I am delighted to welcome my guest, Babs Morton.
Babs won Paragraphs Of Power contest for July 2012 and accepted my invitation to write a guest post on a topic of her choosing. The article ... "Selling the Imaginary House" ... I found it fascinating and hope you do as well. Please feel free to offer your comments.
Selling the Imaginary House by B A Morton.
I was distracted by a recent discussion regarding sales. More specifically, book sales and how to stack the odds in your favour when writing your “best seller”.
It got me thinking about the advice given when selling a house and how strangely relevant it is. When we write, we are, after all, creating a property, a building to house the imagination.
Some of us may follow set plans, start middle and ending all established from the outset. The timber framed kit house formula. It works; it’s effective and particularly useful if you’re planning a series, an estate of imaginary houses, numbers 1-6 Adventure Drive. Others may adopt the strategy of the weaver bird, skilled builders of fine structures. You marvel at their work and wonder how such a delicate structure can survive and protect its contents. Of course the bird knows what it’s doing, but it’s not obvious to the onlooker, to the reader who is simply enchanted by the skill. And then we have the beavers and their precariously placed lodges. The constant battle against the elements to shore up the holes in the plot, contain the runaway storyline. Diligence and constant maintenance win the day, but will the building ever be fully complete? Will the story leak out on its own?
You’ve followed advice and built according to the market. You’ve ignored the lure of the mansion, the trillion word doorstop, that only a minority of insomniacs will be inclined to invest their money and time in. You’ve also steered away from the quirky windmill. Yes, you love windmills, but reluctantly accept that for most buyers, those pesky sails would be a problem. You’ve settled on that tried and trusted three bed semi. Romance on the first floor, Crime on the ground floor and with an eye on a possible series, plenty room for expansion.
So, you’ve built your dream house. In your opinion it’s the best house on the road and everyone will want one...won’t they?
De-clutter - All that stuff, all that unnecessary prose that’s smothering your wonderful creation. Do yourself a favour, get rid. Hire a skip, or a red pen. Engage the services of the delete key and if you can’t bear to see your bric-a-brac, your endless waffling consigned to the tip, hire a house clearer or an editor to do it for you.
De-personalise – I’m talking curtain swags and crocheted loo roll covers, acid green wallpaper and shag-pile carpets. You might love these things, but remember, this marvellous structure you’ve proudly built isn’t just to house your imagination. You have to leave a little room for the buyer too. So, don’t over describe, leave the vital statistics of the hero to the readers imagination and you’ll find your property far more appealing to far more buyers. Don’t underestimate your readers by overwriting. Allow them to discover, to work it out for themselves.
That something special - Okay, so you’ve done what you can. You have what the market wants. It’s freshly tidied, awash with magnolia paint and the smell of ground coffee and home baked bread. Trouble is, everyone else on the road, the bookshelf, the genre has followed the same advice, so what makes your gem stand out from the crowd. It’s that “thing” that twist, that unique aspect and if you’ve got it, you’d better make sure everyone knows about it. Sea views, quirky provenance, marvellous architecture.
Whatever it is, you’ve got to advertise it, give all those buyers a taste of what they’re missing and that’s where the blurb comes in. It’s the sneak preview, the seduction, the big sell. Your house may be in the estate agents window, your book up there on Amazon but you need to find that hook, and you’d better make sure it’s a good one.
Kerb appeal - You’ve done all of the above. Your house of imagination is the best it can be, you know it is, you believe in it. There’s one last thing you need to do to get people to agree with you, open the gate and come in. Remember you’re in a row of other semi’s. You might think all houses look the same. They don’t have to. It’s time to create your cover. A cover to draw the eye and tempt a buyer to read the blurb that will draw them into the property. So they’ll believe, as you do, that this is the best house on the road. A cover isn’t meant to tell the story, remember the de-clutter rule, less is more. Allow your reader some imagination. Set the right mood and make sure the genre is clear.
Sell – It’s out there, you’ve ticked all the boxes, you’ve given yourself the best chance possible...now all you need to do is sit back and count the sales...erm...not quite. Make yourself a coffee or a stiff drink and get ready for the hardest part of all...promotion!
We can’t all have best sellers, but we can make sure our house is the best on the road.
BA Morton... August 2012