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!