Do Books Translate from YouTube?

Every YouTuber under the sun these days seems to have a new book under their predominately digital arms. It’s a big deal. Many of the top bloggers have millions of fans, and the only return from that is what YouTube gives them from ad revenue.

To dial it back a few years for those who aren’t up to speed – YouTube is a massively popular platform for uploading videos, and there are now a lot of people who upload videos to it full-time, and get paid pretty handsomely for it.

I’m not 100% sure what else has given these usually digitally and technologically forward-thinking people the idea of dialling back a few decades, to release what is often just a hardback version of various musings they have, but the books are clearly doing well or there wouldn’t be at least 55 books written by people with active and well received YouTube channels.

There are a few for whom the transition fits. John Green has written plenty of books, released The Fault In Our Stars as a movie adaptation to cinemas and then DVD boxes everywhere (with Paper Towns the next of his books to hit the large screens), but is firmly an author first. Zoella has always wanted to write alongside her extremely popular YouTube channel, and her fiction book Girl Online was released late last year. There was a mir of controversy about her having used a ghostwriter to finish the book despite claiming that she’d written the book herself, but then again a ghostwriter is paid to write a book and not claim ownership to it. Her brother Joe is working on a comic to be released at some point this year, which makes sense, since he has talked about wanting to write comics if he hadn’t made YouTube his full time job.

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 12.31.52
If you’re really into this sort of thing you can pick up Joe’s comic, Zoella’s next book and her boyfriend Alfie’s second book for £32 on Amazon right now. An absolute bargain from your favourite, completely free video providers.

Let’s not also mention that Zoella and Alfie are having waxworks made at Madame Tussaud’s.

But now it seems there are YouTube books everywhere you turn, increasingly from people you’ve never heard of who have no apparent attachment to books or writing at all. If you’re a well known beauty blogger it almost seems a requirement now, with a huge majority of those 55 plus books written by people who film each other painting themselves with stuff from Boots.

Tanya Burr released a book called Love, Tanya which was essentially a list of tips and tricks about make up, cooking, prefixed by two chapters on her life before YouTube.

KSI announcing via video that he's writing a book via typing
KSI announcing via video that he’s writing a book via typing.

KSI, video game enthusiast and shouter at TV’s everywhere announced that he’s working on a book too, called I Am A Bell-End, full of advice about how to basically avoid doing what he did, how the internet works and to not be an arse on it.

Then there’s iJustine, vlogger of her life in queues for whatever the latest Apple product is, also creating a book ever-so-creatively-named I, Justine about her ‘analog memoirs’ of hitting fame with a 300 page iPhone bill.

The list goes on, but for whatever reason all the stars who made it big online are turning to much more traditional methods to create material. It’s a popular theme on YouTube that if one person has an original video idea that does well, they all do the same thing their own version of it. That’s basically what’s happened here, but more glorified and less digital.

Completely original American candy video...
Completely original American candy video…

This is also happening around the news that YouTube is giving its users the option to pay to skip ads and some other benefits, and pretty much blackmailing all vloggers into signing up or have their videos listed as private (the equivalent of making them not visible to anyone in the public, taking you right off the map).

You can see the benefit for the die hard fans though. Where before only an assault of T-shirt merchandise was possible, now they can own something their idol has written that’s a bit more permanent and can sit on an actual thing that you own in your house. Before books, the equivalent of that was printing out pictures of YouTube webpages, which just isn’t the same.

If the books are any good, it’s a brilliant thing. I love books as much as the next guy and spend more on magazines than most, bounding down to the letterbox when I hear the dull thud of a new one landing on the carpet. But for a lot of these people who are really good at showing us their daily lives and talking to cameras I worry that it just won’t translate into writing. And a huge following might be great for you to get loads of the public reading whatever you’ve put out there/earning you a load of money, but what if nobody likes it? There’s an enormous amount of pressure to do well at something you’ve never done before.

It’s really bloody hard to write something excellent, to make people want to come back and read more,have them so engrossed by inked in characters that they get completely lost in a world of their own imagining. Anyone can write a book. Not everyone can write a great book.

I hope that’s not the case in this trend.


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