One of the main goals of financial advisors who market themselves is to build a foundation of trust with their prospective clients so that they feel comfortable in discussing often-sensitive financial topics and ultimately acting on the advisor's recommendations. The challenge, though, is that advisors usually have only a short amount of time to build this trust, and while advisors can use different channels (e.g., their websites, newsletters, and social media) to demonstrate their expertise, these channels often don't give advisors enough time or space to convey what makes them ultimately worth hiring. This is because telling the full story of an advisor's background, philosophy, and expertise could easily fill up a book; in fact, many advisors have written books to share their knowledge and experience, which can establish them as trustworthy and desirable professionals for prospects to seek out.
In this guest post, Michael Levin, a New York Times bestselling author and ghostwriter, writes about how financial advisors can make a more effective impression on prospective clients by writing, publishing, and distributing a book that establishes their authority, confidence, and, above all, trust.
When writing a book, the first goal is to make the reader feel like the author understands them, which draws them in and makes them want to know more about the author. Establishing that the author understands the reader's problems (e.g., through examples of how the author has solved those problems for others) early on in the book creates a connection with the reader. And because of this rapport, the reader will want to listen to the advisor's story. Put differently, since people care (and want to read) about their own problems, then by extension, they care about the people who understand and can solve those problems, too.
After creating the initial connection, the next goal for the author is to establish expertise in a captivating way. One way to do this is to create value on every page by giving readers clear and authoritative information that they can actually use. Some advisors may be wary of giving away too much information and providing the tools that readers could use to do everything themselves (rather than hiring the advisor). However, in reality, there's almost always more that could be said when a current or prospective client is in the room with the advisor. So, while advisors may want to avoid providing so much information as to be overwhelming to nonexpert readers, being otherwise as generous as possible (for instance, by outlining a detailed process to solve a specific problem) can develop a sense of gratitude in the reader, while giving them a glimpse of what could await them if they became a client.
Finally, as with many other forms of marketing, ending the book with a call to action makes it clear to the reader what they can do next. A brief, clear description of the types of clients the advisor works with, the services provided, and what to expect after the client's initial outreach helps the reader understand whether they might be a good fit as a client and how they can become one (which, if they've made it to the end of the book, they hopefully want to!).
The key point is that while an advisor's book can showcase the advisor's expertise and empathy, the story's real hero is the reader, not the advisor. By keeping the reader and their challenges front and center, the author demonstrates relevant expertise and encourages the reader to trust them with their problems. And when the reader can see themselves reflected in the pages of the book, they'll want to know more about how that advisor can be a part of their journey!
How can they trust you if they don't even know you?
This is the challenge financial advicers like you face every day when meeting prospects. You have a limited amount of time to establish what must be an unlimited sense of trust. After all, your prospects will be looking to you to protect their retirement, their gifts to loved ones, their tax strategies, their philanthropic goals, and everything else related to one of the most difficult things to talk about.
Most advicers, when meeting with new clients, hope that the handsome decor of their offices, their attractive websites, and the positive first impression they make will convince not just their prospects, but the spouses, partners, or other family members of those prospects.
Of course, hope is not a strategy.
Advicers, wealth managers, and family offices typically have only a short amount of time to establish that deep sense of trust that can create a relationship. The prospect may be considering 3, 4, or even 5 competitors. So the question is simple: How do you establish trust? How do you get them to trust you when they barely know you?
Many advicers solve this dilemma by writing and publishing books of their own. These books convey their background, their investment philosophy, and other reasons why they are legitimately knowledgeable, experienced, and, above all, trustworthy.
It's been my privilege, as a New York Times bestselling author and ghostwriter, to create more than 100 such books for advicers, wealth managers, family offices, top insurance professionals, hedge fund managers, and others in financial services. I'd like to share with you some ideas about how to draft a book of your own that establishes authority, confidence, and trust.
Remember That The Reader Is The Hero Of This Journey, Not The Author
The great novelist Vladimir Nabokov, quoting Fyodor Dostoevsky, the great Russian novelist, frequently said that the first book an author writes tends to be about the author. After that, the author can get onto more interesting topics.
The problem is that for financial advicers, if you primarily write about yourself, you risk boring your prospects and alienating them even before they've met you. A badly written book will alienate far more prospects than a good one will attract. So, the key is to remember that when we are readers, we are primarily interested in ourselves, and only secondarily interested in the author. So how do you shift the equation to have the reader say, "This person really understands me! I want to meet him or her right away! I'm fascinated by this person!" Wouldn't it be great if people were saying that about you? If you do things the right way with your book, that's exactly what they will be saying.
So, what is the right way? For my clients, chapter 1 almost always begins with establishing a sense of the reader's problems. 30 years ago, Bill Clinton won the presidency with one forward answer to a questioner at a nationally televised public forum. The questioner asked how the national debt had personally affected each of the candidates.
While George H.W. Bush stood behind him checking his watch, Clinton answered the woman by walking over to her and telling her about the people in his state whom he knows have personally been affected. "I know them", he said, with perhaps the sincerity that only he could muster.
At that moment, the campaign was suddenly over, and Clinton had it in the bag. Why? Because he created a bond of empathy between himself and the questioner, and through the questioner, with the whole country. That's what a good first chapter of a book by an advicer does. It creates an empathetic bond between the author and the reader.
So, this is the moment to ask yourself what specific problems or pains you love to take away from your clients. Which means that you've got to ask, exactly who are my clients? Are they denominated by the amount of assets under management? Is there an affinity based on religion, military service, or political beliefs that I share with them? Who do I like to serve?
I didn't say to ask, "Whom do I serve now?" because a book is essentially a coming-out party for the 2.0 version of you. A book is the perfect opportunity to move up your minimum AUM or shift from serving all kinds of clients to a specific group. That's why it's essential to ask, what pains do you want to take away, and for whom? Whom do you want to serve, and how do you want to help them? This is true whether you are writing to people who are in your current audience, current client base, or a new group altogether.
Chapter 1 should give readers the eerie impression that you have been reading their mail! They see that you aren't looking at them as a piggy bank full of money to be attracted, by whatever means, to your practice. Instead, they see you as a human being who recognizes their humanity, because you understand so well the challenges they face. Maybe you work with people who are within a year of retirement, and they don't know what choices to make about investments, taxes, Social Security election, and so on. Maybe you work with young entrepreneurs who tend to bury their financial fears and concerns under a wall of bravado. Maybe you work with older individuals who have retired and want to determine the best way to give money to the next generations without sapping the work ethic of children and grandchildren and giving them a case of "affluenza".
You can give examples of situations where you have solved those problems for people, which subtly reinforces your authority. The main thing is that you focus on the problems they face, because if they sense that you feel their pain, they will suddenly ask a critically important question: who is the author? How does he or she understand me so well?
Wait For Chapter 2 To Tell Your Own Story
This leads us to chapter 2, and that's the place where you introduce yourself. This is where you get to tell your own story. The reader wants to trust you because you have demonstrated knowledge of their problems, compassion, and an ability to solve those problems. So chapter 2 is about giving the reader reasons to trust you. This is where you talk about your practice, your career path to this moment, why you went into financial services, and unique aspects of your life that you think the reader will find interesting. Were you in the military? Do you have a deep religious faith? Do you have strong beliefs about politics or economics that will create a sense of affinity with your readers?
This is the time to let the reader get to know you. As we saw, most people who are writing books for the first time tend to talk about themselves in chapter 1. Or they think they need to offer some sort of history of financial services – where the stock market came from, the buttonwood tree in lower Manhattan, or what have you. Trust me – nobody cares. People care about their own problems, and by extension, they care about the people who have the ability to solve those problems. Now that they know you care, they want to know about you.
My clients often ask just how much of their own story they should put into the book. Here's the answer I typically give: People do not read books. Instead, they use books as a screenplay for a movie that's going to play in their heads. In that movie, the reader plays 2 roles. They play themselves as a student, and they also play you, the author, as a teacher. So, there's a conversation that's going on, subconsciously, between the reader as the student and the reader playing the part of… wait for it… you!
So how much of yourself do you put into the story? The answer is just enough so that the reader knows the nature of the character they're playing when they're playing you in the movie. If you are reticent and shy, and you don't think your story is that interesting, the reader won't have enough to go on. The reader won't know who to play when they're you. At the other extreme, if you talk too much about yourself, the reader will say, "What a bore!" And your book might as well not have any more chapters, because the reader is done reading it. It's over.
So, you want to find that sweet spot between 'not enough' so that the reader doesn't know who you are when playing the role of 'you', and 'too much' so that the reader isn't bored. In other words, keep chapter 2 short and snappy.
By the way, astute readers will notice that I've spoken about religion and politics several times. This typically alarms my clients because many of them like to hide behind a wall of professional blandness, afraid of offending anyone. My advice is always this: Fly your freak flag. As the kids say today, you be you. In today's polarized world, it's unfortunate but true that if people find out that your politics are radically different from theirs, they probably won't want to engage with you. (Thank you, Facebook and social media algorithms.)
On the other hand, you want to think of yourself, not as a generalist appealing to everyone, but instead, in author Seth Godin's terms, as a tribal leader. Don't try to be all things to all people. Instead, connect with your niche audience and be a hero specifically to them.
Years ago, I was closing a deal with a financial advicer who could hardly talk about anything other than the then-$20 trillion Federal deficit. As we were going over the ghostwriting contract, no matter what I said, whether it had to do with confidentiality, time frame, or what have you, he would keep bringing the conversation back to the $20 trillion deficit. From his perspective, as he repeatedly told me, if the government wasn’t focusing on the deficit, anything it was doing to improve the economy was simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Okay, I said, got it. He signed the agreement, and I went back to my office. I looked up his website to see just how much he talked about the deficit in his marketing materials. To my surprise, there wasn't a word about the deficit! So, I called him and asked him why not.
"If I start talking about the deficit," he explained, "people will think I'm crazy!"
"Once they meet you," I reasoned, "you'll start talking about the deficit, and they'll think you're crazy then, except for one group – the people who feel the same way you do."
I suggested to him that there is a certain percentage of highly affluent individuals in this country who feel the same way he does, that deficit spending will ultimately be the death knell for the American way of life. I suggested, and he agreed, that we'd do a book that was 70% about the dangers of the deficit and only 30% about financial advising. If you go to his website today, you will find plenty about the deficit. His book has made him a hero to the individuals in his market who share his concerns about the deficit. As I explained, people who don't have that passionate concern for that issue were never his market to begin with.
Even better, all the people who feel that way know each other, I told him. They belong to the same clubs, they socialize with each other, and they will pass you around from one to the other. And that's exactly what happened.
The Importance Of A Genuine Website
While we're talking about standing out instead of blending in, let's talk about your website. You and I haven't met, but I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts, whatever that might mean, that your website contains the same stock photos of attractive, well-dressed, smiling individuals from various ethnic and racial backgrounds, smiling and shaking hands across a glass table.
What does that even mean?
Why do I see it on so many financial advicer websites?
It's as if advicers have a checklist of marketing requirements, and getting a website is one of them. By putting up the most boring, blandest website in the universe, they know they won't run afoul of compliance concerns. They also don't realize that they are going to bore the pants off anyone who comes to their site.
Realistically, most financial advicer websites have exactly the same elements: the aforementioned handshake party; the confident, modestly grinning advicer, sans necktie to show he's au courant; a few white papers, maybe some calculators that nobody uses; and the usual boilerplate about how trusted and responsible we are.
Are you still awake?
Your prospect isn't.
In fact, if you and your chief competitor switched websites, would anyone in the world notice?
Putting up a bland, inoffensive website is just simply one more aspect of the overall strategy of avoiding controversy and alienating no one.
Unfortunately, these sorts of faceless websites provide nothing to distinguish their owners from anyone else in the industry. So, let's get over ourselves, shall we? Let's stop trying to bore prospects into submission. Instead, stand up for what you believe in. Have the guts to say so on your website. Remember that the people who don't share your beliefs or feelings…altogether now…were never your prospects in the first place. So that's how you think about the opening of your book.
Create Value On Every Page
Everybody hates a long advertisement not so cleverly disguised as a book. Even though people read fewer books these days than in the past, or perhaps because people read fewer books, there is something almost sacred about the idea of taking ideas, printing them, and binding them into book form. We may spend more time binge-watching the latest series on Netflix than we do snuggling up with a new novel, but we still respect the concept and the very idea of the book.
That's why people are repelled when they pick up something that looks like a book, is bound like a book, and quacks like a book – okay, it doesn't quack... but you get the point – but instead of being a real, live book, it's simply one long, aggravating, annoying commercial for the author. People hate this, and rightly so. It denigrates the author in the eyes of the reader prospect, which means that it fails as both a book and as a commercial.
So, what do you do instead?
You create value on every page, that's what. Be as generous as you possibly can with information for the reader. Make it news you can use. Don't hold back. No matter how much you think you're giving away in your book, there's so much more that you could say if the prospect or client reading the book were in the room with you. Provide solutions. Share insights that you have developed. Not everything in the book has to be original. There's so much noise in terms of financial information, so readers are looking to you to cut through the clutter and tell them what exactly they need to know and do. One of the ways you become a hero to your readers is by creating so much value that the reader is almost flooded and realizes that they need you and your team, and only you and your team, for all of their financial services' needs.
I don't mean that you should go into the history of the Social Security Act when you're talking about when to elect. Instead, give clear, useful guidelines based on what you have been telling your clients for decades. Maybe you think bond laddering is incredibly exciting. (You are in the minority on that one, my friend.) Instead of giving us a lengthy treatise on the value of bond laddering, just explain what place you believe bonds have in the portfolios of your clients and why that's the case.
Don't assume that your readers know everything already, and don't assume that they want to know everything by the time they're done. Remember that the purpose of a book is to inspire trust. It's not to create a manual for your competitors, and it's not to educate your prospective clients to the level where they think they can do everything for themselves.
Instead, give them so much information that they develop a sense of gratitude toward you, without overloading them. It's a sweet spot. If you're not sure, ask a current, trusted client to read a chapter and act on their feedback. They know what your prospects will consider useful and what they will consider over the top.
So, then the question arises: How do you structure all that information that you're going to share in this book with your clients? Let me give you 3 different ways, each of which works great.
Creating Value With A Detailed Process
The first approach: detail your process. Let's say that when a client comes in for the first time, you have a specific process through which you take that client. Let's say there are 7 steps: gathering information, making a plan, sharing the plan, readjusting investments, and so on.
By the way, if you've never really thought through what your plan is, and you just simply do stuff when clients show up and hope for the best, this is a great time to concretize your system. Write down the steps in your process and share them with your clients and prospects. Laminate it. Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach of the Strategic Coach program for entrepreneurs, says that no one in the history of the world has ever thrown out anything that has been laminated. In fact, Sullivan says, when the world ends, only 2 things will remain: cockroaches and laminated documents.
The suggestion is to take your process, break it down into steps, and then share that with prospects and clients on your website, as a laminated document or card, and, of course, as part of your book. In this approach, chapter 3 would be an overview of your process. And then chapters 4 through 7, 8, or 9, depending on how many steps there are in your process, would be devoted to the next step.
This gives readers a clear understanding of the methodology that you offer. It's really shocking how many advicers tend to wing it. They take out a yellow pad, start asking questions, and try to get enough information so that they can create a plan or have someone in their office create a plan. But it's more of the 'hope for the best' approach than an actual step-by-step process. Yellow pads don't inspire much confidence these days, especially among younger, more technology-friendly prospects and clients. Put away the yellow pad, create your plan, describe it in 1 step per chapter, and don't forget to laminate it.
Offering Your Investing Philosophy
Approach number 2: your philosophy of investing. It's really great when advicers tie their investment philosophy to their own personal story. I've had advicer clients who have served in the military, and they have a very precise way of looking at the world based on the idea that the world is inherently dangerous and that preparation can avoid catastrophe. I've had clients who are the first in their family to go to college and the first in their family to acquire wealth. They often tie their financial philosophy and strategies to a desire not to repeat the financial mistakes their parents may have made.
Wherever your philosophy comes from, tell the reader. This creates a sense of purposefulness instead of randomness. It also increases the empathetic bond between you and the reader. The reader respects the fact that you were in the military, or that you were the first in your family to get a hold of your finances. This sort of information is extremely powerful and thought-provoking, and yet it's amazing how few advicers share these aspects of their thinking with their readers. Again, people like to hide out instead of being truly themselves. Advicers looking for new AUM do so at their peril.
So now, instead of the book outlining the advicer's process, the book outlines the advicer's philosophy of investing. You might see a chapter on taxes. A chapter on saving. A chapter on how to think about retirement. A chapter on philanthropy. A chapter on distributions to children and grandchildren and so on. Pick a topic and write or dictate a 10 to 12-page, double-spaced page essay on that topic. Wash, rinse, repeat. And before you know it, you are almost finished writing the book. (What comes at the end? We'll get there.)
Captivating Your Audience With A Fable
Method number 3: the fable.
Human beings love stories. It's how we make sense of the world, and it's how we've done so for millennia. Whether it was the hunters sitting around the fire at the end of the day and someone standing up and telling a story, or binge-watching the aforementioned latest series on Netflix, people love stories. Business fables work on the premise that a story will be more captivating than a book of information. A well-written business fable is a thing of beauty. Whether it's Who Moved My Cheese, Fish, 212, or The Greatest Salesman In The World, business fables attract and hold massive audiences.
If you're a good storyteller, make one up about an individual who corresponds with your core market, and show that person going through whatever perils and challenges you wish to devise. I love writing business fables because, well, they're fun to do and they allow advicers to focus on a few key points they wish their readers to take away instead of teaching a wide range of items. Sometimes, it's fun just to get across 3 or 4 key ideas, and business fables excel at doing just that.
I would not try to teach a lot of specifics in a fable. The reader is in a sort of dreamlike mode while reading a story or fable. They are not necessarily as receptive to information as when reading a regular nonfiction book.
How Long Should Your Book Be?
Let's talk about the length of a book. In today's world, technology and social media have conspired to shrivel the attention span of most people. It used to be that the "biggest book won." In the 1970s, Sylvia Porter wrote a book about financial advice that seemed to run forever. In the 1980s, Charles J. Givens sold more than a million copies of Wealth Without Risk, which spanned more than 400 pages.
Alas, audiences for such huge tomes no longer exist. Instead, today, readers reward authors who get to the point and get off the stage. For most of my clients, I recommend books of 100 to 150 pages, and no longer that. I tell them that in a perfect world, prospects will slip the book into their briefcase, read it in full on a flight from Dallas to Chicago, text their spouse that they landed safely, and then call you and ask how soon they can get an appointment with you. If you cannot close readers in 100 to 150 pages, if you cannot establish trust in that amount of space, you will not get them with 200 or 250 pages. And let's never forget that the purpose of a book is not to show how smart the advicer is. It's to create trust.
How To Satisfy Compliance Requirements In 3 Steps
Next, let's turn to the issue of compliance. I've learned, often the hard way, how to write compliance-friendly books. Compliance departments have become increasingly strict over the decades that I've been ghostwriting books for advicers. Now, everyone from the Department of Labor and FINRA has gotten into the act, making life extremely difficult for the honest advicers, who have to pass every tweet by their compliance departments while the bad guys still skate. That's an unfortunate situation, and it's not something I can do anything about. So instead, let me give you Levin's 3 rules for putting a smile on your compliance department's face:
Number 1. Don't knock the competition. Compliance people hate that. What your mother told you turns out to be true. In financial services books: if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything.
Number 2. Don't tout specific products. Most, but not all, compliance departments are okay with you writing a book. (Check first and save yourself some heartache if yours is not one of them.) However, no compliance department is comfortable with the idea of you touting specific products. You can talk about classes of stocks, but don't talk about a specific stock. I did a book for an advicer recently who made 2 fortunes by identifying 2 stocks that he accurately surmised would have a huge rise. He found a 3rd one (email me for the name), but we did not put it in his book. That's because I knew, and he knew, that talking about a specific investment opportunity would bring down the wrath of the compliance people. Who needs that?
Number 3. Don't promise results. Compliance departments and their counterparts at FINRA, the Department of Labor, and so on view themselves as having a mission to protect the retirement savings of ordinary Americans. If you promise results, this will trigger huge red flags. They just don't want you doing it, because they don't want to put their imprimatur on a book that is promising something that cannot be guaranteed. And as we all know, in financial services, nothing can be guaranteed.
The Call To Action
Finally, let's talk about the call to action. If you've followed the guidance I've shared and have created enormous value for advicers on every page of your book, then several wonderful things happen.
First, you have triggered the Emersonian law of compensation, which means that they feel a subconscious debt to you that they want to pay off by giving you something in return. Such as… their trust! Next, they have developed a deep desire to find out if the 2 of you can work together. People have enormous respect for authors in our society, as we discussed earlier. They do not assume that just because you wrote a book, you are available to them. So, by the time they reach the end of your book, they will be wondering if they can have the privilege of bringing you on board to work with them. And isn't that how you want it? You want people clamoring to get on your calendar instead of the other way around. If you've created enough value for the reader throughout the book, this is exactly what you will have accomplished.
I frequently call the final chapter of books for financial advicers, Should We Continue The Conversation? That's because readers are already talking back to the book! Remember that we said early on that readers aren't reading books; they are using the book as a screenplay for the movie that's playing in their heads. In that movie, they've already been talking with you 1 on 1 this whole time. So, now's the moment to capitalize on that trust relationship that you've already begun to develop. The best way to do so, in my experience after having written more than 100 books for advicers, is to answer 3 specific questions.
Question 1: Are We Right For Each Other?
Put into this final chapter, which should run roughly half the length of all the other chapters, a page or so about whom you serve. If you have a minimum, print the minimum. If you make exceptions, tell the reader under what circumstances you make exceptions.
If you work primarily with farmers, say so. Remember that your niche will make you rich and that people who share a particular career, affinity, religious, political, or economic belief will put more trust in someone who shares those views. So, talk about the fact that you serve farmers. Or divorced women. Or the gay community. Or people within a 15-mile radius of your office because you believe deeply in the importance of face-to-face conversations. Or whatever.
By taking this approach, you're doing 2 things. First, you're allowing people to read themselves in and say, "This is great! I can work with the author! I qualify!" And at the same time, you're causing people to disqualify themselves if they do not meet your minimums or your other requirements. This saves you time. They won't be insulted. On the other hand, they'll be grateful for all that they've learned from your outstanding book. How do we know they'll be grateful? Because they read it all the way to the end.
To repeat: Explain who you like to work with and why, so that readers can qualify or disqualify themselves accordingly.
Question 2: What Services Do You Provide?
Many advicers fail to realize that a lot of people out there have no idea what advicers do all day, how they serve, or what their purpose is. Everyone in your world knows what financial advicers, wealth managers, or family offices do. But that's just not the case with the broad swath of humanity out there, even with people who are educated and affluent. I remember a story in the Wall Street Journal years ago about 2 schoolteachers who literally kept stacks of $100 bills in their freezer because they didn't trust banks. When they finally brought the money to a financial advicer, the Journal reported, that advicer learned the true meaning of the phrase "cold cash."
School teachers can make a lot of money investing in real estate, running side businesses, or what have you. In our society, anyone can make lots of money. This is very exciting, but it does create a large class of people who could benefit from the services of financial advicers but have no idea what services those might be.
So, this is where you want to share with readers just what you do, how you serve, what they can expect from you, maybe how you use technology to attract younger clients, and so on.
So now we've established whether readers should contact you and what they can expect from you. This leads to the last aspect of the Call-to-Action chapter…
Question 3: What Can Prospects Expect If They Call Or Email?
Everybody loves to buy, but nobody loves to be sold. People are reluctant to give up their email, especially their phone number, out of a concern that they will find themselves in some jiu-jitsu sales funnel from which they will never be able to escape. They fear that they will get multiple calls or emails from some high-pressure salesperson, and all of us rightly dread that.
So instead, in a paragraph or so, explain what will happen when they call. For example:
If you call or email, you will first have a 20-minute intake interview with Ellen, our Director of First Impressions. If it seems like a good fit, you and I will be scheduled for a meeting, or we will schedule you for a meeting with my business partner, Nancy. At that meeting, which will be face-to-face or via Zoom, depending on whatever is most convenient for you, we will decide if we are a good fit for each other.
That last line is really important because it sets the stage for the fact that you won't take a "think-it-over" approach. Instead, you're saying, in effect, do the deal with me or don't, but don't leave me hanging. People respect that.
If you cover those 3 bases, then the right people will be calling you for the right reasons…and you will find plenty of right-fit clients.
Publish, Market, And Monetize Your Book The Right Way
You don't want Simon & Schuster for your book, and Simon & Schuster doesn't really want you, either.
The major publishing houses only want authors who have a demonstrated commitment to going out there and selling tons of books. For most advicers, book sales are a practically meaningless metric of the book's success. The real way to value a book is to ask, "Did I put more assets under advisement? Did I get speaking engagements? Did I enhance my thought leadership status? Was I able to convince spouses of prospects who weren't in the room for the sales conversation that I'm the right person? Do I now own my intellectual property?" And so on. You can make a few bucks from selling a book on Amazon. You can make $15 or $20 if you print the book and sell it in the back of the room when you speak. But all of those numbers pale in importance compared with getting new clients. And that's the main reason to do a book.
Considering An Independent Publisher
Since you couldn't care less whether you sell books (because you're really focusing on connecting and establishing trust with clients… and future clients), you are not a right fit for a Simon and Schuster or Penguin or any other royalties-based publisher. That's why I say you don't want them, and they don't want you.
Instead, independent publishing offers so many great opportunities for advicers and anyone else to get a book out quickly, inexpensively, and with total control of the entire process. When you publish independently, you get to decide on the length of the book, the cover design, how to publish, when to publish, and when to come out with a second edition. If you go with a traditional mainstream publisher, all these decisions are taken out of your hands. In addition, if you want to sell copies at the back of the room, a traditional publisher will sell you those copies at a 40% discount off the cover price. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that your book has a $20 cover price. At a 40% discount, this means you can buy the book for $12.
So, if you sell it when you speak, you make $8, but the publisher makes more! You're the one who had to order the books, pay for shipping, lug them to the hotel ballroom, set them up, and run credit cards. And yet, you are making less than the publisher. Bad day at the office.
Instead, when you publish independently, you can order copies for as little as $3 or $4 a throw. That means you're putting 16 or $17 in your pocket every time you sell one, and that's how it should be. It's your book. Why shouldn't you make the lion's share of the profits?
There are a handful of independent publishers I can recommend, such as Forefront Publishing and Jerry Jenkins Group. I do not get any consideration, referral fee, or kickback for doing so. I just like seeing authors in the right hands.
You can get a book published nicely for under $7,500. If you're willing to do some of the setup work yourself, Word-2-kindle can do it for a few hundred dollars. I also work with Forefront, a company that provides Simon & Schuster distribution into traditional bookstores and airport bookstores. You probably don't need that, but if you do, it's there for you.
Sometimes people say, "But in my field, people can tell whether a book is from a major publisher or published independently." I always challenge those individuals in this manner:
"I'm going to give you the names of 6 publishing houses," I explain. "3 of them are real and 3 of them are fake. Which are the real ones? Riverside Books versus Riverhead Books; Fifth Avenue Books versus Broadway Books; Ten Speed Press versus Three Speed Press."
If you're like most people, you have no idea. That's the point. The only people who care what imprint a book carries are people in the publishing industry. For everybody else, it's a non-issue. Independently published books receive exactly the same treatment and go to exactly the same sales page on Amazon – which is where almost all books are sold these days – as books from the major houses. So you don't need to go through the literary agent/book proposal/begging a traditional publisher for a book deal dance. It's demeaning and pointless. Publish independently and have your book out in 2 months instead of 2 years from now.
The 3 'real' publishing houses noted above are Riverhead Books (an imprint of Penguin, which is a division of Random House), Broadway Books (an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, which is also part of Random House), and Ten Speed Press (which was bought up by Crown, and then bought by Random House). So all 3 publishing houses are now owned by Random House!
Marketing Your Book
As for marketing your book, there are tons of people out there who promise to market your book effectively, and they charge crazy money to do so. In reality, only a few book marketers deliver effectively on their promises. The first thing to think about is that book marketers and authors view success in entirely different ways.
Book marketers measure success in terms of "impressions" – the number of potential readers for any given article.
For example, an article about you might appear in the Naples Daily News, which has a circulation online of 100,000.
This means that, from the book marketer's standpoint, your book has received 100,000 "impressions". How many people actually read the article? We don't know. The book publicist doesn't know. The book publicist may not even care. On the other hand, they get to say, "Look! We got you 100,000 impressions!"
The only problem with impressions is that you cannot put them on a deposit slip. An impression is not a book sale. An impression is not a new client. An impression is not new assets under management. Those are the metrics by which financial-advicers-turned-authors view their success. So, the first thing you need to do if you're going to hire a book publicist is to align your goals with theirs. Explain that you don't give a darn about impressions. All you care about is the phone ringing.
I can connect you with a few really good book publicists. Reach out and I'll share the names. Same deal as before – I don't get anything out of it other than the satisfaction of knowing that an author will be in good hands.
You don't really need to spend a lot of money on book marketing to do really great book marketing. I advise my clients to make a list of 50 or 100 prospects for their services and then mail the prospects a physical copy of the book, along with a warm, ideally handwritten cover letter. When was the last time you got a book, with a nice cover letter, directly from an author? For most of us, the next time will be the first time. So this is your opportunity to stand out from the crowd. While other financial advicers/authors are adding up their impressions and not understanding why they aren't getting any deals, you're getting phone calls from people who were really touched by the fact that you sent them a book and want to have a meeting with you. How great is that?
You can put 100 books in 100 envelopes with 100 handwritten notes for short money. What's stopping you?
Ultimately, the main point, again, is that the biggest challenge facing financial advicers and others in wealth management is establishing trust with people who barely know you. A book done the right way creates trust the way nothing else can – not a white paper, not a website, not even those attractive, multi-ethnic young people, well dressed and well groomed, shaking hands across that glass table.
What does it mean to do a book the right way? Remember that the reader is the hero, not you. Start by showing how you understand the challenges they face. Then tell them who you are. Create value on every page and finish it off with a call to action that gets people to pick up the phone or send an email.
Put copies in the mail directly to the prospects you want to work with.
And laugh all the way to the bank.