Interview With Financial Writer Les Leopold
1. Why did you write How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour (J. Wiley and Sons, January 2013)? When I was researching my last book I came across some amazing figures on how much hedge fund managers earned. At first, these numbers in the billions of dollars seemed like abstractions. But then I started to put them into spreadsheets. The numbers were so large that I had to come up with comparisons and breakdowns to make sense of them. The first one I looked at closely blew my mind. The top hedge fund guru in 2010, John Paulson, earned as much in one HOUR as the average family did in 47 YEARS! Mother of god! One hour = 47 years? How is that possible? That took me in three directions: How much richer are these guys that even the richest movie stars and athletes? How do the hedge fund elites earn so much? And assuming there is some connection between what you earn and what you produce for the economy, what possible justifications are there for all that income? That quickly turned into "How to Make a Million dollars an Hour."
2. What is the take-away message from your book? Wall Street is totally out of control. You can't make that much money without harming the economy and violating just about every ethical standard you can think of -- (and the book provides chapter and verse about each of these corrupt moves.) As result, the sane and rational move for all of us, is to dramatically limit the size of Wall Street. (See next question.)
3. What can be done to regulate Wall Street or hedge funds? I think it's foolish to try to micro-manage them. We need two broad policies that are simple in concept but very difficult to enact: 1) We need to limit the size of all financial firms so that they no longer are "too-big-or-complicated-to fail." Banks and hedge funds are entwined. Both need to be drastically reduced in size. We must institute e a small financial transaction tax on every kind of financial instrument. This would put an end to high frequency trading and make it more difficult for hedge funds and large banks to consistently game the system. (10 countries in Europe are already moving in this direction.)
4. Where do you see the financial markets heading this year? The fact that someone asks me a question like this shows how screwed up Wall Street really is. I'm not an investment adviser. I don't invest at all (although my 18 year-old son bought two shares of Google last year and is doing very well. He refused to touch Apple. Maybe talk with him.) But I can tell you this. Whether markets go up or down, many, many hedge fund managers and bankers are going to haul in a lot of money this year without producing any value at all for the economy.
5. What are the rewards and challenges of researching and writing this book? I'm very, very lucky. I love to write and I love researching new books. Once a publisher lets me go, it's a joy. There are two very hard parts. The first is getting close to the subject. Could I get financial folks to level with me? Can I line up the interviews? etc. The second is marketing. It's hard to get the space in the media to talk about books. So marketing takes a lot of effort.
6. Any advice to a struggling writer? Just keep writing. I wrote my first book without a book contract or agent. I didn't even try to sell it until it was entirely written. I had never done anything like it before. I was stunned by how much I liked it. So I guess my advice is this -- only try to be a writer if you really love the process of writing -- from the first draft to having editors hack up your stuff and learning from it. If you sell books too, that's a bonus.
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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at email@example.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This blog is copyrighted material by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2013 ©