In an increasingly competitive landscape of nearly 300,000 financial advisors, it's hard to stand out and differentiate by simply providing great service and offering comprehensive financial planning advice. For more and more advisors, the path to differentiation is by pursuing some kind of niche or specialization... but even then, it's still difficult to prove that you're a "recognized expert"... even for those who have been working in a niche for an extended period of time.
One effective way to communicate and "prove" an advisor's expertise is by publishing your expertise in the form of a book - to literally be the one who "wrote the book" on the subject! Unfortunately, though, for most advisors the idea of writing a book is truly daunting. Successful advisors are already busy enough as it is, and those who don't have the level of success they want need to spend more time trying to find new clients. How does anyone possibly find the time to write an entire book... especially if you're not naturally a skilled writer?
As it turns out, though, there is a method to writing a book as a busy professional (even if you're not writing-inclined to begin with!). In this guest post, Zach Obront of Book In A Box shares some of his own thoughts, tips, and best practices for financial advisors who are interested in writing and publishing their own book, including a detailed timeline of the process, as well as the costs associated with each step. Because it turns out an advisor can publish their own book in "as little" as about 6 months of time, and under $6,000 of outsourced help on everything from interviewing, writing assistance, editing, layout, and design!
And the path is particularly appealing for financial advisors, as the reality is that for clients that pay ongoing revenue for ongoing financial planning services, it can take as little as one or two clients to more than recover the entire investment cost to create your own book. In fact, the upside business potential of generating "just" another 1-2 leads per month, and improving your close rate by 10%, is so significant, that most financial advisors will profit far more by getting clients from publishing a book than they will ever get in book sales anyway. Which means it's actually quite effective to simply give the book away for free - a glorified business card that can instantly establish your credibility as an expert!
The bottom line, though, is simply to recognize that the process of writing a book is not nearly as daunting as most fear... as long as you know how to break it up into manageable pieces, and outsource the tasks that are outside of your expertise (as the truth is that there are ample freelancers available for you to hire to help with every step of creating your own financial advisor book!). So if you've been thinking about writing a book for some time, or are just curious to explore new marketing ideas for demonstrating the unique value you provide to clients, I hope that you find this guest post from Zach to be he helpful!
Writing A Book As A Financial Advisor
Mary was frustrated.
She’d been a financial advisor for over 30 years, and as a practicing black belt in karate, had started to form a theory about the parallels between her two loves: investing and karate.
Each time she would explain her ideas to a prospective client, they would light up. Her ideas helped them understand her investment philosophy, and helped them improve their relationship with money.
Her challenge was that she wanted to spread the idea on a larger scale. She’d written blog posts on the topic, and hired a PR agency to help with media, but nothing was sticking. She needed to do something to stand out.
Today, two short years later, she’s discussed the idea live on TV, as well as in print media. Her message has reached thousands of people. And, most importantly, prospects she speaks with are frequently familiar with her ideas.
What changed? One simple thing: she wrote a book on the topic.
For financial advisors (and other professionals with valuable ideas to share), one of the most valuable things they can do is to put their wisdom into a book.
In this article, we’ll discuss the ways in which books are different from other forms of media. I’ll then offer a framework for evaluation if a book is worthwhile for you. Finally, I’ll give you a clear step-by-step process to create an incredible book in only 50-100 hours over the next 6 months (which is under 4 hours a week!).
Why Should Financial Planners Write Books?
Before getting into the nitty gritty, it’s worth discussing why it’s beneficial for financial planners to write books in the first place.
When many professionals set out to write books, they aren’t clear on their goals, so they default to worrying about book sales. This is the wrong mindset.
Instead, financial advisors should see a book as a tool to grow their practices and generate more business. That doesn’t mean it’s just a “business card” — much of the benefit comes from the book being high quality and valuable to potential clients — only that your lens for success should be how the book impacts your business.
Here are the major ways that we’ve seen books benefit the financial advisors we’ve worked with:
1) Generate More Prospect Leads:
Every client starts their journey by hearing about you for the first time.
Although this seems obvious, it is the key to attracting more clients. To generate prospect leads, you must have more potential clients be able to discover you.
Writing a book that is valuable to the people you work with is a great way to do this. Not only will your readers turn into prospective clients, but by positioning you as the expert, your book will also unlock media opportunities to put you in front of additional new client opportunities.
The best part? When they do find you, they don’t see you the same way they see most business owners. You aren’t just another company. You’re the one who literally wrote the book on the topic.
2) Improve Your New Client Conversion Rate:
While some financial advisors are fortunate enough to be able to close prospective new clients in the first meeting, most have a longer sales process than that.
For most, that involves free consultations, and approach meetings, and follow-up calls. For others, it involves digital marketing through the advisor’s website with automated email sequences. But regardless of what your sales cycle looks like, a book can improve it.
Ultimately, the sales process is about building trust with your prospective client. It’s a time to get to know each other, and show them that you are the person to trust with the task of guiding them towards achieving their financial goals.
No piece of marketing accomplishes this better than a book.
When a client knows that you wrote the book on the topic, they see you as the expert. You are instantly differentiated as a leading authority on your subject. They can better understand what sets you apart from the competition.
When you’re the one who wrote the book for them, you aren’t just another financial advisor, you are the financial advisor who they need to work with.
One of the smartest financial advisors I’ve met brought two copies of her book to every prospective client meeting. Seeing a physical book established credibility with her clients, kept her top of mind, and encouraged the prospect to spread her message even further by giving away the second book to a friend or colleague.
3) Network For Referrals – At Scale:
If you could spend one-on-one networking time with thousands of clients and centers of influence, how would that impact your career? What referral opportunities would you discover?
For most financial advisors, hundreds of doors would open, leading to new clients and partnerships.
The challenge, of course, is that spending quality time networking for referrals with thousands of people is exhausting and time consuming, if not impossible.
A book allows you to, in effect, replicate yourself. Once it is written, it can be consumed by thousands of people without any additional effort from you. And that at the very least starts the process of building a potential business or referral relationship with these thousands of readers.
Everyone who reads your book can get an understanding of your ideas, and begin to see you as an expert in the field. But, even better, the ones who really connect with what you write, and see real potential to work together, will reach out to you with these opportunities.
Our most successful authors think of their book like a business development rep on their team — going out 24 hours a day, forging relationships, and bringing opportunities back to them.
4) Be More Referrable By Helping People Talk About You
There is no better marketing than word of mouth. When someone you trust tells you to use something, you listen and you use it.
Anything that helps other people talk about you and your business is an incredible referral marketing tool, and a book enables word of mouth better than almost anything else.
This is because it puts your story into people's mouths in your own words, so when they talk about you, they're literally just saying what you want them to say. A good book causes people to repeat your terms, phrases, and ideas to other people. It makes you more referrable.
We use this idea to help our authors position and frame their writing. We say, "Imagine someone at a cocktail party who read your book, talking to someone else in your potential audience. What would they say? Imagine what you want them to say to the other person."
Once you understand that, once you can picture that conversation naturally happening between two people, you can construct the positioning and narrative of your story.
If you can write a book that is valuable to a people and solves a specific problem (ideally a problem that your ideal clients have), they will want to talk about it with someone else who has that problem, and an implicit referral to you has occurred.
Why? Because that makes them look better. That's how word of mouth works.
When Is Writing a Book Really Worth It?
These benefits of writing a book extend to almost all financial advisors. As long as you have great ideas to share with clients, putting them out in the form of a book can be valuable to your career.
However, writing a book is a substantial investment of time and money. There’s opportunity cost. In order for that cost to be worthwhile, you have to be able to capture enough value to make the investment worthwhile. (Writing for financial advisors, I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here.)
Here’s how I would think through whether your business is at the phase where a book can generate a return on the time and cost investment:
1) How much is a prospective client worth to you? In other words, how much do you earn from each new client you sign? Additional new clients should be the ultimate goal of your publishing effort, so this is the benchmark we are measuring against.
2) How many additional clients would I sign if I increased the number of prospect leads by 20% and increased new client conversions by 10%? These numbers vary from one individual advisor to the next, but these are the benchmarks that we’ve seen pretty consistently across financial advisors and other professional fields.
3) Do I have the capacity to handle more clients? Extra clients lining up out your door aren’t useful if you can’t service them. Does your business have the capacity to take on new clients? Are you happy with a lifestyle practice, or do you want to grow, and deal with the upside – and additional work – that comes with onboarding new clients?
Multiply your answer to the first question by your answer to the second. If the result is over $50,000 and the answer to your third question is yes, writing a book is probably a good decision. If it’s over $250,000, it should be a top priority.
Otherwise, I would focus on continuing to build your business before investing your time and dollars into writing a book.
Keep in mind, these calculations are focused on the growth of your business, not the sales of the book itself. Although book sales can be a nice side income stream (many financial advisors can sell upwards of a few thousand copies, earning approximately $7 per book after Amazon’s fees), these numbers are usually dwarfed by the business growth that a book can produce. After all, the lifetime value of just one new client that pays several thousand dollars a year, annually recurring, is worth more in the long run than selling a thousand books anyway.
The Process It Takes For A Financial Planner To Write A Book
By this point in the article, you have a frame of reference for how financial advisors can use their books to grow their businesses, and you’ve thought about whether a book is worthwhile for you.
The big remaining question is “How do I do it?”
Most professionals fear that writing a book will take too much time and effort. They are busy doing their day to day job — how could they possibly have time to write about it?
Fortunately, professionals are exactly the types of authors we work with, and we’ve developed a process that will help you go from idea to published book in less than a quarter of the time than it usually takes. More importantly, you can do it without even touching a keyboard.
Sound interesting? Here’s how:
Step 1: Positioning
The first step in writing a book, and the most often neglected, is to get as clear as possible on your book’s positioning.
Too many authors decide to write a book, and their first action is to sit down and start writing. This is totally wrong, and is a major factor that leads to hundreds of hours of edits and revision, and a greater risk of getting mediocre business results (or no results at all).
Instead, before you put pen to paper, spend some time answering these questions:
- What do I want to accomplish with my book?
- Who needs to read the book in order for me to accomplish these goals?
- What information are they looking for, that they would buy a book about?
As financial advisors, your goals will likely be to attract more new clients, and your audience will be your ideal client (and/or the centers of influence who work with them). That’s great, as you should already understand them and their problems deeply, since you likely already work with many of them in your business. All that’s left is to think about what information those people are looking for that you can provide.
Once you’ve found answers to those questions that align with what you know, you’re ready to move on to the next phase.
Step 2: Outlining
Now that you’re positioning is clear and you know what you want to teach the reader, it’s time to get clear on how you’re going to teach it. Which means creating an outline of your book.
Most authors overcomplicate outlining, but it can be very simple.
To create an outline, imagine you are sitting across the table from someone in your target audience. Lucky for you, they tell you about a problem they’re facing, and it’s the exact problem that your book is addressing.
I’m sure you’ve faced this situation in client meetings before, so just remember: How do you walk them through solving the problem?
Usually, this involves giving them some context on the problem, and then walking them through each step they need to act on in order to solve the problem. For each of these steps, there are probably a number of things they need to understand and solve in order to do it effectively. When you put these together, you end up with a detailed outline.
Note: Make sure you spend the time in this phase to fully flesh out your ideas. Your outline should be very detailed, and include every point, story, or argument you want to make in your book. This can be time-consuming, but every hour you spend organizing your thoughts in the outline phase will save you dozens of hours in editing later.
Step 3: Interview Yourself
Once your outline is complete, you are ready to get the ideas out of your head and into manuscript form. The outline has everything your book will need, in the right order, but you still need to flesh out every point in the outline into full paragraphs, sections, and chapters.
To most people (especially busy financial advisors), this phase sounds exhausting.
Sitting at a keyboard for hundreds of hours writing their thoughts? No thanks.
Fortunately, because you’ve spent so much time organizing your thoughts, you don’t need to go through the slow, meticulous process of writing. You just need to get your ideas out of your head in whatever way is most efficient. And, for most humans, that’s not typing, it’s speaking.
Have someone you trust (we recommend a past client or friend, but you can also hire someone professionally on a site like UpWork.com) sit down with you, a recording device, and your outline, and interview you based on the content. They should ask a question to prompt you into explaining each piece of the outline, and ask follow up questions until they are satisfied that they understand it. Then they should move on to the next point.
For a full length book, you should expect to spend about 8-12 hours on interviews. For a short book, you can do as little as 5-6 hours.
Step 4: Transcribing and Editing
Once your interviews are done, use a service like Rev.com to have them transcribed (they charge $1 per minute of audio, so even the full length of book content will only cost you a few hundred dollars), and spend some time (re-)arranging the content to be certain it fits within your outline. You should create a Word document for each chapter, with the outline followed by the transcript of you explaining each point.
Here’s the beautiful part: Once this is done, all the ideas in the book are on the page. They are your ideas, in your words, in the right order. They’re just horribly written (because they’re a transcription of you just talking).
At this point, you can edit the text into book prose yourself, but there’s no need to. Your ideas are already there. Someone else can help you clean them up.
You can find this person online through a site like Reedsy.com. They are a freelance marketplace focused entirely on books, and they have a high bar for accepting editors onto their platform, which means all of their freelancers are talented. You should expect to pay at least $25 per hour for this work (closer to $50, if you want top-notch quality), and can expect it to take approximately 50 hours (which means this is a roughly $1,000 to $2,000 cost).
But the key point is that you don’t need a financial expert to help you write your book. You just need someone with some writing and editing chops, and they’ll be able to edit your transcript into an extremely high-quality manuscript, expressing all your ideas clearly and concisely.
Step 5: Publishing
Once your manuscript is edited (locked and loaded and ready to fire), it’s time for publishing. This can sound intimidating to many people who aren’t in the publishing industry. They’ve heard rumblings of ISBNs, distribution deals, royalty splits, and all kinds of other publishing industry jargon that may be intimidating.
The fortunate thing is that in today’s internet age, publishing is simple.
Platforms like Amazon’s CreateSpace and KDP make creating a paperback and ebook version of your book very easy. If you want to make sure the quality is amazing, head back over to Reedsy.com to find a layout designer and ebook conversion expert with great reviews (and we offer a free book with further details on hiring the best possible team to help you through the publishing phase).
The other benefit of publishing directly through Amazon is that you won’t have a traditional publisher taking most of your profits. Although we know that book sale revenue isn’t the biggest motivator to create your book, it is a nice bonus to have. Whereas with a traditional publisher, authors will usually earn 10-12% royalties (which means you only keep about $2 of every book sold for $20!), publishing through Amazon, you’ll earn 60% on your physical book and 70% on your ebook.
Step 6: Marketing
Once the book is done, it’s just a matter of getting it into the right people’s hands. This is the start of a long journey, as marketing your book is a marathon, not a sprint. But this is where your effort begins to pay dividends, in both book sales, and more importantly potential new clients.
Some book marketing strategies that tend to work well for financial advisors:
- Run an Amazon Bestseller promotion. Since for most financial advisors, the goal of their book is reach more than book sale revenue, you can discount the book to 99 cents for the first week and focus on moving as many copies as possible. This matters, not just to sell books in general, but because selling a high volume of books all at once makes it possible to hit Amazon Bestseller status for a period of time. See this blog post for more detailed instructions on how to run an Amazon Bestseller promotion.
- Give copies away to referral Centers of Influence. Most financial advisors generate referrals from “Centers of Influence” – professionals in complementary firms, like attorneys and accountants, who may periodically send you prospective clients. Send each of these referrals partners a box of books to give away to their clients who would find it valuable (and might also be interested in your services!). You’re doing them a favor in supporting their clients, but in return, they’re putting you in front of dozens of potential clients.
- Use your book like a business card. One of the biggest benefits of having a book is the credibility that comes from being a published author. A high-quality business card can cost you $1 per card, whereas printing your book will cost under $3. Bring your book to all of your approach talks, and give it away to prospects. They’ll see you as more of an authority, and the book will serve as a nice keepsake to keep you top of mind.
- Get media attention! Look for the journalists who have covered similar books successfully and reach out to them, using your book launch as the angle to cover your ideas.
Timeline and Budget
For many reading this, you may be nodding along, but still struggling to put the pieces together to decide if writing a book makes sense for you. Below is a full run-through of the timeline and budget you should expect as you work through a project like this.
Keep in mind: many of these time and dollar estimates can vary dramatically, depending on your time commitment and priorities. Everything below is assuming a desire to produce an incredibly professional book (and the budget to do so), and the ability to dedicate about 2-3 hours per week to the project. If you prefer to outsource additional steps of the book production process, you can reduce your commitment of time and focus, albeit at a higher cost.
Month 1 (10 hours, $0): Positioning and Outlining
Through this month, you’ll work independently to crystallize your ideas and put them into a polished outline.
Month 2 (10 hours, $850): Interviews
Through this month, you’ll work with someone you hire (or a friend) to interview you based on your outline ($250). The interviews should take about 10 hours. The additional cost comes from the transcriptions, which bill $1 per minute ($600).
Month 3 and 4 (20 hours, $3,000): Translation and Publishing Assets
Throughout these months, you’ll have your editor work to turn your transcriptions into a first draft of your book ($1,500). While that’s happening, you’ll start work on your publishing assets — specifically, your book cover ($1,000), your author bio ($0), your author photo ($100), and your book description ($0). Finally, you’ll work with your editor to revise your manuscript and get it ready to publish, hiring an additional editor to do a final proofread if necessary ($400).
Month 5 (5 hours, $1,000): Publishing
Throughout this month, you’ll work with your layout designer to get the interior files for the print book and ebook finalized ($1,000), get back with your cover designer to finalize the cover based on the page counts, and get the book available for sale on Amazon.
Month 6 (15 hours, $600): Marketing
Throughout this month, you’ll launch your book. You’ll orchestrate the Amazon Bestseller Promotion ($300), buy yourself 100 copies of your book to start giving away ($3 each for author’s copies adds up to $300), and starting pitching PR for yourself based on the book ($0).
Total (60 hours, 6 months, $5,450)
Over the course of 6 months, with a budget of only $5,450 and a time budget averaging under 3 hours per week, you will have published a book. It’ll be available on Amazon, your friends and clients will be able to see your expertise and learn from your ideas, and you’ll even have early media attention around the book starting to come in.
Going back to your earlier calculations about the value of a book, the math becomes obvious. If a book can generate over $50,000 in business for you, that’s almost a 10x investment. If it can generate $250,000 in revenue, that’s a 50x investment. And having published on Amazon, it only takes about 500 book sales to recover your costs (assuming a 60% royalty for a $20 list price).
That’s It! You're Ready To Publish Your Financial Advisor Book!
If you’ve made it this far, you understand everything you need to know in order to create a book.
You know that your book isn’t an end in itself. It’s a tool to grow your business, either through increased prospect leads, better conversations with prospects that lead to new clients, and automated networking and greater word of mouth for referrals.
You know how to decide whether a book is right for you, by thinking about how much your clients are worth, how many clients it’ll generate, and whether you have the capacity to grow.
You know how to write a book, by starting with a clear positioning and outline, having someone interview you on the content, have an editor work from the transcription, and then publish and market it.
You know everything you need to know. All that’s left is to take action.
So what do you think? Are you thinking about publishing a book to showcase your expertise? Have you already tried it? What were your results? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!