Many financial planners and registered representatives dream of publishing a book. Why? Publishing a book is one of the most powerful methods available for building a thriving practice. A book establishes you up as a true financial expert. Prospects and clients look at you differently once you have published a book. A book opens the doors to the most powerful publicity machines in existence: newspaper, radio and television show interviews. In addition, once you have published a book you are much more likely to be hired as a highly paid convention speaker.
Just how powerful a marketing tool is a book? Consider Suze Orman. The last I heard, she was getting paid $30,000 per speech. She also has a nationwide radio show and appears regularly on CNBC and PBS. It all started with a book. No one had heard of Suze Orman before she wrote her first book.
In addition to the business building opportunities, a book can also help thousands, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people achieve their financial goals and avoid financial mistakes. Thus, by writing a book, you are helping yourself and providing a valuable public service. As if all this were not enough, you could also receive an advance from the publisher and will earn royalties on every book sold.
How to Write a Book
Recently one of my clients called me and said she wanted to write a book but admitted she felt “too stupid” to do so. I was shocked. She earns more than $1 million a year as a financial planner and insurance agent. She is plenty intelligent enough to write a book. When she told me she had never graduated from college and that she hated grammar, I explained to her that did not matter. To drive the point home, I should have said, “That don’t matter nohow.” One of my clients in the early 1990’s was Charles Givens, author of Wealth Without Risk. Chuck was not a college graduate and at the time I worked with him, Forbes estimated his net worth at approximately $200 million. Tony Robbins, the multi-millionaire motivational speaker, never even went to college. He and many others did not let lack of a formal education prevent them from writing a book. Neither should you.
What is the first thing you need if you want to publish a book? Not a college degree nor expertise in grammar. You need self-confidence. You need to tell yourself, “If those tens of thousands of other people can write a book, so can I!” Once you have the requisite self-confidence, the rest is relatively easy—the rest is largely mechanics.
When I coach financial advisors in how to write a book, I suggest they start with a compelling title. Need ideas? Look at the front page of the business section of the newspaper. What are people thinking about and worried about? What financial problem can you help people solve? Now, come up with a title. Don’t worry too much about what it is because you can always change it later. But you do need a title to organize your thinking.
Once you have a great title, come up with 12 to 15 chapter titles. “How to….” Chapter titles are always popular: “How to outperform the market,” “How to lower your investment risk,” etc. Make sure you have benefit statements in many of your chapter titles. Don’t worry about coming up with the perfect chapter titles because you can also change them later.
Now that you have the chapter titles, you can start outlining one of the chapters. You don’t have to start with the first chapter. If you are in love with chapter 6, “How to Avoid an Enron in Your Portfolio,” you can start outlining that chapter. Once you have outlined it, write the chapter. Some of my clients have found they can write the rough draft of a chapter in four or five hours. Others find it takes longer. However much time it takes, persevere. Don’t be a quitter.
If you get discouraged, remind yourself that a book can be the ultimate lead generating tool. I am currently consulting with a three person team at a major brokerage firm. The senior partner, who is now retiring, built more than $400 million in assets under management by publishing two books on investing. Clients flock to him and to the seminars he and his two partners offer.
If you need help, hire a writing coach or an editor. You writing coach or editor can add great new material to the book and can clean up your grammar. Your writing coach or editor can also tremendously speed up the process of writing your book. A book that might have taken you a year or longer to write on your own can sometimes be written in only about two months with the help of a writing coach or co-author. Make sure whomever you hire has extensive experience in writing business and investment books. You don’t want to have to spend your time educating your writing coach or co-author on what the S&P 500 is, or teaching him or her about VULs, ETFs or other concepts.
Assume now that you have started or finished your fantastic new book. How do you get it published by a major publisher?
The New Rules of Publishing
In the past, you could send a proposal letter (also called a query letter) or your finished book to a major publisher and expect a response within a few weeks. That is no longer true. Due to consolidations among the major publishing houses, mergers and acquisitions, the publishing industry has experienced significant layoffs. Many editors are now overworked and understaffed. What does this mean for you? Unless your manuscript or book proposal comes from an agent, it is likely to be ignored or rejected.
You can still directly send your proposal or manuscript in to a major house. Few, however, will give it serious consideration. With little time available to review the many proposals that publishers receive from agents, why should they pay attention to a proposal from an unknown (or relatively unknown) writer?
A few major houses are open to reviewing proposals that have been directly submitted by authors. Before you go to the trouble of submitting your proposal or book manuscript, contact the publisher via email, mail, fax or phone and inquire about their submissions policies. Most will be honest with you. If they don’t even consider unagented proposals, don’t waste your time in submitting one. It will most likely be returned unread. A better use of your time and energy is to find an agent who can get your proposal the attention it deserves.
Your First Contact with the Publishing House: A Word of Warning
When you first contact a publisher to inquire about their submission policies, do not attempt to sell them on your idea! Don’t even tell them about your idea or concept! You will sell them on your idea in your proposal or with the manuscript itself. The first inquiry is only to learn about their preferred method of submission.
Top real estate agents know that “Your first showing is your best showing.” The same holds true in publishing. You don’t want a publisher to judge the merits of your work by looking at a brief description. Reduced to the basics, Moby Dick is “a book about a guy chasing a whale.” Would a publisher think that millions of people would want to read such a book? However, once you pick up the book and are pulled in by the opening line, “Call me Ishmael,” you are hooked.
You want the publisher to see your proposal or manuscript in all of its glory. Since your first showing is your best showing, make sure that whatever you submit is as powerful as possible.
You Think You Were Rejected –But You Weren’t
Sometimes a new writer thinks his or her proposal or book was rejected when in fact it wasn’t. How does this happen? You sent an unagented proposal or book to a publisher which does not even look at unagented material. You then received the material back with a nice official looking personalized letter, signed by a big-shot at the publishing house, stating that your book does not fit with their current editorial calendar. The letter might thank you for your submission and wish you great success in placing it with another house. Guess what? They never even read it!
My suggestion is to keep every rejection letter you receive. If a publishing house rejected a proposal you directly submitted, try having an agent submit it at a later date. It just might be accepted. How do I know? I speak from direct experience because this happened to me. I once submitted a book to Prentice Hall, and it was summarily rejected. A short time later, I obtained an agent who submitted the same manuscript to Prentice Hall. My cover letter was now printed on the agent’s stationary and was signed by the agent. The book, Modern Persuasion Strategies, was accepted! It went on to become a best-seller in the persuasion field and was also published in several foreign languages.
From this experience, I learned a lesson worth several hundred thousand dollars: sometimes the picture frame determines how people see the picture. Change the frame and the picture is seen in an entirely new light. Make sure that you put the best frame possible on your book. That usually means having an agent submit it.
Most agents receive 15% of any advance or royalties. I have both hired agents and worked as an agent. A good agent is well worth this small fee. Agents are paid directly by the publisher—not by you.
How Much Material To Submit
Another question I am commonly asked in my workshops and seminars is, “How much should I submit? Should I just submit a proposal describing the book, should I submit part of the book or the entire book?”
In most cases, you do not have to submit the entire book. Some houses, such as Career Press, do prefer to review completed manuscripts. However most publishing houses can make a decision based upon a comprehensive proposal. Each publisher has a slightly different idea of the perfect proposal. Obtain the Proposal Guidelines from each publisher in which you are interested. Some publishers now have their Proposal Guidelines available online. Log on to the publisher’s web site and if you can’t find the Proposal Guidelines, send an email requesting them.
There is a great deal of overlap between the Proposal Guidelines of one publisher and another. However, in publishing they say that God is in the details. One of the surest ways of having your proposal shot down is to submit it in the format requested by a competitive publisher. Don’t be discouraged by the slight amount of customization you must do for each proposal. Remember that perhaps 80 to 90% of the content of any proposal can be rearranged to fit the guidelines of another publisher. Honoring the Proposal Guidelines of each individual publisher puts your proposal in the most attractive frame possible.
In many cases, the ideal submission is a complete proposal plus a few chapters of your book. You might want to include the first two chapters and a later chapter or the final chapter. This gives the publisher an opportunity to review the quality and style of your writing. Including some high quality sample chapters can greatly enhance the odds that your book will be accepted by a major publisher.
One Worry You Need Not Have
Some financial advisors fear that their fantastic book ideas will be stolen by a publisher. A few years ago, a financial advisor told me that he would only submit a one page proposal to the publishing house because if the publisher had any more details, the book idea would be stolen. Since then other financial advisors have shared the same fear with me.
Fear not. Publishers are in the business of editing, publishing, promoting and selling books. They do not have a stable of writers just waiting to steal any good ideas that may be submitted. If you submit a proposal that is too brief, truncated or secretive, it will almost certainly be rejected.
If your idea is that fantastic, I would suggest self publishing your book. However, the best way to reach a wide audience and to get on radio and television shows is to publish your book with a major house. Major publishers have the distribution channels you want. Nevertheless, if you have a very powerful idea or set of concepts that is aimed at a more narrow audience, self-publishing can make more sense. I self published a comprehensive book of sales scripts with Tom Gau, the top producer for SunAmerica Securities and we have generated more than $250,000 from this title. I self published another book with someone who else and we have generated nearly $1 million from sales of that volume. I have helped other people write and self-publish financial books and manuals which have generated several million dollars in sales. In a future article, I will teach you some of the most effective strategies I have learned for self-publishing.
How Do I Find an Agent?
While I sometimes work as an agent, I only have the time to work with a few authors each year. An outstanding resource for finding agents is the Guide to Literary Agents published by Writer’s Digest Books. By going to Amazon.com or another online bookstore, you can find several additional directories of agents.
Most agents charge about 15% of royalties and advances. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to finding a good agent. You may find an agent who only charges 12%, yet he or she might waste a year of your time and never get the book published. If you can hook up with a super-star agent, the fee might be 20% but that person might get an acceptance letter for your book in 4 to 6 weeks. Remember that a book does not have to be a best-seller to make you a fortune. I know of financial planners, insurance agents and others who have made millions of dollars from relatively unknown books. They didn’t make those millions of dollars from book royalties but from the clients that the book attracted to their business.
Top agents are very busy. You have to sell yourself and your ideas to them just as you sell them to a publisher. An agent is not an editor or co-author. Your agent basically sells your book to a publisher. Some agents will help you edit or add material to your book, but they will want an extra fee for that work.
A book or book proposal submitted by an agent gets much more attention than does a proposal submitted by an unknown author. A proposal or book submitted to a major publisher by “John Doe Literary Agency” is likely to get much more attention than one submitted by “Jane Smith, CFP.” It may not be fair, but that is the way the publishing world works. You can fight it or use it to your advantage.
In a future article, I will show you how to self-publish a book if you want to “do it on your own.” Self-publishing can also be a very powerful method of becoming famous, attracting huge numbers of clients to your practice and doubling or tripling your income. In the meantime, start outlining your book! From writing seven books myself, including the current best-seller Unlimited Selling Power (co-authored with Ken Lloyd), I have learned that once you have outlined a book, you have it almost half-written. Who knows—you may become the next Suze Orman!
Dr. Donald Moine, based in Palos Verdes, California, is a Sales and Marketing Psychologist specializing in working with financial advisors, registered representatives, insurance agents, mutual fund companies, brokerage houses and wholesalers. A popular seminar leader and marketing success coach, Dr. Moine is the author of seven books and more than 200 articles. To receive a free copy of his new report “How I Help Financial Advisors Rapidly Build Profitable Practices,” write to or call (310) 378-2666.