Reasons your book isn't selling: bad luck

Welcome back to Reasons your book isn't selling, where every Wednesday I discuss common mistakes I see authors make that are hurting their book sales. Last time I talked about ignoring Amazon.

Today's reason your book isn't selling:Bad luck

For the past few months I've talked about some of the mistakes I've seen authors make during my time in the industry. Most of these have been easy fixes. But today, for the last post in this series, I want to talk about something that doesn't come with a three step solution.

Bad Luck

I feel like it's pretty easy for an author who has had some success to make lists of all the ways that other authors can find similar success. I'm a far cry from being a super star, yet I recognize that I've done well and others would like to see similar results. But the reality is that you can't follow a list of to-do items and be guaranteed success.

Instead, there are a lot of variables that can make taking your book to the next level nearly impossible. Let me say this. I truly believe that most authors who are not where they'd like to be are leaving opportunities on the table. AND I believe that changes like the ones I've talked about in this series can make a difference. But sometimes, the cards are stacked against you. That's not an excuse to stop trying, but recognizing these unwinnable scenarios can sometimes let us move on from a project that is not going to be the success we wish it were.

Here are a few unfixable issues that your book might be facing:

1. Timing - We can plan around certain events, but some are outside our control. I can tell you that trying to release a book right before Christmas is not a good idea. I'd also think that anyone with a book coming out this fall has an uphill battle to climb over the election news. But there's nothing you can do if there is a natural disaster the week of your book's launch. Or, heaven forbid, a terrorist attack.

2. Trends - It takes forever to get a book from concept to published and no one can predict what readers will be clamoring for once you get there. There's nothing you can do about it readers just aren't interested in your genre by the time your book comes out. But even worse than hitting the tail end of a trend is being ahead of the trend. Maybe you though underwater superheroes was going to be the next big thing. But it's not. It doesn't matter how much you market your book if there aren't readers for it.

3. Other books - You've got a great book with a topic right on track with what readers are looking for. And then the week before your book comes out, a big name author drops their book with a similar plot line. There's nothing you can do about that. And even though you knew nothing about this other author's book and have been working on yours for a year, there's no way you don't look like you are trying to ride coattails.

4. Not your best - You've worked really hard on your book, got it published and marketed the heck out of it. Now, six months later, you realize this isn't your best work. While authors always hope to improve with each project, sometimes we put out projects before we were ready. I've seen authors do this and then a year later, they re-release. I actually saw someone advertise their new release with the language "Now professionally edited". Which made me think, it wasn't edited before? Does that mean none of your books were edited? Honestly, nothing makes me run from an author faster.

Like I said, I think most authors have more than can be doing to market their books, but sometimes, there really is nothing you can do to save a book. Maybe a trend will come back. Maybe your next books will be big hits and readers won't mind that your older books aren't as good. There are lots of possibilities. But sometimes, you have to walk away and let a novel sink or swim on its own.

Dusty Agency Lessons: You don't want to be the exception

I recently re-opened to queries and changed my submission guidelines. I am now only taking on YA projects. Of course, I'm still getting queries for projects that are well outside my area of expertise. So, instead of writing a new post, I thought I'd pull this one from the vault (Get it, Dusty Agency Lessons. I slay myself). Apparently, there are over 120 Agency Lesson posts. Good Lord! Let's looks back at last year, because the advice still stands.

I get a lot of queries for projects that are outside of areas I represent. I'm not talking genre, because genres are fluid and I think there is plenty of wiggle room there. I'm talking about age groups. Chapter books, NA, Adult. And non-novel projects. Poetry chapbooks, screenplays, nonfiction, etc. Areas that I try to make very clear I don't represent.

I don't know why people do this. Maybe they just got my name off a list and didn't bother to look at what I represent. Maybe they're hoping I'll love their book so much that I'll take it on anyway.

But authors, you don't want an agent to take you on as an exception.

There is a reason I don't take on chapter books and Adult novels. I rarely read in those age groups. I am not keeping up on their trends. I don't know what's in the market. I am not familiar with the editors who acquire those projects. I don't know the best houses for them or how to position them to editors. In short, I am a complete dunce when it comes to those books.

So why in the sweet heavens would you want me to represent you?

I get it, I do. Remember, I was once a fellow soldier in those query trenches. All we want is someone to take a chance on our story. And it's not a far leap from someone to anyone.

But an agent is more than just the next step toward publication.

Your agent will be your cheerleader, book champion, confidant and a guiding hand in your career. This is a business relationship and you need more than just another person to love your book. We have mothers for that. You need someone who can sell that book.

I'll never get mad at someone for sending me something I don't represent. Because I understand the struggle you are coming from. But you aren't doing yourself any favors, and are actually selling yourself short when you lower your standards to someone who is not in a place to help your career.

You are worth more than that. You should be more than someone's exception.

Reasons your book isn't selling: Ignoring Amazon

Welcome back to Reasons your book isn't selling, where every Wednesday I discuss common mistakes I see authors make that are hurting their book sales. Last time I talked about fear of free.

Today's reason your book isn't selling:Ignoring Amazon

So apparently, there's this thing. An idea really. That if you love books and readers, and want the world to love books then you must absolutely love book stores. But it's not enough to love bookstores. You must also hate Amazon.

And not in a very general I hate Amazon while also buying a new dress, three books and this amazing potato peeler I didn't even know I needed from them while taking advantage of free shipping. Nope, I mean in the I refuse to even go to their website kind of way.

I get it. Amazon has been under fire for some pretty shady business when it comes to how they treat their employees. And they sell books as a loss leader which makes it hard for bookstores to compete.

Look, you're allowed to hate Amazon if you want, but the reality is, your readers love them.

And that means, you can hate them, but you can't ignore them.

I've actually heard of authors who refuse to ask for reviews to be posted on Amazon. They won't fill out an author profile and only have their books listed there grudgingly. Here's how much Amazon cares about those authors' silent protest.
The reality is, ignoring Amazon only hurts you and your readers.

Now, I'm not suggesting that you run out, make all your books Amazon exclusive and produce a stage musical about their awesomness. But there are things you should be doing.

1. Claim your author profile and fill it out.
Seriously, if I like an author's book I will go to their profile and find out what else they have. An empty profile and I just move on. A profile makes it easy for readers to find your books so having one is a no-brainer.

2. Get reviews
Look I know getting reviews is hard, but you gotta do it anyway. And while Goodreads and blog posts are fantastic, you've got to have Amazon reviews if you want to sell books there. And you do want to sell books there.

3. Take care of your listings
Much of the system for Amazon is automated, but not all of it. For example, sometimes an ebook and a paperback aren't linked together. Not only does this make it harder for readers to find your books, it keeps your reviews for those books separate and thereby harder for those books to gain traction. This means going online every couple of months and just checking to make sure everything looks good.

4. Provide buy links
The reality is that much of the US buys their books on Amazon. So, while you should absolutely have buy links on your website for the other retailers, don't leave the big guy out just because you think they are Satan's spawn.

5. Make it work
This one is especially important if you self-publish or work closely with a small house. Using the right categories and keywords can be make or break for your book. So be sure to utilize the resources available and make Amazon work for you. They have a system, it seems to work really well, don't sabotage your book by refusing to be part of the system.

Agency Lessons: Why an agent self-publishes

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.

Today's question comes from the mailbag.

Hey Sarah, why did you choose to self-publish over seeking representation/publication the traditional way?

I feel like I've answer this a million times before, but I still get asked all the time. Since I'm about to self-publish the third book in my series, it's probably a good time to hash it out again.

So, let me give you the quick rundown of how I ended up self-pubbing my first book. I decided to self-pub for several different reasons (I'll get to that) so I did the whole hire an editor, cover designer, proofreader thing. I got my book in top notch shape. And then I accidentally got an agent which is a long story and a really backward way of doing things. Any who, my agent shopped the book and we got an offer, but I ultimately decided to decline. End of story.

Now for the highlights which I think are important for everyone.

1. Know what's selling
My trilogy is a dystopian. I love dystopians, readers love dystopians, they are great. My book was ready to go in late 2013. Dystopian was all over the place. Except editors were done with it. They had spent the last several years up to their eyeballs in the genre and, reasonably, didn't want anymore.

I knew this. I sent out a few queries, but wasn't surprised when everyone said they just couldn't take on another dystopian project. Over two years later and it's still a genre that is hard to sell. But...I knew that readers were still really digging the genre.

So I had two choices. I could sit on the project and wait, probably another five years, until the genre came back into the swing of things. Or I could self-publish. While you should always write the story that speaks to you, you should also know what the market is like. It doesn't matter which route you go if no one is reading your genre anymore.

2.Turning down contracts
This is something that no one really talks about, but I think we should. I was offered a contract and politely declined. You are allowed to do that. The offering publisher was perfectly lovely and I'm sure they would have done a fantastic job with the book.

By the time they offered, I had already invested in my own editors and cover. Again, this is the backward way of doing things, but it's the place I was in. So for me, I really wanted a publisher that could give me what I couldn't do on my own...print distribution. My agent and I agreed that this publisher wasn't particularly strong in print distribution.

So as hard as it was to say no to someone who wanted my work. I did. But I could do that because I knew what I wanted. Before you agree to anything in publishing, make sure you know what you want and that you'll get it with that deal. If I hadn't been clear in my goals, I might have signed that contract and then been unhappy when it didn't provide what I belatedly realized I wanted.

3. Screw the path
Everyone talks about the path to publishing as if it's the yellow brick road that will lead you straight to the NYT Bestseller list. If you stray from the path, flying monkeys will carry you away to midlist purgatory.

THERE IS NO PATH. There, I said it. There isn't a path to publication. It's more like a dirt road with lots of detours and the destination is a hologram that fizzles out every time you get close to it. Stop worrying about making mistakes and getting off the right track. Publishing is not a one size fits all model that scoops everyone up and spits them out the same as if they're an American Eagle catalog.

These days there are a million different ways to publish and a thousand different visions of success.

So, really, why did I self-publish?

Because it was the best decision for me, at that time, for the book I had. If I was just starting with that book right now, I might make different decisions. I'll certainly be looking carefully at all my options for my next project.

Should you self-publish? Heck if I know. But if you do your homework, set clear expectations, and believe in what you're doing, you'll be alright.

Authoring is hard work

This whole treating my writing like a serious career choice is not child's play.

If you're a regular reader here, then you know one of my goals for 2016 is to treat the act of writing more like a career. That means butt in the chair even when I don't feel like and getting the words out faster than one novel a year.

And because life is big on teaching lessons, my world went nuts over the past few months.

My relatives, who arrived in the middle of December for a few week visit ended up staying two months. That's right. Two months. And it wasn't a relaxing visit since the reason for their extended stay was a serious medical emergency. It was scary, and draining and not at all conducive to writing. Everything is fine now, but it wasn't for a long time.

I've also been in the middle of a move. We bought a house. We were supposed to close right before Christmas. We didn't. We moved a month later. Smack dab in the middle of this medical emergency. After all of our relatives who were going to help with the move went back home. As I type this, I am surrounded by unopened boxes and tubs of possessions I didn't even know we owned. We had a new roof put on, which resulted in someone stepping through the ceiling and requiring additional work. We painted every room in the house. We had plumbing work done and gas lines installed, and we're not even close to being done. Today, we have a new plumber because there is a crack in our sewer line. Yeah fun.

In addition to all of this, I was in a theater performance I auditioned for way back in early December when my calendar didn't look so crazy. It was immensely fun, but performance have a tendency to drain my physical and creative energy. It was a three week performance run.

Yet, even with all of that in addition to the normal tasks that life throws at us, I wrote the first draft for Rite of Redemption in January and February.

Woohoo! Fire the confetti cannon!

I don't tell you all of this to brag or ask for sympathy, but I do hope to prove a point.

We each have curve balls that life throws at us. So it's easy to say that everything is too crazy right now to work on that novel. I'll get to it when life has settled down. But the reality is that life never really settles down. There will always be something that comes up. An unexpected event that can easily become an excuse to not do the writing.

But if we want to be authors, who do this for real, and make real money (yes, I said it, I like making money from my books), we have to ignore the excuses.

I have a deadline for when I need to finish this book if I want to have it ready for a June release. And that means I have to write. Even when I don't feel like it. Especially when I don't feel like it. For me, this meant handling all of the rest of life during the day, and writing when the world around me slept.

It means that even when I'm staring at a to-do list a mile long and everything shows a priority of "should have been done yesterday", I have to carve out time to write. It means other things have to be pushed to the side. It means putting writing on your to-do list and not letting it get pushed off for everything else..

If that sounds awful too you, then maybe this isn't the career path for you. That doesn't mean you can't write. Write as much, or as little as you want. But don't expect that writing on a "when the moment strikes me and my calendar is clear" kind of schedule will lead to a steady income and a film deal. Even authors who commit hard core aren't guaranteed success.

But if being an author is what you really want. And you've got a goal to give it a real go, and yes, make real money, then stop making excuses and start making your writing a priority.

Reasons your book isn't selling: Fear of free

Welcome back to Reasons your book isn't selling, where every Wednesday I discuss common mistakes I see authors make that are hurting their book sales. Last time I talked about getting too big for your britches.

Today's reason your book isn't selling: Fear of free.
Being an author doesn't mean you have to work for nothing, but if you want people to know who you are, you need to give away some free books.

Let me tell a little story.
Our little town in the middle of nowhere Texas got a new restaurant a few weeks ago. Now, this particular building has been at least three different restaurants since I moved here four years ago. It's a great location, but nothing ever really took off there.

So this new place was having it's opening day on a Monday. But on Sunday, they gave away free food. I'm not talking little sampler bites. They gave away free meals. To everyone who walked through the door.

We decided to go check them out. I can't tell you what the food is like because the line for the free food wrapped outside and around the building so far that we decided to skip it. If I had to guess, I'd say the people at the end of the line had to wait at least an hour to get their food.

I can't imagine what it cost that restaurant to hand out all those free burgers. But I do know that every time I drive by there, the parking lot is filled. I just went past yesterday and the drive through line was backed up almost to the street and there was only one free spot. That was at 5:00 on a Tuesday. Where others have tried and failed, this place looks like they might make it.

They knew something all good marketers know. It doesn't matter how good your product is if no one knows it exists.

Not only did they get a ton of people in the door, they got a ton of free promotion. Everyone I knew in town was talking about getting free food at this place. It was all anyone could talk about.

Now, we all know that free books don't draw folks they way they use to. But free can still be a powerful tool if you use it correctly. And that doesn't mean discounting your book to free and walking away. You have to do the leg work of getting the word out there and letting people know. You have to sell it so people know that book is there. And you need to make it sound so good that they can't wait to get their hands on it.

And while we're talking about free, you need to be giving free review copies to bloggers and reviewers. Lots of free copies. For my first book, I sent copies to over 50 bloggers. I gave free books to teachers, librarians and other influence readers. If someone could help me spread the word about my book, I gave them a copy.

I know this can cost some money, but it's worth it. Even with all those free copies, I have a book that over a year after its release still sells decent numbers and consistently ranks well on Amazon. I promise that handing out hundred free copies of your book, there will still be people out there willing to buy it.

So stop being afraid of free and start using it to sell more books.

Agency Lessons: editing before querying

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.

Today's question comes from the mailbox and it's aptly timed as I was recently involved in a long conversation about this with several other authors.

So here's the question:
Should I tell an agent if I have worked with a free lance editor who use to work for Scholastic in polishing my manuscript or is that something I should leave out?

So, there's really two issues here I want to address.

First, what to put in your query.

Does this sort of thing belong in your query? Not really. Because as I'm reading queries, I am assuming and hoping that you have worked with critique partners and beta readers to get your manuscript in tip-top shape. If you haven't, you are not ready for querying yet.

For me, this is the equivalent of saying you attended a rigorous workshop or read three dozen craft books. Great! That's awesome and I'm glad you've taken the craft so seriously. Now prove it with your pages.

Also, having someone edit your manuscript is not the same as an endorsement of your work. I don't know if you took this editors advice and I have no idea if they thought is was a good project. Also, lots of freelance editors out there have worked with (or still work with) big names in publishing so this doesn't sound as impressive as you'd think.

Overall, this doesn't really do anything to impress.

However, it could be a deterrent. The second issue I want to talk about is whether you should use an editor at this stage.

Here's the scenario that plays out in my head when I see something like this:
Author takes an okay manuscript and works with an editor to polish it to perfection. Author queries agent who loves it and signs author. Agent sells the project. Author writes next project, but isn't going to hire another editor because they already landed the agent. Author sends new project to agent and agent stares in disbelief that same author who produced last manuscript gold has written this new not stellar manuscript.
As an agent, I'm not just looking for clients who I can work with on one book. I want someone who is ready to launch a career. That means selling lots of their books. I can't do that if it means doing multiple rounds of detailed edits before I can pitch each project.

Also, I'm not sure why an author would want to do this. One of the benefits of working with a traditional publisher is the editorial services. You'll get to work with top notch editors, copy editors and proofreaders. And not pay for them.

The long and short of it is that any information that details the process of how your manuscript ended up in my hands should be left out of the query. Let your query suck me in with the story, then dazzle me with the pages.

For those who are interested in dazzling me with your pages, I am now officially back open to queries, but for YA projects only. Show me what you got. :)

Poor Author, Rich Author

I came across this article by author Ros Barber. In it she breaks down the meat and potatoes of how much money she has made from her two literary novels. Spoiler Alert, it isn't much.

I knew this. I've been on both sides of the table, watching my own royalty payments come in and notifying my clients of how much they have made. It can be...disheartening.

Like most authors, I dream of making enough to replace a full-time salary. But as well as I'm doing, I'm no where close to those kind of numbers. I'd say, I make enough to replace the salary I had in high school as a part time cashier at McDonald's. It's a glamorous life.

When I see how far away I am from my goal, it can be counter-productive. And that's the last thing any of us need.

So instead, I'm choosing to focus on what my writing has brought me. I'm not making the mortgage payment yet. But here's what being an author has afforded me.

1. Extra stuff for my kids:
Ballet lessons, gymnastics class, summer drama camp. They add up and if we were a traditional single income family those would be luxuries that we couldn't afford. But now we can, and that makes me happy.

2. Special treats:
We don't eat out often, but having that extra moolah means occasionally treating my kids to a happy meal. I can also order the side of guacamole during my bi-weekly writer's group meeting, guilt free.

3. Budget bumps:
We just bought a house and put down a hefty down payment. While my book money didn't cover all of it (HA, not even close), it did contribute. Knowing that the money I made from writing helped us to get into this house makes living here even sweater.

4. Emergencies happen:
Did I mention we just bought a new house? Yeah, we've already had the plumber out here for three different issues...and he's coming back again. We had to buy a new stove AND a dishwasher and there are countless other issues that tend to pop up with a new house. While we haven't had to dip into my author account yet, I can breathe a little easier knowing there is some money there if we need it.

Look, do I wish I was making more money? Yep. And I'm going to keep writing and working on building my brand so that maybe someday I'll be making the money of a full time McD's employee. Until then, I'm going to focus on what being an author has given me instead of what I don't have yet.

Plus, I didn't mention the last thing being an author has afforded me.

5. The indescribable joy of knowing that people I don't know read my book and loved it. Priceless!

Agency Lessons: a mistake that can cost you big time

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.

There's one thing in querying that drives me nuttier than a fruitcake, and I know I'm not the only agent who feels this way. So here's the one thing that will get your query sent directly to the dust bin without any reply:

A mass email

Oh, did you think it was going to be something bigger, grander, more in your face? Nope. This one thing is how to ensure I never even read your query. I've actually gotten two of these in the past week, both of them sent to my personal email instead of my query email. While I am closed to queries. And one of them suggested that any agent who didn't respond was a spineless fool. Nice. But even with all of those egregious errors, the massive list of recipients is the worst offense.

Here's why.

Anywhere you look online or in those helpful books that are everywhere, you will be advised to query each agent separately. Why? Because every agent is looking for something different. We don't do this to be difficult, but because every agent needs something different in order for them to make an informed decision about your work.

Is this more work than sending out one massive email? You bet ya! Tough titties.

Here's what I hear when I see one of these in my inbox:

Hi person whose name I was too busy to look up,
I am a very important person who is looking for the fast and easy way to get published, and will not understand when it is revealed that publishing is neither fast or easy. And even though I know this isn't the way I'm supposed to query you, I'm doing it this way anyway, because I feel that I don't have to follow the rules. I realize that if I'm your client, you will send pitches to individual editors, so clearly I think my time is more valuable than yours. I will also be a huge pain in your a** because I don't have any understanding of this industry I am asking to be a part of. Thanks for taking more time to read this than I put into sending it.
Narcissistic Author

Harsh? Maybe, but there is too much to be done in this day and age to waste time on someone who shows from the start a serious lack of respect. If this is simply a case of being unaware, I feel the same. Again, if you want to be a part of this industry, you owe it to yourself to learn about it before jumping in with both feet.

So let me be very clear in case there is even an ounce of confusion when it comes to queries. Do not send a bulk email to every agent for whom you have an address. Do send an individual email to each agent you have researched and determined to be a good match for you, following their guidelines exactly as they have them listed clearly on their website.

What kind of author are you?

I wrote a few years ago about how to find your target reader.  This is a challenge a lot of authors face, especially when first starting out. We tell authors to target their marketing efforts to their ideal reader. But if you're just getting started, you don't have any readers yet.

So, I'd like to go back a bit. Before you identify your target reader, first you have to know what kind of author you are. Of course, this sounds easier than it is. For people who slings words for a living, describing ourselves as writers is akin to living without coffee...pure torture.

So let's break it down.

Good news is that you aren't the first author to grace the planet, so you don't have to start at ground zero. While we shouldn't compare our success (or failure) to other authors, comparison can be helpful when we are trying to establish who we are as authors.

But don't be flippant. This is so much more than just identifying other authors who write in your genre. You should be looking at aspects such as tone, theme and subject matter. Maggie Stiefvater and Lauren Kate both write fantasy, but I would never say they are similar authors.

In order to figure out who you are close to, you'll need to read widely in your genre and genres close to yours. Of course, you should be doing this anyway for a ton of really good reasons. You don't want to duplicate a premise, you want to get a feel for what readers expect, you want to see what makes the most popular books tick. Now add, determine which author I am most like to the list of reasons you should read a lot.

Once you figure out which authors you are more like, the real work starts. After all, you are unlikely to write just like another author. Most likely, you are similar, but with distinct difference. Maybe you have a higher heat level or tend to delve into darker topics. The good news is that readers will probably notice this as well.

For example, if you are close to Author B, but tend to write a lower heat level. Go look for reviews of Author B's books that say it was hotter than the reader normally enjoys. Good news, you just found your reader. Now go stalk investigate this reader to see what books they gave five stars. Read the other five star reviews for those books. 

These are the authors that have captured the same readers that you are looking for. So go read everything they've written. Not because you're going to copy their style. Don't do that. You are going to read them so you can see if you are like these authors.

Chances are, you will find small differences and that's good. Readers don't want a copy cat. This will give you a starting place when letting new readers know what to expect from your books.

I write kinda like so-and-so, but with more XYZ. Or that-guy with happy endings. By identifying who you are as an author, you can set an expectation for readers. They'll know exactly what they are getting when they give your book a chance, which will lead to happier readers.

You can't find your readers until you know who you are as an author. So go out there and know thyself.

Reasons your books isn't selling: Getting too big for your britches

Welcome back to Reasons your book isn't selling, where every Wednesday I discuss common mistakes I see authors make that are hurting their book sales. Last time I talked about failure to toot your own horn. 

Today's reason your book isn't selling: Getting too big for your britches.

There are a ton of really amazing promotional ideas out there, but they are not all created equal and they just won't work for everyone.

I'm a big fan of borrowing promotional ideas from other authors. And because readers never stop at one book, it's okay to use tactics that have worked well for others. But this can get newer authors into a lot of trouble.

For example, let's say you see big name author run a trailer promotion. Fans can make trailers for an upcoming release and enter to win a big prize. You've got another book coming out and think this sounds like a great idea. But if you don't have the readership of big name author, don't be surprised if your entries are seriously lacking.

Because promotions and contests that ask your readers to do too much are likely to flop unless you've laid the groundwork to establish a large and loyal readership.

There's nothing wrong with running a fanfic promotion or asking readers to create Pinterest boards, these are great ideas and can go a long way to engaging your readers and creating advertising. But before you decide to leap on one of these ideas you need to ask yourself if you're asking for too much.

Not sure?

Do a trial run with a much simpler contest and see how it goes. If you can't get a good number of readers to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway or to comment on a post for a prize, you are not going to get them to enter a contest that requires more effort than clicking a button.

And that's okay. You don't have to rush to do all the big ideas. But Sarah, I hear you say from the back corner, what if Pinterest and YouTube are obsolete by the time I have a big enough readership for this to work. No worries, my little ducklings. Social media isn't going anywhere. I'm sure it will look different in another five years and YouTube could be as barren as MySpace. But I promise that something else, bigger and better will have sprung up to replace it.

So don't force your readership to be more than it is. Use more basic and time-tested marketing methods to cultivate a loyal readership while you establish yourself as an author, then go crazy when the time is right.