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 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:


Book Recommendations from Johan Bruyneel

I know. If you've heard of Johan Bruyneel you don't think "author," you think Tour de France and Lance Armstrong.  The director sportif of Team Radio Shack (head coach/general manager), he's arguably the most successful professional cycling team director in the history of the sport.

What you may not know is he also wrote a surprisingly good book, We Might as Well Win, a look at his own career as a rider and as a director for Lance's seven Tour de France victories and Alberto Contador's win in 2007.  (After the book was written Contador won in 2009, also with Johan at the helm.)  I say "surprisingly good" simply because most books in the genre are little more than puff pieces.  While I admit I'm currently in talks to ghostwrite a book for a MMA fighter, I've passed on similar projects when I realized the client really didn't have anything interesting to say.   

Johan does.

We Might as Well Win works even if you're  not a cycling fan.  Running a cycling team is like running any business:  Developing plans, creating strategies and tactics, reacting in the moment, managing the skills and talents and egos of your team....  Johan's success is based on building teams largely made up of people willing to sacrifice their individual goals and work towards achieving a clear, specific team goal... which all sounds great in theory but is incredibly difficult for any leader to pull off in practice. 

And along the way he shares a lot of cool anecdotes.  I have to wonder what stories they left out... makes me jealous I didn't work on the project.


Here's what Johan sent me before leaving for South Australia and the Tour Down Under:

Book Recommendations from Wright Thompson

Wright Thompson is a Senior Writer for and ESPN the Magazine.

He's also the author of my favorite article of 2009, Shadow Boxing.

Not that I keep a list; all I know is Shadow Boxing is the best article I read last year.  (Sorry Tim.)


Also check out The Redemption of Billy Cannon and Outrageous Justice.  And don't stop there; anything he writes is worth reading.


Here's what he sent me:

Book Recommendations from Zach Shore

Zach Shore is the author of Blunder: Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions, and is an Associate Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School.  Turns out he's smart and funny; Zach is not only a solid researcher but he's also a great storyteller, and Blunder is an entertaining look at the cognitive traps we tend to fall into.

Well, at least I do.

But I don't feel too bad.  Turns out even Thomas Edison could blunder; he promoted the widespread use of DC current AC was overwhelmingly superior.  

Which puts Edison and I in the same category for the first and certainly last time.

Here's what Zach sent me:

Book Recommendations from Bonnie D. Ford

Bonnie D. Ford covers cycling, tennis, and Olympic sports for  While she's easily my favorite cycling sportswriter, she consistently draws me in to stories I normally wouldn't read.  (Want an example?  Check out this story on 1980 Olympic player turned women's Olympic hockey coach Mark Johnson.) 

So to the 52 (and counting) people who emailed about the focus of the lists... see, I do read more than history.

What I love about Bonnie's work is while technically a sportswriter, bottom line she tells great stories about people.  The perspective she brings to her writing made curious about what she reads. 


Here's what she sent:

Book Recommendations from Chris Wickham

In what might appear to be a quest to collect recommendations from eminent historians, add Chris Wickham, Professor of Medieval History at the University of Oxford and author of The Inheritance of Rome.

Instead of taking a grand narrative or birth of nations approach, Inheritance of Rome is a story of evolution rather than simply conflict, decline, and fall.  Plus it's filled with quirky anecdotes.  Quick example. One Irish king created a weekly timetable: drinking on Sunday, judgments on Monday, board games on Wednesday, hunting on Thursday....

Among other books he's also the author of Framing the Early Middle Ages, which won the Wolfson History Prize, the Deutscher Memorial Prize and an American Historical Association award.  (Haven't read it yet; it's now on my list.)

Here's what he sent me:

Book Recommendations from Adrienne Mayor

Adrienne Mayor is a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University and the author of The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest EnemyThe Poison King is a non-fiction finalist in the National Book Awards, which is, as she told me, "An astonishing honor for a book about a bad guy from so long ago and so far away."

Her work has been featured on NPR and BBC, the History Channel, the New York Times, and National Geographic.  The History Channel show "Ancient Monster Hunters" is based on her first book, The First Fossil Hunters.


Here's what she sent me:

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Page 4 of 8

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.