You have have missed yesterday that a tweet of mine regarding the whole Zoe Sugg/Girl Online/Ghostwriter saga was featured in an article on the Cosmopolitan website. After the excitement of my name featuring in a Cosmo article subsided (a little bit of a dream come true there even if it was just a tweet) I realised that the one tweet that was featured out of four that I had posted may not have gotten my point across adequately and I wanted to elaborate a little.
Yesterday it was revealed Girl Online – debut novel of Zoella (Zoe Sugg) was in fact ghostwritten.
Applaud, congratulations, pat on the back – a YouTuber or blogger done good – let’s get that out of the way and dismiss any “this is all just jealousy!” chants.
No, I’ve not read “Girl Online” because just as I’m not a target audience for Zoe’s YouTube channel and Superdrug beauty line I’m also not the priority audience for running out and buying Girl Online or downloading it on my Kindle (I prefer my books a little more gruesome and rough round the edges) so I can’t really give a positive or negative review on the book itself but what I can give a review on is the admission from Penguin that Zoe did not infact write the book on her own.
Outselling the likes of JK Rowling and Dan Brown thanks to Zoella’s ginormous following and fanbase (and perhaps those curious as to just what Girl Online delivers) the book is probably sitting at the top of many a young girls Christmas list and has been featured favourably in many YouTubers current “favourite” videos.
It’s been speculated that a blog post (which has now been written) by freelance writer Siobhan Curham saying that she needed to write a novel with a turnaround of 6 weeks (which would fit the timeline of Zoe’s announcement of her debut novel and the release date) is indicitivate that Girl Online was actually entirely written by Curham. With Zoe also thanking Curham in her “acknowledgements” section of the book only cements that theory further. Maybe Siobhan Curham and Zoe worked together and Siobhan simply edited some of Zoe’s own original writing – I for one often send blog posts or pieces of work to friends before hitting the publish button for a second opinion but during the space of time between the Girl Online announcement and release date I didn’t see any “OHMYGOD IT’S 3AM AND THIS NOVEL IS BEGINNING TO MAKE ME WANT TO SLAM MY HEAD INTO THE MONITOR” tweets that I send even when I’m just writing an elaborate blog post. With this in mind the revelations that *shock gasp* Girl Online was ghostwritten do not come as a complete surprise to me.
Looking back to what I said in the blog post regarding the Band Aid single, if Penguin called your agent (my agent would be my mum, or Ted) and said “Hello Charl! If you wouldn’t mind giving us a brief idea for a book, we’ll get someone in to write it, you’ll be the face of it and get loads of publicity, you’ll make history as a best selling ‘novelist’ and we both make loads of dollar” would I turn it down? My integrity says yes and that I’d stick to my morals and hold out for my original work to be published rather than selling off someone elses work as my own. For example, during a nativity show at primary school I was the singing voice of Mary..I stood behind a screen and sung a sung whilst “Mary” on the stage simply mouthed the words. I was fuming, but I did it.
Cashing in and riding the gravy train for as long as it lasts is the equivalent of bloggers like myself accepting sponsored blog posts or pre written content in exchange for $$$. To take the sponsored posts under a “bloggers gotta eat” proviso or to battle on with your integrity in tact and wave the money bye bye? It’s a 50/50 situation.
With reports that almost 80,000 people in one week bought Girl Online – does it matter that this book WASN’T written by Zoe? To her legion of fans, probably not because they’ll lap it up. To me, if the claims that the entire book was written entirely by Siobhan Curham and released under Zoe’s name then, yes. It matters. The likes of Katie Price have posed at book launches and released their novels which have been ghostwritten and allowed them to call themselves “novelists”… but there has been a certain level of transparency. At best Zoe endorsed Girl Online. There’s perfumes released by Britney, Sarah Jessica Parker, Beyonce, One Direction… do we actually believe that Brit, SJP, Bey and Hazza and co sit around in a lab sit around sniffing top and base notes whilst wearing white lab coats? No, they have a team to manufacture, package and produce the product, they may give it a bit of a whiff, get their legal teams to give it the okay and then their name is smacked all over the advertising and released to their legions of fans to snap up while they attend “launches” up and down the country. These are paid endorsements.
The problem here for me is with the publishers of the book. It’s been reported that Penguin CEO Tom Weldon was told by his 13-year-old goddaughter that the book would be ‘a huge best-seller’. A best seller because of her writing capabilities or because of her celebrity status. Their ? That is the question. There was no transparency with the ghostwriting claim and only when questioned as to whether Zoe wrote the book herself did Penguin Random House say “to be factually accurate you would need to say Zoe Sugg did not write the book Girl Online on her own”. Gee, could you vague that up for me? If I were 13/14 years of age (as I once was) and sat writing short stories at my computer with the hopes of one day seeing my name adorning the spine of an orange Penguin novel or see my work in Waterstones, to see my idol jump from vlogger to novelist would make me think that my dreams were achievable. But that reality is that it isn’t quite that achievable and is actually a fabricated fairytale.
Some people work for months and years to eventually bag themselves a publishing deal after having draft novel upon draft novel returned after a brief thumbing by an assistant of an assistant and deemed not good enough. To have someone handed the title “novelist” after simply handing their name and new found status to the tireless works of someone else must be frustrating. Sure, Siobhan Curham was probably paid handsomely considering those staggering sales but to have someone else “take all the glory” for your talent must smart a little, especially with that lack of transparency. One would hope that this new age of blogging would open up the discovery of young and new talent in the writing world, where “writing talent scouts” (if there is such a thing) would be presented with so much material to potentially pick up on and develop those peoples talents. I could give you a list of bloggers who write beautifully and continually engage their audience who I would rush out and buy the books of because I would know the content would be quality and so “them”. I’d hope that it would be those people that publishers would be approaching because of the talent and future sales, not jumping on the gravy train of this new wave of celebrity and flash in the pan endorsements. Perhaps Penguin could invest the amassed revenue of sales from Girl Online both from that first week and it’s follow up sales into coaching and developing new and up and coming bloggers as writers?
Yes, the book industry is just that, an industry and thrives on sales and income made from book releases and if Zoe has ran to the bank with a few 00’s on her paycheck then bloody good on her but it’s a little underhand in my eyes.