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Lessons Learned on Writing a Book for Finance

From Malcolm Faulkner, Senior Director Product Marketing EPM, SAP

I recently blogged on my book on Financial Planning and Analysis (FPA). If you are thinking about writing your first book too, then you are probably interested in the experiences of others including myself as to what to expect. So here’s my story – with my best intent to encourage you to follow your dreams of becoming an author. I hope this will make you a little bit more prepared in your undertaking.

People studying in library

Let me say off the bat that I like books. I like browsing in book stores, I like the feel of new books, I like libraries, and I like the idea of absorbing knowledge. I especially like well-written books – the ones that have beautifully crafted sentences and contain elegant turns of phrase.

Most importantly you’ve got to have both the desire to write and the idea for the book. I always wanted to write a book and assumed one day I would. It came down to a matter of timing – having a thorough-enough idea for a book and the relationship with a publisher. I suspect in these days of self-publishing the latter is less important in terms of writing the book. But it certainly helps to manage the project – because that is a huge part of it.

The SAP Connection

Because of my role at SAP, I had the opportunity to meet personally with SAP Press and talk to them about the idea. So getting a publisher to listen to me wasn’t a problem. I still had to pitch an idea and have them do their own internal analysis as to the viability of it. Part of this process involved producing a fairly detailed, chapter-by-chapter outline of the proposed book. This I found quite challenging but it really helped later. Even if the contents change – and it will – having a plan is an essential first step if it is ever going to get done, just like any project.

I also had two book ideas. The first was on the concept of business transformation in finance processes – how to make finance more efficient and effective through process improvements and the judicious use of software applications. In hindsight, while this is a topic of interest to me, it is not where I spend much of my time in my current job. So writing a book on this subject would have been too much of a challenge. Lesson learned – pick a subject in which you have some experience as well as an interest.

Making It Happen – Challenges and Obstacles

For the book I did choose to write, I had a co-author, William D. Newman.   It was, for me, the price of admission since a related book had already been published by SAP Press previously. This, even though our new book was of a much grander scale and had a completely different objective in mind than the earlier work.

Writing a book with someone else has pros and cons. Certainly, there are advantages in having other authors writing chapters and sections. But you also have to deal with differing schedules, styles, viewpoints, and so on. It’s not for everyone and something to consider carefully if you’re facing a similar situation. That said, it would have been extremely hard to complete the book without my co-author (or even get the project off the ground). So for that, I am eternally grateful.

In the end, it was not the actual writing that was difficult for me for the most part. That’s not to say there weren’t times when I had writer’s block. Largely, it was the amount of research and access to relevant content that I found most challenging. I often found myself, to quote John Naisbitt, “drowning in information but starving for knowledge.”

In part this was due to the subject of my book – using SAP solutions for financial planning and analysis is a massive topic.

Achieving the Author’s Objective

Towards the end, completing the book wasn’t much different than finishing a software product. It was a compromise between content and timeline. Any creative work is likely to be never perfect at least in the eyes of the creator. That is what next versions are for, and today with the internet there are plenty of options for continuing to evolve a topic beyond the foundation provided by a book.