YOUR PRACTICE-Should you write a book?

NEW YORK Wed May 8, 2013 11:32am EDT

NEW YORK May 8 (Reuters) - Wealth managers who think that writing a book will bring them influence and a flood of new clients may want to think again.

A nice hardback could bring some respect, say advisers who gave in to the temptation of authorship, but at the cost of thousands of dollars, plus years worth of nights and weekends.

Would-be authors often have to reach into their own pockets to pay for editors, ghost writers, marketing professionals and sometimes, even printers to get their word out.

Those who took the plunge advise that one should be realistic about what may be gained from authoring a book, and about the time and financial commitments the effort will entail.

"The economics of book writing are not very good," said Daniel Peris, a senior vice president and senior portfolio manager at Federated Investors Inc in Pittsburgh.

"From a financial adviser perspective, (you're) unlikely to write a best seller, so don't do it for that reason," said Peris, who has written two books on dividend investing.

Peris spent about two years of nights, weekends and waiting-on-tarmac time crafting his most recent McGraw-Hill hardback, "The Dividend Imperative," published this year. Despite the long days, he said, books can be valuable tools to market ideas and company offerings.

A prospective book writer must be passionate about the subject, said Marie Swift, president and chief executive of Impact Communications, a public relations firm in Leawood, Kansas.

"It's not always about getting new clients or creating celebrity status," said Swift. "Sometimes advisers feel they have a mission or a calling, and they feel the book is the mechanism for that purpose."

Then, she said, writers must determine how much time they can commit, and finally whether they want to self-publish, or go through an established publisher.

COMMITMENT

Research, writing, rewriting, gathering data for graphics and traveling for publicity can gobble up free time.

Lori Sackler, a financial adviser and senior vice president at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management in Paramus, New Jersey, has spent about three years on her book, "The M Word," from conception to her current publicity appearances.

"You make an investment," said Sackler, who used weekends, vacations and evenings to research, write and edit her book on navigating difficult family money discussions.

Because she works for a large firm, she also needed to balance the demands of the publisher against her employer's compliance concerns.

Still, the book gave Sackler "an opportunity to expand my profile, to demonstrate my skill set and to help develop my business," she said.

While it was too early to say whether the book had brought new clients, feedback has been "positive", said Sackler.

Peris, who is publicizing his most recent book, also said it was too early to see if the project had lured new clients.

"The issue is credibility," Peris said. "Marketing plays a significant role."

KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS

Newcomers must know their own strengths and weakness: A talented financial adviser may not automatically be a wonderful financial writer. In such cases, advisers should hire a ghostwriter for all or some of the writing.

Ghostwriters charge between $1 to $2 per word, Swift said. Depending on how long or technical the book, expect to spend about $12,000 to $14,000 on this service.

If the time or financial commitment is too great, consider writing an introduction or a chapter for someone else's book. This gives advisers bragging rights without spending years at a laptop. A public relations firm can usually match an aspiring author with a project.

Once those issues are sorted out, finding a publisher is the next challenge.

Be forewarned: Convincing an established publisher to pick up a wealth management title is tough, and advances are getting smaller.

A typical advance for a financial advice book is about $10,000, about half of what publishers paid four years ago, said Susan McDermott, senior editor at John Wiley & Sons.

Writing an air-tight and original book proposal can take between 20 and 30 hours. Even if a major publisher picks up the book, a portion of marketing and publicity duties usually falls to the writer.

Sackler declined to specify the advance she received but said she spent far more than that amount on unforeseen marketing costs, among other expenses.

Be prepared to give up control and possibly disagree with publisher changes, authors said.

Financial adviser Karen Ramsey published her first book, "Everything You Know About Money Is Wrong" with Regan Books in 1999, but was unsettled by the firm's choices.

"I didn't like the title, I didn't like the cover," said Ramsey. "But they had the rights. I couldn't do anything about it."

After the book rights reverted back to Ramsey, she self-published the same book with a new title, "Think Again: New Money Choices, Old Money Myths".

ONLINE HELP

There's a plethora of new, online tools to help authors self-publish.

Jim Miller, a Los Angeles accounting controller for Solver Inc, which sells financial reporting and budgeting software, used Amazon.com Inc's CreateSpace to publish his 102-page book, "Budgeting Doesn't Have to Suck".

Miller paid an artist $500 to design the cover, and spent another $500 on other expenses. Friends and colleagues edited the book as a favor.

Readers can buy Miller's book through e-book platforms such as Amazon's Kindle or Sony's Nook. Or they can order a print copy from Amazon.com. Miller makes about $4 per e-book sold, and about $7 per paperback. He made back his initial investment with the sale of about 150 paperbacks in the first two weeks.

Whether an adviser self-publishes, or goes through an established company, they must be prepared.

"It's like birthing a baby," says Ramsey, who has published through both avenues. "It's a long process. It's painful. (But) selling a book gives you stature, gives you credibility and distinguishes you from other financial advisers who haven't written a book."