Video Killed the Book Star? The Rise of the YouTuber Author


YouTube star Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, admitted she had “help” writing her record-breaking book. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

YouTube star Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, admitted she had “help” writing her record-breaking book. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

With the publication of The Amazing Book is Not On Fire, the newest venture from YouTube duo Dan and Phil (aka danisnotonfire and AmazingPhil), what’s behind the rise of vlogger books from the YouTubers shaping culture today?

Ten years ago, the idea that any old Joe could become famous from the comfort of their own room seemed ridiculous. Today it’s a very different story. Vloggers are not just well-known figures to a select few fans - they’re global stars in their own right. With millions of followers between them, these YouTubers are at the top of their game, reaching out to young people all over the world every single day.

And they don’t just restrict themselves to the confines of YouTube: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, SoundCloud, Snapchat...if there’s a social media platform out there, chances are your favourite vloggers are on it. But recently these stars have widened their net even further - they’ve gone from your nearest screen to your nearest bookshelf, and these bookshelves are filling up fast.

Aside from the ever-popular Fault In Our Stars by John Green, one of the first YouTubers to venture into the book world was beauty blogger Zoe Sugg. Her 2014 novel, Girl Online, was the fastest-selling book from a debut author. Despite claims of ghostwriting and reviews that were far from glowing, the book proved to be a massive hit amongst young audiences and continues to remain a strong presence in the charts.

And it’s not just fiction that these stars are dipping their toes into. Some have gone down the self-help route: Grace’s Guide: The Art of Pretending to be a Grownup by Grace Helbig andAll I Know Now by Carrie Hope Fletcher offer insights and advice on how to navigate your way through the tricky teen years, whilst others have opted for picture-filled lifestyle books, such asLove, Tanya by vlogger Tanya Burr. Some, like Connor Franta and Joey Graceffa, have even released their own memoirs - a bizarre feat considering they’re not yet through their 20s.

The Amazing Book is Not On Fire marks the latest success in the YouTube/book crossover. Chock-full of quizzes, advice and behind-the-scenes tales, this new venture from Dan Howell and Phil Lester (aka danisnotonfire and AmazingPhil) is already flying off shelves. It’s success is no surprise - this dynamic duo are perhaps the most popular (and likeable) vloggers around (Dan’s subscribers currently stand around the five million mark, while Phil has almost three million to his name). When granted their own show on BBC Radio 1 back in 2014, it was obvious just how far the YouTube phenomenon had come. Here were two young (and self-confessedly awkward) boys commanding a primetime slot on one of the biggest radio stations, and the duo have now interviewed everyone from Ariana Grande to One Direction.

But what lies at the heart of this popularity? How long before this cultural phenomenon passes its sell-by date? And is it really the place of YouTubers to dabble in writing?

Some might say that vloggers should put down their pens and pick up their webcam. Not only are they dominating an already crowded market, overshadowing talented, aspiring writers who have real integrity, but there’s more than a whiff of money-making about it (book tour tickets go at a sizable price) that doesn’t sit quite right. Are they exploiting young audiences? Perhaps. But if they’re reaching out to teens who might otherwise avoid their local bookstore, it’s hard to argue it’s a wholly bad thing. At the end of the day, these people do what they do best - they create, they engage, they sustain a community that gives many young people a sense of belonging. Whether you love them or hate them, it looks like they’re here to stay a while longer...

[By Heather Sandlin] [Read More]

Comment