So You Want to Be a Star? Part I: Books & Podcasts

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Have you ever pictured your name on the cover of a book—or your podcast at the top of the iTunes charts? If so, this two-part post is for you.

Years ago, it felt like pulling teeth just to get advisors to write a simple personal finance article in the local newspaper. But that was before Youtube, iTunes and Kindle Direct Publishing gave everybody a shot at stardom. Today, advisors see The Reformed Broker Josh Brown everywhere—on blogs, in top tier publications, speaking at events, on broadcast television—and acknowledge what his notoriety has done for his career. They think, “I can do that, too.”

Maybe you can. But should you?

Don’t get me wrong. I love to see advisors sharing their expertise. The American investor could certainly benefit from it. I’m also a huge fan of advisors taking their public presence more seriously.

But for many advisors, I question the real value of becoming an author or podcaster. Writing a book or recording a podcast requires a big investment of time and money. Remember:

  • Just getting to launch day is a major effort. It’s not just filling up pages with your thoughts. If you go the traditional publishing route, plan for rounds and rounds of inquiries, rejections and revisions. If you self-publish, you will need to hire your own editors, cover designers, and formatters. Do you even know how to use voice-recording equipment? Are you familiar with Audacity or GarageBand?
  • The work doesn’t end there. After you create your opus, you have to market it. We’ve managed book launches for numerous advisors. In my opinion, juggling the press releases, contacts and engagements is too much for an advisor to handle alone. Plus, you’ll also need to build an online platform—at minimum a dedicated microsite created just for your book. If you go into the podcast world, the marketing never stops. Each new episode requires a new Tweet, a new post, and new downloads.
  • It’s very hard to get noticed. A new book appears on Amazon every five minutes. The number of podcasts on iTunes now exceeds a quarter of a million—and they average just 4 subscribers each! How will your audience find you? To stand out, you need something unique to say. Sometimes, you can succeed by being the only advisor to occupy a particular market space—such as running the only family planning office in Albany. It’s still a very tough climb.

Here’s a question: If you’re going to put all this time and money into marketing your book or podcast, why not just cut to the chase and invest the same effort in marketing your business? Isn’t that the whole point anyway?

I’m not trying to scare you off, though I realize my rationality and honesty may make you hold your breath sometimes. I just want you to pause and think about why you want to do a book or a podcast. Don’t do it because an agency told you they could make you an instant celebrity.

Are you trying to increase your credibility with your clients? There are cheaper, easier ways to do it. Are you trying to reach a larger mass-affluent market? Are you trying to monetize your content? Those are reasonable goals. But to pursue them, you’re going to have to build a whole new business separate from your existing practice: you can’t just bolt a publishing empire onto your existing advisor business model. I doubt industry influencer and prolific content creator Michael Kitces is worrying about drafting client financial plans in between writing his blog posts and recording his podcast. His content business is his business. Either step back from your advisory duties and dedicate yourself to your content, or hire a senior marketing person to do it for you.

I don’t want to discourage you from reaching for the stars. I just want to make sure you stay grounded in your business plan while you do it.

Next time: If you’re determined to launch a book or podcast, I’ll share a few secrets to marketing it.