Speaking of credibility, let me just get mine out of the way. Since January 1984, I have had an article published in a major trade magazine in this industry every month except one. The one month I missed was the month between transferring my column from Registered Representative to Research. I have had two books published, one in 1986 which was reissued in 1997. My new one, Hot Prospects, was published in August by Scribner, an imprint of Simon and Schuster.

So when I talk about the importance of getting published, I do know what I’m talking about.

The Two RequirementsYou have to have two qualities to get published:

You have to have something to say.

You have to have the will to follow through on a complex project requiring months or even years.

Note: You do not have to be a good writer. There are plenty of editors that can take your thoughts and frame them correctly. Caution: In today’s regulatory environment, the old days where you could pay somebody to put your name on a chapter and you show up in a book with 10 other financial advisors are, thankfully, over. It has to be your ideas. But any writer needs an editor. You just need to find one.

What Should You Publish?Today, you need to think in terms of two options. You can write a book, or you can write an article suitable for publication in a newspaper or magazine. If you can’t get either of those done, you can start a blog and send copies of what you publish there to your clients. (Yes, with persistence, you can get compliance approval to do this.)

Let’s talk about the magazine route first.

If you have decent material, and that means “up to professional standards” as far as the quality of the material, and the interest it may hold for the readers of a particular publication, you can usually get it published.

The actual drill goes like this: Find a publication that you think will take your material. Cold-call the editor as follows:

YOU: Good morning, this is Bob Barr King. I’m a financial adviser here in Ditch Water. I have written a 764-word piece on (topic). May I send it to you?

EDITOR: Eh … sure.

It’s called “foot in the door,” “snout under the tent.” Many editors, especially of smaller publications, need material. They don’t want to have to pay for it. You may get a phone call from advertising sales suggesting, tactfully or not, that you should buy an ad. So do it.

To build credibility over time, do the above again and again.

What about a book?The odds of getting a book published by a major publishing company are extraordinarily low. I lucked out. Somehow, the Wall Street Journal learned of this series of seminars I was holding in the financial services industry in the early ’80s. They wrote an article about a training class I did for Dean Witter. Within a day or two, I got a call from an editor at Scribner. She wanted to know if I was interested in a book. I told her I had written for Barron’s and other publications. She was very interested. The rest, as they say, is history.

Most likely, you will not be so fortunate. But given today’s “print-on-demand” technology, you no longer have to print 5,000 or 10,000 copies of your book. You can print five. Plus, if you use Amazon’s own print-on-demand service, BookSurge, you can get it listed on Amazon. You have a real live book.

If You Decide on a BookIf you can write, start writing. But get an editor. I have an editor. Every writer needs one.

If you cannot write, but have something to say, find a writer and an editor. Quite frankly, I would start by looking for someone who writes for the business section of a local newspaper, and not the major daily paper. Or I would call the local college and see if you can find a writer in the journalism department. You might even luck out and find a talented, starving student. Find somebody who writes good, simple English.

Worst case: The writer interviews you, transcribes what you say, gets back to you for corrections and additions and sends it to an editor. The editor puts it through a proofing and correction process. And sooner or later you have a finished manuscript.

What’s a book worth? I e-mailed a long-time client and friend, whose book I reviewed earlier in these pages, to answer this question. Ric Lager (www.lagerco.com), author of Forget the Pie, wrote: “The biggest thing about writing a book with your name on it is the credibility it brings you. You see it in the face of the client or prospect you hand it to. I have several legal and medical clients that could surely write a textbook about concepts and techniques that they have developed or use every day. But none of them has ever had the discipline, or made the time commitment necessary to put in a book what they know. That is what separates you from most other people in this profession.”

The Big PayoffHow do you take a book to the end of the rainbow? That’s a question I addressed to ScotiaBank’s Robert Cable, author of Investing on Autopilot. Bob was recently featured in a front-page article in Canada’s esteemed National Post. He answered thus:

“Once Investing on Autopilot was in print, I worked with ScotiaBank’s head of corporate communications. He can sometimes get columnists’ attention, whereas someone unknown to the writer is unlikely to. He sent a copy of my book and encouraged the columnist to read it.

“Then I started dripping (not sure where I learned that!). I would send something that I thought might be of interest to the columnist about once a month. I always enclosed a handwritten note letting him know if he wanted a comment on any financial subject to feel free to contact me. I also read every column he wrote, and if I saw one I particularly liked (and this would be done honestly and maybe only four or five times a year), I’d send a very brief e-mail telling him that. Sometimes I’d point out there might be something of use in Chapter XX on subject Y he could use. Essentially I was keeping my name in front of him without bugging him and being someone who might help him at some point. I was on the bench and ready, if and when needed.

“Turns out my book sat on his desk, unopened for a year. One day, he was heading out to travel and wanted something to read and my book was the closest and easiest thing at that moment. He liked what he saw. A few days later he was writing a column on someone else, was wondering about a strategy that this person was proposing to use and called me for my thoughts. I told him the possible positives, and some pitfalls that needed to be considered.”

That meeting, Bob continues, led to the journalist doing a column about Bob’s group. That in turn led to book sales, offers to speak, and a jump in credibility with both clients and prospects. It also meant a “level of pride of accomplishment” among his staff and recognition within the overall firm. Plus, Bob has stayed in touch with the columnist, providing him with ideas and comments that were helpful for other columns. “I think this relationship will be mutually beneficial for some time to come,” he writes.

That’s the kind of thing that happens when you get your words into print.

Bill Good is chairman of Bill Good Marketing Systems in Draper, Utah; see www.billgood.com.