From pension planning guides to rock band biographies, three advisers share why and how they got themselves published
Many advisers write books to share their knowledge of financial planning and raise their profile. But what are the joys and frustrations of being an author? Three advisers discuss their experiences.
‘The best business card you’ve ever had’
Informed Choice managing director Martin Bamford has written several books since his first, The Money Tree, was published in 2006.
“Despite my first book being published 12 years ago, we still get new enquiries from people who have read one of them and have us in mind for when the time is right to seek advice,” he says.
“You might not experience a flurry of new clients on the first day it is published, but a well-written book will be the best business card you’ve ever had.”
Bamford went down the traditional publishing route, having been introduced to a couple of commissioning editors through networking.
“I spent about a year negotiating the terms and content with one publisher. It was surprising how much focus was placed on the marketing of the book, rather than the proposed content itself,” he says.
Getting close to signing a book deal, only for it to fall through at the last minute, meant Bamford almost gave up. However, another publisher stepped in and The Money Tree became a WH Smith Business Book of the Month. Bamford was offered a second book deal, then a third. However, he admits to suffering something similar to musicians who struggle with their difficult second album. “I think it was because I had shared a lot of my best ideas in the first book,” he says.
Bamford says writing a book is worthwhile for advisers as it will boost business and provide a great deal of personal satisfaction.
It is, however, not to be undertaken lightly.
“Don’t underestimate the time it will take to write and edit the book, and the amount of hard work required to sell copies. You need to commit to doing something at least daily for the first year the book is published in order to sell it.”
‘It takes longer than you think’
Nicholls Stevens managing director Carole Nicholls wrote her first book, The Pensions Jigsaw: A Practical Guide to Planning for Income in Retirement, in 2010.
She has also written another book, Celebrating Retirement and 30 Years of Nicholls Stevens Financial Services, plus a booklet about women and money.
“Books on financial issues are not exactly world best sellers so we often self-publish,” she says. “It is easy and economical because you are in control of the numbers you have printed and, if it is a success, it is easy to increase the supply.”
Nicholls says the most enjoyable thing about writing books is to communicate financial planning ideas in a simple way by using examples of client experiences with a few tweaks. But, what about the least enjoyable?
“The most frustrating thing is when you have finished the first draft and convinced yourself it is going nowhere until you buck up and start some rewriting. But then it comes to life because you have unwittingly done all the boring groundwork already.”
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So what tips would she give other advisers who want to put pen to paper?
“It takes a lot longer than you think. You need other people to read it, inside and outside of our profession. It does not have to be technical as some people need simple practical advice,” she says.
Nicholls also suggests writing about a subject that does not need much updating. “Pensions as a subject is a nightmare because your book is constantly out of date and needing revision. Also, do not charge too much for the book – the aim is to communicate, so you want people to buy it.”
‘Publishers are naturally cautious’
Highclere Financial Services partner and CIExpert founder Alan Lakey has written a biography of the 1960s rock band The Pretty Things, and a collection of anecdotes about his life in financial services called Idiocy in Commercial Life.
Sharing anecdotes about bad management and tick-box mentality in financial services with a business contact led to a deal for the latter book. Lakey’s contact had a friend who ran a publishing company specialising in short books of up to 10,000 words.
However, Lakey admits to being hampered by the word count and found some of his experiences were deemed too much of a risk by the publisher, so they did not make it into the final version.
“Publishers are naturally cautious and sometimes you can’t say what you want to say for fear of upsetting someone or legal repercussions. There’s a fine line between telling the story and someone feeling they’ve been libeled,” he says.
On the flip side, though, what you write has to be interesting. Lakey says start off with that in mind, otherwise nobody will read it.
“It’s often more interesting when people write in a conversational tone rather than a lecturing tone, because the best stories are when someone is talking to you. One of the good things about writing is that it’s a pleasure to do and it can be cathartic – you can get things off your chest. That said, when you have to keep re-reading what you write, it can be a little bit boring.”