So this is odd: Brian Williams, Christiane Amanpour and former Secretary of State James Baker in a YouTube video promoting a new coming-of-age novel.
Huh? Turns out that it’s a book trailer, the latest marketing tool for writers struggling for a foothold in the shrinking publishing business.
Jennifer Miller, author of “Year of the Gadfly,” spent a year getting VIPs to read the opening lines of her story. She then e-mailed the finished product “to every single journalist we knew.”
(What, based on the assumption that journalists can’t resist writing about other journalists? Grrr — we fell for it, didn’t we?)
It’s not enough to write a book or find someone to publish it anymore. Unless you’re a big-time, bestselling author you’ve also got to come up with clever ways to publicize it yourself.
Miller, 32, spent seven years writing the novel (her first) and sold it to Houghton Mifflin. That was the easy part. Then she started worrying: her 2005 non-fiction account of young leaders in the Middle East had good reviews but poor sales. “I remember feeling very frustrated because I wanted to fight for my book,” she told us Wednesday. “I wanted to do something to get it the attention I thought it deserved.”
This time, she decided to use “every single venue open to me” to promote “Gadfly,” which came out three weeks ago. Because the story revolves around a teenage reporter at an elite prep school (based loosely on her years at Georgetown Day School), she decided that she wanted top journalists in her book trailer.
She made a list and her dad got into the act. Aaron David Miller, a fellow at the Wilson Center and former advisor at the State Department, reached out to friends: Amanpour, Andrea Mitchell, Sam Donaldson, Dan Rather. It took almost a year to put the video together — Miller sent them the lines and they sent back a tape.
She said she’s still not exactly sure how Williams got on board: Her friends think that she spliced in a real news video with the NBC anchor citing a different Jennifer Miller. But no — he’s actually talking about her, she insists.
What does any of this mean for book sales? “I have no idea,” she said. “We wanted to go viral, obviously.” It hasn’t: only 1,860 hits so far. “I’m willing to bet that is significantly more views than most book trailers,” she said.
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