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.

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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. 

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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.)

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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.

 

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

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Recommended

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

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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Book Recommendations from Kathleen George

Kathleen George is the first fiction writer included in my Recommendations section.  I rarely read fiction, but after reading her Edgar Award-nominated book The Odds, I was eager to find out what she enjoys.

In addition to The Odds, Kathleen has written other novels including Afterimage, Taken and Fallen. She is also a Theater Arts Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and has written several non-fiction books. (And she writes great reviews of some of the Pittsburgh-area restaurants that appear in her novels. I've eaten at Peppi's... and she's right.)

Kathleen took a different approach to her recommendations.  Here's what she sent me:

Here is my list of reading so far from May 2009 to now.  I loved many of these books, but I have starred a couple that might go under the radar. Full disclosure:  Hilary Masters is my husband.  I think he’s a fantastic writer.

 

(A few notes:  I listed Kathy's "starred" books first.  Also, since she lists a lot of books, this time I didn't include Amazon links. (Hey, you know how to find them.)  And make sure you scroll to the bottom:  I've included an essay Kathy sent regarding her reading list.)

 

One D.O.A., One on the Way — Mary Robison

Love and Summer — William Trevor

How The Indians Buried Their Dead — Hilary Masters 

Home — Marilynne Robinson

Spooner — Pete Dexter

The Anthologist — Nicholson Baker

Hollywood Moon — Joseph Wambaugh

 

When Skateboards Will Be Free — Said Sayrefaizadeh

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao — Junot Diaz

Mudbound — Hillary Jordan

Unaccustomed Earth — Jhumpa Lahiri

Blue Heaven — C.J. Box

Nobody Move — Denis Johnson

From Veils to Thongs — Dalel Khalil

Goodnight Nobody — Jennifer Weiner

The Wilderness — Samantha Harvey

Sag Harbor — Colson Whitehead

Brooklyn — Colm Toibin

Look Again — Lisa Scottoline

The Scarecrow — Michael Connelly

The Family Man — Elinor Lipman

The Way Home — George Pelecanos

Life Lines — C.J. Lyons 

Winter in June — Kathryn Miller Haines

The White Tiger — Aravind Adiga

A Farewell to Arms — Ernest Hemingway

The Life of Pi — Yann Martel

The Elegance of The Hedgehog — Muriel Barbery

A Mixture of Frailties — Robertson Davies

The Song is You — Arthur Philips

The Bellini Madonna — Elizabeth Lowry

Lucky Jim — Kingsley Amis

Crime and Punishment — Fyodor Dostoyevsky

In Rooms of Memory — Hilary Masters

Vanished — Joseph Finder

The Help — Kathryn Stockett

Reconsidering Happiness — Sherrie Flick

The Girl Who Played with Fire — Steig Larsson

A Gate at the Stairs — Lorrie Moore

Coast of Good Intentions — Michael Byers

A Thousand Cuts — Simon Lelic

Await Your Reply — Dan Chaon

The Confessions of Edward Day — Valerie Martin

The Maltese Falcon — Dashiell Hammett

13  ½ — Nevada Barr

Museum of Innocence — Orham Pamuk

Anna in Between — Elizabeth Nunez

The Position — Meg Wolitzer

9 Dragons — Michael Connolly

Two Lives — William Trevor

Property — Valerie Martin

Brooklyn Noir

Los Angeles Noir

Boston Noir

Detroit Noir

Money for Nothing — Donald Westlake

Something To Tell You — Hanif Kureishi

Too Much Happiness — Alice Munro

 

WRITERS ARE READERS

Kathleen George


I read a lot — I always have — but for some reason my appetite in these last years is greater than ever.  I kept a list of what I was reading for pleasure starting last May when school finished for the semester and up till now, late April, when it is finishing again and I can begin again with a new list.

I do, on occasion, review for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  And for a limited time I reviewed for a meticulously-run website called writersarereaders.com.  But running the website was a labor of love that completely exhausted its maker, Katherine Stone, who decided to wind it down.  Mostly I read without reviewing.

It’s true that writers are readers.  I know a lot of writers and the ones I know are reading in any free moment they have.  Even so, I am kind of amazed by how many novels I managed to read in one calendar year because I have a fulltime job as a professor of theatre arts—work that includes reading plays, dissertations, comprehensive exams.  Add to that that I am a slow reader.  I have to hear each line; if it doesn’t make sense, I go back and read it again until it does.   This counts for plays, too.  I can’t get past a line of playscript until I can hear it and see it.  So . . . I possess a useful but time-consuming handicap.

Last winter, several students at a writing workshop asked me, “How do you read so much?  When do you read so much?  In your sleep?”  I had to stop to figure up how.   Here is what I discovered:  There were three separate weeks away on vacations during which I read, say, five novels a week because, when I am lying in the sun, reading is what I do.  That would account for fifteen.  Seventeen of the novels I listened to on audio while exercising or driving.  I grant this is not strictly reading, but I am counting those books, because they were unabridged and very much an object of my concentration.  So, thirty-two.  Then roughly a novel every ten days or so throughout the rest of the year would bring me to my total.

Most of last year’s list is made up of well-reviewed current-sellers.  A few, too few now that I study the list, are classics.  Five are mysteries by friends of mine.  In each case, reading friends, I was smitten by their smartness. 

Looking over the list, and thinking back to the list of the year before, I see trends, tendencies:  there are several in which the deaths of protagonists’ young sibling is the catalyst, several that work to surprise us with the survival of persons assumed dead. Good story ideas, both.  

The books that are ringing loudly in my head are: 

Einstein’s Dreams

Towelhead

Senselessness

Bad Girl

Never Let Me Go

The English Major

Lolita

Netherland

A Person of Interest

Olive Kittredge 

Do they have anything in common?  Sadness and obsession, laced with wit.  My cup of tea.

What does it all mean?  Pleasure.  Mainly pleasure.    

Still ringing, too, are:

Crescent

Old Filth

The Turnaround

What Happened to Anna K?

American Wife

 

Want more?  Check out other writer recommendations.  Or learn about the book recommendations

 

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.

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News

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.

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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.

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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.
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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...)

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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.

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