The Rules author branches out from books [classic article]

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Sherrie Schneider is the 41-year-old co-author of The Rules, the 1996 blockbuster that explained the steps for capturing the heart of Mr. Right. That year, Time magazine asserted that she was one of 15 people who had used up their 15 minutes of fame. “This time next year you probably won’t remember the names of these 15 humans,” it said.

Time is apparently no expert on time. The Rules II and The Rules for Marriage have kept the pair on the best-seller lists and the talk-show circuit, espousing what a New York Times reviewer called “impeccable sexual restraint and hard-nosed romantic pragmatism.”

Schneider and co-author Ellen Fein have been featured on Dateline NBC and the Today show, chronicled in People, Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today, and even spoofed in a skit on Saturday Night Live.

Bankrate: What are your latest projects?

Sherrie Schneider: We are creating a free worldwide support system, like AA or quitting smoking. People read the advice in the books, but it can be hard to apply to one’s own personal situation. We have private consultations at $300 for a half hour, but we can’t go everywhere. We did the second book because people kept asking about their special situations: how to go out with a friend, what to do with celebrities, or if they were a celebrity, etc. Then, they were getting married. We created the tapes for people who couldn’t come to our lectures. We have created a course for “five-year women” — women who have been successfully using the principles of The Rules for five years. It costs $1,000, lasts 12 weeks. Then, they take a test. I would like to start introducing a course that would be taught in high school and college human sexuality courses. It would save people years of heartache. Many of the principles taught in The Rules were taught to people by their mothers and grandmothers, but people really like to learn things from someone else. They listen more.

B: What is the secret to your success?

SS: Speaking for Ellen and me, we’re both ambitious. We felt there was a need. The women’s movement made people do things not conducive to dating. We’re published in 27 countries; you can’t argue with the numbers. We got our first break when a female reporter noticed on the beach in the Hamptons that everyone was reading our book, it was a phenomenon.

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B: You have several promotional accessories to your books, such as calendars, notes, etc. How do you pick and choose between appropriate projects? What are some ideas that were rejected?

SS: For every idea that comes to fruition, 100 are on the drawing board. We have a thick skin. A successful person has many failures. We’re doing an ankle bracelet that people can wear and remember to do The Rules with. I don’t know how that will do. The market tells you what you do.

B: In your book, The Rules for Marriage, you demonstrate how money would help create the team. But in some families, in many cultures, the matriarch handles the cash. Is this good for business, bad for love?

SS: I don’t know about those practices. A lot of women keep money on the side. The money should be together. If you are spending all the money on shoes and you are trying to save money for your child’s education, there’s going to be war. You have to be reasonable. But, if you are thinking about keeping money aside for if you separate, there’s a trust issue, there are problems.

B: In the promotional materials of the book, you mention that your co-author is getting divorced. What advice do you have for when a group project doesn’t go your way?

SS: You try to accept. People get cancer, move away. You can either fight that, or go with it. The Rules work, regardless of our personal lives.

B: You have appeared on many talk shows, such as Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher. What preparations do you make for such a show?

SS: We try to dress appropriately. We read InStyle. Some authors won’t dress the part. We look sexy with short skirts, The Rules’ way of dressing. We keep abreast. We watch the show, we’re familiar with the host. We think of questions. But some people over-prepare. You have to be light, friendly. Be pithy! Air time is precious. People remember sound bites. You have to make your point without being a bulldozer. You can’t advertise your product, and you may not even have time to say what you want.

B: Do you manage your own money?

SS: I’m not that good with money. I turn my finances over to my husband and our investor. I have an attitude of abundance.

B: What are your favorite investments?

SS: We own our own home. I feel that the stock market is like gambling, but my husband doesn’t. We buy stable things, like CDs. I don’t like losing $50,000 because the market went south. My husband is more aggressive.

B: What’s a splurge for you?

SS: Ellen and I have Gucci bags and Prada. We have a few good things. Not 500 pairs of Manolo Blahniks. I bought a new Louis Vuitton wallet, it was a couple hundred dollars. It’s all for business, though; if I were just staying at home, I couldn’t justify it.

B: What do you consider to be a complete waste of money?

SS: I don’t like being duped. I am a brown-bagger. Restaurants, unless it’s for business, are a waste. The food at home is better.

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