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Should Advisors Write a Book?

January 14, 2014

by Megan Elliott

Traditional vs. self-publishing

Once you’ve decided to write a book, you have another choice: traditional or self-publishing. The former route will likely be more difficult and frustrating. You’ll need to write a book proposal, secure an agent, find a publisher and negotiate contracts. You may make more money this way (though advances for new authors tend to be modest), and it will be easier to get your book into brick-and-mortar stores. But competition is fierce, and you may invest a lot of time in crafting a proposal only to be unable to find an agent or publisher. And even if your book is traditionally published, that’s no guarantee it will sell.

Self-publishing, your other option, has lost much of its stigma in recent years. With self-publishing, you have more control over the process (you get to pick a cover design, for example). You’ll also earn a higher royalty, though many self-published books sell only a few dozen copies. But to create a professional-looking book, you’ll need to invest money in editing, design and promotion. The good news is that self-published non-fiction books with a clear niche audience tend to sell better than other self-published titles.

Ghostwriters, editors and publicists

If you’re committed to the idea of publishing a book but need help writing it, you can hire a ghostwriter. Expect to pay at least $15,000 or $20,000 for an experienced writer, with rates going up from there (ghostwriters with a strong track record can command fees of $50,000 or more). Some writers will work for less, but the results may not be as polished as you want.

Even if you write the book yourself, hiring a professional editor to fine-tune your manuscript is a good investment, especially if you are self-publishing. A book with errors will not reflect well on you and your firm.

Finally, without marketing and promotion, your book is unlikely to find a broad audience. If you’re working with a traditional publisher, they’ll probably do some marketing. But these days, virtually all authors have to shoulder some of the burden themselves. If you’re self-publishing, you’re completely on your own. Some marketing you can do yourself, such as setting up a Goodreads profile, optimizing your Amazon presence and guest blogging. But a publicist or marketing specialist with book industry experience can help secure reviews, craft your online presence or schedule a book tour.

Should you put finger to keyboard?

The rewards of writing a financial book can be enormous, but they’re far from guaranteed. If you think authoring a book is a path to fame and riches, you may end up sorely disappointed. Instead, consider the advice of Tim Maurer, co-author of The Ultimate Financial Plan.Maurer had the following to say about writing a book during a recent interview in the Journal of Financial Planning:

My advice is only to pursue it if the majority of the benefit will come from the actual writing process. … If, however, writing is burdensome or laborious, it’s not worth it. There may be marketing and PR benefit to having been published, but the amount of time and effort it takes to do the work and do the work well is so significant that the art has to be reward enough, because you may not get the marketing benefits you hoped for.

Megan Elliott is the Senior Copy Writer with Wealth Management Marketing, Inc., a firm specializing in outsourced marketing department services to Registered Investment Advisors and fee-only financial planning firms. For more information, visit