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Sales of Many Investment Books Slumping With Wall Street

March 28, 2001|From Reuters

Books on how to get rich quick in the stock market, so popular this time last year, are piling up at bookstores, and publishers are taking a hard hit.

At a Borders Group Inc. bookstore in Manhattan, stacks of "The Day Trader's Survival Guide" and "The 100 Best Internet Stocks to Own" sit untouched by shoppers.

The stock market plunge of the last year has discouraged investors from making their own investment decisions, and consumers have tired of reading up on what now appear to be more worthless stock tips and investment strategies.

"The rug has really been pulled out from under that group of books," said Roger Scholl, executive editor of Bertelsmann unit Currency Books. "Sales are way down on investment books."

Investment authors whose books are selling have cultivated a following or have some other claim to celebrity, such as television personalities or high-profile Wall Street analysts.

For example, Currency published in January "The Street.com Guide to Smart Investing in the Internet Era: Everything You Need to Know to Outsmart Wall Street and Select Winning Stocks" by Dave Kansas and James Cramer, founders of financial news Web site TheStreet.com.

"We have very good numbers for that book, but I think we'd have huge numbers if we were still in the middle of a bull market," Scholl said.

BusinessWeek's list of best-selling business books from March 5 had only three titles on investing and personal finance, a sharp drop from a year ago, when eight of the 30 titles on the list focused on investing, mostly in stocks.

The other books on last year's list were mostly focused on technology, including at No. 2, Michael Lewis' "The New New Thing," a profile of Silicon Valley executive Jim Clark, and at No. 8, "Customers.com" by Patricia Seybold, a book about creating a successful e-business.

This year, with the exception of Ken Auletta's "World War 3.0," a profile of the Microsoft Corp. antitrust trial, the hardcover top-10 list doesn't include any tech books.

Instead of titles focused on stock investing, publishers are banking on books that cover the broader scope of money management in general.

"Books that are conservative and give a comprehensive view of how to manage your money do well regardless of the state of the economy," said Lisa Berkowitz, director of marketing and communications for HarperBusiness, a business books division of News Corp.

Among the books Berkowitz said have done well this year are Stephen Pollan's "The Die Broke Complete Book of Money" and Ric Edelman's "Ordinary People, Extraordinary Wealth," both of which provide more general overviews about longterm money management.

Those authors, however, also have benefited from followings built from the success of their earlier books.

Publishers are left relying on the success of celebrity authors to revive sales in the investment book sector.

For example, "You're Fifty--Now What?: Investing for the Second Half of Your Life" by Charles Schwab, founder of No. 1 discount brokerage Charles Schwab Corp., has sold well because of aggressive marketing.

Due out in May, CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo's book "Use the News: The Inside Scoop on the Wall Street Information Machine and How to Use It to Make Money" is expected to do well because of her popularity among the network's viewers. Publishers also are hopeful that market guru Tobin Smith's next book, "Change Wave 2.0," will sell well.

Nevertheless, publishers recognize that a recovery in the market would do much to spur sales.

Smith's book, for example, is due out in September, and it is anyone's guess as to whether investor confidence will be revitalized by that time.

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