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 a Book Manufacturing Quote Looks Like

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.



Text from the quote is in bold; my comments are plain text. If any of the terms aren't familiar to you, check out What Real Books Are Made Of.



It is a pleasure to present our proposal for manufacturing based on the following specifications. Prices include current cost of production, both manufacturing and materials.

Note the use of the word "current."  Commodity prices change fairly rapidly, especially where paper is concerned.  And price will also be affected by seasonal demand; trade publishing tends to work on a fall and a spring cycle, and textbook production is cyclical as well.  Most quotes are good for a specific period of time; that comes later.



Quantity:    5,000; 7,500; 10,000 plus additional thousands.

When I asked for this quote my client wasn't sure about print quantity, so I asked for a range.  "Additional thousands" refers to any books over order quantity but under maximum quantity

If you aren't familiar with the concept of additional 1000s, here's a quick explanation.  You want 5,000 books.  Book manufacturers allow for production waste.  If they only produce 5,000 jackets and one is torn during the process… the order is short and they will have to go back to press, a manufacturing fate worse than death.  To allow for normal waste and also for variation in the manufacturing process, most work on a percentage over/under basis.  For example, if you want 5,000 books your contract may be for 5,000 +/- 10%.  Delivery of any quantity between 4,500 and 5,500 is considered acceptable.  If the manufacturer keeps waste down and delivers 5,400 books, great – and you’ll be charged for them.  If they experience excessive run waste and only deliver 4,700 then they don’t have to go back to press but also can only charge for 4,700 units.

You can tighten the over/under spread if you like.  For example, you could contract for 5,000 + 5% and no “unders”; that means you won’t accept anything less than 5,000.  Just understand your price per unit may go up slightly since the manufacturer will probably increase waste allowances to compensate for the risk of missing the mark.

So with all that said, additional 1000s is the price you pay for “overs” on your run.  The "overs" price is always cheaper than the "regular quantity" price.




No. of Pages:    256 pages

Unless you've gone through the design stage you won't know an exact quantity. But you can estimate: The average 6 x 9 hardcover book has anywhere from 325 to 400 words per page, depending on font size, margins, line spacing, etc. If you're not sure and you're looking for quotes, you will need to estimate, because paper and print costs make up a big chunk of the total cost of production.  You can have the quote finalized once you know your precise specs.



From your furnished PDF page files with all elements included in electronic files (graphics and illustrations), we will receive text files and corresponding laser prints for general guidance, impose black only pages electronically and create press plates.  We will provide digital black and white proofs or softproofs for your approval.

For the components, you will furnish PDF files of the printing spreads with all elements included in the electronic file (graphics and illustrations).   We will impose the spreads electronically and create press plates.

We will provide a four-color pleasing color proof of the jacket for your approval.

Okay, there's a lot there.  The assumption is you will provide print-ready files based on the book printer's specs.  Once you do, the PrePress department (also called Preliminary or Prelim) will get your files ready for production, and will provide proofs for you to review.  Proofs are important; if you sign off on a proof, you signed off responsibility.  If the manufacturer prints what you signed off on... it's yours, even if it's incorrect in some way.  Proofs can be physical (on paper) or "softproofs," which are electronic files you can view.  Softproofs are just as good as physical proofs and a lot more convenient - don't be afraid to go the soft proofing route.



Body - We will carefully makeready and print pages in black only throughout by the web offset process.

Jacket will be printed in 4-0-0-4 colors by the sheetfed offset process.
A gloss laminate film will be applied to the outside only.

Stock - For the body pages, we will furnish basis 25 x 38 - 50 #, 400 ppi, cream-white antique at a current market price of $54.60 per hundredweight.

The Jacket will print on 80# C1S stock.

What did you learn?  Black text only (although your text can include shades of black.  Just can't include another color.)  Jackets are 4-color, one side only.  Gloss lamination will be used on the print side - you don't need it on the non-print side.  Or you could choose a UV-coating if you like; in this case that is not what I specified.  

Text paper is a 50#, 400 ppi, cream-white stock. The current market price is specified just in case commodity prices go up in the interim; no manufacturer will lock themselves in to an agreement they will lose money on if component costs go up dramatically.

The jacket will print on an 80# stock, coated on one side.  (C1S means coated, one side.)



Case Binding and Case Making:
Binding will be adhesive notch case bound with cream white endsheets, trimmed square and flush on three sides, cotton head and foot bands, and one-piece cases made of Rainbow 80# embossed kraft material over .085 non spec reg/graphic board.

Our price includes non-tarnished foil stamping on the spine (dies additional, made from supplied copy.)

Let's go in order: This manufacturer uses a notch binding style and adhesive glue.  Standard stuff.  Endsheets will be basically the same color as the paper stock.  We get headbands - and we get to choose the color, within reason.  Case material will be from the Rainbow line of materials, in an 80# weight - we'll get to choose from ten or twenty different colors.  And they'll use a fairly standard thickness of case board.  We also get stamping on the spine, but we have to provide the copy for the die and will have to pay a little extra to have the dies made, which usually runs around $150.  (Other than shipping, die costs are the only non-included costs.)




Final copies packed in 200# RSC single wall (or equivalent) bulk cartons and banded on non-treated pallets for shipment, F.O.B. our (location) plant.

Finished books go into cartons (my guess is, considering the size of this book, we'll get 32 books or so per carton) and are placed on pallets.  They'll load the truck for us, but we'll pay the actual cost of freight.  (F.O.B. means Freight on Board, and also means we're responsible for shipping costs.) 

Books are bulk-cartoned to minimize damage and make handling a little easier.  If we're handling our own fulfillment, we'll need to un-carton them and re-pack in mailers, etc when we ship to customers.  In other words, the manufacturer isn't individually-cartoning our books; that's our job.




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






This is a summary of costs, excluding shipping.  



Material prices are based on the current prices as of the quote date.  Changes in the actual cost of materials at the time of purchase will be reflected in the invoice.

For any special order paper used in the production of this title we will invoice you for the actual amount of paper delivered by the mill.  Any additional freight charges assessed by the mill will also be included on your invoice.

Paper, Materials and Manufacturing capacity are subject to availability at time of order.  All operations other than those stated above will be billed additional.

These are the basic terms and conditions.  Roughly speaking, material costs may vary, especially if we wait awhile between receiving the quote and finalizing the contract.  (That allows this manufacturer to avoid saying "This quote is only good for 30 days," for example.  They're not locked in to anything until we sign the contract.) 

And, if we decide to use a special-order paper or other special-order components, there won't be a "commission" per se; those costs will be pass-through.  And if the materials we choose aren't available from suppliers, it's not the manufacturer's fault.  



Pretty simple!


Oh - if you want to see a complete breakdown of terms and conditions, email me.  Two pages, single space, small font... not particularly exciting for my average visitor and definitely not worth reproducing here.


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.