Investment advisors write books for many reasons.Some have practice management techniques that they feel could help others. Some have a particular planning or investment expertise. Others just want to see their name on the dust jacket. Check your cost benefit analysis calculators before starting, say veteran scribes: The task is a monumental one, and the benefits often come quite indirectly.
High-profile advisor Roger Gibson wrote the first edition of Asset Allocation: Balancing Financial Risk in 1989. For that and each of the two successive editions he carefully recorded the hours he spent on the task. He was surprised that the load didn't diminish with the updates. "Each edition has taken 800 hours," said Gibson, CFA, CFP, of Gibson Capital Management Ltd., in Pittsburgh. "Checking, double-checking, and triple-checking, even after the writing and data manipulation is over, is what takes the bulk of the time."
Mark Tibergien's Practice Made Perfect: The Discipline of Business Management for Financial Advisors hit shelves just last March. He spent nine months putting the book together. "I made constant choices of whether to spend my time with my family, working on my business, working with clients or working on the book," said Tibergien, a principal at Moss Adams LLP, in Seattle. "When people ask for my advice about writing books, I tell them to decide for themselves whether the substantial investment of time will be worth it."
One possible reason to shoulder the task is to help market your firm's services. Clients want to work with experts. Even if they don't crack the spine, their advisor's name on the front cover gives some clients the comfort of working with an authority.
But the book won't do the marketing for the firm. "Writing a book is nowhere near the top of tasks in a marketing plan," said Andrew Gluck, president and chief executive of Advisor Products, in Westbury, N.Y. Gluck's company works with 1,100 financial advisory firms in their marketing efforts. "The great majority of those who are successful in writing books are sophisticated in marketing already."
Furthermore, the question of whether a book might aid marketing efforts is often answered by what type of book the advisor wants to write. "To do it the right way, the author needs to have something to say that hasn't already been written," said Gluck. "And, of course, they have to decide what audience they want to speak to."
Books geared toward the professional audience should be expected to have a minimal impact on marketing to the advisory client. "If the motive for writing the book is resumé-building, then go ahead," said Tibergien. "Some clients choose the advisor on their educational background or on the fact that they've been published."
Some books written for professionals can have a direct crossover marketing impact.
An example is Tim Kochis' recent Managing Concentrated Stock Wealth: An Adviser's Guide to Building Customized Solutions.
"This book can help validate Kochis' expertise," said Tibergien. "If he's talking to a prospective client who's a corporate executive, he can say that he wrote the book on one of the prospect's biggest planning needs."
Prospective authors seek Jeffrey H. Rattiner's advice on whether they should write a book. Rattiner is just starting on the second edition of one of his eight books, Getting Started as a Financial Planner. "I tell them that books can't hurt their marketing efforts, but that writing one for the sake of writing a book is not a good way to start," said Rattiner, CPA, CFP, of J R Financial Group Inc., in Centennial, Colo. "Any success that might come to an advisor writing just for ego gratification will be short-lived if they can't support it in direct advice to clients."
In addition to direct-investment client work, Rattiner's firm runs training programs for personal financial planners. "The books helped tremendously in establishing me as an expert in the financial planning business," said Rattiner.
But he reported that his books written for the trade also helped to build the investment advice side of his business. "Clients love it. I give them copies of the book, and while they don't read them, they like that my name is in print," said Rattiner. "With prospective clients, it helps bridge the gap in early meetings. They warm up faster thinking that they're talking to an advisor who's been recognized by someone out there for his work."
Gibson's book on asset allocation is also aimed at the professional audience, but has helped with marketing to investment clients. "The longevity of the book has established the staying power of the work," says Gibson, who is now working on the fourth edition.
Like Tibergien and Rattiner, Gibson's firm also serves peers as clients. The asset management firm conducts and publishes research, and does public speaking and writing for professional audiences. "We get some clients over the transom from the book, but mostly they come from referrals from other professionals like CPAs or lawyers who have read the book," said Gibson. "They know we have first-hand practice experience on the front lines to back up what we publish in both our formal research or in the lectures we give."
One thing that advisors should not expect from putting pen to paper is a monetary reward from the writing. Rattiner's Getting Started book is in the second edition, which means the early sales were enough to warrant the update. He reports that he made money from this one, but that the other seven sold just enough copies to match the advance he received for the undertaking. "This is not an easy fortune," said Rattiner.
Tibergien says that the book is a source of personal fulfillment, but says that with the buck-and-a-quarter he expects in royalties from each book, he won't get rich. "If I had the Harry Potter of planning books I might make money, but advisors are better off writing novels if they're in it for the money," he said.
Gibson's move into the fourth edition of Asset Allocation indicates that he has enjoyed some financial success.
But the work on the new edition brings him great joy for another reason. The last edition came out right at a time that many predicted the end of the use of allocating portfolios, in August 2000. "I have to update the data for the new edition, and I also get to include all the 'I told you so's.'"
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