The ghost-writer of choice for Ray Lewis, Denzel Washington, Daymond John, etc. shares why it is so magical get paid to do what you love.
Oh, today’s spooktacular. Sure. We are interviewing a man who I would personally consider to be the greatest ghostwriter of all time. I can say that. What does he do? This man sits down with a list. Celebrities like Denzel Washington. He Daymond John from the Fubu when shark tank thing. It’s okay. Ray Lewis, the NFL hall of fame football player. I don’t know. I have a bad feeling about them. Nitric dairy, high school basketball coach. Bob Hurley, he gets to learn their stories, the interviews. He gets to know them, he gets to learn their voice and then he turns their interview and their stories into the books that you can find at Barnes and noble. I saw like an Amazon books chameleon. The best selling books are written by this man. And does his name normally appear on the cover of the pool? No, because he is a ghostwriter. Most writer. Hey, who said that? Most writers, no time. Okay, cool. Ira, you guys said that it’s ghost ride on thing was just a play on words. He’s not actually a coached, right? Paige Turner, you chic backyard.
Yes, yes, yes and yes. Tribe nation. I am fired up about today’s guest. He is difficult way above average ghost rider. Mr. Daniel Paisner. How are you sir?
I’m good clay. I liked that significantly above average. I’m going to start using that.
Well you are one of the more humble people that I’ve ever a cyber stock and so I would like to call you the greatest ghostwriter of all time, but I can’t do that. So I’m just going to say I significantly above average ghostwriter.
I appreciate it. I, I think I’ll have a tee shirt.
Hey, no, I would like to ask you this because, uh, you know, obviously if our, if our listeners Google search your name, you’ve worked with a Bob Hurley and Denzel Washington and Daymond John and Ray Lewis, big names. Um, but where did it all start? Where did you go to high school and, and when did you first become interested in writing?
Well, I grew up on long island and I was kind of a journalism Geek. I, I kind of came of age during the Watergate, so I had posters of Woodward and Bernstein up on my wall when I was a kid. Uh, and I always thought I’d be a Swatch, swashbuckling journalists, you know, righting wrongs and, um, and setting America right. Uh, and I never quite thought that I’d be working in the trade and the way that I am now. I don’t think you could find a middle school kid or a high school kid anywhere in this country who’s dreaming of becoming a ghostwriter. It’s sort of silent, hidden professions. Um, and, uh, so I set out to become a journalist and I started doing that. I freelanced, I went to school up in Boston. I was the editor of my school paper up there, went to journalism school, and somehow I, I backdoored into this, um, this element of publishing, which has turned out to be a very great way to make a living. It’s a great way to meet interesting people. Uh, and give me the time I need to also work on some books of my own that nobody reads. But I
crank ’em out. I would love to hear from college to becoming a ghostwriter. Um, what was your first job after college?
You know what? I took a job. I was lucky enough to win an award, um, in my senior year of college from Gulf and Western, which used to be, if you were, if you remember from the old Mel Brooks movies, engulf and devour was how we sort of parodied, uh, corporate America, right? So engulf and devour of worried me a publishing scholarship in my last year of school and Gulf and Western was the parent company, Simon and Schuster at the time. So the award came with a job after graduation at Simon and Schuster, which was not something I wanted, although I did want the scholarship that paid for my last year of school. So I grabbed their money and I went to New York to work as a publicist at a publishing house, which turned out to be a very clever scheming thing to do, although I didn’t recognize it as such at the time.
And I was fairly miserable working there as a, as a publicist. But because I came in there with this sort of pedigree as a Gulf and western scholarship winner, I had the ear of an access to all the players at Simon and Schuster at the time, including the chairman of the company, Dick Snyder. So I would go into his office every so often and, and sort of compliant. I didn’t want to be here. I want to be a writer. This is no place for a writer. You published books. I want to write the books that you published a and at some point after I finished my one-year obligation to them in honor of the, um, the scholarship that I won a, I had one foot out the door and uh, he threw me a bone. They sent me over to 30 rock across the street from where Simon and Schuster’s located in Maryland because they had signed a book with Willard Scott. Do you remember Willard Scott, the happy weatherman
back in the day? So I went over to meet Willard, um, and he said, well, so I’m going to shoot you, sent you over here. What the hell do I care? You can write my book. And I wrote Willard Scott’s book. I was 25, 26 years old and that was my first adventure, thinking it would be a off and that would be one and done and move onto something else. But it’s like you get something stuck on your shoe clay and it stays with you for the next 30 years.
I’m very curious and so I’d like to unpack a few things that you just said. College. Did you go to college? It was at Tufts University, is that correct? Tufts University, correct.
If I went to Tufts University outside of Boston.
And so when you got your first job as a publicist, a, we have listeners all over the world and some people don’t know what that word means, how would you describe what it meant to be a publicist?
My job was to promote and get some sort of attention for the books at Simon and Schuster was publishing and that included writing press releases and calling producers of a big shows like the today show and good morning America and little shows like, hey, how are you Cincinnati,
all of us here at New Center for, I’m Ron Burgundy, you stay classy San Diego.
Um, and because I was relatively junior, I was working with smaller authors, uh, on, on smaller books. Um, and it was ultimately a very frustrating job because, you know, my ability performed was only as, as good as as the authors, uh, as the appeal that the authors I had wore to the, to these, to these producers that I was pitching them too. So that’s basically what a publicist says. We also would arrange bookstore signings and, and book events and things of that nature.
Now, you mentioned Dick Snyder and I’ll obviously most of the listeners out there, some sort of heard the name, but most people really don’t know his personality and when it was like to work for someone of that power, prestigious, that sort of position, what was it like to work for Dick Snyder?
Well, he was a very gruff guy. I didn’t work directly for him. You know, he was in a, um, you know, an upstairs office and I merely had access to poke my head in once in awhile and say, excuse me, Mr. Snider. I’m the, I’m the kid from Tufts who wanted to scholars. Um, but he was, he had, he had quite a roar and quite a presence in the publishing industry. He used to wear these suspenders. Lots of people in publishing wear suspenders. I don’t know if you know that clay or at least they did in the early
That’s a very intimidating kind of power look. There was an editor at Simon and Schuster at the time. They, Michael Korda who also wore, who also wrote a book called power, how to get it, how to use it. What to do with it when you find it at a stay out of its way. Um, so there were some interesting characters at Simon and Schuster at the time, but I was insulated from them to a degree because I was working in the publicity department, which was on a, on a different floor from the, from the power base. But it was, it was, uh, um, a unique setup because I got to go upstairs and, and pick his brain every once in awhile.
Where do you work together?
His, his wife, he was married at the time to a woman named Joanie Evans who was the publisher of Simon and Schuster at the time as well.
You, um, do you still call Manhattan or new? You’re home at this point?
I do, yeah. I live outside the city, but um, uh, I do go into the city every so often. That’s kind of my home base, but I worked in my, in an office in my house in often in my underwear.
Really. Tmi is interesting cause I think this, this ties into a question I have here. A lot of people ask me, they said, clay, where do you record your podcast? And some point, Daniel Paisner, you ever been to Oklahoma, by the way? Have you ever been to Oklahoma?
I have not been to Oklahoma. I had a sister who lived and worked there for a little bit. So, but no, I have not been there.
I know it’s on your bucket list and you’re still a young man. But if any point did come to Oklahoma for a sod farm tour, a lot of people will come here for our conferences and they’ll say, [inaudible], where do you record your show? And I live on, it’s 17 acres, the Camp Clark in the chicken palace. And if you could imagine like a dive bar with sort of a, like the Patina of a, of a, of a business that’s been around for a hundred years, you know, a lot of decor, pictures, photos, signed things. That’s Kinda my man cave. You know what, what is your writing space look like? What, what does that place and that space looked like? Were you sit down to write the things you write.
I’ve carved out a small room off the, uh, off the main floor of my house and it’s lined with bookshelves and there’s a fireplace in there that doesn’t work. Uh, but it, it has become a repository for, for books and stacks of papers. Um, and I, I kind of cocoon myself in here and work at, at odd hours when the spirit moves me. I made the mistake, and you’re probably old enough to remember this reference, but there was a Dick van Patten TV show from the seventies and eighties, called eight is enough. And he was a kind of stay at home journalist and he had a study, I don’t have a study, but he had a study off of the grand dining hall in his home and that was sort of the fulcrum of all the activity in the house. And one of the eight children, if they got in trouble, he, he called them into their office for a serious talk.
That was always the highlight of each episode. And it was this book lines, wood-paneled room with a beautiful oak desk. And that was my vision of what it would be like to work at home as a writer. And so I stupidly positioned to my office right by the front door off the dining room just like this. Like he had it an eight is enough. And that really counting for the fact that, you know, when the kids would come home from school when my kids were living in the house, the house would get busy and noisy and I wouldn’t be able to work at all. But it seemed like a good idea at the time.
What are your hours you cause you’re, you have your own space you’ve carved out, now it’s lined with books. Like I can kind of picture it there. What put time or is your peak writing time?
You know what, it really varies. I’m not what I’m working on something of my own, uh, if I’m working on a piece of fiction, I published a few novels. I’ve written some nonfiction of my own. I tend to do that first thing in the morning. Um, when I’m working on other people’s books, there is no such thing as writer’s block to me because the story exists. I, I, I know what the beginning is, what the middle is, what the end is. Um, and so that becomes more like a work of craftsmanship. Uh, so I’m able to do that at any time and that’s really a function of what my deadline is. It’s kind of like moving through life with a term paper for hanging constantly over your head. So if there’s something, do a, I’ll work all night to get it done. And if it’s a beautiful day outside and I want to go for a run or if I want to go away for a week and go skiing because there’s been a lot of snow and I want to take advantage of that, I’ll put a pin in what I’m doing and go off and do that.
But then I have to pay the price when I get back and work all night for a couple of weeks.
So after you did your book, your first ghostwriting book, I believe with wilt? With Willard Scott? Yes sir. When did you believe that you started to gain traction, where you began to be sought after for ghostwriting projects?
You know, I didn’t really trust it for the longest time. Uh, my idea early on as I mentioned, was to do it once and try to get some traction as a writer of my own. Remember I wanted to be Woodward and Bernstein, not one or the other. I want it to be both. So I didn’t set out to write other people’s books. For a lot of writers, it’s sort of a fallback position when you can’t make a living and you can’t make a go of it with your own material. Uh, there’s an honest buck to be made helping others realize their dreams in print. So I was really hoping to be able to get traction with my own work and I was lucky enough to publish a novel early on when I was still a kid, but I couldn’t bring readers to it. It’s, you know, it was good enough to get published, but it wasn’t good enough to take off. Um, so as the Willard book came and went, I replaced it with another one and then there was another one and each time I counted myself lucky that I’d find a Gig that would help me pay my, uh, you know, my rent for the next six months or a year. Uh, and I didn’t really trust it until I was maybe five or six years into it. Realizing that, you know, there, there’s a steady stream of work here and there aren’t a lot of people who are doing this work.
When you say I’m a slightly above average ghostwriter, that’s kind of all you had to be when I started doing it because there weren’t a lot of people doing it.
Tell us more about the decor of the place where you, you are riding, you have the books, it’s lined with books. Do you have, what kind of desk or you or your writing from here? I want to keep on pace in an old desk cause
that I grabbed from my father’s textile factory in Lower Manhattan. Um, and it’s a big, uh, I’ve blonde wood desk, like one of those things where the drawers are reached like three foot deep. Well, and who knows what’s living inside these drawers. Um, and uh, uh, it’s, the room is kind of a mess. It looks like, um, it looks like a cyclone has hit it, so, so the shelves are filled, but then the books are kind of stand there at some towers of books on the floor too, I’m afraid to admit. Um, and usually whatever book I’m working on, I kind of work on two or three books at a time now. Um, so I have papers stacked all over and notes and files for those books as well.
You listen to music while you’re writing. Do you listen to ambient noise? Do you unleashed a herd of wild chickens into your studio? What do you do? What’s your processes?
I do occasionally listen to music at different times in, in, in, in the writing process. Um, when I’m editing, as you must know, there’s a lot of back and forth with publishers. Once, once a project is essentially done there is, there’s a copy edited manuscript and there’s first pass pages and there’s a lot of um, drudgery kind of reading that goes along with the writing. And for that, I’ll listen to music loud. When I’m creating something and trying to fill a blank piece of paper or a blank screen, I tend to listen to, uh, stuff without lyrics. The lyrics are distracting. So I’ll, I’ll listen to jazz or I’ll listen to those weird spot channels that you can find some times that you here I’m at the gym. Um, but, but like use, but ambient noise is, um, is, is the way to go for me, the lyrics mess me up.
You were listening to like Zimmer or John Williams or some sort of score composer.
I do occasionally listen to scores. Um, um, John Williams. Yes. Hans Zimmer. No. Uh, but, and I do listen to some classical music from time to time. Also, there’s a, there’s a wonderful collection of, um, of a piano concertos that, that lived on my computer for the longest time before you had to stream this stuff.
And Are you typing a Mac computer? Do you like to type from multiple screens to walk us through the technical, I’m a PC guy,
um, uh, PC computers sitting on my desk. I invested in on top of this grand old oak desks that I have. My wife bought me a couple of years ago, one of those standup collapsible kind of, um, to help with your posture. So, um, it, it’s not often standing, but I have that ability and in theory I do that from time to time. Um, and then I also work on a screen occasionally. So I have a, um, uh, I have a little portable tablet laptop thing that I take with me when I travel and I work on that as well. And sometimes I just move to another part of the house and work there too.
You’ve worked on books with retired hall of fame linebacker Ray Lewis. Listeners out there, don’t know you’ve worked with award winning actor, uh, who, I’m a huge fan of Denzel Washington. Uh, the famous shark tank judge, an entrepreneur, Daymond John, uh, the legendary basketball coach, Bob Hurley, who just his career is ridiculous. Can you talk to us about some of the common denominators that you have found about the personality types of what I would call super successful people?
Well, for one thing, and lucky for me is they’re too busy to sit down and write a book.
So I get work. Um, but I would say they’re moving a million miles a minute. I, it’s, um, you know, and one of the first examples I saw that in my own career was when I did a book with, with George Pataki, who was a first term governor of New York state when I was working with him. And I was young and I had little kids and I probably spent more time waiting for him outside his office then I actually spent with him inside his office. Um, and, and you begin to realize that successful people are somehow able to choreograph their days in such a way that they move from one thing to the next, almost like a pinball in a pinball machines. And I’d say that’s true of of Bob Hurley. That’s true of Denzel. That’s true of of Serena Williams. All the people that I’ve been blessed to be able to work with. If you live a book worthy life, it means that you have found a way to cram a lot into that life.
I’m not going to ask any, any you in a corner questions about anything personal. I just want to, the listeners out there probably will never get a chance to sit down with a person of the character of Denzel Washington. You know somebody and Denzel has given so many eloquent speeches when he’s not acting, you know, when it’s didn’t Zell and I just, I have a big respect for what he’s done. What do you, what have you, what did you find to be the most admirable character attribute of Denzel Washington from, from your perspective, spending time with him?
Well I suppose it would be helpful to your listeners, clay, if I told them what that book, what the conceit of that book was. Yeah. Cause it wasn’t, or traditional memoir and Denzel’s case. You might know your re, your, your listeners might know he was, I believe he still is, but at the time he was the national spokesperson for the boys and girls clubs of America. He grew up as the product, uh, of the boys clubs in his neighborhood in the Bronx and in Mount Vernon, I’m sorry, in upstate New Yorker, just north of the Bronx. And um, he really wanted to shine a light on the good works of the volunteers who helped to shape the hearts and minds of young people who do not have every advantage, uh, all across this country. So what we did in that book is we went out together in some cases, often I would do it on my own and we would interview some prominent alums of the boys and girls clubs, ranks people from Hank Aaron to Jimmy Carter, to George Steinbrenner, who was the president of the New York Yankees at the time, to Muhammad Ali.
And we collected about nine Colin Powell, they were about 90 people that we interviewed, all had some connection to the boys and girls clubs. And we asked them to speak about role models, mentors, and influences in their life. So the very nature of this book I think reflects on, on Denzel’s character. He did not want to write a book about himself. He wanted to write a book about people lifting others. And the book was called a hand to guide me and it really became a very successful, it was the kind of book that people gave to their kids on graduation, you know, big ceremonial occasions because, um, it, it offered a model for, for how to give and how to receive help from someone else.
Sit Down with so many iconic people. And I want to just go through a couple more because I know our listeners are infinitely curious and I’m going to, you know, all sorts of email feedback if I don’t ask these questions. So Ray Lewis, uh, is a, as an iconic character. He’s a guy that I subscribed to the NFL package just to watch all of the Ravens Games I could possibly watch. And I, one of our thrive time show, um, uh, guests, Justin for set was on the Ravens, were the, you know, legendary Ray Lewis played and I’ve just heard so many things about ray Lewis, anecdotally from other people. What was he like to sit down with?
He has the passion of a preacher and the cadence of appreciate when you speak to him. So the man is, is all heart. The way he played, the way you saw him play on the field is kind of the way he goes at life. Um, even in retirement. And I worked with him the year he retired, so he was no longer training to play football, but he worked out as hard as anybody I’ve ever seen. And he was no longer playing professionally at that point. Uh, and that’s kind of the way he attacked the book. He was very thorough. We would meet, we would actually meet, uh, at a friend of his house because he lived in Baltimore. So we would meet in the city. He played football with Rowan Marley, who was Bob Marley’s son. Uh, and he was raised, he made at Miami. And they’ve become lifelong friends and Rowan would, would allow us to park, uh, at his place, uh, to meet because it was a nice mid, mid points.
Um, and ray was, was always there and he did his homework. If I had told him, Ray, we’re going to talk about your senior year in high school, he had gone back and pulled all the clips and got his head around the material we were going to discuss and he went at it hard. Um, and he was, when you hear him talk about a game, uh, and it’s just the two of you in a room, he can break it down in such a way. So you feel you’re there with him. He did this most amazingly, uh, when he was talking about his wrestling matches. Do you know that he was a national champion high school wrestler and has his plan, his fantasy or his is the realistic goal really was to wrestle in college. That’s where he was, that, that’s what he was hoping to do. A, and when that didn’t quite work out as a fallback, you wound up going to Miami and, and just embarking on one of the greatest percentage, all careers ever.
How many hours do you typically spend with the person that you are going to collaborate with? We, when we, you know, when you’re doing the researching phase, the gathering phase, the interviewing process,
you know, again, it varies. I try not to run a tape. Most of these books are born through interviews that I capture on tape and, and then I transcribe. But I try not to run a tape until I spend, you know, a couple of weekends just hanging around with this person and Osmosis the ways they live, paying attention to how they look out at the world, uh, Spanish, paying attention to how they speak, how they interact with their friends, with their family. So I try to be a fly on the wall a little bit and, and see what they see and think what they think before I bothered them with, um, with a tape recorder. You, um, you probably know that, notice this when you’re interviewed some guests, um, although maybe not if you’re doing some of these interviews by phone like this one, but when you present a recording device, it changes the nature of the conversation.
It becomes an obtrusive measure. Um, and you want to try to eliminate that as much as possible. I once, when I was working with Serena Williams on her book, this was maybe 10 years ago, uh, and I used to for the longest time use one of those old battleax radio shack cassette recorders because I didn’t trust the digital technology yet 10 years ago. And those micro cassette recorders that a lot of reporters use, I found very unreliable to tapes would get all tangled and mangled. And the only thing I trusted where those classical cassette recorders. So I would pull out this, this, um, radio shack recorder that was about the size of a shoe box. And I saw this with me whenever I bounced around the country to go meet someone and I was sitting with a Serena one afternoon and a coffee shop and I put it down, uh, on the coffee table between us and she said, if I buy you a small mini recorder, would you maybe use that instead? I think because she was just embarrassed to be seen with this guy with a big old, you know, she’s a Mutt, she’s from a younger generation who, who carries
like a boom box with the sub woofers mattered in there. Just carry that around you like your ear, why we’re interviewing people.
Exactly. But it does change the conversation. And, and so I try to, um, uh, to really develop a connection with the person I’m working with before I ensured to the elements of the work at hand. Um, because I find you get a fresher, more genuine take if they don’t really realize that you’re recording them or that you’re working.
How many, how many edits again, after you’ve written the manuscript, right. So you’ve written does, I don’t think the listeners out there appreciate this. I’ve heard Paul Graham, the famous, uh, entrepreneur who built via web and helped airbnb and Dropbox. He talks about the first eight iterations of anything or a word I won’t say on the podcast. I heard Ernest Hemingway said the first version of anything is, oh word. I won’t say on the podcast. How many times do you completely edit that manuscript once you said, okay, it is written, how many times do you edit it before it’s ready to be printed?
You’d be surprised. Quite sometimes. Of course, I edited myself before I send it on to the subject I’m working with for review. Sometimes they don’t change a word and then sometimes they roll up their sleeves and really have at it and kick it back to me and we go back and forth. Uh, it usually doesn’t happen in one finished chunk. I’ll probably, you know, send 30, 40 pages at a time just to make sure that they’re happy with the tone of voice. With the way I have them speaking with the choice of the language choices that I make with the structure that I have in mind. Sometimes they’ll have a grid that they want me to follow. Um, so it really varies. I’ve done maybe 50 some odd collaborations and every, everyone really takes a different path.
How many times do you edit it before you send it on?
Well, you know, it’s different. When I started out, I believe the first couple of books I did A, we’re not on, um, on the computer. So when you’re writing a book on a typewriter, it’s a whole different beast. So, you know, when I’m working in a word processing, um, uh, scenario, you know, I’ll, before I start work each day, I’ll often go back and Polish what I’ve written the day before. So I don’t think of that as, as really revising the whole manuscript at that point. It helps me to get back in the frame of mind that I was in the day before where I left off. Um, so I do make changes all the time as I’m creating a manuscript. And of course now you have the ability, if I’m in chapter a aid or on page a hundred I can go back and and revisit something I wrote in chapter two or three that’s affected by what I just wrote in chapter 10 so it’s, you know, it’s, it’s a much more fluid process now than it was when I first started doing it.
I don’t expect you to listen to a bunch of, our podcast is a preparation for an interview, but I kind of just, you know, our, my background, I’m 38 my partner’s 54 he has a doctor, Zeller has three kids. I have five in between the two of us. We built a 13 going on now, 14 and 15 a multimillion dollar companies and people saying
good check yet.
Okay. Yeah. Well people always say like clay, you know, or how would you describe yourself? I get asked that a lot of conferences. How would you describe your mindset? And I kind of consider myself as an artist slash. Slash. Entrepreneur. I think I just picked up with capitalism. So that makes me impossible to, it makes it hard for you to, to stop a project once I’ve started cause it’s not about the money, it’s about making it perfect. Can you talk to me about that? Cause I think you are an artist slash entrepreneur too, so you probably have the same problem. Um, do you ever have a hard time turning it off or do you ever turn it off or,
it’s very hard because there are a lot of moving parts that go into the making of a book. So when I’m in the middle of working on something, I do find that it’s bouncing around in my head all the time to the point where I could be tossing and turning at three o’clock in the morning and I just can’t sleep. I get up and try to set things down on paper so I kind of know where everything is and begun to take shape in my mind before it’s even down on paper. So I can’t imagine I’m, I’m all that much fun to be around during, during those moments. Uh, days tend to fly by. Those are really the best times as a writer when, when, um, you know, you realize there’s just aren’t enough hours in the day to do what you have to do. You wake up one morning and then all of a sudden you realize it’s midnight. Those are kind of fun when you get locked into a zone like that. Um, and that’s what happens when there is, you know, you’re trying to reassemble the stuff of someone else’s life, a life you’ve only recently become acquainted with. Um, and, and, and try to set it all down on paper. So, uh, but then there could be weeks where everything’s kind of slow and meandering and I wouldn’t describe my days like that at all. So it all varies.
I don’t know if that answered your listeners out there. This is one thing a lot of our listeners out there just dipping their toe into the world of entrepreneurship. And then other people are just huge businesses and they say, know how many hours a week do you work? And I’m like, well, you know, I woke up at three the other night and I wrote something down on my deals, yellow tablet. And then I went, took a shower, thought about a thin too. And I haven’t stopped thinking about it ever. So a hundred, I mean, and you know what I mean? It’s like, I’d like to ask you maybe the same kind of question. How long did, how many hours do you typically have to invest in, in a book?
You know, with the person, with the subject directly, we’re probably together face to face for 30 to 40 hours of interview time, not just hanging out time or having dinner or, or you know, so, so there’s really 34 40 hours of face to face interview time, but the book’s itself can stretch on for six months to a year. Uh, that doesn’t mean that that becomes my nine to five for the year. You know, the person I’m working with might be busy doing other things and can’t devote his or her attention for weeks at a time, which is why I like to have a couple of things going. But I get what you’re talking about with the entrepreneur’s mindset. You know, the past few books I’ve done with Daymond John for example, um, have, has, has introduced me to dozens of folks that he’s met through his shark tank partnerships, uh, who, who really walked that same walk. Um, and in fact our last book was called and grind and it was all about the hard charging mentality you need to embrace and your career and in your relationships if you want to succeed.
How did that relationship with Daymond John come about?
That was pre shark tank. We’ve done four books together. We’re hopefully we’re about to start on a fifth. Um, and it’s started as an introduction through, um, through my agent, my literary agent. He was out to do a book, sort of the origin stories of, of Fubu, his fashion line that, where he made his bones. Uh, and it was a story of how he went from being a kid from the, from the streets of Hollis queens being raised by a single mom who had an idea for a clothing line that, um, that would sort of make his friends feel included, like they could belong to a movement. And out of that, he grew a Fubu, which became sort of a pioneering urban fashion brand and that’s what put him on the map. But Fubu, uh, had been around maybe five or six years when he and I did the first book. So the first couple of books we did didn’t get a whole lot of love. The last couple of books, posts, Shark tank have been phenomenal successes. You that it helps to have a platform
with the platform or without a platform, how much you make per book or specific dollar figures. I just want, if somebody goes and buys a book today, I just want people to understand that the industrial complex of publishing, if I buy a book today, you know it to Barnes and noble for $20 or I buy one on Amazon for $20 how is the money divided? How does it get to you and the subject and then the agent and then the publisher. I mean, are you making like 2 cents a book?
Well, the, the lowly ghostwriter might sometimes be making 2 cents of books. The author himself, let’s just talk in general what the, what the author makes the most author contracts a return, a royalty to the author of about 15% if it starts at 10% and then it’s 12 and a half percent, but these are in small numbers. By the time you sell your 10000th copy of the book, you make 15% for the rest of the run of the book. So on a cover, and that’s off of the cover price. So it doesn’t matter what Barnes and noble or Amazon has discounted it to. If it’s a $30 book, you’re making $4 and 50 cents a book, which is not a whole lot of money when you consider what the publisher is making. Uh, typically when you’re dealing with a book seller like a Barnes and noble, they take half of that list price and the other half goes to the publisher. But out of that, the publisher has to pay their hard costs or production costs, their salaries and all that, their development costs. So, um, you know, there’s not a lot of money to go around.
What was your first book that really took off? You know what, I’m actually a best selling author, you know, when did that happen?
The first book that I wrote, I’m trying to think which of the first best seller was one of the first was a book I wrote with Geraldo Rivera called exposing myself, which was one of my favorite titles of all of my book. It was actually a line connect came from Reuben frank who was the president of NBC News at the time, or maybe ABC news or all there was at ABC, but he said to a reporter one day that Geraldo Rivera should be arrested for exposing himself out of that line, Geraldo decided that this is what we were going to call his book and that book became a big success. It made a lot of headlines. Uh, and that was one of the first books that I saw land in the New York Times bestseller list with my name on it. And that was pretty cool.
Do you, you are super well known in literary circles as sort of the really above average ghost rider guy, but the average person on the streets, the average listener probably does not know your name. What’s it like to write books? What’s it like to go to a bookstore and see your books that you’ve written going? Okay, that’s my book. And that’s my book over there too. Oh, and that’s, I mean you’ve had multiple times where you’ve had a bestselling books in the stores at the same time. What’s it like to do that and to be completely anonymous to the average reader?
You know what I mean? It was a goose the first couple times it happened, but it wasn’t really frustrating because what I’ve realized it is to do this kind of work, uh, over the long haul and to be successful at it and not just to be successful at it, but to be content with it. You really can’t have an ego. So I don’t think of it like very often I won’t get credit on the cover of a book. In fact, from time to time I’ll get offered money to take my name off of the book,
sweetest deal going and publishing. Um, so you just really can’t, or I have not let myself get caught up in the fact that I’m not getting credit in a public way. Um, the people in publishing know what my involvement is. It helps me get work. It’s helped me build a sustained career, but it doesn’t allow me to drag my friends or my kids into a bookstore and say, hey, look at me. I’m in the window. Um, but it’s never been about that. And now if it was a book of my own and the window, I’d be doing cartwheels if I knew how to do a cartwheel. But it’s for these other books, there’s sort of a pride in craftsmanship. I used that word before early in our conversation is it does feel more to me like a craft than an art. And I suppose I feel the same way that a cabinet maker might feel when he goes to visit somebody in their home.
And he’s built them a beautiful set of bookshelves that they get to enjoy on a daily basis. And he hasn’t seen until, until he visits them five years later and sees how they live with this little piece of artwork and craftsmanship that he’s provided with them. So I kind of feel more like that. Uh, and I don’t feel the need to go and crow and say, Hey, look at me, look at the book that I’ve done. However that said, I will tell you that it is my fantasy as yet unrealized. So maybe some of your listeners will help me out. It’s my fantasy to sit down on a plane next to somebody reading my book. That to me would be the coolest thing in the world.
halfway through the trip and I’d say, Hey, has, how do you like that book? How’s it go?
Should we all go pick up a copy of scratching the horizon, a surfing life?
Oh, that would make me happy. And that was
happy. Which book do you want us to get right now? Which, because Andrew is going to buy it right now on Amazon and I, I bet I have enough influence that maybe maybe two or three other people will also buy these books. What is the book right now that we all need to work?
No, I, I’ll tell you the names of a couple of books that don’t get a lot of love and they’re my very favorite books. I’m buying them all and nothing against the name above the title. People that I work with who have become friends of mine and I’ve come to admire in, in new ways after working with them. But I really do love working with ordinary people who’ve done or seen or experienced something extraordinary. To me, that is much more gratifying than working with somebody who’s had a microphone or a camera in their face for their entire lives. They’ve told the same stories over and over again. But if I work with somebody for whom this is brand new, the material I’m able to pull from their lives and set between hardcovers is, is so much richer. And to me it’s such a, it’s a much more rewarding experience. So would, one of the books you just mentioned is a book called scratching the horizon, and I wrote that with a gentleman named Izzy Paskowitz, who is a legendary surfer. He’s from a famous California Surf family. He grew up off the grid whose father was this nutty doctor, a Stanford trained doctor who decided to raise his nine children in a camper, no school, no nothing. And they just bounced around the California coast at first and then all over the country and even to Israel. And all these kids did all day was surf.
Is he on buying the book right now? We’re buying the book, write an Amazon Review after we devour the book, that will happen. What’s the next book?
The next book, which your listeners should really spark to is a book that I wrote with a Holocaust survivor. Her name is Christina. He care and she survived for 14 months during the war in a sewer in love of Poland with initially with a group of 20 Jews, only 10 survived the war. She survived with her whole nuclear family. She was seven years old when she came out of the sewer for the first time after 14 months. And that book is called the girl in the green sweater. Um, there is, um, uh, she wore the same green sweater that her grandmother knitted for her before the occupation in lava. It was made into a movie by Agnieszka Holland that was nominated for an academy award for best foreign film a few years ago where the movie was called in dark.
Okay. Thought I’d heard that. I had not seen that movie, but it sounded familiar there.
It’s quite a story. She’s a remarkable woman. She never really spoke about her story until she sat down with me. And when I asked her about that, she emigrated to Israel after the war where she and her family settled and she never talked about it from that point forward until she was an older woman. And I said, you know, why didn’t you share this story with other people? And she says, everybody has a story. We are all here because we have our stories. And she didn’t want to burden anybody with her story. Um, so to me that was a great honor to be able to help her set her book down between hardcovers and put it out into the world. So that’s another one you’re losing.
We are, we are picking up that book. Second confirmed Amazon purchase. We’ve got Amazon prime, big ball in here, buying the books, getting it done. If you’re out there listening to decide right now, which book do you want to get? Scratching the horizon? The girl in the green sweater. We wouldn’t question your Americanism if you don’t buy this book from Daniel Paisner. But we would say, you know, maybe you should buy it, man. Maybe you should forego the regrettable purchases that your local convenience store this week. Maybe a hot dog you shouldn’t have or some coffee or Starbucks beverage. You go ahead and just purchase one of those two books right now. Now I have three final questions for you. I want, I want to respect your time here, but I’m really just fascinated with this. Um, you’re a guy’s very proactive. You’re, you’re this a craftsman. I kind of consider you as an artist meets entrepreneur. We could agree on craftsman. Um, okay. How do you organize your day? Like what, what, what to on a typical day? Like what time do you wake up and how do you organize the first four hours of your day?f
You know, it’s a fluid thing, clay. It really has to do with what’s driving me and what’s on my plate at that moment. So I am also a famous, fabulous procrastinator. Um, I love to play Hooky, so I will, I happened to write quickly and efficiently. Um, and if you promise not to share this secret with any of the people,
I often overestimate how long things are going to take me and I’m able to do that because the convention is that it takes a long time. I don’t need as much time as they give me on these deadlines. So as long as I can meet the deadlines, I can find there’s a lot of elastic in my days. So at different points in my life, I’ve had different pursuits. When I started out writing, I also started running I, I became a marathon or when I was in my late twenties. So as you can imagine, you need to put in a lot of roadwork took prepare for a marathon, you need to run 50 60 miles a week for the 2030 weeks leading up to the marathon. So that filled a lot of my days when my knees were shot. Then I started kayaking or it started playing racquetball.
These days I ski a lot, so I’ll find any excuse to put down my pen and go outside and do something as long as I know that I can meet. The debt. I’ve never missed a deadline, so my days are all looking kind of different. But again, like I mentioned, the stuff of my own that I work on, I kind of need to be fresh first thing in the morning, no distractions before I read the paper, before I see my kids before I see my wife and the other stuff is more workman like uh, and I’m able to do that at anytime I grabbed, I grabbed whatever time I can.
And what time are you like or do you typically like to wake up?
You know what? I would love if I could wake up at seven 30 every morning and feeling refreshed from a good night’s sleep. That would be ideal. The problem is when I’m tossing and turning, when I’m assembling the stuff of someone’s life, like I told you, it often feels like to me and I can’t sleep and I’m throwing out of bed at three or four in the morning to work. Then I have no choice in the matter. But I will tell you when those days can happen and it’s seven 30 in the morning and I’ve already put in three or four hours of work that kind of feels great when it’s seven 30 in the morning. And you know that you’ve made that kind of headway,
no success yet. You’re a guy who would take time out of your schedule to share your wisdom or your advice or the things you’ve learned with an audience of half million people. What still motivates you today? What’s your big thing you’re working on here in the next 12 months? Or what’s your big passion projects?
Well, you know, I have books of my own that I’d love to write it that and I’d love for them to find a wide readership. So I just published a novel two years ago with an independent press, uh, outside of DC, um, which was my passion project for the longest time, um, until I’ve found a way to put that out into the world. Uh, and now I’m working on another one. You know, the deal I made with myself early on and the Willard Scott days of my career was I would write one of theirs and one of mine. Um, and that would be the balance, but it didn’t really work out that way. You know, I’ve written 60 of theirs and five of mine. So sometimes you need to pay the orthodontists bill or sometimes, you know, I’ve got a daughter who’s getting married and you gotta deal with that or college tuition bills and life gets in the way of what your plans are.
So my, my goal now, my dream now is to maybe get a place in my career where the books of my own, um, can, can speak for themselves and can, can throw off the kind of living I need to keep ahead of my expenses. So those are my passion projects. Now I’m working on a novel now probably, uh, if, if I had to describe it, it’s probably about a, a guy around my age going through the similar, similar motions as I am sort of worrying about or wondering about the kind of footprint he’s left behind. You know, what does it mean to matter? What is, what does it mean to leave a legacy and to make a mark,
many of which are aspiring authors, we’ve probably, I would say we might have half a million people listening. You might have, what, 60, a hundred, maybe a thousand people who want to be an author. They want to write that book. What advice would you have for anybody out there that wants to be an author as a profession and they’ve just run into some rejection and maybe they haven’t read about the lives of a lot of authors who’ve also been rejected? What advice would you give to the aspiring authors out there?
I believe there’s a many pronged approach here. Clay. First thing is to read like crazy. You need to have a veracious appetite as a reader. If you’re going to be a writer, you need to kind of have a template and understand what’s possible. Uh, what people have an appetite for, what writers have been able to do successfully. What kind of experiments is writers have failed miserably. You just need to us, you immerse yourself into as much, uh, of the written word as, as you can. The other thing you need to do is, is right and ignore any rejection that comes your way. You are writing for an audience of one and that one is, is you. And if you write something that pleases you and satisfies you, then that’s a successful day of writing. If you can bring someone else on board, um, and, and, and have them get something from what you’ve written, then that’s a bonus that’s really gravy.
But I think you need to start with satisfying that audience of one and not worrying about how you’re going to extract a living. You know, don’t worry about the commercial side of things. In my case, you know, a lot of writers, especially when I started doing this, there was something pejorative about being a ghost writer. I mean, it was, it was sort of a back door into a writing life. And I think that’s changed over the years. Uh, you know, I was never writing my own stuff. I was never working in service of my own ideas. But what, what the, what I told myself was, you know, it’s really no different than a struggling actor waiting tables to make a living until he gets his big break. It’s just so happened that my version of waiting tables allowed me also to stitch words together, something that I was good at, something that came easily to me. So it was writing of a kind and it was a way for me, uh, to, uh, to make my bones while I was waiting to make a splash as a, as a writer in my own right. So I would, I would tell your listeners just to write and read as much as they can,
right. And read as much as you can deal. You’ve just been a blessing to have on this show. I’ve just got nervous today. I’m like, oh no, I hope I don’t screw this up. This guy is so good.
I really, I really enjoyed it. I’m glad you found me. Um, and I, I really enjoyed spending some time with you.
Well, we’re going to try to sandwich the release of this somewhere between Wolfgang Puck and the founder of Ritz Carlton. So we’re trying to put you right there, but we’re gonna put you on the bookshelf between two greatest of all times. And in my mind, you are the greatest of all time in the, in the space of ghostwriting. So thank you so much again.
Appreciate it. Bye. Can I sneak into quick plug?
Yeah, absolutely. Do it. Yeah.
Um, I, uh, two of my books were out of print and the authors guild one has this wonderful back in print program that they initiated a few years ago. One is a novel called morning wood that’s going to be available this month. Uh, and one is a nonfiction book about the baseball that Mark McGuire hit for his 70th home run. It’s called the ball Mark McGuire, sending these home run in the marketing of the American dream. And it’s all about the aftermath of that 1998 baseball season. For those of your listeners who are baseball fans, who might remember that that bowl was sold in an auction for 3.0 $5 million. So those books will both be out in new additions later this month.
Well, congratulations. I know that’s great to have those big projects completed in a way that you’re, you’re proud of.
Well, thanks for taking the time and shining a light on what I do and I enjoyed visiting with your clay.
All right. Will you take care out there today and you feel like you have this big goal, right? You have this big goal, this big dream, and you’re striving to achieve it, but you don’t know where to start. The reason why I like to interview these huge success stories and then ask them where they started is because I want to make it real for you. I know that you have the capacity and the tenacity to achieve your dreams. So as an action item today, I’d encourage everybody to get a sheet of paper, a journal, a notebook, something you’re going to see every day, maybe get out of mirror and write on there where you want to be three years from today, three years from today. And then on that same sheet of paper, that same journal, that shame that that same mirror wherever you’re going to see it every day, write down what are the daily action steps that you need to take every single day to get you a half a percent closer to that goal or maybe a 10th of a percent closer to that goal because it’s the, it’s the compound interest of taking those daily action steps that’s going to create the foundation for the success that you want to achieve.
It’s not one big event. You’re not going to go viral on youtube and all of a sudden have a book deal. You’ve got to sit down and block out time into your calendar. If you want to be an author for daily writing, just like Daniel talked about, you got to block out time every day to practice your craft and that’s how you become good and then how you become better and then how you become significantly above average and then that’s how you’ll become eventually the greatest ghostwriter of all time. My name is Clay Clark. We’d like to end each and every show with a boom. And so now that need further ado, here we go. Three, two, one, boom.