What We Can Learn From the YouTuber Book Deal Phenomenon

At the end of November 2014, a 24-year-old debut author shattered records by selling over 78,000 copies of her novel in the first week of its release. She put up bigger numbers than J.K Rowling and Dan Brown did with their debut novels and instantly became a best seller. This author is Zoe Sugg and she is a famous YouTuber.

Shortly after her book, Girl Online, was released, news broke that Zoe Sugg, also known as Zoella, didn’t actually write the book that was published by Penguin. Her book was ghostwritten and soon, many people began to question the literary standards in the publishing industry. Zoe Sugg isn’t the first YouTube sensation to come out with a book and she won’t be the last. Several more YouTubers are slated to publish books in the future, including Sugg, who signed a two-book deal with Penguin.

Many people are crying out how it’s unfair that people who have found their fame on YouTube are getting book deals. Other people have openly criticized these YouTubers, lamenting that they have no business in the publishing world. Personally, I don’t think we should focus on the negatives. Instead of criticizing, I think that writers can learn valuable lessons from these YouTube personalities that could increase their own readership.

The Importance of a Platform

Hannah Hart. Michelle Phan. Grace Helbig. Zoe Sugg. These are the names of just four of the YouTube sensations that have had books published in the last year. Between the four of them, they have roughly 20 million subscribers and counting on YouTube. Zoe Sugg has over 9 million subscribers to her two YouTube channels alone. These women routinely get millions of views on the videos that they publish regularly. From a business standpoint, that is incredible.

Many authors may not have a platform that can compare to what these women have, but many of these success stories did not happen overnight. Many of the popular YouTube personalities admit to starting back in 2010 or 2011, and some began with a blog before they made the transition to YouTube. That’s four or five years of platform building. Although it may be a slow process, the successes of these YouTubers is proof that building a platform is worth it.

A strong platform and a preexisting audience is incredibly attractive to literary agents and publishing houses, as well as to readers. If you have a blog with 500,000 readers, there is a much higher chance of securing a contract with a publishing house than if you didn’t have a platform at all. In a marketplace inundated with books, you have to build a platform in order to stand out from the crowd. Once you’ve made yourself known, it becomes much easier to sell books.

Social Interaction

Social media has now become an integral part of our society. Almost every company has a Facebook page and many corporations keep their consumers updated via Twitter. Hashtags have become a part of prime time television and a lot of the photos taken on phones end up on Instagram. In order to stay current, it’s almost necessary to be present on social media.

Many of the YouTube stars who have scored book deals have an incredibly large online presence. Besides their YouTube channels, they also provide new content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and on their own blogs. Not only do these YouTube users post content, but they also interact with those who consume their content. This builds the trust of their viewers and in turn, these people will be more likely to support these YouTubers in their business endeavors.

As an author, you can use social media to this extent as well. These social media avenues allow authors to reach out to their readers and to connect with other authors and publishers. By staying relevant online, people who may have never heard of your books may connect with you and become interested in your work.

Youtube: A New Way to Connect?

In this day and age, videos and multimedia are becoming vastly more popular than ever before. Interacting through Youtube, Instagram, and Vine, which are strictly visual mediums, is becoming more and more popular.

John Green, the author of The Fault in Our Stars and many other popular YA novels, is one example of an author who is using YouTube to connect with his readers. His YouTube channel has over 2.4 million subscribers and he regularly posts videos to keep his readers engaged. Although he does have an author website, some of the people who read his website may not be interested in YouTube. In turn, those who watch his YouTube videos may have no interest in reading anything posted on his website. So essentially, Green has tapped into a new market by utilizing the power of YouTube.

Although posting videos of yourself may be incredibly intimidating, it’s an option that allows you to outreach to a new audience while appealing to your current one. These videos will give your readers the sense that you’re talking to them, more so than if they just read your words off of a screen. Admittedly, it’s not for everyone, but it has definitely helped build the platforms of many YouTube sensations in the past few years.

In closing, I don’t think writers should dwell on the types of books that publishing houses are choosing to sell. Ultimately, it’s a business decision. However, we can analyze how these YouTube phenomenons have expanded their business beyond YouTube and apply some of their tactics to our own publishing strategy.

If you have any thoughts on the recent books released by users on YouTube, please leave your comments below.

Until next week,



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