The names Gordon Murray and Dan Goldie probably wouldn't have rung a bell for many people outside the world of Wall Street until a few weeks ago—November 27, to be exact. That Saturday the New York Times's Your Money column by Ron Lieber told the story of a recent book on investment under the headline "A Dying Banker's Last Instructions."
Authors Murray and Goldie had been kicking around the book idea for several years, something they'd do when they got the time. Until Murray—a longtime financial veteran of Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, and Credit Suisse First Boston—was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2008 and found out the cancer had recurred earlier this year. After deciding to forgo treatment, he went to work with his friend, financial adviser Goldie, to distill their personal financial wisdom. In August, they self-published The Investment Answer: Learn to Manage Your Money & Protect Your Financial Future.
Lieber's column sent The Investment Answer soaring to a #5 Amazon ranking. It also sent Rick Wolff, publisher of Grand Central's Business Plus imprint, racing through the pages over the weekend. First thing Monday morning, he e-mailed Goldie, then got a call back from an agent at Sterling Lord who informed him that, given Murray's health, an auction for the rights would be held immediately. Nine houses were in the running, but Business Plus secured the rights by Tuesday evening. Part of the deal required fast-tracking the title, which Business Plus will publish in hardcover on January 25.
"I've been in publishing more than 30 years, and I've never been involved in a book that's been streamlined into publication this fast," says Wolff. "The sales handle is The Last Lecture, only for investing. It's one thing to just give advice, but you also need an inspirational quality that makes people feel they can do it. That's what sets titles apart."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the murky financial times and competitive marketplace, many forthcoming personal investment titles reflect the same focus on showcasing titles with an extra something—a gripping backstory, a well-known author, a unique personal perspective—that will inspire advice seekers to pick them up.
Brand Name Values
Standing out in a category stuffed with Investment 101 titles, doom and gloom assessments of the fiscal realm, and established powerhouses like Suze Orman and Robert Kiyosaki means that personality and platform are more important than ever. Take Grand Central's other major title in the category, Sarah Ban Breath-nach's Peace and Plenty: Finding Your Path to Financial Serenity (Dec.), which chronicles the bestselling author's "spiritual journey from prosperity to destitution to peace, and her guide for women who have lost their financial and spiritual way to get a fresh start." Her 1995 book Simple Abundance has sold nearly five million copies and stayed at #1 on the New York Times's bestseller list for more than a year.
Crown Business is banking on a big response to two new titles by high-profile authors—David Bach's Debt Free for Life: The Finish Rich Plan for Financial Freedom (Dec.), and The Big Secret for the Small Investor: A New Route to Long-Term Investment Success by Joel Greenblatt (Apr.). Bach's last nine books have been national bestsellers, and he's been a frequent Oprah visitor and on "Today's Money 911" segment on NBC. Green-blatt, the author of 1980's bestselling The Little Book That Beats the Market (and its September 2010 follow-up, The Little Book That Still Beats the Market), is a hedge fund manager and owner of the Magic Formula Investing Web site.
"With both books, we have major authors with huge platforms that will help to get these books attention and that speak to our greatest concerns with regard to our finances," says Crown executive editor Roger Scholl. "And I think that's one key in today's challenging times—consumers want advice from people who they know and trust, writing about the issues they care most deeply about."