YouTube is a huge phenomenon these days. The art of vlogging (that is, video-blogging) your life, thoughts, ideas, whatever, is immensely popular, particularly with young people.
Many YouTubers amass millions of followers, millions of viewers, and million (okay, perhaps a slight exaggeration for most) of pounds. ‘Professional YouTuber’ is now a full-time job title that many people have claimed.
Take Zoe ‘Zoella’ Sugg, for instance. Even if you don’t watch her videos, chances are you’ve probably heard her name. She’s Traditional Media’s go-to reference for all things YouTube related. Not only is Zoe one of the most popular YouTubers ever, but she was also one of the first YouTubers to release a book.
Not just any old book, mind you. No, Zoe’s first book Girl Online became the fastest selling debut novel of all time. Ever. Instead of being happy for the young woman, however, many took to social media and the internet to slate the poor girl mercilessly.
People were critical of Zoe because they believed she got a book deal simply because she was kind of a Big Deal on the internet. Which is true. If Zoe didn’t have millions of subscribers on YouTube, she never would have gotten a book deal – especially since it later came out that Zoe didn’t write her book at all, but rather used a ghost writer, like most celebrities do. But really, does it matter?
Purists will say yes. Hundreds of people aspire to be authors and they never so much as see the inside of a publishing house. ‘Real’ authors spend months, or even years perfecting their book, carefully writing each and every word with a furious passion. These people rarely experience even a tenth of the success that Girl Online did. It is, in short, unfair.
But does Zoe’s book have value? I would say yes. Sure, millions of young girls probably only bought her book because it had Zoe’s name on, but that doesn’t matter. They still supported a publishing house. They still engaged in the wondrous act of reading. And who knows? Maybe Zoe’s book inspired them to pick up another book, by a less well known author? Everyone needs just one book to get them into reading, and maybe Girl Online was that book for someone.
Following Sugg’s book, many other big YouTubers announced that they had book deals. Many of these books are simply extension of their original blogs, or a supposed autobiography. It’s become a running joke within the YouTube community and fan base that when somebody says they have a ‘big announcement’ coming up, they’re going to announce a book. YouTube books have become a kind of symbol for literature-types for everything that is wrong with pop culture.
Which is, perhaps, unfair. As with Girl Online, perhaps these apparently inane YouTube books are the catalyst to get a young person passionate about reading. And that is something that should be celebrated.
Moreover, many YouTubers that release books have a genuine passion for writing – and are avidly documenting the process on their YouTube channels and other social media platforms. Recently rebranded Louise Pentland (Sprinkle of Glitter), for example, is currently in the process of writing her debut novel, and spends much of her time online talking about the writing process. Similarly, sex education vlogger Hannah Witton has also been documenting her process as she writes her first book, Doing It.
Not all books written by people who have YouTube channels should be dismissed as trashy ‘YouTube books’. Some are real treasures. And even those that you may dismiss as complete and utter drivel could be some young person’s favourite book – and that should be cherished.