Will a Dying Banker's Investment Book Bring Seven-Figure Advance?

Gordon Murray was once the managing director for both Lehman Brothers and Credit Suisse First Boston. Dan Goldie was a world-class tennis player who made it all the way to the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 1989 -- beating Jimmy Connors, but losing to Ivan Lendl. Now the two men have collaborated on an unexpected, self-publishing success that has major publishers interested to the tune of possible seven-figure advances -- even though the 60-year-old Murray does not expect to live to his next birthday.

As TheNew York Times reported late last month, Murray, who was diagnosed in 2008 with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, decided to cut short treatment five months ago. With time running out, Murray set to write what became the 96-page paperback The Investment Answer, which offers commonsense advice on financial planning and asset allocation that upends the typical Wall Street-style ethos of wanting to beat the market.

Murray co-wrote the book with Goldie, who turned to investment planning after retiring from his tennis career and became a registered investment adviser for Dimension Fund Advisors, which also hired Murray as a consultant in 2001.

On Amazon's Top 10 and Out of Stock

Though The Investment Answer was self-published and first released in September, it took the Times story and a follow-up piece from RIABiz.com to kick-start the buzz. The paperback was ranked in Amazon's top 10 throughout this week (and is out of stock there and in most online retail outlets). And though Goldie didn't respond to request for comment, industry newsletter Publishers Lunchreported Wednesday (and also confirmed by DailyFinance) that he and Murray's agent, Laurie Liss of Sterling Lord Literistic, "is well along the path towards a sale, reportedly with multiple seven-figure bids offered and a deal announcement expected shortly."

At first glance, Murray and Goldie's book would be a natural for a large publishing house to acquire. Past precedent on self-published titles shows that when one sells well -- at least 5,000 copies, preferably more -- and has a built-in audience and market, major houses will bite, and pay well in doing so.

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What also makes The Investment Answer appealing as an acquisition for publishers is, unfortunately, Murray's imminent death. The situation is reminiscent of The Last Lecture, an inspirational book about achieving childhood dreams by Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch, which was written after he received a terminal diagnosis in 2007. Pausch died of pancreatic cancer in 2008, and The Last Lecture, which was published by Hyperion with a high seven-figure advance, proved to be a New York Times bestseller.

But one editor who was involved early on in the auction process for The Investment Answer offers a note of caution. Murray and Goldie's book, unlike The Last Lecture, is basic investment advice, not inspirationally minded. "This is copycat thinking, and someone's going to get burned." That is, unless Murray and Goldie somehow transform The Investment Answer into something that's a hybrid of advice and uplifting memoir. But Murray's time may run out before such a solution comes to pass.

Update: the Associated Press reported Thursday afternoon that Business Plus, an imprint of Hachette Book Group division Grand Central Publishing, will republish "The Investment Answer" in a new edition by January 25. Terms were not disclosed, but bidding is believed to have exceeded $1 million.