Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Selling a House, Selling a Manuscript - What's the Difference?

Life is almost normal again. At least the routines are settling in. I enjoyed a leisurely second cup of coffee while I did some blog-hopping, catching up on all the sites I hadn't visited while I was away. Of course, as Murphy's Law would have it, I was about to shower and get back to reading the galleys for Nowhere to Hide when I got a call from a Realtor who wanted to show the house. In an hour.

Now, things weren't horrendous, since we'd cleaned thoroughly before we left, but other than laundry, I hadn't done much actually cleaning. The showing instructions say we prefer a day's notice, our cleaning service was scheduled for the next day, and we've gotten so few calls to see the house, we've become lax about getting everything in shape before doing anything else for the day.

Hubby had left early to go off on his research project on the coast. Had he left "his" areas in showcase shape? Not hardly. So, I'm frantically trying to get everything done in the allotted time so I can be out the door. Not perfect, but acceptable. The lawn could use a mowing, but I don't know that hubby would have cut the grass on such short notice. I know I certainly can't do it and everything else.

I pack up my galleys and go to Panera to have more coffee and get some work done. So far, most of what I'm finding are places where I'm not sure if I need a hyphen or not. Part of me feels good that with all our edits, we have a very clean manuscript. Another part thinks I'm not reading carefully enough, and there are plenty of glitches sneaking past.

Keep Reading...

Overall, reading galleys is more suited to these interrupted days than writing. What I'm looking for isn't plot anymore. Strictly typos. It's a different kind of reading. As a matter of fact, I've started at the end of the manuscript. This way, I'm not distracted by the story. And unlike my read for major edits, revisions, and continuity, I don't want to do this all at once. Small intervals seem to work better for me, so a half hour here, and hour there, or even a page or two at a time is acceptable. That way, I can concentrate of looking at each sentence for words and punctuation, rather than how they're moving the story forward, or revealing characterization.

I get home, pleased to see the Realtor was actually there. I deal with a few more household issues (like has the part for the dryer arrived yet? They don't know, they'll check and call me back.) Then, I got another call, this from a local Realtor who wanted to preview the house. He'd be here "shortly."

An hour later, he still hasn't shown, and I'm doing my chores in bits and pieces. Finally, he arrives, looks over the house, makes a few comments, and is gone. Will he bring clients? Who knows? He's not the first to comment that our natural vegetation out in front hides the house. However, that's exactly what we wanted. It provides privacy as well as keeps the need for high maintenance down. If that's going to be the deterrent to a sale, should we pay big bucks to have it pulled out and re-landscaped with "pretty" stuff? Or do we hope that if it's the only problem for a potential buyer, that they'll know they can do what they please after they buy the house?

That's sort of like deciding if you should change a manuscript every time you get feedback that suggests you do something different. When my agent was submitting the sequel to When Danger Calls, she'd pass along the reasons for rejection. They were as varied as the places she submitted it to, so there wasn't a common denominator. It never got to the point where I had to decide if I was willing to change the story to make the sale, and I wonder what I would have done. The genre is 'romantic suspense' but my books are 'romantic mystery.' Would I have uprooted my plot and replanted it with a villain's point of view, so the reader could be nervous about what was going to happen if an editor asked? I don't know. That wasn't really the kind of book I wanted to write.

Meanwhile, the manuscript is sitting on an editor's desk, and I'm waiting to hear if they'll like it with all the natural vegetation. And if not, will they simply reject it, or will they ask me to re-landscape?


Drue Allen said...

You hit my siatic (sp?) nerve with this one, Terry! Since I just received a "Beautiful writing, but the plot's too thin" rejection from one of the top 3 pubs.

Aaargh. I felt like a whack-a-mole. The plot is GREAT, thank you very much. It's NOT a murder-in-the-living-room kind of book. Good grief.

And yes, I've had to sell a house, so I feel your pain there as well. Best of luck, and try some chocolate. : )

Watery Tart said...

I love your 'starting at the back' for the micro-editing! Great advice. And you're right... half hour at a time or your eyes start to go bleary, where if you do plot editing in that dose, you forget if you've read something yet, or if that was another round of writing/reading (so you risk saying something twice, or even three times--maybe that's just me... ideas so great they show up three times *snort*)

Good luck house selling! And I think you're right--the 'natural' will appeal to someone who is ALSO privacy seeking, or else the buyer will know they can change it. Not worth it for you to do.

And I confess my instinct would be the same with a book... just wait for the right readers... but the BOOK needs to have a more mass appeal, rather than just the ONE, so multiple recommendations I'd probably try to accommodate.

Terry Odell said...

Drue - this is the 3rd house we've sold. The first took forever, the second had an offer a week before we were ready to show it. The economy was in better shape then.

WT - yes, I have to force myself to slow down doing these nit-picky edits. Too easy to miss stuff, including formatting. I hate reading from a justified format, because you can't see the 'real' spacing.

Carol Kilgore said...

When we sold our last house, we received a lot of one-time comments that we didn't bother with. But we received multiple comments that there wasn't enough room in the backyard for kids to romp and stomp.

So like critique or editorial comments, we acted on the one that seemed to come from everywhere and yanked out a freestanding bed and a second small patio and replaced them with sod. The house sold.

So I guess treat your house like a manuscript and make changes when the comments are universal.

Terry Odell said...

Carol - Yes, I agree. I've watched a couple of episodes of some television shows where they revamp homes for best sales potential. (Of course, after the owners have done everything, the houses haven't been snapped up, at least not by the time the episode airs.

In this real estate market, I think there's so much out there that a potential buyer doesn't try to see beyond what's 'on the page' -- since there's bound to be another one that comes closer to his preferences.

Seems to me, if I were in the buyer's position, I'd try to negotiate with the seller. But ... I'm not. Yet. Not until we decide what we're going to do to sell this one.

Elena said...

To even further what Carol said, unfortunately there are a number of ethically questionable reasons why an individual agent would say negative things about your house. And, an agent who wants to come over and preview right now, in spite of the day's notice, is already pushing the ethics boundary. An agent who is previewing is not working for you, and therefore should refrain from any comments beyond 'thank you for letting me see your house on such short notice'.

My not forthcoming books "Real Estate Agents I Have Known" will be a multiple murder mystery, whereas the companion tome "Therapists I Have Known" will be a beach read.

Sounds as though you have the perfect technique for handling the hyphens and what nots of your manuscript.

Terry Odell said...

Elena, thanks for your insights. I think in this market, the seller will always make whatever sacrifices it takes to accomodate a showing of any type. I'll be curious to see if the preview guy brings clients.

I know when we were in a buyer's position, our Realtor had viewed almost every house she showed us beforehand

Kathryn Magendie said...

love this!

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Kathryn. Glad you stopped by.

Sheila Deeth said...

I love the analogy. Keep the vegetation. It looks great, and your readers will love to curl up in a nice quiet place with a good book too.

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Sheila - I have no desire to uproot all those plants. Natural vegetation tends to be very low maintenance - that's why it survives in its natural habitat!