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  • Ariane Weathers

How is Preparing For a Yard Sale Like Writing a Book?



July is a month known for its hot weather, weekends at the cottage and yard sales. Every weekend you can find colourful signs on telephone posts advertising the local yard sale. Okay, maybe not this year, but generally speaking.

As I see these signs, I find a similarity between preparing for a yard sale and preparing a book. The sign is the potential customer’s first introduction to your yard sale. Does it catch his eye as he drives by? Does it provide the information needed at a quick glance? Does it make him want to back up or turn around to confirm the information? Does it make him want to drive to your yard sale? Or has he missed it completely? Your book cover is the same as the sign. It must be eye-catching, informative at a quick glance and make him want to look further.


The 3 Second Rule

Over the years, the one thing that has bothered me with yard sale signs was that most were badly put together. Either they were loaded with too much information or the simple information consisted of large hollow block-lettered words made with regular thin markers. If the colour within the hollow letters is the same colour as the background, or if the markers used are not extra wide, no one will see them driving by. And if no one sees them driving by, it’s a waste of paper and lost advertising.

It is a well known fact that it only takes three seconds to make a first impression. The next time you have a yard sale, stand ten feet from your sign and see if you can read it and get the pertinent information in less than 3 seconds. Yard Sale, address, time – nothing more is needed! You can even skip the address altogether and put an arrow followed by more signs. Grab the interest and have them follow the arrow. Likewise, in designing your book cover, take a gander at your local book store and look at the books in your genre. What catches your eye immediately in all areas – cover and spine, colours, fonts, style?


Identifying the fluff and the nuggets

What you have at your yard sale is similar to the content of your book. There will be fluff stuff. These are not necessarily valuable, but are there to give your yard sale some substance and filler. If there is too much fluff, the customer will get bored and move on quickly, possibly even missing the good stuff. The meat of the sale - what people come for – are the nuggets and gems. Of course each visitor will be intrigued by something different. There has to be enough of these treasures to keep your customers interested. Likewise with your readers, there must be enough treasures to keep them interested in the next page. And how will you place and price your items to entice your customer to stay and explore? To move curiously from one table to the next. Or for your reader to move from one chapter to the next.

Have you thought how you will display your items on the tables? You don’t want to place children’s books with the small kitchen appliances. Bathroom accessories and bubble bath don’t go with garden tools. You might want to set up a few $1 vases or decorative knick-knacks with the kitchen items. That’s the fluff stuff. They are there for filler and balance. Each chapter is like a table. It needs to flow within the chapter and then to the next one. You want your reader to say, “Wow, I didn’t expect that!” like a beautiful antique piece in the middle of the table. But you don’t want your reader to suddenly stop and say, “Wow! Where did that come from?”

The first time that I did a yard sale, I made a few mistakes in my presentation. Over time, I was able to improve in each aspect. I can tell you that my first book had enough mistakes that it became my practice book. It takes planning to have a successful yard sale as it does to have a successful book. After all, your goal is to have your customer feel good that he dropped by and leave with something. But also want to come back again for more treasures.


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