The Perils of Publishing A Book

Every once in a while, someone on WSO will mention wanting to publish a book. Well, unfortunately, I am one of those that is close to doing it with a few months away from release.

So, why do I say "unfortunately"? Because this process was WAY tougher than my original expectations. Hence, I wanted to share my experience from a finance point of view with anyone else trying to climb this Everest.

1. Time - When I first started the book, I knew that it would take up a decent chunk of time, but hey writing is fun, right? The commitment was far more time than expected. For the CFA, candidates often mention 300 hours of study per exam totaling almost a 1,000 for the charter. I'm putting the finishing touches on 90,000 words and 312 pages which took maybe 500 or 600 hours of work over several years. However, there is a big difference between this and the CFA.  With one, you're almost guaranteed to get it with enough time. With the other, your efforts may result in a book that only a few hundred people read.

2. Don't Underestimate Fiction - Before starting this, I had published a lot in non-fiction. I've been in the WSJ and other major newspapers, but fiction is a whole 'nother beast. You really have to learn a lot about character development, pacing a novel, writing realistic conversation, avoid repetition in a 300-page novel versus a 5-page essay. Just because you might be a good non-fiction writer does not translate into being a good fiction writer.

3. Lots to Learn - It's not as simple as write a book and send it off. There are so many other things that you have to learn along the way. For example, writing an extremely tight query letter to agents, creating a super condensed synopsis, formatting, cover design and marketing (for self publish). Writing the first draft of your book is fun. This stuff is just plain work.

4. Difficulty of Getting Published - We all know that it's tough to get published, but to equate it to our world, your chances are about the same as a non-target landing an IB role. Not impossible but definitely very tough. Really feels like the old days of sending out a million resumes and getting only occasional interviews.

5. Agents Are Not a Fan of our Genre - One difficult part has been even finding agents/publishers which have an interest in our genre. Sure, we love Liar's Poker and have re-read it multiple times, but that's not your average agent. Further, do realize that probably 80 to 90% of agents are women...and very left wing at that. I don't mean this in any mean way, but a book about a male-dominated banking culture is not at the top of their wish list for the next novel. If you are publishing in this genre, it better be an expose of greed and corruption in the industry. If you're going to make a big splash, you better be connected with some scandal and/or big names like Goldman Sachs. Look at most of the popular titles in the finance genre....they fit that description pretty well. Unfortunately, that's the angle the publishers are looking for.

Anyways, don't want to discourage anyone but wanted to relay the road ahead for anyone pursuing the same path. Looking forward to sharing the first chapter with you guys soon.

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Comments (36)

Apr 14, 2021 - 10:47am

I hope it´s not another "I worked in Trade Settlement, but have an enormous ego, so I´ll retell other people´s hijinks" book, because I´m really sick of those. "City Boy" was cool when I was 16 and impressionable, but now it feels really childish.

...and the Truth shall set you free
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Apr 14, 2021 - 10:55am

No, nothing like that. I actually did IB and ER. Also, my book is fiction unlike a lot of the narrative non-fiction in the genre.

I think that you're completely right about finance books. There are a lot tropes that get used over and over again: the over-inflated ego, the drugs/binge personality, greed, etc. Part of my goal was to try something outside of these often used themes and tell a good story which happens to be set in the IB world.

UPDATE: The book mentioned in the post is now available on Amazon. Check it out with a chapter preview below:

The Pitchbook: A Banking Analyst's Tale of Markets, Millions, and Mayhem

https://www.amazon.com/Pitchbook-Banking-Analysts-Markets-Millions/dp/B…

Apr 14, 2021 - 11:46am

Thanks man, it´s great to hear that. I don´t know if you´ve ever read All Quiet on the Western Front, which is, while a harrowing anti-war story, not a very good account of what most soldiers really experienced. "Cityboy" and similar books do the same, they take a single event that happened one time in their entire career, and pretend to other people that this is 100% of their life - which is, of course, a load of beeswax.

So yeah, it´s time for a book that treats IB/ER/whatever as what it actually is for most people - a slightly more intense, slightly better paid white-collar job, nothing more, nothing less.

...and the Truth shall set you free
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Apr 14, 2021 - 3:26pm

Haha yeah I remember reading "City Boy" when I was 18, and thought banking sounded like the most amazing thing ever - basically spending all day in the office in a hazy hangover, before going for some crazy night out, then spending all the next day in a hazy hangover... repeat over.

Looking back I realize how laughable it is - it's not that the stories are all patently unrealistic (although nowadays the guy would be an absolute dinosaur - i.e. could barely use excel and his only talent is taking clients to strip clubs, good luck getting far with that approach in 2021). But rather as another poster here said, they're relatively rare occurrences that might happen to one guy you vaguely know - and he spun a load together to make it seem like it was a daily occurrence for him.

So yeah OP, please don't write a book like that

Apr 14, 2021 - 11:13am

6. People will think you are a nerd!!!

heister:

Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.

https://arthuxtable.com/
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Apr 14, 2021 - 12:12pm

Actually sort of true. I've only started telling people about the book now that I'm getting close to publishing. In college, I had a bunch of English major friends who would always talked about "working on their book."  More than 10 years later, none of them have a book. I didn't want to be that guy.

Apr 14, 2021 - 3:39pm

Silly question but why didn't you take the Amazon self-publish route instead? I don't know anything about this so I'm really trying to get an understanding of the options. 

Apr 14, 2021 - 4:54pm

I read Stephen kings 'on writing'. what I took from that book is to edit edit edit. 

ironical edit: I forgot to ask, what are your favourite books?

Apr 14, 2021 - 4:59pm

Yes, and that's really one of the tough parts. I've probably done 8 or 9 full edits of the book and then I'm still getting another person to do a final grammatical edit. I touched briefly on this in the OP, but the first draft is pretty fun to do. The second draft, it's coming together more and still enjoyable. When you're on draft 5 and 6, it's really not much fun anymore. It's just work at that point.

Apr 15, 2021 - 10:53am

Interesting post & topic, cheers.

What's your book about? Care to share anything now / when's "Soon"?

Would you do this again / write more books in the future? Would you ever quit your day job and pursue this?

I've always wanted to write a Sci-Fi book/story, not for $ or as a career per se, but just because I want to tell a story / build a universe. Then I discovered the Expanse, which is almost the exact "universe" I was coming up with in my head. Oof. Still have loads of ideas and a framework in my head, and want to write a story though, so perhaps I'll eventually get around to it. But everything I read about becoming a novelist suggests its pure hell.

Apr 15, 2021 - 11:26am

Good question....I have ideas for another book or two, but honestly after seeing how much work it took to complete this one, I don't think that I would do it again. If the book was wildly successful, then yes, I would probably write another. As I mentioned above, it is fun to do the writing, but it's also a lot of work. I'd say maybe 30% fun and 70% work. And the opportunity cost is high. As I mentioned in the OP, you could nearly get a CFA done in that time or work out or even enjoy other hobbies which are 90% fun.

On timing, it depends on how it goes. I'm talking with a publisher now. If I go that route, I'm on their timeline. If I self-publish on Amazon, I could do it in a month as I just need a final grammatical edit and cover design. Both of which I've got in the works now.

Apr 15, 2021 - 4:24pm

I've written some non-fiction before but thinking about testing the waters in the fiction world; how did you make that jump and become a good fiction writer? 

Apr 16, 2021 - 10:11pm

Well, I guess that it remains to be seen how well received my fiction will be, but I can definitely tell that I've gotten way better. Here's 3 things that helped me improve:

1. Just doing it helps - maybe the first conversation that you write between characters is awkward but the more you do it, the better you understand how to frame it.

2. Watch some YouTube videos on fiction writing - lots of useful tips out there. Small stuff like "show what your characters think rather than say it". As a non-fiction writer, you're always sort of beating your reader over the head and trying to be as succinct as possible i.e. cutting to the chase.  In fiction, show why your character is angry. Don't just say it. How is he acting? What is the tone of his voice? Sometimes, it can take two paragraphs to explain something that you could simply tell the reader but that's what makes good fiction.

3. Rereading favorites - After finishing my first draft, I reread some of my favorite books but with new eyes. Instead of focusing on the story, I would think more about stuff like, "How many lines did the author spend describing the character's appearance? How does this chapter transition into the next? Why was the conversation between the characters written like this? What words is the author using to avoid repetition? What choices about pacing was the author making?" Then, I went back to my draft and thought about how it compares to many of those aspects.

I think the toughest part is having to be very self critical. If something in your writing doesn't feel right, find out why and then ask yourself how your favorite writers take care of that problem?

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