The internet is incredible, isn’t it? Sir Tim Berners-Lee is definitely worthy of his knighthood, for without him, we’d be without this website, we’d be without social networks (which can be good, before you all go absolutely crazy about it!), we’d be without Netflix (could you imagine?!) as well, but we’d also be without YouTube.
Back in 2005, the first video uploaded onto the site was a video of one of its founders at a zoo in America standing in front of an elephant enclosure. The video is still live on the site today, except it’s got way more views than an 18 second video about that sort of thing would get today.
Why? Consider for a second that there have been tons of communities erupt onto the site today. Vloggers, sketch comedians, beauty bloggers, BookTubers, all these communities now have their own little corner of the site. And with the YouTuber Partner Program, people are now able to make full time careers out of doing YouTube.
The Partner Program is pretty simple: every person you watch on the site who has signed up to the Program will have an advert play before the video you’re going to watch. Sometimes they may even be in the middle of a video as well, but every video you watch generates a tiny bit of money and then that gets put into a pool of money. At the end of the month, the money is divided between YouTube and the creator, 55% to the creator and 45% to YouTube. And we won’t go into the real depths of understanding the new subscription service that’s coming in, but this isn’t enough. So where do some YouTubers turn?
Well, if you’re like Dan Howell and Phil Lester, Shane Dawson, Connor Franta, Zoe Sugg, Marcus Butler, Alfie Deyes, Joe Sugg, Joey Graceffa and Tyler Oakley, the answer might be a book deal.
Initially, I had a massive problem with YouTubers writing books, especially after the revelation that Zoe Sugg had large parts of her first book, Girl Online, ghost-written. And this isn’t what we were sold.
I was challenged by a team at a major newspaper, no names mentioned…(hi Emily & Co at The Guardian!), to read Girl Online and suddenly found myself absorbed into this really interesting world of YouTuber books. Some are pretty good, like A Work In Progress by Connor Franta and I reviewed that right here on the YA Love Mag site, and absolutely loved it. It wasn’t really an autobiography, it was just little snippets of Connor’s life that we don’t tend to see from his vlogs, complete with pictures and it was a really lovely book to read. And when you tell someone it’s an autobiography written by a YouTuber, they give you that look as if to say, “You dare support that? Pointless, isn’t it?”
In the case of Connor Franta, no, I don’t believe that A Work In Progress is pointless.
However in Alfie Deyes’ case, isn’t it a bit obvious that his books are pointless if they have pages that instruct people to draw genitals on the bodies provided, is basically a rip off of Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith and is called The Pointless Book, written by the guy called PointlessBlog?
Books like The Pointless Book undermine something about the book community. In one of Alfie’s vlogs he showed himself walking into a branch of WHSmith and his book was higher in their charts than John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars. This, I think, highlights something very important, and in this piece I want to discuss several different things.
Let’s get it clear now: I don’t believe that YouTubers should not write books. If they are pointless, literally, then yes I do disprove of them. But if you have something as interesting as the next guy does to write about, then why should the fact you’re a YouTuber affect your ability to write a book?
First, let’s discuss what exactly someone means when you talk about a ‘YouTuber book.’ To some, it’s a book written by a YouTuber. But isn’t that a bit unfair? John Green makes videos on YouTube and he’s written five books that people outside the YouTube community know about. Same with Carrie Hope Fletcher. She’s written a book and from what we can tell is writing another, but her full time job is playing Eponine at Les Miserables in London. Is that a YouTuber book? No.
But books written by Connor, Joey and Shane are YouTuber books. What makes them different from John and Carrie? After all, John is a full time video maker on YouTube. Are we calling YouTuber books those that have been published and only fans will read? OK, that could be fair. But then where does Carrie come into that? Most people that aren’t her fans won’t know who she is!
My point here is that we don’t really know what a YouTuber book is, and so attacking them generally is pretty difficult. But for the purpose of this article, I need you to assume that a YouTuber book is one written by someone whose main job is as a YouTuber, which probably does include John Green, even though I wholeheartedly disagree with that. But I digress.
Alfie Deyes wrote a book called The Pointless Book, then wrote The Pointless Book 2. It’s pretty much Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal, and to me is literally pointless. As we’ve already discussed, there’s a page that instructs you to draw genitals on the male and female bodies provided. How publishing this book made any sense, other than the fact it’s literally just a guaranteed money maker, is beyond me.
Some books are worth publishing because they are genuinely interesting. Carrie’s book, for example, offers a lot of genuine advice, and this didn’t stem from her YouTube channel, it stemmed from her blog, All I Know Now. However if they’re literally pointless and aren’t going to affect you in any way other than making your bank balance just a little bit lighter, then why publish them? Someone tell me one good reason for publishing Alfie’s book, because if not, and again, personal opinion here, it just seems a bit like a waste of paper. (And before a bunch of fans start accusing me of this that and the other, I like Alfie as a YouTuber actually, I just don’t like his books. Opinions, OK? They may wreck the internet but just bear with me.)
And that seems to be a problem. Publishers are giving YouTubers book deals because they know it’s a guaranteed money-maker because tons of fans will go and buy the book without questioning why they’re buying it. Before anyone tries to tell me it’s not, The Pointless Book took a spell at number one on the WHSmith chart, above John Green and many other very acclaimed authors. We can be sure that it’s only fans who are buying it, because I doubt very much the general public would keep it there.
I have a major problem with books that do this, and are just there as money-makers, a cheap buck for the publishers. They insult anyone who’s worked for ages to get a publishing deal. New authors are coming from left, right and centre, who have worked for their publishing deal and are getting it on their talent for writing, and we should be applauding this. Isn’t it just a bit unfair then to give someone a book deal and say, “You might not be able to write, but it’s OK because you’ll make us millions, just as long as we slap your name on the front of it,” and then to people who are desperate for book deals say, “We can’t offer you a publishing deal for this book as we can’t see any potential for it.” Frankly, I take it as an insult. There are still YouTubers being offered book deals, and some are turning them down, but others aren’t.
As I’ve said, I don’t object fully to any YouTuber writing a book, because without that the world would not have been graced with The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns, and I don’t object to a YouTuber writing an autobiography. What I don’t want is a publisher to just publish a book because it’s going to be an easy route to a profit, and I want a book to have and serve a purpose, but also to appeal to people outside a fan community of a certain YouTuber, because that segregates some readers from another.
Publishers, please get it right.