Wednesday, 10 December 2014
Zoella and the Ghost-writing Debacle
If you didn't know who Zoe Sugg (aka Zoella) was before, you certainly do now. She has been in the news a lot over the past few days: firstly, for breaking literary records and 'writing' one of the fastest selling novels ever; then for admitting that she didn't in fact write it at all. And that latter piece of news has brought her quite a lot of stick.
Before I begin this not completely complimentary discussion, I would just like to point out that I do like her a lot within the YouTube world. I have seen a huge amount of her YouTube videos and despite the fact I think her main channel videos are little more than cogs in a massive marketing machine, I do enjoy her daily vlogs a lot. She is charismatic, entertaining and very good at what she does.
However, she is not a writer. Anyone who has read her blog would be able to tell you this and would instantly guess that she had not written her novel herself. So it didn't take long for the whispers to start. These whispers soon escalated into shouts. And her and her publishers were forced to make the announcement that she had in fact used a ghost-writer, Siobhan Curham who is a bestselling YA fiction novelist in her own right.
What bugged me about this whole thing wasn't that Ms Sugg used a ghost-writer. This is extremely commonplace. All those who are giving Ms Curham sympathy don't need to do that either. She understood that by undertaking the ghost-writing assignment she was going to receive very little or no credit. What bugged me about it, was the lying that was involved and Ms Sugg trying to pass it off as completely her own. The only reason this makes me annoyed is because of her audience. Her YouTube fans (and therefore the directed audience for her book) are young girls aged between 12-16. This is a very impressionable age, where they idolise people like Zoella and trust them completely. These teenagers are now stoutly defending her against the wave of criticism, without actually understanding what has really gone on. And it is this trust (which may or may not be lost in the process), that Zoella should most worry about, not the literary critics.
It is these young girls who she is now punishing in her next mistake that she has made: her 'break from the internet.' She is clearly hiding and to be honest, I don't completely blame her. The criticism must be hard to bear. But interrupting her daily routine of Vlogs is only damaging her reputation with her fans more. The literary critics and adults who she is hiding from, are not the ones who watch the videos or who are missing her. Nor are her fans the ones who are doing the criticising, so why allow them to miss out? I could understand staying off Twitter for a bit, and all the other social media sites which must be an absolute minefield at the moment. But surely, continuing to upload and proving to her fans that she hasn't done anything wrong (which she HASN'T, it's just she handled it so badly) is a far better way to allow this to all be put behind her. In some ways, this break of hers is actually making her look guilty and the fact she hasn't resolved it, is only making the issue drag on longer.
Finally, taking Ms Sugg out of the equation completely, the news surrounding this book has annoyed me most because I have been punched in the face with a realisation of just how impossible it is to get published if you are not well-known already. As a wannabe author myself, who is desperate to have what Zoella has been handed on a plate, it is faintly irritating. The intense popularity of a frankly mediocre novel is a clear indication of what is truly the selling point. And this is Zoella's name. Nothing more. Just her name. If Ms Curham had sold it herself under her own name, it wouldn't have sold nearly as well.
It is sad that this is what the literary industry has become. Do stories and plot lines and depths of characters not matter any more? Why is it ok that Ms Sugg is given the chance to do what thousands of actually talented people can't? And are you all seriously fine with the fact that our literary world is diminishing just so publishers can make huge amounts of money out of people who they know will instantly make sales? As other publishers undoubtedly jump on this treasure-filled bandwagon, good luck to any other wannabe authors out there. Our lives just became ten times more difficult so we are going to need it.
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