Interview: Chad Gordon Author of Wealth by Virtue

Finalist of the 2018 Shelf Unbound Competition for Best Independently Published Book

Shelf Unbound: Tell us about your book. 

Chad Gordon: In my observation, most people share a central fear: that at some point in their lives, they will need money and not have it. Wealth is the absence of that fear. Wealth by Virtue is a comprehensive explanation of our financial world. The book is structured around The Six Areas of Finance: banking, investments, real estate, insurance, legal planning, and tax planning. Everything in your personal finances fits into these categories. By recognizing this structure, you make them all work together and put yourself on the path to wealth-optimized decisions. Modesty aside, my book paints a picture that, as far as I can tell, has never been painted before.

The book itself experiments with some publishing innovations that I feel make the concepts easier to understand. The entire book is in full color which I use liberally to present ideas that are ordinarily complex, into approachable and “friendly” explanations. It is made with the best materials: cloth quarter bound hardcover with an embossed dust jacket, the highest quality paper, and first rate graphic design. I wrote it as a lifelong financial guide, and it is constructed in a way that will last a lifetime. Beyond the physical product, the writing is engaging, clear, and concise – it has gone through three professional edits and multiple non-professional ones. 

As I wrote it, I wasn’t worried about the profitability of the book, but only on how to teach the information in the clearest way possible. I’m confident than anyone reading this will find it to be a page turner and very interesting no matter what you already know about finances. There are many things that I talk about that have never been published before. Readers will learn a great deal, and I have peppered it with humor and personal experiences from my career in financial advising. I’ve highlighted some case studies from my experience as an advisor, where small mistakes cost people lots of money.

Shelf Unbound: How did you go about developing this book?

Gordon: Initially my goal was to create a small paperback book that simply explained what I think people should know about my financial advising philosophies if they were going to work with me as a client. But as I wrote and researched, I realized that there wasn’t a personal finance book that painted the big picture in a clear conceptual way. Even though the project expanded into what you see now, I didn’t imagine it as a mass market book. I always thought I would personally know 90% of the people who ever read it. I think that because of this, the book has a very personal tone to it—like a letter from a friend giving you financial advice.

Shelf Unbound: What was the experience of writing this book like for you?

Gordon: I really enjoyed almost every aspect of it and hope to write more books in the future once my literary batteries recharge. However, this is easy to say in hindsight. Whilst in the trenches of creation, it was a constant experience of frustration and overcoming it to find yet another frustration. At times, it felt like screaming in a large dark empty room. What really helped is having a very strong vision for the book and knowing what you wanted and knowing when you’ve arrived at your vision.

As far as a timeline, the whole process took about two years. Most of the text was written in about six months and the remaining 18 months were a mix of multiple rounds of editing, graphic design, different delays (some that were outside my control and some because of my ignorance of the process), and waiting for my production slot with the printer.

Shelf Unbound: What writing advice do you have for other indie authors?

Gordon: Just do it. If you have the burning within you, my belief is that it’s your calling in life and that your soul will remain unsettled until you fulfill that calling. We are lucky to live in today’s world where you can bring a book fully to life with very little resources and without the blessing and bankrolling of a publishing company. I think that many aspiring authors should come to terms with how the world has changed in their favor.

The flipside of this is that no creative process should happen in a vacuum. It’s important to surround yourself with advisors both paid and unpaid. Everybody needs an editor—consciously or unconsciously, everyone knows when they are reading unrefined material. The blessings of independence are a double-edged sword and it’s up to you to mitigate it.

Speaking from experience, I never would have bothered writing my book if I thought I had to spend time begging publishing companies to turn their heads my direction. For me, once I knew that I wanted to write a book, I just started writing my book without much thought to profitability and sell-ability. In the end, readers will experience something that would never have been created through a traditional publishing company. It is a better book because I retained creative control and the final word.

Shelf Unbound: What are you working on next?

Gordon: I’m still in the early stages of publicity for Wealth by Virtue. One of the downsides of self-publishing is self-promoting. Long gone are the days of putting on a tweed blazer, doing book signings and speaking tours. A traditional marketing plan would be to print a book ahead of time, spend 3-4 months doing publicity, mailing out thousands of free copies to generate buzz leading up to a publication date—part of this is the hope to sandbag sales to make the NYT bestseller list.

My approach is quite different. As soon as my books were printed, I allowed them to be for sale (which was in early December). I’m now in that 3-4 month publicity phase sending out free copies to influential people and setting up interviews. Very time consuming, but so far so good, I’m glad I did it this way, and thankfully I’ve been able to manufacture my own buzz.

This is all to say that in my mind, under a normal publication model, I’m still in the pre-publication phase of it and “my next book” is quite far from my mind. But I have about five different ideas that I have begun to explore, but none with much intent at this point. 

Read an Excerpt:

Early in my career I worked at an old fashioned savings and loan bank. We offered the best rates in town, and this attracted a certain kind of customer. One emblematic individual was Mr. Tonlin. He was meticulous in his management of his $4,000,000, which was divided among fifty or so accounts with different maturity dates. He would come in every week with his list on a clipboard held proudly to his chest and carefully make decisions about which ones to get, haggling with management for better rates. He carried the air of a business magnate from the Industrial Revolution. This was his pride and joy. Then, after years of this routine, his wife passed away.

Mr. Tonlin came in the afternoon after the funeral—perhaps to get some grounding in his routines. He seemed like he had lost six inches of height. He came into the bank lobby expressionless, posture limp, disoriented. Various staff came up to him, expressing their condolences. He ambled to the counter holding his clipboard, which now seemed to be very heavy to him. We waited for him to say something as he looked at the list. Then quietly, looking down at his clipboard, his chin quivered and his eyes welled up, “I should have spent this money with her. What am I going to do with it?”

It’s been over a decade since this happened. I would bet that a week hasn’t gone by that I haven’t thought of that man and this single phrase.

I believe that those who have saved up deserve the reward of minimizing their fears about money while maximizing their energy for the real things of life. Ask yourself: what is the point? This is not a rhetorical question. If you and I optimize your financial life, leaving no stone unturned, what’s the point? What would change? What should change?

To me, the point is this: you should have the luxury of diverting your emotional energy away from worrying about money. Spend that same energy on more important things like family and friends, pursuing goals and experiences, enjoying life, or giving back to the world. The emotional cost of financial chaos is profoundly impoverishing. Bringing order to chaos will enable you to divert your energy to the things that enrich your life.

Financial strength is not about having a lot of money. The ancient Romans had a saying, “Money is like seawater. The more you drink, the thirstier you become.” As you grow in wealth, you must also grow in wisdom.

Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. 

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