Monday, May 17, 2010

Spring Cleaning Part II - Staging for a Sale

This post by Jenny

The last time my husband and I sold a house—ten years ago—“staging” meant vacuuming, dusting, kicking the shoes under the bed, and lighting a candle to make the place smell like apple pie. Now, if I am to believe what I see on HGTV, droves of professional stagers roam the country with paint cans, fabric bolts, and trendy accessories, ready to make any home worthy of a magazine spread.

According to WikiHow, potential buyers decide whether or not to purchase a home within thirty seconds of entering. I’m guessing that’s about the same amount of time an overworked literary agent spends considering a query or proposal. First impressions are undeniably important, so I’ve borrowed the following home staging tips from WikiHow and modified them for writers:

· Declutter – All writers have a certain amount of clutter in their drafts. It’s a natural byproduct of the process. The trick is identifying what’s clutter and what’s not. I, for example, never met a simile I didn’t like. But using too many creates the equivalent of a flea market.

· Make Repairs—Fix structural problems: spelling, grammar, punctuation, dialogue tags, etc.

· Depersonalize—Separate the writing from the writer. I hope my unique style always comes through, but if all my characters sound like me, I’ve got trouble.

· Have fliers for prospective buyers to take away—At the very least, print up a few business cards for conferences and other networking opportunities. Other promotional items—bookmarks, postcards, magnets—are relatively inexpensive.

· A house showing should appeal to all five of the senses—This goes without saying, but writing should do the same.

If your manuscript has been on the market for a while without any contracts or offers, check around. Are the comps selling? (Publisher's Marketplace lists the industry deals.) If not, be patient and hang in there. Yours may be the next hot property. But if you’re the last one on the block with a For Sale sign, your work could need additional sprucing up.

Consider enlisting a new pair of eyes to give it a look. Entering a contest can be a great way to get impartial, and very honest, feedback. Or hire a reputable professional—a writing coach, an editor. (There are NCW members who provide these very services.) Like the best investments, it just might give you a great return on your money.

What do you do to ‘stage’ your writing? And has it helped you make the sale?


Lisa_Gibson said...

Wow, great analogy. I will have to keep all of these things in mind as I go through the 'staging' process.

Kay said...

Loved the comparison with real estate. Thanks for the reminder that selling is selling whether you are an artist or not.

Jenny S. said...

Hi Lisa and Kay--

Good luck to you in your staging and selling. I'm hoping the publishing business will rebound along with the housing market! We could all use some encouraging news.


Patricia Stoltey said...

Good job on this post, Jenny. It also appears there's no shortage of houses and no shortage of authors trying to make a sale. It's a tough market, either way.

Kerrie said...

This is an amazing comparison. Fabulous job on this post.


SueO said...

It's a wonderful analogy. It was hard work to stage our home when we sold in 2008, but it was worth it. Then I helped my sister to stage her home for sale (even more work than mine) and she fought me tooth and nail ("But it looks fine!" said she). I'm sure there are a lot of writers out there thinking "But it looks fine!" when there's a trace of mold in the corner and a vague smell of dirty socks in part of the house.

Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

Love this fresh approach. And it is so true! This post is definitely going into our 5/21/10 best articles This Week for Writers!

Jenny S. said...

Thanks for your comments Pat, Kerrie, and Sue...but now I'm wondering how much of my manuscript smells like dirty socks :-)

And thank you, Adventures in Children's Publishing. I'm honored!


Triffany said...

Fan-freaking-tastic post. Thank you!

Linda Gray said...

Great advice, Jenny. I'm exactly at that last stage -- thinking it's a good idea to hire a professional to critique my ms. and help me reshape as necessary. Thanks for the insight and suggestions.

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