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 Bill Finley

Bill Finley writes about horse racing for the New York Times, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, and ESPN.  He's also the author of Betting Synthetic Surfaces, a guide to handicapping races run at tracks like Keeneland, Del Mar, Arlington Park, and Santa Anita. 

(No, that's not Bill in the photo; I don't have one of him, so I tossed in a photo I took on a cold day at Pimlico a few years ago.)

Bill is also a co-host of the Sirius radio program Down The Stretch and has appeared on the ESPN Sports Century episodes Affirmed vs Alydar and Seattle Slew.

I always enjoy his work - Bill has a knack for making horse racing relevant to the casual, non-expert (like me) fan.


Here's what he sent me:

Book Recommendations from Ted King

Ted King is a professional road racing cyclist for the Cervelo Test team and writes periodically for  His columns are down to earth yet offbeat and quirky; try pulling that off; it's not as easy as you might think.  (And he doesn't use a ghostwriter.)  I look forward to reading his stuff, thought, "I wonder what he reads..." and here we are.

Quick note:  Since Cervelo is a UCI Pro Continental team, including riders like Carlos Sastre, Thor Hushovd and Heinrich Haussler, this year Ted rode in the Tour of California, the Giro d'Italia, and a bunch of other one-day and stage races. Riding for a Pro Continental team is to cycling like playing for the Redskins is to football.  (Then again that's not a fair comparison - the Cervelo team is a lot better than the Redskins.)

Ted also managed to gain a pretty high profile this year; here he is in one of Lance Armstrong's daily interview videos during the Giro.

Here's what Ted sent me:

Book Recommendations from Peter H. Wilson

Peter H. Wilson is a professor of history at the University of Hull and the author of Thirty Years War:  Europe's Tragedy, one of the few thousand-plus page books actually worth that many pages.  The Thirty Years War isn't a particularly "popular" conflict if you aren't a serious historian; I have to admit all I really knew was it started after three Habsburg envoys were thrown out a castle window in Prague.  Peter makes you wait two hundred pages for envoy-tossing festivities... but it's worth the wait.

Plus you'll look really smart when you crack it open at lunch; leave the jacket on to more widely broadcast the depth of your intellect.

I like finding out what the smart writers read and was especially curious to find out what Peter enjoys when he's not poring over pompous, overblown, heavy-handed German texts in the course of his research.  Here's what he sent me:

Book Recommendations from Gregg Easterbrook

Gregg Easterbrook is a contributing editor for The New Republic andThe Atlantic Monthly, has written cover stories for Newsweek and Time, and is the author of The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse and the soon to be released Sonic Boom.  

Just as importantly - to me at least - he writes the Tuesday Morning Quarterback column for, a great blend of football, TV and film criticism, astronomy, the environment, political and social commentary, and his ever popular cheerleader of the week feature.  Reading TMQ is like talking to the guest you wish came to dinner... but of course never does.

Here's what Gregg sent me:

Book Recommendations from Joe Drape

Joe Drape is the New York Times horse racing reporter and the author of Our Boys, the story of Smith Center, KS and its high school football team, owners of the country's longest active winning streak.  (69 games and counting.) 

Our Boys is certainly a great read, but I asked for his list due to his outstanding horse racing reporting and books like Black Maestro and The Race for the Triple Crown.   My grandfather was a (very very) small time owner in Virginia in the late 60s and early 70s.  He ran at county fairs and bush league tracks with any jockey he could find.  It was a big day when he landed a jockey who actually owned silks... and an even bigger day when that jockey gave an honest effort.  (Owning silks and trying hard appeared mutually exclusive; riding drunk a prerequisite.) 

My grandfather was spectacularly unsuccessful but loved horses and, I later realized, dreamed of a life grander than farming.  Joe's work takes me to a time when I stood wide-eyed and innocent with my father and grandfather as we watched dirt fly and horses curve into the turns... and each of us dreamed our own big dreams.

Here's what Joe sent me:

Book Recommendations from Joe Bennett

Joe Bennett is a travel writer and columnist whose columns are syndicated in newspapers throughout New Zealand.   He's published eleven collections of columns and several other books, most recently Where Underpants Come From, which traces a pair of briefs from a store shelf in New Zealand all the way back to Chinese cotton fields near Afghanistan.

Underpants is an incredibly good book.  Check it out.  If nothing else, Joe made me want to take my dog for a walk way past my bedtime (read it and you'll understand why.)  Two of his other travel books, A Land of Two Halves and Mustn't Grumble, are also excellent. So is a collection of columns, Laugh? Could Have Cried, which he was kind enough to send me (it wasn't published in the U.S.)

His next book is about Dubai.  Sadly I couldn't weasel a copy of the manuscript out of him.

Here's what he sent me, just before walking his own dogs:

Book Recommendations from Thayer Walker

Thayer Walker is an Outside magazine correspondent and has written about civil war in Nepal, California’s deadly abalone trade, and exploring the ocean to a depth of 2,400 feet in a homemade submarine.

His article Me. By Myself. For a Long Time. (Very Long.) earned a 2008 Best American Travel Writing honorable mention.

My favorite piece is his profile of surfer and film director The Unbreakable Timmy Turner.


Here's what he sent me:

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Page 5 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.