As YouTube continues to grow into a global phenomenon, a collection of the website’s greatest stars are expanding their personal brands to writing a book in an attempt to treat their subscribers to something different. Publishers have taken notice and are taking their bets on Youtube stars. YouTubers are more than just niche entertainers with quirky appeal, and can be marketed to a broader audience. An analysis of the huge phenomenon ofYouTubers writing their own books and how it has evolved certain aspects of the publishing industry and the success this new trend in young adults.
YouTube has been a huge phenomenon since it was created in 2005, it has given many YouTube creators -YouTubers – a platform to express anything they want to. Many of theseYouTubers are on every social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and SnapChat. Since many of theseYouTubers have a huge following and popularity it was a no brainer that book publishers took notice and started to sign some Youtube as authors and selling their own books. For example, Zoella, the YouTuber star otherwise known as Zoe Sugg is known for her vlogs about her lifestyle and makeup signed with a publisher on a lucrative book deal with Penguin Random House in 2014. Zoella’s inaugural novel, Girl Online became the fastest selling debut in history selling 78,109 copies in the first week, according to The Bookseller. Although many titles built over time through word-of-mouth, Girl Online had the benefit of Sugg’s pre-existing fanbase. She has six million YouTube subscribers, and drew on elements of her own life to write the tale of a schoolgirl blogger who finds love on a trip to New York. Although the Girl Online was a huge success, it came with some controversy when it was revealed that young adults author Siobhan Curran and Penguin UK’s editorial team helped her with the writing, some of Sugg’s massive following were somewhat annoyed that Sugg have not been honest with them about the ghost writer beforehand. According to Kathryn Lindsay, who wrote a piece in Xojane, criticize Sugg and her book, YouTube Culture and literary culture have very little crossover. The only thing common between the two are people whose channels tend to focus on book reviews, book-related tags, attending books events, and content that is solely geared towards the craft of writing as well as the knowledge of what makes it good. Lindsay’s opinion thatYouTubers like Zoe Sugg that have a large following, will always make money on anything she produces. Although she uses YouTube, she thinks it is an entirely different medium that does not transfer to the page. Lindsay brings up a good topic about authorship, Kathleen Fitzpatrick author of Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy. In one chapter about authorship, Fitzpatrick thinks that we need to approach authorship from a different perspective in the digital age – the key lying in interaction. She critics the individualistic and solitary approach to writing a book. Even though this piece was aimed of writing scholarly articles, the article has good points on the idea of authorship collaboration. Zoe Sugg is no english major, she probably had anxiety of writing her own novel for the very first time and might had feel lonely and lost. With the collaboration of young adults author Siobhan Curran and Penguin editorial team they were able to produce a vital product for Penguin Random House viable success in the future. Penguin House UK’s chief exec Tom Weldon, commenting on Zoe Sugg’s book, “I think the creative process behind lots of books is quite complex and this book was like that”, meaning that Sugg’s did not write the book by yourself but it was a collaborative process that some critics find very hard to believe. Many of the backlash Sugg got from her book came from a lot of traditional journalists in traditional media that many believe that a book could only be written by one author.
Tom Weldon, the UK head of Penguin Random House, described the discussion of YouTubers books as a one-off, but points to a trend. Publishers need to change the way they spot new talent and engage with younger readers in the smartphone age, according to the Times Media. Publishers are always looking to find the next big thing after a trend of celebrity biographies until 2008. The reality is that books are commodities, not art, they’re aimed at an undiscriminating customer base and they sell well. Philip Jones, the editor of the Bookseller, according to NewStatesman article, says the YouTubers books fill the vacuum left by celebrity biographies. Although there are many criticisms with YouTubers books, Jones states that the phenomenon has been a saviour for an industry that was struggling. Atria Publishing Group, a division of Simon & Schuster created an imprint, Keyword Press which was launched in 2014 specifically created to publish original, high quality books by the digital world’s most talented and popular stars. Such authors have sold nearly 700,000 physical books in the United States in 2014, according to data provided to Reuters by Nielsen BookScan. YouTubers books are part of a resurgence in reading among kids and millennials that is helping to keep the publishing industry alive.
Undeniably, why would young adults even want to buy YouTubers books when they can get that content free online with videos then spending some cash on books. As Andrew Piper states in the Prologue to his book Book Was There, an overwhelming majority of readers, both casual and committed, will readily say that they prefer to read on paper than on screen. Piper mentions the physical element of reading as an undeniable factor. The words on a screen intuitively feel less real than than those on a page – something about ink on paper makes meaning clearer and reading more enjoyable. Another reason for the sales of YouTubers books are that many subscribers/followers purchase these books to feel closer to an Internet creator they love. But the connection between creator and fan is twofold. Fans want to have a deeper connection to the personalities they love. For most YouTubers, that connection increases their authenticity in the eyes of their fans, which is crucial to longevity and success. Ariele Fredman, publicity manager of Keyword Press, a Simon and Schuster imprint launched in May of 2014 with Hollywood’s United Talent Agency, says that fans not only want to consume videos online, but they also want a tiny piece of that person to live on their bookshelves, according to Mashable article. With the success of Zoe Sugg’s book paved the way of other successful YouTubers to extend their personal brands. For example, Tyler Oakley, a vlogger who has amassed over seven million subscribers, released a book of essays called Binge in October 2015. In an email interview Oakley told Mashable, “whether it’s a serious topic or a hilarious mishap, I finally get to tell my untold stories in a deeper way,” Oakley added. “Storytelling is storytelling regardless of the medium, and of course trying a new format allows the creator and consumer a new way to connect.” Mashable interviewed a seventeen year old girl, Victoria Lin at Stream Con, a digital content conference held at the end of October in New York City. “I think there’s a difference between reading things in your hand and on your phone,” Lin told Mashable. “ The feeling picking up a book and going through the pages is definitely more real than something digital.” As Andrew Piper states in Book Was There, he introduces ‘touch’ as the most elementary sense. Piper uses the sense of touch to recognize that the physical connection between humans and text is constantly being challenged by new media. The new generation has become reliant upon digital text which provides a stimulation that diminishes the authenticity of the book.
While YouTubers account for only a tiny slice of the billion of books sold annually in the US, they are a growing segment in a publishing industry looking for new ways to make money. These YouTubers also come with convenient built-in marketing, blasting out book updates to their millions of fans and saving publisher valuable marketing dollars in the process that can be spent on more literally titles. The publishing industry has changed with this new trend; however, unlike its replacement trend of celebrity biographies, it is too early to tell whether or not these commodities will help sustain the publishing industry for years to come.
Piper, Andrew. 2012. “Take It and Read”. In Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.