Washington native Jennifer Miller is like a lot of bright, young writers hoping their first novel attracts attention. What sets her apart, though, is just how hard she’s willing to work to garner that attention.
As reported in The Reliable Source, when her debut novel, “The Year of the Gadfly,” was published last year, she posted a YouTube video of marquee Washington journalists — Andrea Mitchell, Sam Donaldson, Dan Rather and others — reading from the book.
Now, to mark the paperback release of “Gadfly” in May, Miller is plotting to set the world record for the most book clubs visited in a month. This July she aims to talk with 100 groups in 30 days.
She describes her plan in this short video:
For the purposes of her record, any group of five will count as a separate book club. Rather than racing around the country, she plans to make most of these appearances over Skype. But there will be some racing around the country. “I’m trying to set up some events at book stores where multiple clubs will come together,” she says from her home in Brooklyn. “I’m already going to Fountain in Richmond, Va., for one such event.”
Miller grew up in the Washington area. Her father, Aaron David Miller, works as a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center. “Gadfly,” inspired by her experience at Georgetown Day School, is about a 14-year-old high school journalist who talks with the ghost of Edward R. Murrow.
As a further inducement to read the book, each participating book club will receive a free copy of “Gadfly” and signed book plates.
Miller’s efforts may be extreme, but many authors are scrambling to find new ways to connect with readers. With the loss of Borders Books and the closing of hundreds of indie bookstores, there are fewer places for people to interact with authors and discover new titles.
And publishers are increasingly uninterested in spending money on book tours. Except for the biggest-name authors, these events often draw only a handful of customers at each stop — a painfully inefficient way to sell books. Well-known novelists have told me embarrassing stories of arriving at readings only to find no one there.
Skype meetings with clubs around the county are becoming common. Even if Miller sets her record, it may not stand long in the brave new world of publishing.
On Twitter @RonCharles.