There is no question that writing and publishing a book as a first-time author is a huge commitment, yet a growing number of financial advisors are finding that having a self-published book is not only a doable and personally rewarding undertaking, but that it is also a highly effective return on their time and financial investment. As while the revenue generated from book sales may not be exceedingly lucrative, it is the opportunity a book offers to the financial advisor to grow their business that is actually worth far more than the book sale revenue itself! For instance, publishing a book not only bolsters an advisor’s authority as a subject matter expert, but it can also be used to promote the author, generate client referrals, and open conversations with key contacts (from prospects to hard-to-reach COIs).
In this guest post, Zach Obront, Co-Founder of Scribe Media, explains how financial advisors can harness the potential of a self-published book to strengthen their brand, establish their expertise, and grow their business. As a starting point, successfully leveraging a self-published book begins with establishing a well-crafted listing on Amazon. This includes not only a compelling description of the book itself, but also a complete Central Author page (including author photo, bio, and other articles or content released), and getting book reviews (which can be generated by asking people who have read the book, or to whom the advisor can offer to send a copy of the book, to leave a written review). When asking for book reviews, it is important to ensure that reviews are only about the book itself, and that they do not include comments on the advisor or on the advisory firm’s abilities. Accordingly, it is helpful to ask for reviews from readers who are not the advisor’s clients to prevent any potential issues around testimonial rules.
And with a good foundation in place, financial advisors as authors can optimize publicity by identifying who their primary target audience is (i.e., the ideal client persona they want to reach), and the media sources where they spend the most time. Authors can use articles or blog posts to pitch their books and seek out interview or podcast opportunities to talk about their book. Financial advisors can also share and/or discuss their book with existing and prospective clients, which is a good method of word-of-mouth publicity, and with symbiotic professionals (i.e., Centers Of Influence) whose lines of work intersect with the topic of the advisor's book and who can provide copies of the advisor’s book to their own clients to promote the advisor’s subject matter expertise (and generate referrals in the process).
Ultimately, the key point is that financial advisors with a self-published book possess a powerful tool to increase their own authority as subject matter experts and generate new client referrals… which can be worth many multiples more than ‘just’ the value of book sales themselves. By intentionally determining who they want to attract and who would be interested in the subject matter of the book, advisors can make powerful new connections by opening conversations with potential new clients and lead-generators.
The Best Way To Profit From A Financial Advisor Book Is Not By Selling Copies
More and more financial advisors are taking the wisdom they provide to clients and using it to write and publish a book. They know that sharing their ideas is an incredible way to build trust with potential clients and establish authority in their market, so they begin the long and arduous journey of getting their ideas on the page.
The problem they soon discover is that, despite all their hard work in creating an amazing book that shares their wisdom and insight, is that most people still don’t know it exists. The book sits on a shelf and collects dust. (Or crates of book copies remaining sitting in boxes, unpacked and unsold.)
Because unfortunately, what I’ve discovered after working with over 1,500 authors to create their books, is that publishing a book is just the first step. The real work comes once the book is published, in figuring out what to do with the book to generate a return on the time and dollar cost of creating the book in the first place. Which is complicated by the fact that, when it comes to financial advisors, focusing on selling more copies of your book isn’t actually a good goal to pursue in the first place.
It all comes back to the history of book publishing. Traditionally, publishers have measured the success of books based on one metric: how much revenue did the book generate in book sales? The book needs to sell enough copies so that, $20 at a time, the revenue adds up to justify the publisher’s expense. This means that books need to reach wide audiences – even if only in a shallow way – and marketing needs to be focused on selling as many book copies as possible.
But in the new world of professional self-publishing, the incentives are different. Many successful authors today own the rights to their own books, and this liberates them to focus on different metrics for success — such as how many conferences are reaching out to have them speak, how much new business revenue can they attribute to the book, or how many powerful stories they are hearing about how the book has impacted readers.
And instead of just using pre-existing fame to elevate the status of their book, successful self-published authors use their book to elevate their own status, expand their reach, and in the process attract new clients—like Mark Baird, a Certified Financial Planner who doubled his AUM after self-publishing his book.
In fact, given the economics of adding new clients – that may generate thousands of dollars per year in revenue to the advisory firm for each client – the value of actually selling copies of a financial advisor’s book pales in comparison to the non-book-sales value of using the book for marketing purposes instead.
Accordingly, there are three main goals that financial advisors often pursue with their books — increasing authority, generating referrals, and opening prospect conversations — and the specific strategies and tactics to accomplish each of them are very different than the traditional “you published a book, now try to sell copies” approach.
Using Your Book To Increase Your Authority As A Financial Advisor
As a financial advisor, your perceived authority increases the moment you published your book. Right or wrong, people trust authors. “She wrote the book on it!” is an expression for a reason!
But again, that’s only the beginning. The authority you earn by writing and publishing your book pales in comparison to the benefits you can reap when you use that authority as a jumping-off point. You put in a lot of work to make your book a reality. Next, it’s time to put your book to work.
Laying The Foundation For Success
Before you do anything else, you’ll want to make sure that your published book looks professional, and that its Amazon listing looks just as professional as the book itself. Why Amazon in particular? Because it’s better at selling books than any other retailer in the U.S. According to recent statistics, Amazon controls about 50% of the domestic print book market, and closer to 80% of the eBook market.
Here are five things every author should do to give their book the very best chance of going the extra mile in generating new business:
- Make sure the book reflects your professionalism. When someone picks up your book, opens it, and begins to read, they should not be able to tell that it was self-published. From the title, subtitle, and cover art to the interior design and the writing and editing, your book needs to project your own professionalism. After all, it’s representing you to the world! If you have any concerns about your book’s publication quality, it’s not too late to fix the issue. Books are often ‘repackaged’ with a new book title and even new design to tremendous success. Don’t be afraid to make any changes you need to make, and then re-release the book (after all, if it’s not selling well already, then by definition there aren’t many people to notice that you re-titled and re-designed it anyway, so just go for it!). To learn more, this free guide offers a step-by-step walkthrough of the entire self-publishing process.
- Create a quality Amazon listing. The description of your book on your Amazon listing should hook readers immediately. It should tell them what they’ll get from reading the book and why you were the perfect person to write it. For pointers on how to write a great book description, read this post. If you have great blurbs, be sure to include them, but don’t worry if you don’t have any. You don’t need them for your book to look professional.
- Claim your Amazon Central Author page. One of the things Amazon does well is to give authors access to their own author page, so they can build their brand and sell more books. Once you claim your author page, you can add your own professional author photo, an author bio, and even articles and other content that sets you apart as an expert in your field.
- Generate Amazon reviews. Reviews are very powerful tools to attract new customers on Amazon. Not only do they provide extensive details about the products being considered for purchase, but highly rated reviews also offer a level of reassurance to the potential buyer that the product is of good quality. However, readers are notorious for not leaving reviews. Amazon won’t accept a rating without a written review, and most readers just won’t bother. To build those reviews, you’ll have to start with people you can really count on. Although you can’t specifically ask for a good review, it’s not against Amazon’s policy to ask for reviews in general, and there’s no problem with sending out free review copies. Start by asking friends and family to review your book on Amazon. They don’t have to buy the book to leave a review; they just have to have a pre-existing, active Amazon account. It’s important to note that reviews should only be about the book itself, and that reviewers don’t include comments relating to the advisor or the advisory firm’s abilities. Accordingly, advisors should refrain from asking clients to review the book; this will serve to prevent any potential issues around testimonial rules from arising.
- Become an Amazon bestseller. Becoming a bestselling author in the New York Times is difficult, as only a few books ever sell enough copies to make that short list. When it comes to Amazon, though, there are lots of book categories, and becoming an “Amazon bestseller” just requires hitting the top of the charts in one of those areas, and then getting the benefit of greater visibility of “bestseller” marketing cache. This isn’t quite as easy as it used to be, but you can still make it happen by choosing your categories and keywords well and using promotional tools wisely. For categories, dig deep into Amazon’s category list and choose the narrowest categories that fit your book. This reduces the competition and helps your target audience find your book. For keywords, think about what Amazon readers might search for when you want them to find your book. If your book is about investing for retirement, make sure that phrase is in your keywords as well as your subtitle. That kind of search strategy helps the right readers find your book. Finally, BookBub is an excellent book promotion service – a single campaign can catapult a book to the top of the Amazon charts, especially in its own target categories. If you want more information on book promotion, start here.
Landing Media Coverage For Your Book
Once your book’s Amazon presence is exactly how you want it (or at least close enough), it’s time to start building some additional publicity around it.
Remember, the point of every step in this process is to leverage your book to increase your own authority, because that’s what increases your credibility to generate more prospects in your advisory business. And landing media coverage is one of the most effective ways to share your wisdom and establish your authority for your audience.
There are 3 questions to ask yourself that will help determine your plan to secure media coverage for your book. Let’s walk through them:
- Who is your primary audience? When I ask financial advisor authors who their primary audience is, one of the answers I hear a lot is, “Potential clients”. That’s a fair answer, but it’s not specific enough to help you when it comes to getting media coverage. Start by imagining the reader who would benefit the most by reading your book. Who are they? What is it about them that makes them the perfect reader for your book? This is your reader “avatar.”
- What media sources do they spend their time on? An avatar that is a business owner who just sold their company watches different TV shows and reads different publications than if your avatar is a millionaire-next-door retired couple, who in turn watches different TV shows and reads different publications than an avatar of an upwardly mobile high-income couple still in the accumulation phase. You can’t figure out which media to pursue until you can get clear on your avatar… and the kinds of publications they would be reading or viewing that will allow you to be seen by them! Again, you’ll need to be specific. Is your avatar defined by geography? If they are, think locally. Are they defined by their interests? In that case, what small, targeted media are focused on those specific topics? Newspapers, magazines, blogs, newsletters, podcasts, YouTube, and even local TV and radio are all fair game.
- What headline about your book in that media would make your avatar click on it? This is where your avatar and the right media sources come together. One thing to remember about electronic media publishers is that they’re essentially unlimited when it comes to publication space (i.e., they’re not limited by the number of available inches of newspaper or magazine column space, or minutes of TV air time), so they’re always looking for content that will interest their readers. Come up with a headline that would hook your avatar into reading (or listening, or watching). Media sources know their audience. If your headline would hook their followers, they’ll be interested.
Once you choose your best one or two headlines, you can start pitching your book! How do you know which media source to approach first? Don’t fall for the trap of thinking bigger is better. It usually isn’t. Instead, target the media for which the benefits of your book will be the most interesting to their audience (which, again, should be an audience of the avatars you want to reach to do business with as an advisory firm). Focus on just one or two, get to know them, and pitch your headline. Angles include writing an article for a blog based on the content of your book, or being interviewed as an expert to answer questions on a podcast.
This won’t be about advertising your book. Instead, it will be about using your book to pitch yourself as an expert around whatever topic your book is specifically about. Once you earn your first piece of media coverage, the rest will tend to come more easily (as the reality is that the media often looks to other media publications to determine who is a credible expert). Just make sure you don’t pitch the exact same content every time. Keep it original. After all, you wrote an entire book on a single topic. You have plenty to share!
Sharing Your Success With Prospective Clients
Nothing makes me sadder than seeing an author have incredible success with their book and in the media, and then fail to take the final step to share those successes with the people they want to reach.
Think for a moment about all the places prospective clients might interact with you:
- Your website
- Your social media
- In your office
- Through email conversations
Even if they didn’t see your media coverage (in fact, especially if they didn’t see your media coverage), your goal should be to make sure they know about it. But that doesn’t mean you have to open every conversation with it. There are lots of ways to be subtle, appropriate, and effective in putting your success in front of prospective clients.
Start by adding links to your book and your media hits on your own website. If you don’t want to put these on the front page, create a media page on your site with a prominent link in the menu. Prospective clients visit your site specifically to learn about you. They need your expertise, and this is the perfect place to let them know that you literally wrote the book on the subject.
Next, mention your book and your media successes on your social media profiles. A tasteful photo of your book cover along with a single quote from a prominent source will lend significant credibility to your social media profile without having to add a lot of hype.
For prospective clients who visit your office, hang framed printouts of your media coverage where they’ll see it. They don’t have to be large or garish. They just need to be visible. The idea here isn’t to show off. It’s to give them the information they need to make an informed choice.
Finally, add the book to your email signature so every person you write to knows that the book exists. Again, this doesn’t have to be a bold statement. A thumbnail image of your book cover with a link to your book on Amazon is all you really need. If you have a great quote from a media source, add that too. You can see examples of effective email signatures here.
The main point of all these steps is not to get people to buy your book (although they might!); the point is to increase your authority to make prospective clients more interested in you. When a prospective client visits your website, your social media, or your office, you’ll be reminding them that you are truly the expert in your field.
Using Your Book To Generate More Referrals
The very act of publishing your book will start to generate at least a few organic referrals. People enjoy talking about and recommending books, and your most enthusiastic clients are sure to mention your book to their friends and colleagues. But it can do so much more than that. As when you start to use your book to generate referrals in an intentional way, you’ll tap into the real power of what that book can do for you.
Make Sure Your Book Solves A Specific Problem
I said people love talking about books, and that’s true. But there’s a very specific kind of book that tends to get recommended over and over: one that solves a specific problem.
- “I want to make sure I can afford to send my kid to college.”
- “I hope my daughter will be better prepared financially in life than I was.”
- “I was thinking about buying an investment property, but I’m not sure what kind of property would make the most sense for me.”
- “I’ve sold my business and made a lot of money, but I’m not ready to retire yet, and now I’m not sure what comes next?”
Any of these statements (and many, many more) could easily be followed by this quick answer: “Oh, there’s a book you have to read!”
Making sure your book will elicit this kind of response begins before you even start writing, by asking yourself this: “What exact question do I want people to answer by recommending my book?” If you know the question your book will answer, you’ll write every word of it to do just that. People who need that answer will find your book, and when they meet someone else who needs that answer, they’ll recommend your book.
Remember, if you’re not sure your book answers one specific question—or if you’re not sure that question would be immediately obvious—it’s OK to make the changes you need to make before you do anything else. Publish a second edition to your book that will be even more effective than the first!
But if (or when) your book does a good job of answering a clear, specific question, then it’s time to put that book to work.
Send Multiple Books To Your Best Clients
People love helping other people. They really do. It’s how we build friendships, relationships, and business networks. One of the biggest keys to generating referrals is to tap into this truth by giving your best clients a way to help you and other people at the same time, at no cost to them.
I advise almost every author I work with to put together a list of their top 10-20 clients, and to send each of them multiple copies of their book, along with a handwritten note explaining who they might be helpful to.
Your best clients just became your unofficial sales force, and all it cost you was a handful of paperback books that you, as the author, only paid a few dollars each in printing costs. Your book becomes an oversized business card to pass along… but one that conveys a lot more credibility!
That’s one of the reasons a book is so powerful. You simply can’t buy that kind of advertising. But you can still take the concept one step further.
Send Boxes Of Books To Symbiotic Professionals (Centers Of Influence)
What’s a symbiotic professional? Let me give you an example. Let’s say you wrote a book about helping parents start early in planning for their children’s Ivy League education. You could (and should) leave a few of those books on your desk for any parents who walk into your office. But what if you also brought 5 boxes of those books to the most elite pre-school in your area, and invited them to hand out a free copy to every prospective parent?
The pre-school loves it because it makes them look great. Parents walk away saying, “Wow, that preschool is fantastic! I haven’t even signed my kid up yet, and they’re already helping me plan how to send them to an Ivy League school!” And you love it because that parent, who clearly cares about education (your perfect target audience), just got a copy of your book from an organization they respect and admire professionally, which makes you look great, too.
Of course, that’s just one example. But no matter what question your book will answer, there are going to be plenty of professionals out there who would love to have some copies of that book to give away to clients (or prospective clients) of their own. Attorneys, for example, are often a great fit if you choose the right legal specialty for your book:
- Trusts & estates law (if your book is on family legacy planning)
- Corporate law (if your book is for founders selling a business)
- Real estate law (if your book is about investing in real estate)
- Nonprofit law (if your book is about creating a charitable legacy)
- Elder law (if your book is about living a fulfilling retirement)
- Franchise & distribution law (if your niche is serving franchisees)
The list goes on and on, and that’s just lawyers. Financial planning intersects with medicine, the arts, families, education, retirement, and every other aspect of our lives as human beings. And each of those areas have Centers Of Influence – often beyond the ‘traditional’ COIs of attorneys and accountants that financial advisors typically try to connect with – who may be interested in your book topic and would share the book with their clients or community.
If you write a book that answers the questions your favorite clients are asking, you’ve set yourself up for tremendous financial success as the book reaches prospects who will want to become your clients, too.
Using Your Book To Open Conversations
One of the greatest things about writing and publishing a book is that it instantly makes you more interesting to strangers. (It’s true! You’ll see!) People who just found out that you wrote a book will ask you about it. People who read it will want to talk to you about it. In either case, your book will create a host of new, interesting opportunities.
Here, again, you can do even more by placing your book (and yourself) in the right places, at the right times, in front of the right people, fostering exactly the kind of opportunities you want to create. The more intentional you are in the way you use your book, the more it can do for you.
Be In The Right Place At The Right Time
Reaching the right people starts with understanding, once again, who the right audience is for your book. Yet when I say audience, I don’t mean everyone who might enjoy the book. I mean the overlap of two groups:
- Who is it valuable for you to get in front of (e.g., prospects, referral sources, etc.)?
- Who would be interested in the content in your book?
Who is it valuable for you to get in front of? Potential clients, of course. But also people or organizations that might work with those people and be potential sources of referrals. For the book about planning for an Ivy League education, anyone who works with parents could be a source of referrals, such as pediatricians, teachers, or nanny services.
As for who might be interested, those should be the same people. Not only would parents who value education be interested in your book, so would pediatricians, teachers, and nanny services. Why? Because they all want the best for the kids they work with, and they want to help parents prepare for their future.
If you write the right book, these two groups will overlap: your book will be naturally interesting to the very people you want most to connect with. If they don’t intersect, I can’t stress enough that you should take the time to rework your book until they do. I know it sounds frustrating, but you’re a lot closer to where you need to be than you were before you started writing. Finishing that journey will be worth the results.
Assuming those two facts will intersect, then it will be relatively simple to figure out how to get in front of the right people. In the Ivy League example, there might not be many conferences for parents of toddlers who want their kids to go to Harvard, but there are plenty of teacher conferences. And teachers meet lots of parents who want their kids to go to an Ivy League school.
Should you try to go sell your book at that teacher conference? No. The purpose of everything you are doing is to share your ideas in order to build relationships. You can do this by speaking at the conference, hosting a breakout session, or even giving away copies of your book.
Forge Those Connections Directly
If you’re feeling adventurous, especially if you’ve done the other things to build up some media coverage and a solid number of reviews, you can always send your book directly to anyone you’d like to connect with.
Send a copy of your book along with a handwritten note to a dozen dream clients (i.e., strangers you’re hoping to reach) to open a conversation. Or send a copy to someone who would be the absolute perfect symbiotic relationship to refer your book to other people, even if you’ve never met them before.
If all you have is an email address and you need to know where to send the book, try a short, simple note like this:
Good morning [NAME],
[Insert custom introduction about why you decided to reach out to them, specifically.]
I’d love to share a copy of my book with you. Of course you may be too busy, but it would mean a lot to me to have a chance to share the book with you.
If you are interested, please send me your address and I’ll get a copy in the mail for you.
Prepare For A Touch Of Kismet
"There is no such thing as luck. There is only adequate or inadequate preparation to cope with a statistical universe."―Robert A. Heinlein
This last opportunity might seem less tangible than the rest, but when I speak to authors we work with, I always tell them to expect it to be the most impactful.
For all the planning and strategizing most authors do, the best opportunities almost always come from the unplanned good fortune that every author creates when they write a book and share their message with the world.
You can imagine your book like a business development officer, out having conversations on your behalf every day. If you do everything else right, these conversations will be happening in ways that you can’t even trace. These ‘conversations’ often bear surprising fruit.
Imagine you write a book about how families can best plan and prepare to handle generational wealth responsibly. You follow the steps above, and through your efforts, the book reaches a core group of people in your target audience. The most powerful thing about books is that the impact doesn’t stop there. Books are talked about and recommended as solutions to problems in a way that no other form of content is.
So when a wealthy real estate tycoon at a cocktail party mentions his fears around his children squandering their inheritance, and someone else in the group has read your book, you can bet the next thing out of their mouth will be a book recommendation. A few days later, the real estate investor is in his living room with your book, learning from you. A few days later, you’re on the phone. Soon after, he’s a client.
All this to say: Some of the best opportunities to come along won’t be things you could ever predict or plan for. They’ll look like they happened by pure coincidence. But, when they do happen, remember that you made them happen, by putting yourself out there, using your book to become the public face of your ideas, saying ‘yes,’ and preparing to take advantage of every opportunity this statistical universe has to offer.