How NOT To Write A Personal Finance Book

Having read piles of personal finance books in the last year and a half, I’ve begun to understand some of the things that set good books apart from the bad ones. At first, I tried to make a list of ways to write a good personal finance book, but then I read an article about how not to write a book on scientific topics and I quickly realized it was much more appropriate to make a list of ways of how not to write a personal finance book. Here goes.

1. Parrot everything that everyone else has said.
You’re writing a personal finance book, right? So you’d better chuck in a chapter on how to make a budget, because your readers will have no idea how to budget if they’re reading this book. You might also want to generically encourage them to invest in index funds and also to live below their means. You can probably pad your book another thirty pages with brilliant material like this!

2. Use lots of highly specific information.
Telling people the exact thing to invest in as you write it is a great thing, and when it goes to press, the whole world will know about this great investment. For example, writing a book in 1999 telling people that commodity trading is a hot new emerging area for corporate growth and encouraging people to invest in up-and-comers like Enron and Global Crossing shows that you’re really in touch with what’s going on. Of course, if someone reads your book in two years, it will be worthless, but by then you should be on to publishing something else. Right? Right?

3. Make exaggerated claims about your investments.
“I made $40K in five hours.” This will bowl over your readers, who are out there just dreaming about such opportunities. It doesn’t matter whether or not they’re true or that they’re realistic – what really matters is that such farcical claims make your readers believe in whatever investment ideas you’re trying to promote. Remember, you too can make millions in just one minute a day.

4. Use metaphors that you haven’t accurately researched or are completely out of touch with your audience.
As an individual in my twenties just starting out in the world, I learn so much about how to select an appropriate automobile from your description on how you refinanced your Bentley. Even better, I love it when you use historical analogies that are factually incorrect, because the simple fact that you mentioned Sun Tzu as a “great Chinese military leader” when in fact there is no biography of the man – just his books survive (in fact, many believe Sun Tzu to be a combination of people). I mean, you referenced The Art of War – you must be brilliant.

5. Show very little supporting data.
The strength of your claims alone should be enough. Don’t give examples for how the reader can check your claims; in fact, don’t illustrate them at all with real numbers. This will just bog down the book and make it “boring.”

6. Guarantee that your system can “beat the market.”
Obviously, if you have a system you’re trying to sell, you’re going to need an example or two. So scour around and cherry pick the best ones, because those are the ones that show how your system “really” works, right? I mean, no reader wants to read about investment schemes that don’t work.

7. Promise that even an idiot can do this.
This works best if you have a way to take any rational or complex thought out of the plan that you’re offering. After all, your readers don’t want to actually think – they’re just part of the mouth-breathing unwashed masses, right? Instead, give them a step-by-step formula to “quickly identify” winning investments and then point to one that shows how it works. Never mind the fact that only one out of a thousand stocks will be a “winner” using your scheme.

8. Talk about diversification, but only diversify within a small area.
If you write about individual stock investing, don’t for a second say that one should diversify outside of individual stocks. Instead, they should diversify by buying a bunch of different individual stocks. Be sure to point them towards whatever brokerage wrote you a check to write the book and push some customers their way!

9. Continually reference your other media outlets.
I bought this book so I could hear more about your television or radio show or other books, not so that I could find out more about a personal finance topic. Please, tell me in excruciating detail about the sound effects you use on your show or the time some guy named Roger called into your radio show with a bad idea and you ripped him to shreds. I’d love it if you told me one more time about how great your last book was instead of giving me information that I can use.

10. Publish a series of books that don’t say anything new.
You managed to use all of these tips to have one successful book. Now write nine more that regurgitate exactly what you said in the first one. Make sure the covers have similar designs and perhaps even similar titles, because that’s your “brand” and you want “brand recognition,” not a reputation for giving out good advice.

I pledge to you that if (or when) I get my book published, I will make none of the mistakes described above. If I do, please call me on it loudly and publicly.

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