselves are invaluable to anyone in education.

Exodus in The Five Books of Moses (Fox translation)
Exodus is the story of how people break free of slavery. If we can understand this myth in the way it was most likely intended, it becomes a terrific allegory for the way we enslave ourselves through the worship of false gods. The 'plagues' are not attacks on a foreign people, but the desecration of Gods whom everyone worshipped. This is not the story of liberation from a place, but a state of mind: people who build pyramids are slaves.

The Turbulent Mirror, by John Briggs and F David Peat
This is my own personal favourite book explaining fractals and chaos. Because it's easy. Anyone who missed the chaos craze or still wonders why ravers talk so much about fractals can read this short, illustrated text and then understand more about these subjects than most. This is the book I read before writing Cyberia, and it was what forced me to connect my observations of culture and consciousness with the insights of mathematicians.

The Invisibles, by Grant Morrison et al
Grant's work is about the ongoing battle between the forces of chaos and those of order. This comic book series is about a band of young, sexy chaos magicians who mean to overturn an oppressive consensus reality. Grant understands magic, for real, and uses this engaging comic book series to teach his more clever readers how to direct their energy towards whatever ends they choose. This comic changed the way millions of young people think about the rules.

Systems of Survival, by Jane Jacobs
I don't agree with everything this urban planner and social philosopher says, but she has helped me recognise the importance and impact of design on social and economic behaviour. She has a unique way of reversing cause and effect that I've found very useful in rethinking how things happen, and how they can be changed. Her work keeps me aware that great ideas mean very little if they don't become integrated into the way we plan the physical landscape in which we live.



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.



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.

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.


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.

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...)


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.