First, thanks to all who responded to my questions about newsletters and discovering books. It looks like my instincts were right. The trick about marketing books is that it really is something that's hard to do on purpose because most people discover books in very accidental ways, such as finding them in a library and hearing about them from friends. I discovered two of my very favorite authors because I noticed the covers on their books, and something about the art spoke to me -- and in one case, the art turned out to be very misleading. It had nothing to do with the subject or tone of the book, though I think I would also have liked the book that the art would have fit. What I need to do is find ways to make people aware of the series and get them to try it and then to make sure people who've started reading the series are aware that there are more books.
Second, another one of my babies has gone out into the world, looking for a good home. Putting a book out on submission is like boarding an emotional rollercoaster. You start out with high hopes, looking at the list of editors and visualizing your book at each of those houses. And then the rejections start to come in. The rejections always come first because that can happen right away -- the editor may know from the first page that it's not right. Offers take a lot more time because the editor has to read more of the material, then take it to committee and persuade the publisher to buy it. Sometimes it seems like the rejections come all at once. You go through days of getting constant rejections. It hurts to cross each potential market off the list. But then you get a hopeful response, like when your agent follows up with the editors who haven't rejected and one responds that she's reading it and loving it or when one says she's waiting on a response from higher in the food chain. Rejections that come after that hurt more because they tend to be of the "I loved it, but I don't know what to do with it/don't think there's a market for it/haven't published anything like this before" variety. Then if you're really lucky, someone expresses interest, which triggers an auction among anyone else who hasn't yet rejected it, and that then triggers a fast slew of rejections among anyone who's not interested in fighting for it (a lot of the time, it's not that they had any interest, just that the auction deadline forces them to pull it out of the bottom of the pile, take a quick look at it and decide it's not worth the effort to do a quick read and push anything through). And then if you're really, really lucky, you end up with an actual offer with real dollar signs and numbers attached to it.
I know this is a difficult book to categorize, so I'm girding my loins. A contemporary Tam Lin (the folk tale or ballad, not the Pamela Dean novel)/The Goblin Market mash-up (the person stolen by the fairies who has to be rescued is a sister, not a lover) starring a ballerina, an injured detective and a bulldog and with a subtle semi-romantic thread that would be wrong if it happened is going to be a tough sell. I imagine a few of the rejections will be along the lines of "I love Shanna's work, but I'm not sure what to make of this." Possibly with the addition of "I'd like to see something more like Enchanted, Inc." But maybe someone will see what I love about this story and the characters and give it a good home. If not, I already plan to self-publish it because I believe in this book. Having that fallback position does make this a little less stressful. However, I would appreciate good wishes, prayers and other things intended to influence the universe.
But enough about me. My WorldCon hotel reading that I didn't get to until I was skipping the Hugo awards was Wisp of a Thing by Alex Bledsoe, a follow up to The Hum and the Shiver. It's sort of a sequel, in that it takes place in the same setting after the previous book, and there are characters who cross over. I suppose it does continue the big-picture plot from the previous book. But it also stands totally on its own. The main characters are almost entirely new, and I don't think you'd be at all lost or lose much understanding if you hadn't read the first book. These books are about a mysterious culture found deep in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. They have a kind of magic to them that's tied into their music. In this book, a young man who gained a kind of stardom as a reality singing show contestant comes to town after a personal tragedy because he's heard that there's a song in this town that could heal his broken heart. He's not one of these people, but he may be what they need to break a curse that's on the verge of becoming permanent.
I really love these books. The world captivates me to the point that I kind of want to go to eastern Tennessee and look for this town and hear this music. I like the characters a lot. He has a way of writing nice guys who are still interesting and complicated and damaged people who aren't all dark and edgy. I'd almost go as far as to say that this is "hillbilly Neil Gaiman." I think if you like Gaiman's novels, you might like this.
I spent yesterday rereading the work in progress. It seems I threw in a plot thread I'd forgotten about. Now I need to figure out where to go from here.