As the number of women homeowners has grown—by 53% since 1989, according to the National Association of Realtors—the toolbox may be replacing the hope chest. But publishers have been out of step with the market. "Cookbooks have become un-gendered, but repair manuals are still pretty much aimed at guys," said Barbara Meade, co-owner of Politics & Prose, a 10,000-square-foot bookstore in Washington, D.C.
Now Dare to Repair: A Do-It-Herself Guide to Fixing (Almost) Anything in the Home (Harper Resource) has begun to level the playing field. The $14.95 paperback original with its eye-catching cover featuring Rosie the Riveter has shipped more than 150,000 copies since HarperCollins published it on September 3. The book was Amazon's #3 customers' choice in home and garden for 2002, and reached as high as #8 on the New York Times advice/how-to list.
The arresting cover, which was the brainchild of designer Robin Bilardello, has been a major factor in the book's success. While usual suspects like WalMart, Target and the book chains placed healthy orders, the jacket helped attract some more unusual outlets. The 462-store Cracker Barrel chain, which retails Rosie the Riveter—themed items, ordered 5,000 copies. The museum store at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History is also stocking the book.
Based on the book's empowering message, Roslyn Savings Bank also purchased 7,500 copies, at a 40% discount. The bank gives a copy to each graduate of its 10-week home maintenance course for first-time home buyers—most of whom are female—and gave 1,500 more to attendees at this year's National Housing Conference in New York on December 10.
Authors Stephanie Glakas-Tenet, wife of Central Intelligence Agency director George Tenet, and Julie Sussman, who's also married to a CIA employee, have been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post and other newspapers. They've also logged an extraordinary number of television appearances since September, including Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, The View and The 700 Club. "The book worked because of the combination of a great cover; an intriguing angle; bookable, energetic authors; and a void in the media for topics like this," theorized director of publicity Pamela Pfeifer. The authors may even find a regular spot on the small screen: two cable television companies have approached them about launching a home-repair show.
Sussman and Glakas-Tenet teamed up after meeting at a barbecue, where Sussman overheard George Tenet teasing his wife about doing chimney repairs. Sussman had already been frustrated in her own search for a useful manual. "It looked like only white men did home repairs," she said.
What's next for the daring duo? Naturally, it's going to be Dare to Repair Your Car.