09 September 2011

The Dorkiest Post Ever; or How Querying is Like the Mario Bros.

This is my 200th post! *waits for confetti* Ah, there it is. It's been up there a while. Hopefully the dog will be nice enough to clean that up for me later.

So, you read the title right. I was on Facebook the other day and my dear friend Beckah-Rah's new avitar made me laugh. It was one of those Very Demotivational posters that said "SLUSHPILE: Somewhere in there is the perfect manuscript. For another agent."

And that reminded me of something else:

Mother****. SERIOUSLY?! A rejection?

Replace Mario with Manuscript, Princess with Agent/Publisher, and Castle with Agency/Publishing house, and you have querying.

For those who have never played Mario, first of all, shame on you. It's awesome. Second of all, the basic story is this:

Mario's gotta save the princess from a giant fire-breathing turtle, but it takes multiple castles. Aaaaaaaand scene.

Mario goes through different levels, each more difficult than the last. He has to face trials and tribulations (sometimes under water, even), eeeeeeevil enemies and sometimes man-eating plants just to get to the castle.

So do we.

See, there's a point to my inane ramblings sometimes.

The way I see it in my strange way of seeing things (and the fact that I played Mario religiously as a child), we writers send our manuscripts out into a perilous world frought with dangers. But we're the ones who ultimately feel the wounds of rejection. We have to squash goomba heads and koopa troopers, stay out of the way of Bullet Bills and those weird fireball shooting plants. It's a perilous world for a writer because it's all IN OUR HEADS. Our fears, our doubts, the thoughts of  "this agent has my book and hasn't said anything because she's trying to find the nicest way of saying my book sucks." OK, maybe not so much the last one, but still. We send query after query only to get the same message: Not for me, but thanks anyway. Your agent is in another agency.

So...do we give up? I mean, Mario had to go through like, what, 12 castles to get to the princess or something?  In NES video game time that is a LOT of levels, especially when you can't save your game and pick up in the same spot. Mario keeps trudging on, pounding blocks, crushing goombas, and he eventually, with enough persistence from the player, reaches his goal. We can do the same. We have the power to crush goomba heads and pound blocks. We just have to be willing to put in the time and effort it takes to reach our end goal.

But Lex, you might say, what about self-publishing? WELL. There's a whole different Mario metaphor in that one. On the outside, self-pub might seem like an easy way to getting your book out there, and in the beginning it is. However, where before we were looking at agent/publisher, we're now looking at consumers, websites, bloggers, book reviews, and promotion promotion promotion. Authors pubbed through "traditional" means have some backing from their publishers, but in the grand scheme of things, unless you're the next JK Rowling or Stephenie Meyer, they don't get that much. The other day, Elana Johnson had a great post about marketing and promoting books. Yes, authors must do some of their own promoting. Self-published authors do all of their own promoting. Twitter bombs, Facebook pages, contests, billboards, Firestone blimps (ok, so maybe not the last two), you name it, a self-pubbed author tries it. Like Phoenix said the other day, though, it's hard to find the balance between good self-promotion and obnoxious self-promotion (paraphrased). These balances are hard to come by and come with their own goombas and Koopa troopers like low sales and faltering promotional campaigns. If you're not a natural salesperson, then going the self-publishing route might be something you want to hold off on until you've developed a reasonable business acumen. Because at the end of the day, this is a business.

So, peeps, here's what I would like to know. What makes you more likely to buy a book? Snazzy trailers, an awesome cover, blurbs from established authors? How about from a marketing standpoint. Do you like trading cards, bookmarks, magnets, etc? Or is there something else you'd rather see?

Please share your ideas in the comments! Thanks!


Amanda the Aspiring said...

Great post! I played Mario, and I definitely see the correlation. =) As for what makes me more likely to buy a book, it starts with the cover, which incites me to read the endorsements, which leads me to read the description, then the first pages. And from there, if I liked all that, I'll buy it. But seeing that the cover is the thing that draws me in, I'd say the cover is the most vital thing to the sale, for me. It's really sad, but I can honestly say that I put off reading an otherwise great book for like two years because the cover was supremely ugly. It just kept moving down the TBR pile in favor of prettier-looking covers.

Elaine AM Smith said...

If the book is by a new author, I'm drawn to a book by the cover. Then the blurb on the back. Finally, by the writing itself (pages 1 and 49.)
I don't read the endorsement by the famous author.

Andrea (Andee) Beltran said...

Love this post and can definitely relate with the analogy. You will eventually get to the right castle - at least this one point is a fleck of light at the end of that long tunnel.

Reviews always help me to decide whether I'm going to read a book or not. Also, if it is someone I have built more of a friendship with, I will take more of an interest. Constant promotion via Twitter or other social networking sites is a turn off for me.

You'll get there. Remember, Mario is AWESOME, right or wrong castle.

Teri Anne Stanley said...

Okay, thank you SO much for the Mario earworm that has invaded.

I have so many established authors that I love, and on the TBR pile, that I rarely pick up a new author unless I've already heard something about them...a review, or I know them from here in the virtual world of blogs and tweets--
although if I was in a bookstore browsing, and didn't have anything but new, unheard of writers to choose from, I would go from the "other author" endorsement...I figure if one of my hero-writers endorses someone, then I can give it a shot.

lexcade said...

Thanks for the answers! *And you're welcome for the Mario earworm, Teri Anne ;)*

Beckah-Rah said...

Thanks for the shout-out! :D And I love that poster.

I know you're not supposed to "judge a book by its cover" and all, but I kinda do that. Sometimes The title and the book cover catch my attention, and the flap/back of the book sells it. I used to HAVE to finish any book I started, no matter how much I hated it, but I've learned not to do that anymore (unless I have to review it). If I get frustrated or bored during the first chapter, I put it down and move on to something else.

I could care less about what any famous author/newspaper etc. says about it. Do they know me? No. And there are plenty of "brilliant...ground-breaking...tour de force" books out there that I didn't care for.