There’s no denying that we’re in the midst of a YouTuber book boom. Recents months have seen prominent creators like Grace Helbig, Hannah Hart, Shane Dawson, Connor Franta, Mamrie Hart, Alfie Deyes, and Zoe Sugg make the jump from the subscription box to the printed page. Publisher Keywords Press, which specializes in helping notable online individuals bring their stories to the page, has more books waiting in the wings including memoirs from Joey Graceffa, Justine Ezarik, Tyler Oakley, and Shay Carl.
So far these books have met with varying degrees of critical and commercial success, with several making their way onto bestseller lists based on pre-orders alone. But despite a largely successful run, there might be some trouble looming for the lucrative YouTube to book industry.
Over the weekend hundreds of fans and YouTube creators took to Twitter to share frustrations, disappointments and criticisms with the YouTube community under the hastag #YouTuberFandonHonestyHour. While perusing the thousands of tweets generated by the hashtag, it was difficult not to notice a major trend — dozens of fans sharing remarkably uniform complaints about the current glut of YouTubers trying their hand at writing (or being written for). The book boom might finally have triggered a backlash and that’s bad news for the books still in the pipeline.
In addition to growing fan fatigue, a series of mini-scandals have further soured the YouTube community on YouTube books. Beauty superstar Zoe Sugg was the subject of intense fan scrutiny after it was revealed that her debut young adult novel Girl Online, was written by a ghost writer. The novel, which was billed as a work of fiction inspired by Zoe’s experiences becoming a high profile internet personality, was less well received once fans learned that Sugg had outsourced the writing process to professionals.
Sugg’s boyfriend Alfie Deyes also found himself on the receiving end of some unexpected fan ire after blasting the author of an unauthorized book detailing the pair’s relationship. Unauthorized tell-alls are nothing new in the celebrity economy, but when Deyes described author Jo Berry as a “random idiot” and her unauthorized book Alfie and Zoella A-Z: The Unofficial Ultimate Guide To The Vlogging Super Couple, as a rip off, he didn’t get the response he was expecting. Instead of taking his side fans lashed out at Sugg and Deyes for their own recent releases, characterizing them as unoriginal and reiterating charges of ghostwriting and plagiarism (Deyes’ Pointless Book has been widely compared to the very similar Wreck This Journal).
The YouTube community prides itself, often and loudly, on authenticity. Creators who can appear genuine and sincere can build huge and loyal audiences on the strength of that trait. However, when fans feel that pact of authenticity has been betrayed for profit, the reaction can be extreme. With so many YouTube books hitting the market, some dedicated fans are starting to detect a cash grab. If that sentiment continues to take hold it could spell trouble for the YouTuber memoir mill.
The signs of fatigue may already be starting to show. While Deyes’ first effort Pointless Book sold more than 15,000 copies in its debut week, the follow-up Pointless Book 2 moved just under 12,000 copies in the same period of time. It’s not a catastrophic drop, but it’s significant, especially when you consider that Alfie’s online audience has only grown since his first release, ostensibly giving the book a wider market.
It’s too soon to tell if the novelty of YouTube books has worn off entirely, but fan reaction tends to suggest that this trend might not be a trend much longer.
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