Your Money: The Missing Manual
Things may seem calm and quiet on the surface of the blog, but behind the scenes here at Get Rich Slowly, everything's a whirlwind. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but blogging doesn't scale. That is, one man (or woman) can handle a small blog with a few hundred readers, but the bigger a site grows, the more demands there are on your time. Even though I'm using more and more help lately, I simply can't keep up. So, the calm surface here belies the turbulence underneath.
Of course, part of the hubbub comes from the release of Your Money: The Missing Manual. The book is now available at Amazon, and folks have had kind things to say about it. (Thanks for all of your nice e-mails; they make me smile.) Other bookstores should be receiving their copies over the next month. It's also now available from Borders and Barnes and Noble, and will soon be available from Powell's.
Speaking of Powell's, I'll be giving a talk at Powell's Technical Books at 7pm on Thursday, April 15th. (Which also happens to be the fourth anniversary of Get Rich Slowly.) I'd love if you came out and gave me some support. I'm a hesitant public speaker, and if there are some friendly folks in the crowd, that'll give me more confidence!
And that's not the only event associated with the book release. No no no. Publishing a book is an exercise in self-promotion, which isn't something that comes naturally for me. Among other upcoming events:
- I'll join my pal Chris Guillebeau for a meet-up in Chicago on the evening of Monday, April 5th. Alexandra Levit is helping us plan the details. (If you'd like to come hang out with us, RSVP at Chris' site — and tell him you came from GRS!)
- I'll be doing a series of radio interviews in major markets around the United States. These are scheduled for the week of April 12 to April 16th, so I'll let you know when I have more info. (And I'll be on Computer America tonight at 8pm Pacific.)
- Next Thursday, April 1st, I'll be participating in a live videochat/webast over at O'Reilly's website at 10am Pacific (1pm Eastern). (O'Reilly is the book's publisher.) You should come join us as we chat about money. Again, I'd love to chat with a bunch of GRS readers. (There'll be a recording of this event available if you miss it.)
If you do show up for the webcast, you'll reportedly be able to buy the book from O'Reilly for 40% off (~$13.20) or the e-book for 50% off (~$8.99). If you don't want to wait that long, you're in luck. Your Money: The Missing Manual is O'Reilly's “deal of the day” today: You can buy the e-book for just $9.99 by using the code DDYMT. (Note that the e-book edition includes Android, Mobi/Kindle, PDF, and ePub formats.)
You can always get 30% off the print or e-book version of Your Money: The Missing Manual by entering the discount code ABF09 when checking out at O'Reilly's store.
Help Make This Book a Success!
How can you help make Your Money: The Missing Manual a success? Help me spread the word about the book, if you feel so inclined. Tweet about it. Blog about it. Tell your friends about it. As I say, I'm not very good at self-promotion, so I'm counting on you folks to help me. If you like the site, please help me spread the word. It'd mean a lot to me! (And hey — link back to your favorite GRS post while you're at it.)
Finally, I wanted to share something I found funny. All of the “missing manuals” have a “missing CD” page, and my book is no exception. But somebody made a typo when entering info for Chapter Four (“Defeating Debt”); instead, they've credited me with more knowledge than I possess!
Defeating death! I wish. Unfortunately, I do not yet possess the secrets of immortality.
From Blog to Book: Why I Wrote Your Money: The Missing Manual
Trent at The Simple Dollar explored the question, “Why would a blogger write a personal-finance book?” Trent does a good job of covering some of the reasons a blogger might write a book: to reach a different audience, to expand on topics, and so on. I agree with him. I especially agree that writing a book is no way to get rich — slowly or otherwise. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I've earned less than minimum wage from my own book project, and that's not likely to change. Plus, I gained twenty pounds. Plus, I gained a cranky wife. Plus, I lost mental balance. You don't write a book for the fortune and fame.
I've had a lot of people ask me why I did write Your Money: The Missing Manual, and why I wrote that book and not something else. (Translated: “Why didn't you write Get Rich Slowly: The Book?”)
It took me a long time to find a book project that made sense. I thought that maybe there was a book in me, but I didn't know what it was. Over the past few years, I connected with a number of agents and publishers, but it wasn't until O'Reilly came along with the concept for Your Money: The Missing Manual that everything clicked. When I heard their pitch for Personal Finance: The Missing Manual (which was what they wanted to call the book), I knew that it was a great fit. I knew my wait was over.
Writing Your Money: The Missing Manual offered a number of non-financial benefits, including:
- A chance to present my Grand Unified Theory of money. One of the great things about writing a blog is that I'm able to riff on whatever strikes my fancy from one day to the next. I'm not tied to a Master Plan. If I want to spend a few weeks writing about frugality, I can. And then I can move on to writing about investing or entrepreneurship. The disadvantage of this method is that while there's a lot of information in the Get Rich Slowly archives, there's no way to get a unified Big Picture view of the contents. (I'm working behind the scenes to change that, by the way.) With Your Money: The Missing Manual, I was able to spend 300 pages putting all of my best ideas in some semblance of order. I was able to give a sort of Grand Unified Theory of money including all of the best stuff I've found over the past five years.
- Space to really explore topics. At the same time, I didn't want Your Money: The Missing Manual to just be a re-hash of the blog. I've read a lot of books by bloggers that are nothing more than “blog-dumps” — they're a collection of slightly revised blog posts. I intentionally set out to create something that was not just a re-hash of Get Rich Slowly. Yes, there are a lot of the same ideas, and regular GRS readers are sure to recognize some of their favorite bits. But the book is 75% new material — maybe more. It took a hell of a lot of research and writing. You can't get all of the stuff in Your Money: The Missing Manual on this website. And you certainly can't get it here in a cohesive, organized fashion.
- Experience with the publishing process. One reason I took so long to write a book was that I was scared. That's the truth. I was afraid of failing. I wanted my book to be perfect. Eventually, I had to take my own advice about building confidence and destroying fear: I had to just dive in and learn to swim. Most of the time, the only way to gain experience (and to overcome fear) is to actually do something, and this was no different. Along the way, I learned a ton about how the publishing process works. I learned about working with an editor (and how to better edit my own writing), about marketing and PR, and about the economics of the book industry. I also learned discipline. Most of all, I learned that I really can write a book, and that it's nothing to be scared of.
- Perceived legitimacy. Publishing a book gives a blogger increased credibility with the traditional media. Sure, there are some mainstream journalists that “get” blogging; they understand its strengths and weaknesses. But for each reporter that knows how to tap bloggers for information, there are dozens that think blogs are home to hacks. For good or ill, publishing a book makes a writer “official” in the eyes of traditional journalists. Since Your Money: The Missing Manual came out in March, I've had dozens of interview requests, requests that never would have come along without the book. This has given me a chance to spread my message to folks who otherwise would never hear it.
People have begun asking me about a second book, and I've been contacted by a couple of publishers regarding other projects. Again, none of them really match what I want to do. Now that I have some idea of the publishing process, I want a second book to actually be Get Rich Slowly: The Book, just as some expected the first book to be. I want the next book to be story-oriented.
So many personal-finance books are written in a vacuum: They're filled with theoretical Best Practices from economists or financial planners or brokers who don't really have a feel for real-world personal finance. They don't take into account the very real impact of human emotions and psychology. I want Get Rich Slowly: The Book to feature stories from real people — not just from me, but from you, as well — dealing with real situations. I want it to highlight successes and failures. I think that's a large part of what makes this blog unique and useful, and I don't think there's another personal-finance book out there like that.
But, as I mentioned recently, I'm on a self-imposed hiatus from Big Projects. I'm taking some time for myself. The soonest I'd start on a second book is January 1st; if I don't find an interested publisher, it may take longer than that!
So, why would a blogger write a personal-finance book? There are as many reasons as there are bloggers. But for me, it's because a book lets me expand on my ideas and present them in a unified fashion, because I wanted experience with the publishing process, and because writing the book created perceived legitimacy among traditional media. I certainly didn't write Your Money: The Missing Manual for the money. In fact, focusing on the book instead of the blog for so long cost me a pretty penny!
Your Money: The Missing Manual, News and Reviews
Your Money: The Missing Manual went to a second printing while I was in Alaska. Not bad for a book that's only been out for a couple of months!
The book has been doing especially well at Amazon, where it's consistently been in the top 5,000 in sales, and has even creeped into the top 500. (I consider this very good for a personal-finance manual.) For a brief time, it was even outselling books like Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover!
My publisher seems pleased with the book's sales and with my promotional efforts, but I get the feeling they wish I'd mention it more often here on Get Rich Slowly. But the thing is, I'm not a hard-sell type of guy. (That's one reason I didn't do so well as the salesman for my family's box factory.) I'm happy to write the book, but flogging it is another matter; I'm not about to make this the Your Money blog. Still, I thought it would be fun to set aside a Saturday afternoon to share some of the reviews the book has received.
Here are excerpts from a few of the reviews I've found elsewhere on the web (emphasis mine):
- The Financial Philosopher: “As for the ideal audience for (and people who should consider buying) Your Money: The Missing Manual, the appeal is quite broad. In fact, I can't think of a personal finance topic that Roth does not cover in the book. The tips and guidance might also be considered basic but I am a Certified Financial Planner (TM) and I have dog-eared many pages for later application to my own financial purposes.“
- The Digerati Life: “Being a fan of behavioral finance, there's a lot in Your Money that I could appreciate. Lots of great guidelines, anecdotes and encouraging words here. I also found the book very comprehensive; it struck me as a very well rounded way of tackling the subject of wealth, money and personal finance — from the practical stuff all the way to the psychological. If you're after the big picture on this subject, this would be the ideal book to get.“
- Wise Bread: “My few disagreements are all […] minor nits. If you need a book on personal finance, Your Money: The Missing Manual is a solid choice. It gets all the important stuff right, and does a great job of distinguishing between that stuff (that you have to get right) and the peripheral stuff (that you can do any of several different ways, as long as you do it).
- The Simple Dollar: “What makes Your Money: The Missing Manual stand out? To put it simply, it's the voice. J.D.'s voice comes through loud and clear in this book, much more than I expected it to given that it's an O'Reilly title (which sometimes means a very technical voice). It's that approachable, real tone that has made Get Rich Slowly a top personal finance blog, and it also works to make it seem like the advice in the book is actually real and that you can actually do it, too. This is something that's missing in an awful lot of personal finance books, and it makes all the difference.”
- An Island Life: “All I can say is, where has this book been all my life! This book is full of down-to-earth practical tips that will help you to become, if not a money expert, at least a well-informed consumer of money related issues.“
- ChildWild (from GRS staff writer Sierra Black): “There are more in-depth books on every topic this one covers. J.D. unhesitatingly recommends them. He's read dozens of personal finance books over the past four years. His own book distills the best from the best of what he's read. You'll come away with a decent handle on every major financial issue most adults face, and a reading list to help you dive deeper into the areas you need more help with.”
- Duffbert's Random Musings: “This is the perfect book to give someone who is trying to dig out from a mountain of debt, or more ideally, to someone who hasn't yet fallen into that trap. Either way, the value of the information here is priceless if read and followed.”
- Blogcritics: “If you have any questions and concerns about budgeting, saving, investing, spending, and getting the most out of your money you need to read this book. Your Money: The Missing Manual will get you on the road to financial security in a sane reasonable manner. It's a great investment.”
Meanwhile, Your Money: The Missing Manual has garnered thirteen reviews over at Amazon for an average of 4.5 stars. Ten of these reviews give the book five stars, one review gives it four stars, and two give the book two stars. In the interest of balance, here are excerpts from the two negative reviews:
- “Not a bad idea as such — but way too focused on American standards, and therefore of little use if you live and work in an exotic place like, em, Europe. The same goes for the book's tone, which is that kind of buddy-like, naïve voice that makes you feel like a five-year-old.”
- “Lacks original thoughts, i.e. on nearly every page, J.D. references another author or website. Which makes me wonder what percentage of the material is re-used from elsewhere. He touts himself as an personal-finance expert, but lacks any sort of qualifications to justify that self-appointed title. He presents a brief description of concepts (from the perspective of a “regular guy”) but relies heavily on redirecting readers to online resources to gain clarification. His 14 guidelines are solid, but they appear to be derived from someone else's work.”
That first negative review is valid though puzzling (of course the advice is U.S.-centric — the book is for a U.S. market!), but the second one really hurt at first. Eventually I realized that there's nothing I can do about it, so I've just come to accept it. Yes, the book points to tons of other resources (that was the plan from the start!), but I know there's no plagiarism here, and that I've done my damnedest to make the book stand stand apart from the blog instead of just borrowing material published here previously. But you can't please everyone, right?
It's edifying that the book is getting good reviews. I poured my heart and soul into this book for four months (five, if you count editing), and gained 20 pounds. (I'm finally down to the weight I was at after walking the marathon at the beginning of October.) I did my best to write the book I wish I'd read five years ago, and I'm proud of what I produced.
Have you read Your Money: The Missing Manual? What did you think? What did I get right? What could be improved? Who would you recommend the book for? (And would the book make a good gift for graduates?)
Your Money: The Missing Manual — Now Available for Kindle!
Just a quick note from the book front. Many of you have asked for a Kindle edition of Your Money: The Missing Manual. While that wasn't originally part of the publisher's plans, they've decided that there was enough demand to take that step.
To summarize, here are all of the different ways you can pick up a copy of Your Money: The Missing Manual:
- Print edition via Amazon for $14.95 (where there are used copies available from $9.95)
- Kindle version from Amazon for $9.99 (I've downloaded this version, and can confirm it's the second printing, which corrected some small errors)
- O'Reilly Media (the publisher) offers the print edition for $21.99, the e-book edition for $17.99 (which gives you access to a variety of formats), and a package with both for $24.99
- Powell's Books also has it for $21.99, as does Borders Books
- Barnes & Noble lists the book for $15.83
And, of course, your local library may have a copy. (The Portland library system has 20 copies — but they're all checked out and there are 29 holds!)
So, if you've been waiting for the electronic version of my book, you need wait no longer. You can download Your Money: The Missing Manual for the Amazon Kindle (or the Kindle app on the iPhone or iPad) for just ten bucks. I appreciate the support!
Meanwhile, I still haven't decided whether to pursue a second book. My agent and I had a conference with another, larger publisher. They'd like to do an actual Get Rich Slowly book, which I think is a great idea. However, their idea for what that book would look like is different than my idea of what it would look like. (I'd like to do a book that featured more narrative — stories from me and from GRS readers. I think using stories to illustrate concepts would be fantastic.)
Plus there's the problem that I'm not ready to devote all of my time to another book. I've been under a lot of stress the past couple of years, and it's only now beginning to let up. I want to savor this sense of freedom for a while.
Speaking of freedom: It's time for me to head into downtown Portland to watch tonight's Portland Timbers soccer match. I hope you all enjoy a great Independence Day weekend!