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:

What Real Books Are Made Of

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.)


Casebound Books

Casebound books are also called hardcover books, hardback books... but in manufacturing terms they're called casebound.  Pages are glued together (actually pages are called "sigs," but we'll get to that) and are enclosed by a hard case.  The case is made of two pieces of board, a strip of kraft paper, and a covering of paper or cloth that holds everything together.  For fun, grab an old casebound book and tear it apart.  You'll see how it was made.)


Grab a casebound book and follow along.  I'll use The 4-Hour Workweek, (the original version, not the updated version) that seemingly everyone owns.  



On the outside is a jacket; it's basically a paper bookcover.   The printed side is either coated or laminated.  Lamination tends to be a little glossier, and if you work hard enough you can peel it off. Coated jackets have a UV coating (liquid cured by ultraviolet light) that make them more durable.  Whether coated or laminated, the goal is to maintain the integrity of the printing. Tim's jacket has a spot-UV coating; look closely at the title on the cover and you'll notice the brown has a glossier look.  Coating was only applied to the title; the rest of the brown is not coated.  The goal of spot coating is to make specific design elements stand out. 


Other jackets are laminated.  Lamination tends to be shinier and glossier than coating; on my desk now is a book Simon & Schuster was kind enough to send me, Robert Harris's Conspirata.  It has a laminated jacket.


Jackets can be one-, two, three- or four-color.  Basically a four-color jacket can contain any colors, since all colors are made from red, green, blue, and black.  (I know there are only three primary colors, but printers use black as part of the process.)   4-Hour Workweek has a three-color jacket:  Brown, some black text, some blue-green text. Roughly speaking less colors equals lower cost, since each color requires a separate plate on a sheetfed press. 


Quick note on colors:  Colors can be spot or process.  Spot colors are created from a specific color ink; process colors are created by blending different amounts of color while on press. If your jacket is white with red type, the red will be a spot color produced from one plate.  If your jacket includes a photograph, the photograph will be created through process color and multiple plates.  (Like an inkjet printer, only not really.) 



Cases can be one-piece or three-piece.  Ferris's book has a three-piece case.  The brown strip on the spine is one piece, and the white front and back sections are individual "pieces," called casesides.  Keep in mind the "pieces" actually start as rolls of material; they get cut during the case manufacturing process.  If a casebound book does not have separate spine and front/back pieces it's considered a one-piece case.  Adrian Goldsworthy's How Rome Fell has a one-piece case.  Roughly speaking, material costs aside, one-piece cases are cheaper since separate rolls of paper or cloth do not have to be slit; you only need one.  The rest of the manufacturing process is basically the same.  In my experience, more books have three-piece cases than one piece, but no one will buy - or not buy - your book simply because it has a three-piece or one-piece case. (Really, no consumer cares.) 


Now open your book.  Don't go to the first printed page.  Just open the case.  If you look at one of the corners you'll notice the case material was folded over, kind of like the way a present is wrapped.  Then if you look closely at the inside of the case you can see where the case material stops. If you want to see more, tear your book apart.  (I know the thought pains you; pick one you planned to toss.)  Case material is glued to front and back pieces of board.  Feel the spine of the book and you'll notice there is no board (except in the rare case where a book has a small strip of board; those are called flatback books but they are rarely produced and are a pain to manufacture.)  On the back side of the spine, where you can't see it, is a strip of kraft paper that gives the spine a little more substance.  


And that's a case - except for the stamping.  The words (and sometimes symbols) found on the spine are the result of the stamping process.  A die was made and gold foil (or silver, or any other color, but gold is fairly common) heat-stamped onto the spine.  Run your fingers over the type and you can feel the indentation.  Spine dies are usually made of brass; most printing contracts allow for stamping but do not include the cost of producing the die.(Typically from $125 to $150, unless you've gone nutty with design.)


Forgetting the fun of playing around with designs, choosing caseside colors,  designing your dies... all are aesthetic decisions that will almost never impact potential book sales. Potential readers see the book's jacket, not its case construction.  When they get the book home, remove the jacket, and start reading they might... but by then the book is sold.  So if you're considering self-publishing, don't get too hung up on caseside colors, etc.  Just don't create something ugly and you'll be fine.



When you opened the book and looked at the inside of the caseside, the paper glued to the back of the caseside and makes up the first "page" of the book is called an endsheet.  Hardcover books have a front and back endsheet.  Endsheets help hold the book together and hide the ugly backside of the case.  You'll notice endsheets are thicker than the text stock - that's partly for durability reasons but also so they don't wrinkle when glued to the case.  Endsheets come in all colors, but most are either cream-white or blue-white depending on the text stock.



Close the book and hold it looking down at the top edge.  You'll see a small piece of cloth sticking out above the pages at the spine; that's the headband.  You might think it's a piece of cloth that runs the length of the book, but it's not.  There is actually a headband and a tailband; both are small pieces of cloth glued to the backbone of the book before the case is applied.  You can choose solid colors or dual, alternating colors (like blue and white, red and white, blue and yellow...)  Casebound books almost always have headbands, but some do not.  The choice is yours, but I think books with no headbands are, well, ugly.  


Paper Stock

What's left?  Text stock.  Papers come in a wide variety of colors, weights,finishes, etc.  4-Hour Workweek is printed on a cream-white stock, which in real-world terms looks slightly tan or beige.  Blue-white stock is a brighter white; books with lots of halftones (non-color photos) tend to look better on blue-white stock - but not always.  Cream-white stock is much more commonly used in consumer books, if for no other reason than the recycled content can be higher and the cost of "bleaching" the pulp stock is a little lower.


Ferris's book has a relatively smooth text stock; the stock used in Conspirata is slightly less smooth.  Don't get hung up on paper stocks and finishes; stick with a printer's "house" stock.  For example, R.R. Donnelley stocks a 50-pound, 400 ppi (pages per inch) cream-white paper.  Good quality, nice finish... relatively inexpensive because their book plants order in massive quantities (think truckloads per week.)


Speaking of ppi, some books use a relatively heavy stock.  If you've read a Robert B. Parker book (and I've read, oh, all of them) you'll notice each page feels almost like cardboard.  That's because he was a writer of relatively few words; to make the book "feel" longer, a lower ppi paper was used.  (In the direct marketing world that's called "streamlined poundage.") The lower the ppi the less pages per inch and the "bigger" the book feels.  Bibles are typically printed on extremely high ppi paper to keep the overall bulk down. So unless you've written your own War and Peace, a house stock with a 350 to 400 ppi should be your paper of choice.


Pages are printed on paper that starts out as a role and ends up as a folded and gathered unit called a signature, or "sig."  Depending on the type of press, sigs may contain 64 pages, 32 pages, 16 pages, etc. If you're looking at 4-Hour Workweek, you'll notice the last page is blank. Some books have several blanks at the end, or blanks between sections or even chapters.  Blanks are inserted to make the page counts work out right with the sig configuration; if your book ends up being 250 pages and your printer produces 32-page sigs, you'll need 6 blanks somewhere along the way to make up the difference.  (256 / 32 = 8.)  If you end up with 258 pages, head back to your designer and find a way to cut the total by 2.


Then during the binding process the sigs and endsheets are gathered, the backbone is glued, the edges are trimmed, and the headbands and case are applied.  (Sounds a lot easier than it is.) 



Softcover Books

Softcover books differ from casebound books only where the binding is concerned.  Covers are made from heavy paper stocks so they will be reasonably durable.  The cover printing process is roughly similar to jacket production.  (Sheetfed press techs, I know there's more to it than that....)


The binding process differs in several ways.  Since cases aren't required case production processes and costs are eliminated.  You also don't need endsheets or headbands or dies.  Sigs are gathered, books are bound and trimmed... and that's it.




Pricing varies depending on the book manufacturer, the materials you use, current commodity costs, the length of your book, current market demand - just like in any manufacturing business.  But if you'd like a sense of price, here's an example.  We'll use an "average" book:  6 x 9, hardcover, 256 pages;  50-pound, 400 ppi text stock, black-only text; one-piece case, spine stamping; 4-color gloss laminated jacket. Vanilla specs, used in a majority of books produced.


Here's an actual quote from a book manufacturer for hardcover books using these specs:


 5,000 $10,689       
 7,500 $14,255   
 10,000 $17,817 1.78
 Additional 1000s       
 $1,426 1.43






Interested in the difference for softcover books?  Here's the same specs (without case binding and jackets, of course):


 5,000 $7,372          
 7,500 $9,531   
 10,000 $11,690 1.17
 Additional 1000s       
 $863 .86






Softcover books are obviously cheaper:  Less materials, less processes.  But the cost isn't cut in half like many assume because text paper and printing makes up a big piece of the total cost - and both versions use the same amount of paper and print.


And that's how books are made (at least at a high level.)  If you're interested, here's a reproduced version of a quote from a book manufacturer, along with some explanations.


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.