Why I Wrote A Book And Why You (Probably) Shouldn’t

When I was younger, I received gifts from friends and relatives that amounted to roughly ten thousand dollars. I was pressured to place the then-lavish sum (or so it seemed at the time) into long-term investments, so I set about teaching myself the principles of investing.  Soon I became fascinated by what I was learning.  As young as I was, I already knew that I wanted the financial means to be in charge of my own destiny, and that I had been given a valuable asset, one that could help me move toward that goal – if I used it properly.

Wanting to learn how to turn my coming-of-age windfall into a far greater amount, I turned first to family members and older friends but their advice was confusing.  The popular internet search engines of the day weren’t too valuable either.  So, I began reading books, hundreds of them – some good, some not so good.  And ever since, I’ve been feeding my desire to better understand money: how to make it, how to save it, how to invest it.  It’s the reason I’m in the business today.

A few years ago, I had some spare time.  I came back to the United States from a three-year stint abroad and my life was on hold while my girlfriend (now my wife) finished her military service and immigrated to the United States.  There were legal issues, delays, and I wasn’t sure where I would end up.  Not being able to look for work, I began writing down what I had learned in my studies.  At first, it was only a pastime: I never imagined that I would write enough to publish a book.  It just seemed like a daunting task.

Nonetheless, six days a week I wrote, even when I didn’t feel like it.  Finally, two years later, I had a 80,000-word manuscript that I was proud of.  Today, my book, The Millennial Advantage: How Millennials Can (And Must) Be The Next Great Generation Of Investors is available on Amazon.

            I’ve only sold 400 copies thus far (at an average profit of $3.97 per book), so I haven’t made (and likely won’t make) nearly enough money to justify countless hours of free-time and debilitating intellectual confusion. But I didn’t do it for the money and I’m confident it was a smart decision that will eventually pay off. 

But that’s my personal situation.  Do I recommend that others take on the same challenge?  It’s complicated. Writing a book is a serious undertaking.  The decision should depend on your circumstances, financial situation and, most importantly, on what you want in return.

Writing a book costs money, time, and intellectual energy.  Like any rational spending decision, there’s little reason to spend these resources unless you can identify exactly what it is you want in return. And that’s the first thing you should think about when contemplating whether to write a book – figuring out exactly what you want to get in return.

From my limited interaction with other authors, I find that we write for four reasons (usually a mixture of all four): money, intellectual stimulation, credibility, and ego.

If you’re looking to make money, I wouldn’t put in a serious effort.  Statistics show that most authors make absolutely nothing.  I’ve read at least a dozen 5-star books on Amazon, far superior than anything written by James Patterson, that have sold no more than a few hundred copies.  It’s possible, but the odds aren’t in your favor.

If you’re looking to build credibility, I would consider it, depending on your trade and the amount of time you’re willing to devote.  If you’re in a field where your expertise is constantly on display, it may pay.  But, the book needs to be well written and valuable.

This was my primary reason for writing.  At the risk of sounding cocky, I believe I’m more knowledgeable than most advisors.  Finance is my shit.  As an advisor, I communicate well, provide full transparency, prioritize my clients first, understand my own behavioral tendencies (and the behavioral tendencies of the overall market), am more passionate, more motivated to improve and more adaptable to uncertain conditions.  Before writing the book, I couldn’t prove this without undermining other advisors (something I won’t do).  Now, I can use the book to differentiate myself. Better yet, the mere process of writing the book made me a better communicator.  It also gave me the chance to clearly organize my investment process and belief system, something that’s rare in the financial services industry.

If you’re doing it to boost your ego/confidence, I say go for it!  I’m a big believer in setting “stretch” goals for no other reason that, if you do accomplish them, you prove to yourself that you’re capable.  It’s an empowering accomplishment that transfers to other areas of life.  A somewhat-sustainable energy rush. But remain focused because quitting half-way through can be detrimental to your psyche.

So with that, if you do in the end, decide to begin writing here are some basic tips:

·      Before brainstorming what you’ll write about, define your market.  Be specific and measurable.  For instance, my market was overconfident men between the ages of 24 and 35.  There is at least 20 million of us in the United States and 5 million (low ball estimate) who regularly shop on Amazon. Whose buying copies today?  Men, between the ages of 24 and 35.  Being able to visualize the person you’re writing to also makes it easier to build a consistent style and craft strong sentences. 

·      Don’t begin writing unless you have a clear outline of what you want to say.  Once you have your view outlined, list your arguments and how you’ll connect each one.  Everything must flow! Before having an outline, I just began writing.  I had no structure or vision of what I wanted the book to become and I likely wasted a full year. 

·      Spend the first few months compiling research to support your arguments.  This is one thing I did right from the start.  I printed out hundreds of articles and made photocopies of dozens of books.  I would mark each article by color (which represented chapters) and cite endnotes as I went along.  This saved a ton of time.

·      Don’t read and write on the same day. Dedicate some days to writing and some to reading and editing.  You’ll need complete focus.  Writers block is no joke!

·      Don’t waste money on hiring someone to create a title or cover (you can do this yourself on Canva/Photoshop).  Save this task until the book is fully complete.  Instead, save all of your money for a good editor!  A good editor will help improve the flow of the book and help bring everything together.

·      Lastly, have fun and try not to be too hard on yourself.  Remember that it isn’t a sprint but a marathon.  The concept may come to you at first, but conveying what you have in your head in a clear written format takes time.  There are no shortcuts. Some days you’ll think your book sucks and some days you’ll think it’s great (it’s usually somewhere in-between). 

I hope this article was helpful.  If you have any questions, comment below or email me at Jason@growplanning.com.  You can pick up a copy of my book The Millennial Advantage: How Millennials Can (And Must) Be The Next Great Generation Of Investors on Amazon or by clicking here.