In today's edition of the Monday Flashback we feature, I believe, the first column from Jenny Sundstedt. Jenny has been the longest running writer at The Writing Bug with a start day of May, 2010. In this edition she continues a thread from Kerrie Flanagan on Spring Cleaning. Let us know if Jenny's words still ring true five years later.
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.
- Promote--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?