How Querying Is Like Selling Your House

We moved in April. It was a crazy whirlwind of activity that almost didn’t happen, but that’s another story. I absolutely love our new house. It has everything and more than I wanted, and we don’t plan to ever leave it. Just check out this picture of my office. Yes, I get to work here every day. It’s a huge step up from a desk in the middle of the kids’ toys in the basement.

Once we moved, we had to get our house ready to put on the market. When we bought that house a year after getting married, we loved it just as much as we love this one now. It was a great starter home–not that it was perfect (it has a pie-shaped hill for a backyard and a small dining area), but it was just right for us at the time. So when we talked with our realtor, it was disheartening to discover we couldn’t list it even at the price we bought it for eight years ago. Really? We made several improvements, replaced the A/C and furnace, redid the backyard, etc. And none of that mattered? Nope. The market had changed over the past eight years, and our house isn’t worth what it was then, even with all of the improvements.

When we were buying our new house and deliberating over the price, our agent said it’s not a matter of what the house is worth, it’s a matter of what the house is worth to you. I think the same holds true of the house we’re selling. It’s worth something different to us than it is to the potential buyer. At one point during the first contract round (it fell through due to financing issues with the buyer), I told my husband, “I just want them to love it as much as I did.” We’re now in the midst of finalizing our second contract, and we’ve had to go lower than the previous one due to time on the market. I still have twinges over it. But the thing is, I think they probably do love it as much as we do. The market’s just different.

So here’s where I get to my point about querying. I really love my story. I’ve cleaned it up with the help of critique partners and beta readers to make sure it’s ready to show. Just as the house listing gets potential buyers to come see it, my query letter is designed to entice agents to read more. That’s when the work has to speak for itself. My house isn’t perfect, and my novel isn’t either, but I know it’s ready to be seen. For some agents those imperfections will be a deal-breaker (the pie-shaped hill for a backyard), while others will take a closer look and see the possibilities. I’m ok with that. As I said in one of my earliest posts, it’s all a matter of taste.

An agent is like the buyer. We looked at a lot of houses before we settled on this one. There were many I liked, some I saw as possibilities, one that was close enough I pictured the changes we’d make, and then this one–where we just knew. It wasn’t perfect. We’d have to make changes, but it was the right fit for our family. That’s what I expect agents feel when they find a project they want to take on. It’s not perfect, but they can see what needs to happen to get it in shape for publication. They have to want to live in it, not just visit for a while. And they have to feel it’s right for the market.

I could go so much deeper with this analogy, but this post is getting long. So for now I’m the seller, and I’ll keep putting my polished manuscript in front of potential agents with the hope one of them will love it as much as I do.

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