Blog Article 

 Reputation Building 

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Michael Santos

Need Answers to Your Questions?

If you’re like most people, you don’t want prosecutors and government investigators telling the story of your life.

Invest the time and energy to tell the full story. If you don’t have the confidence to write your story, then contact our team. We’ll collaborate, working through the process with you. Either we’ll show you how to write your story, or we’ll write it for you.

As you consider working with our team, let me tell you how our process began. You’ll also learn a bit more of how we set pricing.

Through our various channels of Prison Professors, you can learn as much as you want about my story and why it’s relevant to you. The thumbnail version follows:

  • I made bad decisions during the recklessness of youth.
  • When I was 23, a judge sentenced me to serve a 45-year sentence.
  • While in prison, I made a commitment to transform my life and reconcile with society.
  • I earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in prison; I published books, I restored my reputation, as is evidenced by a Google search of my name.
  • I began writing articles for publication while in prison.
  • I began writing books for publication while in prison.
  • I began earning living by ghostwriting books for other people in prison.

Anyone can say that they’ve followed the same path. What they can’t do is show you the record. If you’d like to see evidence, click the links below to learn more about the publishing journey that I began while serving a lengthy sentence in federal prisons of every security level.

Publishing History:

Drugs and Money, 1990

While locked inside of a high-security penitentiary, at the start of my journey, I understood the importance of reconciling with society. I came up with the idea of writing a book. I’d been incarcerated for three years, and I wanted to feel as if I were living a life of meaning, relevance, and contribution. My idea was to write a book that would help at-risk youth avoid the bad decisions that led me to prison.

The problem was that I had never written long-form content. Since I didn’t know how to structure the project, I simply started to write. Since my roommate had a university degree, I asked him to help me edit. Then, with my sister’s help, we established a Galleria Publishing to bring the book to market.

Through this process, I learned that writing was hard. That experience convinced me that I needed to focus on earning academic credentials.

About Prison, Wadsworth/Thompson publishers, 2004

While in my 15th year of imprisonment, in 2002, Professor George Cole, one of my mentors, offered to introduce me to his publisher. George led the criminal justice department at the University of Connecticut. He also authored several books about the prison experience.

While studying toward my master’s degree, George invited me to contribute sections, and then chapters to textbooks he wrote about America’s prison system. Then he encouraged me to write a book about my experiences, suggesting that it could be a great companion book to his textbook. That suggestion brought my first publishing credential with an established publishing house, Wadsworth Thompson, one of America’s largest academic publishers. The publication helped to open relationships with many universities across America.

Profiles from Prison, Adjusting to Life Behind Bars, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003

After writing About Prison, I reached out to other mentors of mine. Dr. Marylyn McShane, a professor at the University of Texas, also served on an advisory board for Greenwood Publishing. When she learned that Wadsworth and published my first book, she recommended that I publish another book with her company.

In Profiles from Prison, I wrote the story of adjustment patterns for other people in prison. University professors and libraries used this book to help students get a better understanding of America’s prison system, and steps we could take to improve outcomes.

Inside: Life Behind Bars in America, St. Martin’s Press, 2006

With publishing credentials from two respected academic publishing houses, I wanted to write a general, nonfiction book about the American prison experience.

The long and arduous process of publishing for the mainstream began with my learning how to find a literary agent. Then I wrote an extensive book proposal and more than 10,000 words of sample chapters.

By reaching out to hundreds of literary agents, I persuaded one to work with me. Soon after signing a representation agreement, the agent got a contract from St. Martin’s Press, one of the world’s largest publishing houses.

The Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review and the New York Times Sunday Book Review, and more than 50 other newspapers published reviews of Inside.

Publishing books opened many income opportunities. Further, it influenced my reputation, changing the way that the world perceived me. Rather than judging me for the bad decisions I made as a young man, people began to judge based on the way that I responded to my imprisonment. I leveraged those earlier publications to build a massive support network. 

What Will Google Reveal?

By 2006, the Internet had changed the world, making it easier for people to learn about anything online. Together with my wife, we built a publishing company. Initially, we used our publishing company to produce books that I wrote. I wanted to influence the way that people perceived me. A Google search of my name will show you how that process influenced my reputation. 

Although I served 26 years in prison, the efforts I made to restore my reputation influence the way that others in society perceive me. Rather than prosecutors narrating the story of my life, the publishing work that I’ve done controls the narrative.

google search image

I began teaching other people in prison how to influence their reputation through publishing. Through our publishing company, I ghostwrote more than a dozen books for other people who served time. Those clients used those books for a variety of reasons:

  • As part of a comprehensive mitigation strategy for sentencing, commutation, or release from prison for administrative reasons,
  • To launch business opportunities upon release,
  • As legacy projects that would tell their stories, or
  • As reputation-management projects to recalibrate their lives. 

Setting Prices for Ghostwriting While I was in Prison:

It’s a funny story how I used to set prices for ghostwriting while I was in prison. By the time I earned a series of publishing credentials, I had nearly two decades of prison behind me. Since I’d served time in prisons of every security level, many people perceived me as an authority. They sought advice on steps they could take to prepare for success through prison and upon release.

The people that sought my guidance, ordinarily, were people that understood the importance of a reputation. They had built careers as businesspeople or professionals.

As I worked through a rather extensive questioning process, it became clear that the government’s version of events would wreak havoc on their earning potential upon release. When prospective customers or business partners completed a Google search of their name, allegations of the crime would minimize opportunities for deal flow.

I recommended that they begin writing to change the narrative. They should write a book. 

Their response: “I’m not a writer.” 

My response: “I’m not a writer either, but I’ve written several books.”

Their response: “How much do you charge to write a book?”

My response: “Let’s work through that process. Did you ever employ a secretary?”

Their response: “Of course.”

My response: “How much did you pay your secretary?”

Their response: “I don’t know, but I’d guess around $20 per hour.”

My response: “Do you think your secretary could write your book?”

Their response: “Probably not.” 

My response: “Then we know the price is going to be more than $20 per hour.”

In truth, anyone who retains a ghostwriter should know the commitment. Unlike the digital products that we offer at Prison Professors, ghostwriting is not scalable. A person only has so many hours in a day to write. While writing one project, a person cannot work on other projects.

Our Ghostwriting Process:

A ghostwriting project requires many steps, and hundreds of hours. If you choose to work with our team, you can expect us to provide you with a detailed process that we will follow. Although all projects are individual, typical ghostwriting project might include the following steps:

Step 1: Initial conversation to discuss the scope and how a writing project can help you achieve your goals.

Step 2: After we learn what you’re trying to accomplish, and the time commitment it would take, we would propose a price to fulfill the project. The price would relate to the amount of time we would have to devote to meet your expectations.

Step 3: You would review our proposal and make a decision on whether you want to sign the agreement and make an initial payment.

Step 4: Our team would schedule an intensive interview. During that interview, we would find themes that we could use to structure the story into chapters.

Step 5: We would create an annotated outline, structuring the book into a series of digestible chapters.

Step 6: You would review the outline. We would have a collaborative discussion to assess whether you’re in agreement. We will make revisions as necessary until you give your approval for the outline.

Step 7: Our team will interview continue the interview process with you as necessary.

Step 8: Our team will work through the project, chapter by chapter, providing you with weekly updates.

Step 9: You will review and approve the chapter-by-chapter project.

Step 10: After we complete the manuscript in accordance with the outline, we will complete the editing process.

Step 11: After you approve the manuscript, we will begin the formatting process for a paperback book and for a digital book.

Step 12: We will propose cover ideas for you to review and approve. After you approve the cover, we will publish the book.

For some projects, we do all of the writing, editing, formatting, and publishing. For other projects, we train the client how to go through the process independently.

If you’d like to review case studies of people that have worked with our team, reach out with a message and we’ll provide introductions.

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