Friday, March 10, 2006

Would you buy a car--or a book--from this man?*

The new No. 1 book on Amazon, as of late yesterday*, was something called Life's Missing Instruction Manual: The Guidebook You Should Have Been Given at Birth. If that sounds vaguely familiar, it's because it echoes the title of a (pretty good) book that has ridden atop the best-seller lists for over a year now--You: The Owner's Manual.

This tactic is nothing new for the book's author, an engaging character and viral marketing guru by the name of Joe Vitale, who recently has made something of a career out of producing--and tirelessly promoting--books that are, shall we say, derivative. Indeed, it's hard to resist the notion that Vitale conceived his latest best-seller with the following recipe in mind: Take the marketing hook of a book that already published to wild success, season with the pointed religiosity of two other recent bestsellers (Your Best Life Now and The Purpose-Driven Life), throw in some generic cosmic blather (inspired, perhaps, by Sylvia Browne or Marianne Williamson), and VOILA!--a perfect entry in the burgeoning self-help sub-category of "holistic/successful/spiritually enriched living." His previous best-seller, The Attractor Factor, appeared on the heels of several other self-help books and/or programs that variously alluded to the "laws of attraction" or "rules of attraction." That offering owns the distinction of once having knocked a Harry Potter book out of Amazon's No. 1 slot (reportedly after Vitale offered "ethical bribes," as he called them, to induce people to order it). Vitale unashamedly admits to being president of a company called Hypnotic Marketing, Inc.

In his current book, Vitale proposes to offer "big wisdom and little-known secrets for living a better life." Like so many of the gurus in this self-help niche, Vitale subscribes to the Promise Readers Everything (Even Things That Contradict Each Other) And Hope They Don't Notice school of motivational enlightenment. For example, he vows to teach readers, simultaneously, how to (a) "create their own blueprint for success" and (b) "work as a team." Granted, those two goals are not, strictly speaking, incompatible. But the degree of finesse required to embrace and, especially, implement both goals is not something you could hope to find in a simplistic book like Vitale's. Among other promises: Readers will learn to "be themselves and like it," "lead a good and moral life," and "accept their mistakes and move on." I defy anyone short of Socrates to resolve all three of those stated benefits into the same action plan without endlessly qualifying, parsing language, or backtracking on something you said earlier.

I've said it dozens of times and I say it again here: If you're just looking for a quick jolt of formless inspiration that fades as fast as the winter sun, then order the book. But if you actually expect life-transforming wisdom--come on, folks. You know better than that. The person most likely to profit off this "guidebook" is Vitale himself.

* Still No. 4 at this writing.
** Much of this post appears as also as a review of the book...if Amazon leaves it up, that is.


Anonymous said...

If you expect life-transforming wisdom, you'd be a hell of a lot better off reading Socrates and his cronies back in ancient Greece.

Negocio en Casa said...

I read many of the books from Joe Vitale, he have a great style that keep you hooked.

I also found that if you apply only some of the tips he gives on his books you will see changes. So why criticize somebody that is trying to make a change?

I prefer to listen somebody that is making millions and is trying to help me that somebody that loves to criticize and find bad things on anything.

tontonmacoute said...

To me, Joe vitale is the archetypal snake oil salesman. I read many of his works, got sucked in by his crap "ethical bribes" and found them of no value.

The best was when he advertised one of the "ethical bribes" items as $39 value - it was an infomercial for a $200 gizmo! That just turns my stomach.