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 Wright Thompson

Wright Thompson is a Senior Writer for ESPN.com 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:

 

I’m gonna leave out the usual suspects -- Gatsby, Moveable Feast, Red Badge, Sun Also Rises, Coney Island of the Mind, etc – but that shouldn’t suggest these aren’t vitally important books to me.  I’ve read and reread them since I was a teenager. They are the books that made me love books.  Gatsby still takes my breath away; I’m not sure if that makes me passé to English majors but that book, to steal a line from a writer friend, is still hot to the touch.

OK, so my list.
 
I live in Oxford, Mississippi, home of what I think is the greatest bookstore in the world: Square Books.  One of my friends, Richard Howorth, owns it, and two more of my friends, Cody Morrison and Slade Lewis, help run it, so I trust them totally. A week or so ago, they recommended Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower.  I just finished it for the first time, and am starting time two as we speak; it is incredible and an inspiration for any of us who write for a living.  I want to be Wells Tower when I grow up.

They also turned me on to the first book on my list, which I loved.
 
Arkansas by John Brandon.  He’s the current Ole Miss writer in residence (following in the enormous shoes of Tom Franklin and Jack Pendarvis – read Poachers and Awesome, respectively, by the way).
 
North Toward Home by Willie Morris.  This is the most important book in my life. I read it in 10th grade. When I started, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. When I finished, I did. It showed a path out of Mississippi, and it helped put words to both the love and hatred I’ve felt toward the past of my home state.
 
Heaven is a Playground by Rick Telander. Rick really mentored me when I was in college and he summed up the correct way to do my job in one sentence:  It’s all about the scenes, man.  He provided the right words of encouragement to me, at a time when those words were a rare thing.  This book remains a masterpiece.
 
It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium by John Ed Bradley.  I love this book. I think it is beautifully written and simply and powerfully honest.  Just wonderful.
 
Dispatches by Michael Herr.  Beyond being a book you cannot put down, this is the gospel for reporters covering a story. Be inside it, not skidding along the surface.  Most war coverage explains what happened; this explains what it felt like. That’s a lesson for all of us who tell stories.  I read this enough that it never makes it back to the bookshelf; it lives on my desk.
 
What a Time it Was by W.C. Heinz.  Heinz is the best.  Period. This should be the first book taught in every college journalism class.  I had the honor of attending his wake at Elaine’s and it was one of the most magical nights of my life.  Full brother of Assault, indeed.
 
The Forever War by Dexter Filkins. This is another book that’s hot to the touch (the line is stolen from Brett Anderson of the Times-Picayune, by the way – great guy, even better food writer). The ending is all the things an ending should be: blunt, smart, powerful, layered, nuanced, direct. You know when a really amazing rock concert is over and the music stops there’s that moment where everyone almost sags and the energy is sucked out of the room, as if it lived only as long as the amps hummed?  That’s what it feels like when you read the last page of this book.
 
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.  Another one that lives on my desk.
 
The Fight by Norman Mailer.  My editor, Jay Lovinger, gave me this book. It should be required reading for everyone who writes sports magazine stories. This is what we should be trying to do: mixing observed scene with the motivation for those observed actions. This book taught me a lot.
 
Writing for Story by Jon Franklin.  I read this in college and it really changed the way I looked at the structure of a story; this should be required reading, too. Ignore the pompous author and there’s a lot to learn here.
 
Big Bad Love by Larry Brown.  I love short stories; they are what I think all narrative non-fiction stories should aspire to be.  This collection is full of masterpieces.  I read them sometimes. The structure and power of the descriptions inspires me.
 
McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon by Joseph Mitchell.  This is another book Lovinger gave me; it’s a first edition that smells like an old book should.  It lives on my bedside table. Sometimes, I’ll read a story, or part of a story, before going to bed. Also, if you’re a writer and want to scare the everliving holy shit out of yourself, go read how Mitchell’s writing career ended.
 
On that note, I think I’ll go out and have a drink.

 

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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