Mark Goldwich is president of Gold Star Adjusters, a group of public insurance adjusters dedicated to helping citizens get the maximum settlement for any insurance claim.
How to Write Your Way To Celebrity (Maybe)
by Mark Goldwich
Back in 2005, about a year into my new career as a Public Adjuster, I was telling my wife’s boss “war stories” about claims I was handling in the Florida Panhandle following Hurricane Ivan. After hearing me recount how adjusters would miss appointments without as much as a phone call, write horribly low estimates one after the other, attempt to deny items that were clearly covered by the policy…not to mention the delays! One delay after another, month after agonizing month. It was unbelievable, yet I could recite the details for what seemed like hours on end.
My wife’s boss, a motivational speaker and author of multiple books who goes simply by “Pegine”, stopped me mid-sentence and said, “Is this true? Do the insurance companies really do these things?” Absolutely, I told her. After all, I wasn’t just repeating what I heard from someone else, I was talking about actual claims I was personally working on. These things were really happening, and on a regular basis. While it was not how I was taught as a company adjuster, I quickly saw it as the status quo, especially after a catastrophe. But she was completely beside herself, and emphatically told me, “You need to write a book – people need to know this!”
“Besides,” she explained, “writing a book is a great way to set yourself apart from your competition, and increase your credibility as an expert in your field.” I reminded her I was not a writer, I was an insurance adjuster. But she didn’t seem to care. Her mind was made up. She told me about a “ghostwriter” friend of hers, and explained how it all worked. I would tell the stories, he would make them print-worthy, and the public would be made aware – both, of what the insurance companies were up to, and who could help them level the playing field. It was a win-win-win situation.
So for the next several months, as I made the 5-hour drive from Jacksonville to Pensacola Beach, and back again every week or so, I would dictate my stories into a micro-cassette recorder (this was years before voice-to-text smart phones), and pop them in the mail to the “writer”. He would then clean it up, create an order for it all, as well as teach me things about writing and publishing I had no idea about. He helped me find a graphic designer for the cover (who also created my logo and designed my website), and an on-line self-publisher to print the books (the first edition, anyway).
Initially, the book was going to be a “pocket book”, small and thin, 80 pages tops, with just enough information to raise awareness and promote myself as an expert in the field of property insurance claims. But as the months went on, I found more and more information “needed” to be included, and more and more “stories” were naturally generated as I continued to beat insurance companies at their own game. The book grew in both size and thickness, from 5”x7” and under 80 pages, to 6”x9” and over 125 pages.
In 2006, “UNCOVERED – What REALLY Happens After The Storm, Flood, Earthquake or Fire” was born! I was very proud to be a published author, less than three years into my new business venture. I hired a publicist to let the world know about the book by sending press releases, and waited for the media to call. Don’t laugh. No, I didn’t get a lot of media attention, and the books weren’t exactly flying off the shelves of bookstores, but I did make it on a local news station’s “Hurricane Special”, as well as a morning TV show, the local paper and business journal, and some radio shows (local and national). I sold a few books here and there, but mainly gave them away as door prizes during networking events, or to clients, prospects, or strategic alliances. My point here is, don’t think you are going to make a great living selling books, and be able to retire early from the career you wrote the book to promote in the first place. Just accept the fact that you are not going to be selling a ton of books, and focus on using the books to promote your business (and/or yourself).
But the book really does help. It has now been about 8 years since I wrote my first book, and people are still impressed that I wrote a book. I’ve had a client tell me the deciding factor for her hiring me over a competitor was because I wrote the book (which I gave to her when she asked me to “interview” for the claim she needed help with). The claim turned out to be a big success. She recovered many tens of thousands more than her insurance company initially offered, and I received a sizeable commission fee – plus she did a great testimonial video for me. Thanks to that one book, that one claim paid for everything that went into writing and publishing the 2,000 initial copies of my book. Talk about a great return on investment!
No, my book did not make me a celebrity, and it did not make me rich. But it does lend credibility to me and my business, it sets me apart, and all these years later, it still offers the opportunity to promote my business. And that is not to say your book will not do so much more for you. Besides, you might be surprised at how much you can learn about yourself, your business, your industry, and your competition, by going through the book-writing process.