Matthew Lesko Books dumb or not?
March 19, 2005 7:43 PM   Subscribe

Ok, I'm terribly curious...I've seen the Matthew Lesko infomercials for years. Some of you have got to have picked them up. Are they worthwhile. It's not the cost, its the time investment that I'm talking about.
posted by filmgeek to Writing & Language (11 answers total)
He now has a weblog.

AFAIK, his books are just directories of government grant programs.
posted by mrbill at 8:03 PM on March 19, 2005

I've always wanted to be this guy for Halloween... glue a bunch of punctuation marks to a suit... FOR FREE!!!

Pretty much anything on an infomercial, as far as I can tell, is a sham. I do love watching the cooking ones though.
posted by sdrawkcab at 8:08 PM on March 19, 2005

I saw him at a convention a few years back... walked within a few feet of him. I immediately called my sisters- "Sisters, guess what? I just saw the man in the question mark suit!!!!!!" So exciting.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:09 PM on March 19, 2005 [1 favorite]

Lesko's books are incredibly popular at the public library I work at. So popular that, at any given moment, most if not all of them are checked out, and so popular that many of our patrons seem to just hang on to them forever. Make of that what you will.
posted by box at 10:03 PM on March 19, 2005

Pretty much anything on an infomercial, as far as I can tell, is a sham.

Ron Popeil? Please say it is not so. Pocket Fisherman must be for real..
posted by fixedgear at 1:17 AM on March 20, 2005

I work at a organization which addresses, among other things, government policy, one area being a rather large economic policy team. I actually asked them about this guy a few days ago when I discovered his weblog from a link somewhere.

Essentially, the guide is a directory of government funds and local programs that you've very likely to find out about yourself if you lived in that area and performed a modicum of research. For example, one entry is grants for nurses in Pennsylvania. This isn't some secret- it's a program created by the PA government to encourage more students to become RNs as a result of their dwindling staff shortages. I used to work as a legislative aide for a NJ state assemblywoman; I know there is a similar crisis in that state and likewise there were drafts for grant programs.

A majority of the programs in the book are financial-need based, several more are simply directories of volunteer organizations- the "get over $7,000 to pay off student loans" mentioned in one of the informercials is, in fact, merely a reference to AmeriCorps.

I don't really cast the guy as a huckster or someone trying to take your money, but the book is essentially an expense for having all in one place a wealth of information you can obtain for free on your own with just a little research. Considering anyone who buys the book will likely find 99% of the content non-applicable to them, it doesn't seem like much of an investment.

Lesko says so on his own site: "My books are like diet books. Diet books are sold with titles like “Thinner Thighs in 30 Days” and are not sold with worst case possibilities like “You May Or May Not Lose Weight and It’s Going To Take A Lot Of Effort.” My titles also make the process sound easier than it really is. If my titles told the worst case scenario and not the best case scenario they would not be called things like “Free Money To Change Your Life,” they would be called something like “You May Or May Not Get The Money And It Takes A Lot Of Work.” Many of the people who purchase the book will not be able to make one telephone call and then get a check in the mail within 10 days to change their life. "
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:08 AM on March 20, 2005

I've talked to some people on the federal government side who are on the receiving end of the Lesko readers' calls and letters. They hate him. Apparently he misrepresents many programs, leading people to think they can receive grants when in fact the programs often have very specific requirements that are either not presented in the books or are ignored by all these people. So instead of being able to manage legitimate proposals, these people have to spend their time (and our tax dollars) evaluating and rejecting letters from people who just want some free money.

To compound things, there are so many people applying for these funds, that even legitimate individual grant programs are probably overburdened with applications -- meaning that the likelihood that a particular qualified individual will receive funding is low.

So, if you are considering this type of approach, I'd encourage you to spend some time doing real research on the programs, and keep in mind that you are not the only person reading the book.
posted by i love cheese at 9:05 AM on March 20, 2005

As I am currently in the middle of a grant and scholarship search myself to finance grad school, I can sympathize, however bear in mind that Lesko's primary objective is to sell books, not get you accurate and helpful information. As such, my advice would be to stick with govenment websites and guidebooks, as they are most likely to give you the information you need. Some good places to start are, and for student-specific info and the College Board's list of scholarships and grants. Bear in mind that there are LOTS of hucksters and less than helpful websites out there, so try to stick to .gov or .edu websites or organizations whose reputation you can trust, like the College Board.
posted by ChasFile at 9:59 AM on March 20, 2005

After reading this article from the NY Times last month, I would advise against giving Matthew Lesko any money. He sounds like a fraud.
posted by veronica sawyer at 10:30 AM on March 20, 2005

I'm more curious about grants in regards to the arts - particularly filmmaking (as well as small business)
posted by filmgeek at 6:07 PM on March 20, 2005

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