Reader Q&A on My New Book

This post is probably a little self-serving, but I’ve received a number of questions about my book from readers and wanted to address the most asked questions here.

What’s the difference between the book and your blog? The general theme is very similar. The blog has been a great place for me to learn and develop my thoughts. But in the book I really bring it all together. It’s basically a decade’s worth of learning and developing my philosophy all packed into less than 200 pages. Plus, I don’t talk too much about my day job here on the blog, but in the book I share a number of stories on my experiences and thoughts about working in the institutional money management industry. I tried to strike a balance between personal anecdotes, historical market data, studies on human psychology, behavioral biases and common sense.

What’s the worst part about writing a book? Definitely the amount of time it takes. Every time you think you’re done there’s something else to do. I must have gone back and forth five or six times with my publishers during the editing process with changes and lengthy re-writes. If you’re married, a patient spouse is a prerequisite if you plan on writing a book. It’s also much harder than you’d think to stay off the Internet when you should be writing.

Where do you even begin when starting to write a book? I had to create a rough outline for my publishers before they approved the book. I started from there and spent a couple of months putting together all of my research. I basically did a data dump of everything I wanted to include and then went about shaping that information into a coherent narrative. The original outline was probably changed a dozen times before I was done with it. Once the research was done, I just started writing a little every single day. I’ve always been a night owl, so I found that was the best time for me to write. I made myself write at least 4-5 pages a day for the first three months or so. I didn’t worry too much about making it perfect the first time through and went back and made tons of changes after getting a first draft done.

In the book you say you’re against complexity. What do you mean by “complex strategies.” I view complex strategies as anything that allows an investor to try to get too clever with their portfolio. This includes over-trading, paying high costs under the assumption ‘you get what you pay for,’ trying to outguess the market over the short-term, constantly changing your investment process or philosophy, making too many ad-hoc decisions, and searching for the Holy Grail of the perfect portfolio. To me, complex strategies are those that require more time, effort and stress, but provide lower returns or higher risk than a simple strategy.

In your 10 Things I Learned Writing a Book post you said you got advice from other authors. Care to share that advice? Before starting my book I reached out to Jason Zweig at the Wall Street Journal, who sent me an email that I must have looked at at least ten times throughout the long writing process. As luck would have it, Jason just wrote a post on his blog that’s basically word for word of the email he sent me. Check it out: 10 Tips For Writing a Book Without Making Your Head Explode. This was my favorite piece of advice from Zweig (which actually made it into the conclusion of my book):

What do you most think people need to know? What are the most beneficial things you can tell people that they might not otherwise find out about?  Imagine that your grandmother came to you and wanted to know ten things about [x] that she could understand and that she needs to understand. What would you tell her?

Here are a few other good pieces of advice I received:

When writing your outline, use your own voice and keep it very simple. Steven Pressfield’s mentor called this the Foolscap Method, the theory being that every coherent book can be outlined (at the very least thematically) on a sheet of foolscap. You will also want to read Pressfield’s The War of Art rather sooner than later.

You’ll want to take a very hard look at what you can reasonably expect to gain from writing a book, both from a career and financial standpoint, before you start writing. Then temper your expectations right off the bat and do it for the right reasons.

I hope you have thick skin because you’re gonna need it once the editing process starts. Don’t become too attached to anything you put in your first draft. Welcome changes and feedback.

Most people think they want to write, but really they just like to think about writing.

Can I have a free copy? This is probably the question I get asked the most often (I’m only half kidding). I’m actually doing a free book giveaway to my email subscriber list. Once a quarter I send out a short email newsletter with a market update and some additional thoughts as a thanks to everyone who signs up for my email list. I’m giving away 10 free books to people on that list. Sign up by the end of next week if you’re interested by clicking here. This also means you get an email update anytime I post new material on the site. You can unsubscribe at any time if you get sick of hearing from me.

Also be sure to check out the Q&As I did with Patrick O’Shaughnessy and Tadas Viskanta on the book:
My Q&A With Patrick O’Shaughnessy (Investor Field Guide)
My Q&A With Tadas Viskanta (Abnormal Returns)

My new book, A Wealth of Common Sense: Why Simplicity Trumps Complexity in Any Investment Plan, is out now.

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  1. Napoleon’s Corporal commented on Apr 06

    […] love this idea of being able to explain your strategy in a way that anyone can understand it. The best piece of advice I received before I started writing my book was to imagine that my grandmother came to me and wanted to know […]