Maybe the mainstream media is just too polite to come out and say: we're pretty damn close to a depression in this country (recently, the National Bureau of Economic Research finally confirmed that the nation has been in recession since December 2007). In just a year the stock market almost halved its highs of 2007; nearly two million jobs have been lost in 2008 alone; foreclosures are rampant; the housing market is years from recovery; bankruptcies are at an all-time high; 401(k) plans are at an all-time low; the clueless Detroit automakers are near extinction; and, by the way, Americans owe over $1 trillion on their credit cards. Let's face it, this is an economic mess that would put fear even into the stouthearted Franklin Delano Roosevelt himself.

But the “D” word is seldom used (this side of Paul Krugman and Robert Kiyosaki), only that we are in for a “prolonged recession,” a “protracted recession” or a “slow recovery.” Even the cheerleaders at Fox Business and CNBC, although more solemn than the giddy days of only 15 months ago, have failed to broach the dreaded “D” term. (You'll also notice that they don't call Maria Bartiromo the “Money Honey” that much anymore; perhaps “Credit Crunch Wench” doesn't have the same sex appeal.)

But what's bad for Wall Street can be good for publishers and Americans facing unprecedented financial stresses. If there's one place that Americans can get information about debt, foreclosure, dwindling 401(k)s, etc., it is from books. The publishing industry not only boasts the biggest names in the personal finance business (i.e., Ramsey, Orman, Kiyosaki, etc.) but also a steady group of professionals who know their stuff.

And in these unprecedented times, publishers have stepped up, with one publisher, Grand Central's Business Plus, even considering a new book from Rich Dad's Robert T. Kiyosaki free online, chapter by chapter, starting sometime this winter (before turning it into book form sometime next year).

It will be called Conspiracy of the Rich: The New Rules of Money, and it will be a daring venture on both the part of Grand Central and Kiyosaki's Rich Dad empire. “[Kiyosaki] wants to do this,” says Mona Gambetta, president of the Rich Dad Company, “because he believes he can't wait for the traditional book publishing route—the message is too timely, too important, it's in the headlines every day. People are frustrated and angry and scared a little bit. They feel out of control, and that's what moving Robert to say this book has to happen now. And in this economy, it's really the right price. They can download it, they can print it, they can send it to their friends—no hidden agenda.”

Rick Wolff, publisher of Grand Central/Business Plus, notes, “Robert is compelled to help the millions everywhere who feel that they've been betrayed by the Wall Street leaders, and he's very eager to get his message out right away. Doing an online book—for free—makes a lot of sense in terms of facilitating Robert's message as quickly as possible.”

We are in uncharted economic waters, and Kiyosaki is not one to sugarcoat the disaster we may be morphing into. “There's two kinds of depressions—inflation or deflation,” says Kiyosaki. “The question on the next depression is, which one will it be? Which type? Because if you know which type it is, at least you can prepare, but if you don't know which type it is, you can be cleaned out. I'm doing my best to boil it down so chapter one is, 'Are you prepared for the coming depression?' ”

Battle of the Money Gurus

Americans love their financial advisers. Americans tell them intimate things they wouldn't tell their spouses or their priests.

“Especially in this uncertain climate, people are concerned about their financial status,” says Beth Parker, associate director of publicity for Gotham Books. “They invite media financial advisers into their home every day when they turn on the television, so it is not surprising that they will take their advice. People are looking for answers, and no-nonsense, commonsense advice will sound appealing to them.”

“I think it has a lot to do with the trust factor,” says Wolff of Business Plus. “That is, when people see and hear financial advisers on TV, they quickly tend to make a decision as to whether they 'like' that individual and if they trust the advice they're hearing. Since many times that televised bond does occur, people are much more tempted to then go out and purchase those authors' books.”

Dave Ramsey can be abrasive, Suze Orman concerned, and Jean Chatzky comes across as the mom-next-door, while Jim Cramer—well, he's some sort of mad scientist stirring the pot every night. But no matter what their money politics, their shtick or their tactics, their message is the same—get out of credit card debt immediately.

Dave Ramsey, weeknights on the Fox Business channel, syndicated radio,

First impression? Elmer Gantry with a calculator... Second impression: This guy makes sense... Favorite quote: “the borrower is servant to the lender”—Proverbs 22:7... Hates debt and credit cards with a passion (only takes debit cards on his Web site)... Does not “worship at the altar of FICO”... Favorite features: Debt-free Fridays; “Plasectomies”: violent, inventive ways—gun, wood chippers; chainsaws, etc. —to destroy credit cards... Hates car leases (“fleeces,” he calls them)... Rails against government and taxes (often refers to the IRS as the KGB)... Favorite comment: “I'm better than I deserve.”

“Over the last four months, as the economy has worsened, our sales of Dave Ramsey's backlist has increased by more than 70% overall.” —Patrick Nolan, v-p/director of trade paperback sales, Penguin Group (USA).

Thomas Nelson reports that it has sold 1.5 million copies of Ramsey's books (including the popular Total Money Makeover) and that he has been on the New York Times Book Review bestseller list a total of 71 weeks.

Suze Orman, Saturday evenings on CNBC, specials on PBS,

Suze Orman's 2009 Action Plan (Dec. 30; $9.99). Orman tackles the dire economic year ahead in this paperback.

First impression? An erstwhile flower child... Second impression: Smart cookie... Favorite four-letter F-word: FICO... Gay friendly... Will change her mind about financial rules... Often appears on Oprah and Larry King... Favorite feature: “Can I Afford It?”—and the answer is most likely NO!; was way out in front in talking about the housing bubble; also hates car leases; is adamant in her dislike of high-interest education loans... Favorite comment: “People first, then money, then things.”

Riverhead reports that The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous and Broke, The Road to Wealth and The Courage to Be Rich have sold a combined 3,200,000.

Jim Cramer, nightly on CNBC's Mad Money

Jim Cramer's Real Money: Sane Investing in an Insane World (S&S, Jan. 6)

Cramer has become a true financial lightning rod. Not only does his own network put a disclaimer on the air when he appears, but the Fox Business channel has even devoted a commercial for him in which they conclude by saying: “The last thing you need is Jim Cramer.” Nevertheless, Simon & Schuster has more than two million copies of Cramer's titles in print. Jim Cramer's Real Money will have a 160,000- copy trade paperback printing.

“Real Money articulates essential principles of investing that are as important in bear markets as they are in bull markets. It's investing discipline that gets investors successfully through the downturns in the market.” —Bob Bender, v-p/senior editor.

Jean Chatzky, financial editor of NBC's Today Show; has her own XM radio program; multiple platforms,

The Difference: New Research Unlocks the 10 Secrets to Becoming Truly Wealthy (Crown, Mar. 10)

Chatzky has her hands full—she also has the“Your Money” column in the New York Daily News, a daily show on XM radio's Oprah & Friends—and a new book coming in the spring.

“From new research on 5,000+ people, Jean has identified the habits and traits of those who started from a paycheck-to-paycheck existence and broke through to financial comfort and wealth.” —Heather Jackson, Crown executive editor.

100,000-copy first printing; Today Show launch/kickoff; 20-city radio satellite tour.

Beyond the Gurus: General Survival

The big four have no monopoly on advice; there is plenty of it, and advisers, to go around.

Generation Debt: Take Control of Your Money—A How-to Guide by Carmen Wong Ulrich (Grand Central/Business Plus)

Ulrich hosts On the Money weeknights on CNBC... Does more extensive one-on-one counseling on the show with people with money problems... Show has given sales a boost.

“Yes, we have seen a very nice rise in Carmen's book sales since she started on CNBC. As her profile in the media continues to grow, so do her sales.”

—Rick Wolff, Business Plus publisher

Safe Money in Tough Times: Everything You Need to Know to Survive the Financial Crisis by Jonathan Pond (McGraw-Hill, Feb. 6)

You can depend on the avuncular Pond to show up on PBS stations around pledge time, which means he is on almost monthly. He calmly advises baby boomers about their retirement and options, even as those options grow more perilous by the day.

35,000-copy first printing; 5-city publicity tour; radio satellite tours; tie-in with Pond's PBS special.

Collins will also be reprinting The Boomer's Guide to a Great Retirement: You Can Do It! in paper in January.

People Are Idiots and I Can Prove It by Larry Winget (Gotham, Dec. 26)

The star of the A&E reality series Big Spender is back with his western shirts, cowboy boots and antipitying attitude. Gotham will also be reprinting You're Broke Because You Want to Be in paperback in December.

Winget has three Gotham titles and 304,000 copies in print.

Stay Rich for Life: More Money for You Today, More Money for Your Retirement, and More Money for Your Loved Ones, and More of It Tax-Free by Ed Slott (Ballantine, Mar.)

Slott is another PBS star, like Orman and Pond, who seems to be on incessantly.

75,000-copy first printing.

Fight for Your Money by David Bach (Broadway, Mar. 3)

Bach, a frequent media guest on Oprah, has eight books on finance with 5,350,000 copies in print.


Debt—especially credit card debt—is one of the biggest financial problems facing Americans, especially as banks put more stringent regulations on unsecured debt. Sen. Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, has estimated that Americans owe more than $1 trillion (that's 12 zeroes, folks) on their credit cards.

I.O.U.S.A.: One Nation. Under Stress. In Debt by Addison Wiggin and Kate Incontrera (Wiley)

“Tie-in to a fascinating documentary featuring interviews with government leaders discussing the gloomy state of the U.S. economy and how much in debt the U.S. government is in, and the impact on future generations of Americans.” —Debra Englander, executive editor, business & finance.

75,000 copies in print; national and local publicity campaign.

Surviving Financial Meltdown: Confident Decisions in an Uncertain World by Ron Blue with Jeremy L. White, C.P.A. (Tyndale/Focus on the Family, Feb.)

“Provides a blueprint laid out by financial experts of biblically based financial principles to implement during both calm and crisis.” —Jennifer Muntz, marketing manager.

75,000-copy first printing; national marketing campaign.

Solve Your Money Troubles: Get Debt Collectors Off Your Back & Regain Financial Freedom by Robin Leonard and John Lamb (Nolo)

A comprehensive, easy-to-read guide to help readers manage their finances and control debt.

20,000-copy first printing; radio/print campaigns.

Forgive Us Our Debts: The Intergenerational Dangers of Fiscal Irresponsibility by Andrew Yarrow (Yale)

“It makes powerfully clear, in readable, concise prose, why debt and deficit at the federal level matter to all Americans today and, importantly, matter even more to future generations of Americans.” —Jessica Holahan, publicist.

Debt Is Slavery by Michael Mihalik (October Mist)

“Takes a unique approach to personal finance by focusing on changing the way people 'think' about money because it's difficult for people to change their actions until they change the way they think.” —Mike Mihalik, president

2,170 copy first printing.

American Credit Repair: Everything You Need to Know... by Trevor Rhodes and Nadine Smith (McGraw-Hill)

“Offers real help to those with bad credit reports. Because Rhodes's company prepares credit reports for the real estate and mortgage industries, he knows what the red flags are that can damage someone's credit rating—and how to fix them.” —Mary Glenn, editorial director.

Wishing Won't Do It: Financial Planning Will by Dave Brennan (Brown Books)

“Different from other financial planning books because it teaches entire families, not just individuals, how to create an effective financial plan.” —Cathy Williams, national marketing director.

[The listings below are Web-exclusives.]

Financial Survival in Uncertain Times by Deborah Smith Pegues (Harvest House, Jan.)

“With its size and price point [$10.99], this book is not only an easy-to-read financial primer, it is one that can help people prioritize their spending, bring debt under control and provide peace of mind.” —Rod Morris, senior editor.

Going Broke: Why Americans Can’t Hold On to Their Money by Stuart Vyse (Oxford)

“Going Broke also offers personal advice on achieving greater financial stability as well as pointed recommendations for economic and social change that will help promote the financial health of all Americans.” —Susan Fensten, senior publicist.

5,000-copy first printing.

Shaping Up

Many Americans this year will be adding another New Year’s resolution (besides losing weight): getting their financial house in order.

Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence: Revised Edition by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez with Monique Tilford (Viking)

“With its emphasis on both financial and emotional well-being during times of economic stress, this is a great book for the holiday season.” —Yen Cheong, assistant director of publicity.

30,000-copy first printing; 15-city author tour.

How to Be the Family CFO: 4 Simple Steps to Put Your Financial House in Order by Kim Snider (Greenleaf)

The four steps: plan prudently, save prodigiously, invest wisely, manage risk.

“This book is a nuts and bolts plan to control and grow one’s finances. Her honesty in admitting her own errors is refreshing, and she makes the reader feel capable and empowered” —Kim Snider, president, Snider Advisers.

10,000-copy first printing.

First Comes Love, Then Comes Money: How to Overcome the Number One Problem Couples Face by Bethany and Scott Palmer (HarperOne, Mar. 10)

The Palmers—”The Money Couple”—reveal that no other finance books or budget plans will work until couples learn how to practice good financial communication.

50,000-copy first printing; 6-city publicity tour; 25-city radio satellite tour.

The Great Depression Ahead: How to Prosper in the Crash That Follows the Greatest Boom in History by Harry S. Dent (Free Press, Jan.)

Rather than just predicting the crash, The Great Depression Ahead offers tips for investors on how to prosper.

72,000-copy first printing; national publicity.

The Cure for Money Madness: Break Your Bad Money Habits, Live Without Financial Stress—and Make More Money! by Spencer Sherman (Broadway, Feb. 3)

“It is the only book that not only gives you sound financial advice, but the sanity and perspective needed to put that advice into practice.” —Kris Puopolo, senior editor.

20,000-copy first printing; 9-city author tour.

The Blame Game: Et tu Greenspan
How did we get into this economic mess?

Just as in the case of the Iraq War, it may take a few years until the books are written that tell us what really happened to the U.S. economy in 2008. But there are a few titles out there right now, and two of them point the finger at former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, the erstwhile “Maestro” of the American economy.

William A. Fleckenstein goes right after Greenspan in Greenspan's Bubbles: The Age of Ignorance at the Federal Reserve (McGraw-Hill; 60,000 copies in print). He looks at the record of the “Bubble Blower”-in-chief and blames much of our present-day troubles on Greenspan's intense faith in the marketplace and his keeping interest rates too low for too long.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize winner in economics, has The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008 (Norton, Dec.; 150,000-copy first printing). Chapter 7 is devoted to “Greenspan's Bubbles”; Krugman writes, “Greenspan warned about irrational exuberance, but he didn't do anything about it,” recalling that Greenspan “presided over not one but two enormous asset bubbles, first in dot-com stocks, then in housing.”

Here are a few more titles about the economic debacle of 2008:

The Fall of Bear Stearns and the Panic of 2008 by Bill Bamber and Andrew Spencer (Brick Tower)

“Told from an insider's intimate perch, [this book] is fearless in its willingness to name names and reveal details of a firm destined for collapse.” —Dennis Kneale, CNBC.

40,000-copy first printing; $100,000 promotion budget.

House of Cards: A Tale of Greed and Wretched Excess on Wall Street by William D. Cohan (Doubleday, Mar. 17)

The collapse of Bear Stearns exposed the arrogance and the horrendous mistakes that pushed the whole of Wall Street over the brink of disaster.

Major promo/publicity.