Just who's getting rich quick?
Books have always been used by salesmen to enhance their credibility, though a new series arriving in New Zealand takes that to a new pitch.
The nine books in the Millionaire Makers series ($14.99 each) tempt buyers with promises of "$100,000 in 100 days", achieving "financial abundance for life", or "Cracking the million dollar sales code".
But these are really advertisements disguised as books, trying to drum up bums on seats for seminars in Auckland's Aotea Centre in August, November and February at which the nine authors - some of the biggest names of the Australian wealth seminar scene - will attempt to sell mentoring schemes, high-risk options trading systems, boxed software programs and even franchise-style online marketing businesses to Kiwis who want to barely work at all and yet be fantastically rich.
Each book contains a "free" invitation to a seminar "worth $1994" (a very specific sum derived by comparison to the pricing of the seminars of US motivational speaker Tony Robbins).
In effect, punters who pick the books up from the natty black display stands in bookstores around the country are being asked to buy the advertisement for the seminar.
It's brilliant marketing really, as befits the man behind the series, former evangelical pastor Pat Mesiti, now a preacher in the secular church of financial abundance.
Mesiti is a fascinating and charismatic man to meet, not least because of his colourful background as a preacher with the evangelical and highly commercial Hillsong church in Australia.
There's no doubting the energy of the diminutive Mesiti (who is in great nick for a man whose brows now sport receding grey locks) nor his acute awareness that any journalist he meets is a single internet search away from learning about his past.
In fact, Yahoo's new helpful habit of trying to anticipate your searching requirements suggested I add the word "scandal" to my search command even before I finished typing Mesiti's name.
Consequently, it is he who brings up his public disgrace in 2001 when he was stood down as a preacher at Hillsong for visiting prostitutes, a scandal that led him to reinvent himself on the wealth-creation speaking circuit.
It's still a sensitive point. As we talk the phone goes. A current affairs show producer calls as we talk, asking Mesiti to front for an interview. "Are they dirt-diggers?" he asks nervously, clearly weary of constantly revisiting his sexual sins.
Hillsong church and Mesiti still have much in common, including the message that God and Jesus want their believers to be rich, and, unusually, that Jesus was himself wealthy.
Mesiti sums it up for me. He doesn't believe Jesus was broke. If Jesus was poor why did he have a treasurer? How could he have afforded to keep such a retinue of disciples? How else could he have afforded to take so much time off work?
Mesiti adheres to the school of thought among predominantly US preachers with a penchant for the good life that Jesus was wealthy, and what's more, the mainstream churches know it, but are keeping the truth from people in order to amass riches for themselves (Mesiti points out that mainstream churches are among some of the biggest landowners in the world).
Mesiti's stance is not far from Hillsong head man Brian Houston's claim that true Christians are money magnets. "If you believe in Jesus, he will reward you here as well [as in heaven]," he once told a Sydney Morning Herald reporter.
Mesiti claims that despite having left Hillsong, he has a similar mission to the wealth- dispensing God. "I tell the people, their prosperity is my passion," he says.
The nine authors of the Millionaire Makers series share that mission, Mesiti claims. That's handy, because it is the only way to address the key paradox of the motivational speaker/ professional mentor: If they are so wealthy and successful, what are they doing on the speaking circuit flogging their books and mentoring systems?
"Those that can, do. Those that can't, teach," is the old saw that comes to mind, particularly for a journalist who has met many financially successful people.
The standard response is that they have a mission to teach and to free humanity from the shackles of society/poor schooling/bad parenting, which all combine in a malign conspiracy to keep us from the secrets of wealth.
Of course, the way to break free from the shackles and achieve wealth quickly and painlessly, according to the Mesiti school of thought, is to buy the book/the mentoring scheme/the software. Such mentoring brings "wisdom without the wait", he tells me.
For the record, this cynical journalist for one is deeply sceptical about get-rich-quick schemes. I have no doubt they work - the problem is, I think they work for those selling them, not those buying them.
There are no audit trails, no published success rates to prove it one way or the other.
That leaves those handing their cash over taking a leap of faith.
I wouldn't dispute that speakers like Mesiti can be a powerful force to motivate people to get out there and improve their lot, but it's hard not to see that as secondary to the sales pitch. Pick your gurus carefully.
Sunday Star Times