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By the book

The first thing that people ask when you tell them you have written a book is rarely what the book is about. What they are usually interested in is how they can get their own book published. It is often said that we all have a book inside us. Getting the book out is not quite as complicated as you might have thought.

But first, why would you want to write a book? It certainly is not for the money unless, of course, you come up with a winning formula about a young wizard and then becoming a multi-millionaire from your writing efforts is unlikely. Writing a book will probably not bring you much in the way of fame either. Take a moment to consider how many famous authors you know, let alone how many you would recognise if you walked past them in the street.

The main reason for writing a book is credibility. Becoming a published author, particularly as an IFA, gives your existing and potential clients a great deal of confidence in your area of expertise. This can form a powerful platform to allow you to meet other business objectives. Of course, there is nothing wrong with writing a book purely for self-satisfaction. However, doing it for this reason alone represents a wasted opportunity.

Once you have established your reasons for writing, you need to decide how your book will be published. The two main options to consider are traditional publishing and self-publishing. Traditional publishing means getting the support of a mainstream publishing house, which manages the entire process.

Your main responsibility under this arrangement is the delivery of a completed manuscript within the terms of your contract.

Self-publishing means that you have much more involvement with the publishing process. This also means that you pay the various costs, including typesetting, cover design, purchasing a block of ISBN numbers and, of course, printing the book.

The advent of print-on-demand services makes this second option much less of a financial risk than it used to be because you can choose to only produce copies of your book when they are purchased, you can reduce the risk of having several thousand unsold copies of your book sitting in boxes in the spare bedroom.

As most advisers reading this will be thinking about writing a non-fiction book, the process for getting published is slightly different to becoming the next J K Rowling. When writing a non-fiction book, you typically need to get a contract first and then write the book. Fiction books usually involve writing the manuscript first and then using an agent to get the contract. Start by finding other similar books to establish which publishers might be interested in your proposal. Once you identify some potential publishers, you need to speak to the commissioning editor to find out if they are prepared to listen to your proposal.

A word or two of wisdom here. Publishers are interested in selling books. If your book will sell and you can give them some confidence in the ability of your book to sell, then they will take you more seriously. Every publisher has a slightly different format for their new book proposal form. They will provide you with a template and you then need to explain what your book will look like, the structure and contents, potential market and an analysis of the competition.

When I went through this process with my own book, it surprised me to discover how much of the new book proposal form was about sales and marketing. Only a relatively small part of the form was about the book I wanted to write.

Getting a contract can take time. It took me around two years of being very patient to get mine. Once you have a contract or decided to go down the self-publishing route, then you need to write the thing.

Do not worry too much if you are not a natural writer. I know one best-selling business author who does not write his own books. Instead he works closely with a professional writer to create each book. They have a deal where the writer gets the revenue from book sales and the “author” gets to use the books as a springboard for speaking engagements and consultancy work.

When the manuscript is written, you will still be involved with the editing process, as professional copy-editors polish off your book to make it enjoyable to read. Do not assume that your work is done at this stage. When your publisher is busy preparing the book for publication (this takes around four or five months) you should be starting to work in earnest on marketing and promotion.

Mainstream publishers have marketing and PR people but they have lots of books to think about. You only have one book to promote so your efforts in this area are very important.

Think about the publicity you can put in place before, during and after the publication date. A large proportion of published books do not become bestsellers – they do not even recover the costs involved with printing and publication. You need to consider how you are going to promote your book every single day it is in print.

Every IFA has a book inside them by virtue of their experience with clients and individual style of communication. Getting a book published is a tough but a thoroughly rewarding activity.

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