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."
McGraw-Hill's recent business titles include, from the cohost of CNBC's "The Strategy Session," Gary Kaminsky, Smarter than the Street: Invest and Make Money in Any Market (Oct.) and, from prominent behavioral finance expert Meir Statman, What Investors Really Want: Know What Drives Investor Behavior and Make Smarter Financial Decisions (Oct.). The publisher also maintains a healthy backlist of bestselling titles that are updated regularly in new editions, including Stan Hinden's How to Retire Happy, Jeff Schnepper's How to Pay Zero Taxes, and William O'Neill's How to Make Money in Stocks. Business books group publisher Gary Krebs says McGraw-Hill is "very selective in what we publish in this area," emphasizing the importance of a "completely fresh approach" and a platform that can springboard sales.
Harper Business publisher Hollis Heimbouch holds that "trusted sources" are a must at a time when many investors are already skeptical. She cites Harper's relationship with the Wall Street Journal as an example of leveraging existing authority, pointing to such titles as The Wall Street Journal Guide to the New Rules of Personal Finance by Dave Kansas (Dec.) and The Wall Street Journal Guide to Investing in the Apocalypse by James Altucher and Douglas Sease (Feb.). The publisher is also continuing its relationship with the Motley Fool with next June's Warren Buffett Invests Like a Girl: And Why You Should, Too, looking at the advantages of women's decision-making styles alongside an analysis of Buffett's legendary investment prowess.
Several publishers also note that as the economy is beginning to recover, what many people are looking for is useful advice delivered in a straightforward way. While some such books may involve financial gurus with big followings and brand names, what also helps sell them is the way they put consumers in the driver's seat with techniques they can use in their daily lives.
Examples include titles from Penguin's Perigee imprint, which provide practical money-managing tips. Carmen Wong Ulrich, financial advice columnist for Glamour and iVillage, returns this month with The Real Cost of Living: Making the Best Choices for You, Your Life, and Your Money, showing how readers can balance personal costs and financial costs for any major decision, including divorce, home ownership, and working after having a child. And in January, Dan Solin's The Smartest Money Book You'll Ever Read will be published in association with Mint.com, laying out the steps to do-it-yourself investing.
"The emphasis this season is on the practical: how to understand the confusing economic news we are all seeing every day and how to devise a personal strategy to deal with it," St. Martin's senior editor Phil Revzin says. Recently published titles such as Susan L. Hirshman's Does This Make My Assets Look Fat? (Sept.) and Craig Hovey's The Accountant's Guide to the Universe (Nov.) tackle tough financial topics with a consumer-friendly, humorous approach. And St. Martin's Griffin imprint has several new plainspoken yet market-savvy titles: out this month are Laura D. Adams's Money Girl's Smart Moves to Grow Rich and Andrew Horowitz's The Winning Investor's Guide to Making Money in Any Market, with Ryan C. Mack's Living in the Village due in January.
Wiley's top titles are also aimed at people seeking "understandable information that they can use," according to editorial director Debra Englander. They include Vitaliy Katsenelson's Little Book of Sideways Investments: How to Make Money in Markets That Go Nowhere (Dec.) and John Mauldin and Jonathan Tepper's The End Game: The End of the Debt Supercycle and How It Changes Everything (Mar.).
For those readers in the market for a more philosophical and spiritual approach, Select Books published in October The Intuitive Investor: A Radical Guide for Manifesting Wealth. Coming from a strong financial background, author Jason Apollo Voss puts forth the thesis that investment decisions should involve the creative "right-brain" thought process as much as the more analytical "left-brain" approach. Select Books marketing director Kenichi Sugihara believes the audience for such books is growing: "Matters of social consciousness and spiritual awareness often play significant roles among the new wealthy classes, not to mention some skepticism of the conventional practices of Wall Street."
While many financial titles focus on long-range goals, Da Capo's How to Shop for Free: Shopping Secrets for Smart Women Who Love to Get Something for Nothing by Kathy Spencer (with Samantha Rose; Nov.) offers tips on how to achieve more immediate monetary gratification. Spencer brings her years as a coupon maven to the table, offering techniques for lowering the grocery bill, knowing which deals to expect in each month, and racking up steals from popular stores, among much more. "These days, it seems to be about just getting by," says Renee Sedliar, executive editor at Da Capo's Lifelong Books. "Kathy shows how to get the most of stores—literally—using cash-back programs, rebates, coupons, etc."
Getting Rich, Dad
When Robert Kiyosaki returned home to Hawaii from the Vietnam War, he was unsure of his future. Most of the other pilots he knew had gone to work for the airlines, which didn't appeal to him. His father advised him to go back to school, attain advanced degrees, and get a government job. But "poor dad" was 50 years old with a doctorate and no job, and Kiyosaki realized he couldn't take the same path.
"I came home and I woke up—1973 was a good year," says Kiyosaki, laughing. "I didn't know what exactly, but I could feel something was wrong with the standard advice." And, so the story goes, this was when he sought the advice of "rich dad," with the goal of becoming an entrepreneur. The popular version of rich dad's philosophy was born from the study Kiyosaki did on his own during this period. "I'm a rich man not because of what I learned at school. I became a student of education and the economy," he says.
His observations led him to two main principles that became the core of Rich Dad, Poor Dad (written with Sharon Lechter): that the rich don't work for money and that a house isn't an asset but a liability. While the book is now recognized as the bestselling personal finance book in history, every publisher turned it down. Unwilling to give up, Kiyosaki self-published 1,000 copies, which he put in a friend's Texas gas station. As word of mouth spread, finding a publisher to pick up the title became much easier.
"People respond because there is a real-life problem: financial sustainability as an individual," he says. "My audience is people who know the traditional financial advice, and who also know it hasn't worked."
Now Rich Dad has become a worldwide phenomenon centered around a slew of books, the Cashflow board game, and a financial education company with the Rich Dad name, all with the RichDad.com Web site as an active hub. In fact, Kiyosaki's most recent bestseller, 2009's Conspiracy of the Rich, began as a free online interactive book featuring contributions from 1.1 million readers in nearly 170 countries. Rich Dad titles fill four of the top 10 slots on Nielsen BookScan's Life-to-Date Sales from 2001 to 2008 alone, and Kiyosaki has been featured on Oprah, The Doctors, Larry King Live, et al.
While the Rich Dad investment and financial management philosophy has attracted its share of critics, Kiyosaki waves them off. "I'm attacked by the intelligentsia, but I just say what I know is true. Economists say you don't know what you're talking about, but I say, ‘I make more money than you do.' "
Up next is Unfair Advantage: The Power of Financial Education (Mar.), which he calls "Rich Dad, Poor Dad graduate school." The title details practical applications of ideas and strategies from earlier books, outlining how Kiyosaki makes debt work as an asset and how to take full advantage of the tax code. The author says, for him, it all comes back to the need for people to be financially educated, as the rich in this country already are. "Why don't we have financial education in our schools? That's my one-man war," Kiyosaki says. "What we have now isn't a financial problem, it's an education problem."
Redefining the American Dream
Financial guru Suze Orman returns this spring with her first new hardcover in four years and a message that at first glance seems less than inspirational: the American Dream is no more. In The Money Class: Learn to Create Your New American Dream (Spiegel & Grau, Mar.), Orman deals with the stark realities facing people in a financial climate unlike anything in recent memory.
"The message of the book is Suze's assessment that the American Dream as our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents knew it is dead," says Julie Grau, publisher of Spiegel & Grau and Orman's longtime editor. "It used to be that you could buy a house and it increases in value, you have a job and put your kids through college, with enough left over to retire. None of those things are certain anymore."
But the title's focus isn't solely on the negative, emphasizing instead that the changes mean individuals can now define their own dream goals, revising the very concept of the American Dream. Encouraging readers to "stand in our own truth," Orman shows people how to assess the possibilities open to them realistically, and how to then navigate a transformed economic climate to find financial security and live out their newly defined goals.
"We feel this is a really bold statement and in step with Suze's place in the category as a trailblazer," says Grau. "I think the book will begin a dialogue."
The publisher plans a significant first-print run, given that Orman's last hardcover, Women and Money, netted over a million copies sold. Grau also notes that there will be major participation with other media partners, including a PBS special sharing the title and features on Oprah and Today. "In early conversations with our media partners, that concept of the new American Dream has everyone very excited," says Grau.