How Necessary is it for YouTubers to Write Books?
YouTube as a platform is growing in popularity. Being a “YouTuber” is a real career for thousands of people. It is very easy to become hooked to YouTubers. They are people just like us – internet fanatics . The only difference is that they have the means to create a career out of their addiction by documenting their lives or sharing their passions to the public. That’s the thing that is most appealing about them. And, since YouTube is still slightly unheard of career path, the fans of many YouTubers get defensive of their idols. They do not hesitate to show their love for these YouTubers by purchasing their merchandise and wearing their tee shirts proudly. The fans are also very quick to support every move their favorite YouTuber makes, which means that some YouTubers might just create random content in book form just to be sold. This does not apply to all Youtubers, but definitely some are taking advantage of the power they have over their viewers.
On average, according to Kelvin Ho at Quora, a YouTuber with one million subscribers makes about $100,000 per year ($8.3k per month). The way that YouTubers make this money is through Google. If a YouTuber has enough subscribers, he/she can apply to be a “partner” with Google. Then, Google will help him/her get advertisements on their videos. Google shares the profits from the ads with the YouTube content creator. The YouTuber can also become sponsored. For example, many YouTubers are sponsored by audible.com. For every person that signs up through a certain YouTubers link, that YouTubers gets paid $15 by Audible. YouTubers also get money through selling their own merchandise, which can be anything from a tee shirt with their name on it to wrapping paper with their face on it. There are plenty of options YouTubers have to make themselves more money.
The more subscribers one has, the more money they make, and the more likely they are to get a book deal. Publishers reach out to YouTubers when they start to really rise, because they know that if they wrote a book, it would automatically sell thousands of copies because of the dedicated fans who wish to support their idol. This, as argued before, is manipulative. The YouTubers don’t even have to try that hard to write good content because they’re guaranteed buyers no matter what (this does not mean that all YouTubers didn’t work hard). On average, a YouTuber book can sell from 15,000 to 25,000 copies in the debut week. Zoella (Zoe Sugg) broke the UK YouTuber record by selling 78,109 copies of Girl Online in her debut week (2).
This system is also unfair to the thousands – or even millions – of struggling writers out there. You know, those people that went to college to get an English degree, and have been working on a book for the past two years because they want it to be nothing but perfection. They are denied book deals because publishers are too busy seeking out their next celebrity to get them millions of sold copies. This, of course, is not the fault of the YouTubers. They see an opportunity, and they take it. Just because they already have a lot going for them does not mean that they shouldn’t reach for more goals. Obviously, most YouTubers are considered creative enough to write a book since they already show their creativity through their original video material and editing. But, That doesn’t mean there aren’t unheard-of creative people, as well. It’s definitely a great strategy from a publisher’s point of view, as they clearly know what will make the most money and bring in the most attention. We have to give them credit there, they are smart and they are good at their jobs. It’s just harder for a newbie to get publishers to notice them because the publishers are distracted by fame. We non-celebrities must work a little harder to get noticed. But, of course, that’s how all YouTubers (or any other famous person) started out as well: unnoticed.
Hard Workers vs. Laziness
With many of the YouTuber books, you can automatically tell how hard they worked on it. It’s in the details of the book. In Louise Pentland’s new book Life with a Sprinkle of Glitter, Louise has added inspirational phrases that she wrote herself into many pages throughout the book. She does this solely as a treat for her readers. She has written these messages herself, and there is a good amount of them in the book. This means that she took a lot of time to think about ways she could lift up her audience. This is different from other autobiographic books because she didn’t just focus on herself, she focused on what the audience would want to hear.
It is a good book when the writer tells stories that the viewers of his/her YouTube channel have not heard yet. For example, Tyler Oakley’s book entitled Binge was clearly worked hard on. When reading it, you can tell that he put all of his effort into this book. In fact, you can tell that he put love into the book. He tells the readers stories of his personal life that would normally be considered inappropriate to share in a three minute video on the internet. He talks about his struggles with an eating disorder, realizing he was gay and coming out to his family, losing important relationships, and so much more. His book has feeling. In a video, Tyler admitted that he had been offered a book deal years ago, but he said no the first time because he felt as though he wasn’t ready to be writer. Then, throughout the next few years, he practiced and improved his writing. This is a sign that he only wants to send out the best possible content for his audience.
On the contrary, certain YouTubers just threw together some stories or games and bound it up with a front cover and back, and called it a book. One in particular, Alfie Deyes, may or may not have stolen his book idea from the famous do-it-yourself book called Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith. This YouTuber’s book has the same exact concept. The book demands the reader to do certain things to certain pages. Arguably, he might not have realized that he was stealing his idea from Keri Smith. However, it was pointed out to him by many of his followers through Tumblr, Twitter, and probably email.
There are even reviews on Amazon that mention the similarity. One girl on Amazon by the name of Madisyn Terrell stated: “Basically just a copy of ‘Wreck This Journal‘ except less fun” about The Pointless Book (which, yes, is the real name of it). It was nearly impossible for him not to notice all of the people trying to tell him that his book was not original. This did not stop him, though, because he made a second one. After most likely becoming aware of his mistake, he still made a second one. He knows that his viewers will blindly support him. His viewers will look past his mistake and purchase both of the unoriginal books because they love him. In Alfie’s defense, the only thing that is copied is the idea of the book. The insides are a little different. So, if you already had a copy of Wreck This Journal, and then bought a copy of The Pointless Book, you wouldn’t be staring at two of the same exact book with different covers. But, it would definitely be tedious to fill out two do-it-yourself books in a row. Alfie is just an example of how dedicated fans can be. They will almost always follow whatever their idol does, so if that means buying two knock-off books, so be it.
There are also some YouTubers that have written cook books, which is almost always appropriate due to the fact that their channels are mainly cooking videos. However, some YouTubers who write books that are specifically helpful books (whether it be recipes or life advice), they will almost always include never-before-seen pictures or stories hidden throughout the book. They’ll talk about this on their channel, which will make their viewers feel like they have to get the book in order to stay in the loop. This, of course, can just be considered good marketing. But there’s something about already-famous people marketing to 13-17 year old nerds on the internet that is unsettling. Most YouTubers have a majority of young teenage girls as their audience (this is based off of the estimated demographic of British YouTubers Dan and Phil). It might become stressful for the followers because they want to support all of the Youtubers that they watch, but buying every single Youtuber book can come out to be over two hundred dollars, depending on how many people they are subscribed to.
Be Careful Who You Support
It is unfair to say that every single YouTube author is out for just the money. Many YouTubers write their books to satisfy their audience, and to tell their own stories in order to help their readers who might be going through the same thing that they, the YouTuber, was once going through as well. But for the YouTubers that just write random diary or adventure books, how necessary is that? Please think about the thirteen year old girl who is begging her mother for money to buy your book, which just has pages that say “write down how each day of the week was” just because it was something that you wrote. Don’t take advantage of the people that look up to you.
What are some of your favorite and least favorite books written by a YouTube star? What are your opinions on the necessity of YouTube books? Write them in the comments!
- Ho, Kelvin. “How Much Does a YouTuber with 1 Million Subscribers Earn a Year?” – Quora. Quora, 21 Mar. 2015. Web. 17 Dec. 2015.
- SuperFame. “How Did Dan & Phil’s Book Do on the Charts.” SuperFame. Mode Media, 14 Oct. 2015. Web. 18 Dec. 2015.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
i just feel bad for the people that want to become authors and are in process of it right now and going through so much work while some youtubers don’t have to do that. it’s easy for them for their book to be successful. and it’s not fair how some people spend their time and energy on writing and trying to make their book better while some people have it easy and it just feels weird. i like how people want to write and stuff but that’s not how it works. writing is a difficult process. it’s not easy. it takes time to get better at it. it takes time to get inspiration. it’s like singing. you are not born with the power of singing like beyonce. you have to learn how to sing like beyonce.
I agree! That’s why I’m very fond of Tyler Oakley and his book because he was offered a book deal and declined the offer until he could improve his writing!
The most popular youtubers sold the most and became Bestsellers. But is it because of the content or their reputation? Obviously, the reputation draught a large attention on the books in a short period of time, therefore, I might love what they do, support them (I even stop addblock on youtube and bear with the annoying commercials!), but I won’t rush in a store to buy a book without being sure that the content is authentic and comes from a real intention of writing.
Good point! Their reputation definitely draws attention fast and that helps them get sales. In a publishers point of view, it’s a genius idea
I’m writing a book! But I’m a writer first and youtuber second. also I’m not famous.
Go you! As long as you work hard on your book, there will be good outcomes! Hopefully I’ll be able to read your book soon!!
I don’t mind them writing books if they are genuinely gifted writers and have always had that passion, but some of these big YouTubers don’t really have good command of language. Initially I was excited because it seemed that they had talents beyond what we see in their videos. When given the opportunity to read parts of those books, I was very disappointed in their quality, but at least there’s now more funding for other aspiring authors.
Exactly! I mean, Youtubers are obviously very creative so it makes sense for them to be able to write a book, but if they don’t have a passion for writing then it’s going to turn out mediocre.
Having written a couple books–none published–I’m a bit surprised to hear that this is a trend. I knew a few people have done it, but had no idea how many. That being said, I have no problem with it.
While, yes, we can look at it as taking business away from people who genuinely want to be writers, these are generally different demographics. No horror writer is going to lose money to Tyler Oakley. And even then, there’s no stopping a customer from buying two memoirs about discovering one’s sexuality, and seeing life through the lens of someone who quite consciously lives in the public spotlight would likely be a nice contrast anyway.
Besides, I can’t begrudge anyone wanting to make money. Is it a bit exploitative? Yes. But the real culprit is the publishing industry, which uses both the YouTubers and audience. I don’t know how their contracts differ from the average writer’s, but this is a business many felt was dying out in the face of internet media.
And at the end of the day, I’d rather people read any book, even a sub-par one, than forsake reading altogether.
Very good point! I love your sentence “No horror writer is going to lose money to Tyler Oakley” I never even thought about it like that!
You wrote my thoughts exactly, especially your last sentence: “And at the end of the day, I’d rather people read any book, even a sub-par one, than forsake reading altogether.” I remember when “Twilight” came out and so many people like to criticize the series, but I saw many of my friends, who had not picked up a book since they were forced to read in high school, become immersed in the series. And they have kept on reading!
This article reminds me of a moment in a class I took during my senior year of college. We were talking about books that YouTubers had published, and the professor jokingly stated to the aspiring writers in the room that they should be taught how to start YouTube channels so publishers will notice them.
I do have to wonder, though–why did you single out YouTubers in this article? Other celebrities from so-called “traditional media” have produced some lackluster books. Snooki from Jersey Shore, for example, wrote an awful book that people only bought because her name was on it.
That’s so funny what your professor said! I wrote about Youtubers because I have an extensive knowledge on them. As a YouTube supporter myself, I’ve read plenty of YouTubers’ books, so it’s easy for me to talk about them. I’ve never read Snooki’s book, but you make an excellent point. It’s basically the same thing with celebrities. Publishers seek them out to get more sales. But, YouTube is very new, and this trend of all YouTubers writing books is even newer. Your comment does make me wonder if there’s any difference between a publisher seeking a celebrity vs. a YouTuber
I think youtubers writing books is a bit silly coz with people who actually want to be writers and just happened to be youtubers like u may not be taken seriously coz people may think oh it’s just another youtuber book.
That’s a very good point! I would hate to be looked down upon with my writing capabilities because I happened to be a YouTuber
I guess the thing I’m most uncomfortable with is that it seems they’re trying to capitalise on their existing fanbase, it must be much easier for a publisher to pick someone with 1 million fans ready to buy the book rather than someone who doesn’t. Also a lot of non-writers are attempting to be writers, or write “self-help” books aimed at younger readers a few years younger than themselves (obviously you learn stuff, and you can learn how to write, but it doesn’t make you an expert or someone who should necessarily give their opinion and have it received as gospel)
I think it’s cool, it’ll be put out there, and viewers being fans will probably buy the material. And people will notice if things are genuinely good or not, so let the audience decide
I felt a bit weird seeing that a whole network of connected youtubers all have books now.
This probably sounds so snooty, but I personally feel that you should stick to your platform. If you’re a youtuber that has a great story, but doesn’t have the skill to get this story across via a book, then you should use the platform that you know you have skill in. If you need a ghostwriter, should you be writing a fiction novel at all? This sounds quite harsh I know, but as someone who truly loves books, I feel we should be buying books and not brands.
I agree too! I have no issues with YouTubers writing books, but I have an issue when they A. have ghost writers do the work for them, and B. when they skip the whole ‘finding an agent/ publisher’ stage. It lessens the value of writers that struggle for years to do this in my opinion, and proves that the publisher is buying the brand, not the content. If people like Zoella wanted to write a novel, she should have at least had the decency to learn how to write and write it herself. Being an author isn’t something on the side, it’s an art and a profession that is learned over time. I wouldn’t ask her to drive a car without her having any lessons first. This is like giving the son of the boss who has no idea what he is doing a higher position than someone who has worked there for years and does their job well. It’s a short cut, and not a pretty one, but I don’t think we can blame the individual YouTuber, but rather simply quietly curse under our breath at how unfair it is that brands sell to publishers faster than the real thing.
The only feeling I have on this is jealousy…. waaa waaa… I want to write a book!
You brought up a lot of interesting points, I haven’t thought of books from Youtubers in quite this way, though I’ve seen it as a little unnecessary from some Youtubers. I’d like to believe they all have the best intentions, but certainly that’s not always true. Part of publishing an author for the first time is building a brand around them, and for Youtubers, that is something they’ve already done for themselves. As to whether or not it’s fair, that’s a hard call to make.
I don’t think there is anything wrong at all with youtubers writing books, saying that, I think, there are a lot of people, that have studied creative writing, written books all their lives and are amazing writers but because they are not “famous” it will take them years for them to be accepted by a publisher. I completely understand the frustration that people might have but at the end of the day, if any of you were approached by a publisher you wouldn’t turn it down, or at least I know I wouldn’t!!! Another positive thing is, the viewers that watch these people are very young, nowadays there are a lot of young people that don’t read, when I was a teenager I read all the time, so if this is going to make a younger generation read I am all up for it.! p.s: I am a bit ashamed of my writing of this comment, but it’s early in the morning and I just got up, please forgive me.
That’s a good point about making the younger generation read! Because a lot of the YouTuber books are actually pretty helpful so it’s good for teenagers to have a reason to read a good book.
I do feel a bit jealous of youtubers, who can be in movies, and write books, and do all these things, just because of who they are, but we have to remember most youtubers have worked incredibly hard to get to that place. It does annoy me how every youtuber basically is writing a book now, because it’s like calm down.
You have a good point, though. YouTubers definitely work a lot harder than it seems. They put hours or even days into simple three minute videos for us to watch. I admire their work ethic!
This entire topic makes me feel a little uncomfortable… absolutely all of my favorites youtubers, that I love and want to support, have published at least a book. But when I first realized it, I was not excited really… Don’t get me wrong, some sounds very fun and artistic: comics / fun and more serious testimonies / cooking books and so on, and its still a lot of work. However, when I started to hear that everyone published one, I felt quite… disappointed!
Not only do these youtubers “write” books but they’re also starring in movies and acting and directing in them.
They’re writing books to capitalize on their success, expand their brand and make money. This is the time to do it because their youtube fame will end eventually and they have to think about what to do for their future. Do i think its unfair? YES, there are incredible writers turned away yearly and these people get book deals bcuz they make comedy videos or shopping hauls. But thats the way our world works.
My issue with YouTubers writing books is the idea of being true to your genre. (I have a similar issue with actors-turned-singers and vice-versa.) Why is an alphabetic, print text necessary when the same things can be said/done in video form? I don’t think anyone can say the print publishing industry is dead when individuals are leaving the digital publishing industry to publish print texts.
I agree with you. Anything that could be said in a auto biography can be said in a video. I guess they just want to expand themselves
My only real problem with the youtubers writing books, is no one cares if the books are well written. Onision’s book was filled with severe grammar errors and was just badly written. Nothing against the guy, but he’s no author. Sometimes he wrote ‘and’ and sometimes he wrote ‘&.’ And not just youtuber books, but books in general today. Like 50 Shades of Gray for example. It just bothers me that to get literature published, you have to write about vampires, kinky sex, or be a youtuber. No one cares about actual plot or character development. No one cares about the actual art of writing anymore.
That’s so true! It’s not always the case, but a lot of times the book does have errors or doesn’t make sense
Would they have written their books regardless of their YouTube fanbase? Are these books going to be read for the next 50 years? I feel the notion driven that “anyone and their grandma can write a book” really belittles the art behind it. What does this say about writing? How has the concept of literature and writing have changed over the last 50 years? Or even perhaps the “language of writing”. What does this say about Google and YouTube? Since the concept is so new there is always going to be higher demand for “new”. It’s because they’ve become the old idea that they are willing to give anything for their remaining fans. Yes it’s a lot of work in the end and it may benefit you in the meantime but is it really worth it? The famous writers and artists we all learn about in Highschool were the ones people thought were mad, carzy, delusional, out of society, and against the norms. And now in the 21st century we follow any person willing to sacrifice their entire life to entertain people who are too lazy to entertain themselves or even question it. I guess it’s just riding the boat so comfortably who cares if it’s heading over a waterfall huh?
Referencing from the article it is true that there are some youtubers who take advantage of their viewers and fans by writing a book that may have nothing but information that you can find in every other book. I understand this perspective when your a die hard fan and want to support them no matter what.
I think it’s difficult for YouTubers to publish and market their books without coming off overly commercialized. The very essence of their videos and content (the initial reason why people choose to subscribe) is so appealing because as outsiders, we are able to see an extraction or aspect of their personal life. Fragments of what they would be like off camera, off social media. We find those moments to be refreshing and reassuring because they feel honest.
With overnight fame and unexpected success, YouTubers need to take more ownership over the influence they project as content creators. Especially in regard to their young followers. Most of the top YouTubers today started making their videos before YouTubing could even be considered a legitimate career path. They utilized the platform as an outlet out of love for a hobby and the willingness to share. If we took money out of the equation and focused solely on the message, would their content be compromised?
I understand the frustration of seeing all these youtubers make it on the best seller list. Of course, it’s not necessary, but making videos online does not disqualify you from writing, or even from producing some profound, substantial material. Whether or not they should do that with their channels, is not up for the writing community to decide.
It’s simple supply and demand. These people are entertainers, internet celebrities, like movie stars, but decidedly relatable. Their followers want to know more about them, and if there’s money to be earned from it, why wouldn’t you write something?
So maybe there are going to be opportunities for aspiring authors to become ghost writers for Youtube vloggers. Anyway, I was quite unaware of all this. I don’t think any of the Youtubers I follow have published a book. Maybe I’m not of the right demographic.
This is not a necessarily new trend in the publishing world–publishers will have ghost writers to write biographies for celebrities. Often times, the book will do well because of the writer’s fame, so it will be an easy route for a publisher to make more money. They would rather have a book that would be guaranteed to sell than a wildcard.
One of the most frustrating things about this system is that the YouTubers are not being transparent about the content that they put out.
I’ve thought about this a lot myself. As a writer, it can be more than a little frustrating to see celebrities (not just YouTubers) get easy book deals just because of their fame and without necessarily having the talent to back it up. I think that can also translate to the YouTube platform in general. YouTube broke a lot of major barriers for aspiring singers, actors, directors, chefs, comedians, etc. Whatever a person’s into, there will likely be a YouTube platform for it. You can share whatever type of content you make and get supporters all while bypassing traditional methods of finding success. It’s an immediate connection between the artist and the audience, with no immediate middle-man in the picture (until advertisers come in later). That’s such a cool thing, but those benefits are also an aspect of YouTube’s downsides. There are definitely plenty of hard-working and talented YouTubers, but there are also plenty who are lackluster. While watching certain YouTubers’ content, I sometimes find myself wondering why they are so popular and whether they at all deserve that amount of popularity. It’s disappointing to see some YouTubers get paid a great deal of money for simply being gimmicky. I really respect those YouTubers who not only make great content but also avoid exploiting their fans.
I would have never thought of the connection between those on YouTube and those who publish. It’s a neat example of how one artist can support and elevate another (even if they are seeking something for their own gain), and I think these book deals are a testament to YouTube (the company itself) and its popularity.
While not wanting to commit the social fallacy of boycotting modern means of entertainment, and the easiness with which this allegedly liberal platform we call YouTube allows all forms of creation to enter the trending public sphere, I am going to compare these circumstances to literature preceding the internet’s popularity.
Consumerist literature (what we define as consumerist depends on the target topics of each generation), much like blockbusters, has always been present. Much of the success of one’s book was directly linked to the marketing tactics applied. Now, YouTube is but a free platform on which anyone can become famous as long as they appeal to a wide public and range of interests. We cannot blame the creator of a certain book for ruining literature and so on, we can only blame the system and ourselves for how uneducated their audience is. However, ultimately we cannot accuse anyone of being uneducated either, as any kind of literature has us evolve in one way or another.
It is true that more ‘worthy’ authors remain unpublished or unread, and while this saddens anyone with a knowledgeable insight on literature, one can hardly change the way of the world.
Interesting. I’m old so I don’t know who any of those people are, but I guess if it leads younger generations to books then great! I also echo the sentiments of some other commentors about perhaps taking publishing spots away from true writers or novelists or poets. But I suppose that it is all separate worlds.
A good essay about book writing in a way I never considered. Next time I have a million followers I’ll remember this essay.