By the end of 2010, Harlequin Enterprises will have sold a grand total of more than 6 billion books in the company's 60-year history. But on Dec. 28, Harlequin will try to sell its first personal finance book.
The Frugalista Files, written by former Miami Herald personal finance blogger Natalie McNeal, is a diary of the year that one 34-year old spent trying to pay off her credit card debt -- "without giving up the fabulous life."
McNeal's book is written in a diary format, with all the personal details and emoticons entailed in that approach: "I admit it. My name is Natalie. I am a spending slut." It's certainly not a book that targets my college-age demographic, but many readers will find her story inspiring. If Natalie can do it, so can you.
"My book is for anyone who is a promiscuous spender and is looking for real-life tips on how to be financially chaste," McNeal tells DailyFinance. "It's highly personal personal finance."
Katherine Orr, Harlequin's vice president of public relations, sees the move into financial advice as a logical step for the world's largest publisher of romance novels.
"For 60 years, we've provided escape from problems, and now we can help solve the problems," she says. She calls McNeal's book "very prescriptive. It's clear and simple, and it's helping young singles navigate in a tough world."
Harlequin first began publishing nonfiction in October 2008 with a book from syndicated radio host Delilah. Subsequent titles have included fitness guru Tosca Reno's best seller Your Best Body Now: Look and Feel Fabulous at Any Age the Eat-Clean Way, along with titles like The Happy Baker: A Girl's Guide to Emotional Baking; Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder; The Dog Who Healed a Family; and Queen of Your Own Life.
The market for pink-covered personal finance books for women hasn't been especially strong. None of financial adviser Suze Orman's mega-bestselling money books have boasted a pink cover, and none of the slew of recently released girl-talk guides for women have sold well. Titles like Shoo, Jimmy Choo!; Bitches on a Budget: Sage Advice for Surviving Tough Times in Style; andA Purse of Your Own: An Easy Guide to Financial Security have all failed to register much of an impact in terms of sales.
Kimberly Palmer, the personal finance editor with US News & World Report and the author of Generation Earn, says many financial guides for women are marketed as "simplified [and] dumbed-down."
"Women don't like to be talked to as if we're bad with money, because we're not," she says. "Too many books for women assume that we overspend on shoes and cosmos when we're really just looking for the same kind of smart, solid financial advice that men want."
But if there's one publisher in America that knows what women are looking for when they buy a book, it's Harlequin. Perhaps it'll be able to reach a segment of the population badly in need of financial advice -- one that other publishers have so far been largely unable to connect with.
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