#GirlOnline – Literary Talent Decline?

December 7, 2014

zoella_girlonline-book

If you’ve been residing anywhere other than beneath a rock, you’ll be all too aware of the current shitstorm surrounding the revelation that Zoella’s record-breaking book wasn’t penned organically, but instead written by a ghostwriter – seemingly YA novel freelancer Siobhan Curham. I’d just like to slip in the disclaimer that I am not an aspiring novelist/blogger/vlogger: my passion lies solely in creating articles akin to the one you’re currently eyeing with inevitable scepticism. Since the news dropped, the Twittersphere has been awash with clashing opinions, with many denouncing anyone who dares speak out against a fellow blogger, especially queen bee Zoella – mainly putting any negativity down to mere jealousy.

Am I jealous? Naturally – I’m human; if somebody is earning more money and acclaim, in an area that they have no skill in (I’m sorry, but if you frequent Zoe’s written blog, you’ll struggle to argue that she is a strong writer), jealousy will inevitably weave its way in here. However, as I said, I’m not looking to write novels – but I feel so cripplingly angry for those who are and don’t get a sniff in, purely because they don’t have the Disney Princess aesthetics to convey through YouTube vlogs about lipstick, and consequently, can’t score a Penguin publishing deal. A two book deal, no less.

Literature is dying. There, I said it. If you can’t write a novel, don’t write a novel. If you can’t write a novel but you can afford to get someone to write a novel for you, definitely do not write a damn novel. The use of ghostwriters for autobiographies is far less deplorable: some people need a little help to tell their own stories – but to take on an art form that, unless stated/outed, implies that you can, or have penned, an entire novel? Then to reap the benefits of becoming an inspiration to a generation of young girls, despite really only having the ability to be gloriously endearing and pretty nifty with bobby pins? Unbelievable.

Many well-known bloggers such as Lily Melrose and Zoe London have chimed in on the debate, arguing pro-Zo, with statements such as “anything that supports young people picking up books and taking time to actually READ is good enough for me” and “Hardly any mainstream art is created by it’s author. Yup. That Beyonce song you love? Of course she didn’t write it.” (sic), respectively. Whilst I definitely agree with Melrose’s sentiment, this isn’t the issue at hand – surely it’s more damaging to glamourise the idea that, as long as you sit in front of a YouTube channel for ‘x’ amount of hours and procure enough followers: you will automatically become an amazing author/designer/singer/whatever-the-hell-you-want?

With Zoe London’s response, I completely disagree – the example of Beyonce is moot for one. Beyonce is a singer. Granted, I don’t agree with the fact she mightn’t write most of her material and is often coined ‘singer/songwriter’, but she shot to fame predominantly due to her voice. Nobody is singing Beyonce’s songs for her – so let her have that bit more integrity for her name on her album cover, than for ‘ZOE SUGG’ emblazoned on a book that she contributed so little talent to.

I spoke to a number of Zoe’s fans on Twitter and asked them “What inspires you about Zoella?”. Most answers left me crawling up the wall and wishing it wasn’t Sunday evening, so I could source a large bottle of wine. They ranged from the endearing lines of ‘she’s doing something she loves and following her dreams’ (which in actuality was riddled with bad grammar – #GirlOnline can’t be that helpful, eh), to a downright disturbing exchange in which a girl refused to see any other career prospects than “YouTube singer” or “famous vlogger”. I’m all for ambition, irrespective of where it’s headed, but we’re creating a generation of “When I grow up, I want to be a professional vlogger” clones – which is a self-perpuating fucked-up fantasy, in which advertisers and agencies will only further profit at the naivety of youth.

Why doesn’t Zoella step away from her prop of a pen and instead, start a vlogging series about the importance of books – even create an online book club, in which she focuses on a novel every few weeks, where viewers have to race to read it and keep up with her? If she has the power to break the records of J K Rowling, I’m pretty sure she can put her little head (shameless brand name) to that, no?

23 comments on “#GirlOnline – Literary Talent Decline?
  1. Avatar Gemma Oxford says:

    I totally agree. No one forced her to write a novel and of course no one expected a Jane Austen piece of work, so the fact that she chose to big herself up by having help (and who knows just how much help?) annoys me that she has passed authors like Jk Rowling in sales. Can I just say you have a lovely writing style? I’m very envious! X

    creamteaandrosejam.blogspot.co.uk

  2. Avatar hayley ann says:

    couldn’t agree more. I feel like youtube has just become one big gimmick. if someone has an opinion that, god forbid, goes against what these youtubers say, they shoot them down for it and call them haters and ‘trolls with nothing else to do’ to me that isnt encouraging these youngsters to have a voice, it is encouraging them to be sheep, zombified and subject to every move these people make. like buying a soul less book just because its something even remotely related to zoe, not an actual book with substance because i want to read. it absolutely riles me.

  3. Avatar Chess says:

    I’m happy for Zoe, and I like her videos, but I agree that her book pushes things a little too far for me. Would have been much better to have the online book club. Good post! X

    http://www.handbagsandhunters.blogspot.co.uk

  4. Avatar Kerry-Ann says:

    Sre she’s had help EVERYONE DOES but everyone’s acting like she’s broke the law or murdered someone! Zoe admitted she had help and was honest with her followers!… is this really the most important thing in the world to have an opinion over?

    • Avatar Emily Lam says:

      She was not honest. It took her two weeks or more for her to finally address the rumours. I don’t even care it was ghostwritten, I’m angry she couldn’t have just been upfront.

  5. Avatar pinkunicornglitter . says:

    I wont lie, I do watch Zoe’s videos. But writing is important to me , its valuable and when I see somebody making a mockery of it it really irritates me. Fair enough, if she wrote a novel with her own mind and in the name of creativity I’d be rooting for her. The fact that its had barely a thought put into it and has been published – that is what I can’t stand. Writers spend months, and years of their life coming up with ideas just to get another rejection letter. And for them, it’s for their love of writing and telling a story – not how much money they can get. Then Zoe comes along and is handed a 2 book deal and she hasn’t even bothered to write it?! That is a kick in the teeth.

  6. Avatar Sarah says:

    The “I feel so cripplingly angry for those who are [writing] and don’t get a sniff in” argument is a pretty common but inaccurate way of thinking. Zoe hasn’t snatched another author’s publishing deal away from them. Publishers need to make money just like any other business, and so Zoe’s book being wildly successful will actually help unknown authors. With the money Penguin make from Girl Online, they’ll be able to afford to publish more books by less successful writers. It’s understandable to be jealous that she was handed a publishing deal when other people work incredibly hard to get one, but her success will ultimately be hugely beneficial to many of those hardworking authors.

  7. Avatar Emily Lam says:

    This article has forced me to write something I’ve been incredibly conflicted about. THank you, also love this article to pieces.

  8. Avatar Raquel says:

    I totally agree 🙂

  9. Avatar Sarah-Jayne Collins says:

    I totally agree. Zoella knows a little about make up, fashion and beauty so it was plausible that she would begin her own fashion line but having someone else write a book that you claim is your own is unacceptable.

    I am a blogger. I write short stories that are themed (normally horror) and work hard to get my writing noticed. I do want to be well known but for my own work, not someone elses, did Stephen King use a ghost writer? No! He works hard for every story!

    Bring back inspirations that promote hard work, long nights and insightful morals!

    http://www.scarlett88.wordpress.com

  10. This is the best post I’ve read about this entire situation. I always knew it was ghostwritten (at least to an extent anyway) but if I’m being honest, after reading the book the poor quality of the writing would have been enough to make me think she actually did write it herself. To be fair, I’m probably a bit older than the target audience and it’s the kind of thing I would have loved back when I was 12/13 but I just found it to be tween fluff. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what annoys me so much about the situation but it saddens me that there are so many talented people out there who struggle to get any sort of recognition when she’s off putting her name to something that wasn’t even hers.

    Charlotte / coloursandcarousels

  11. Avatar jazzy elizabeth says:

    You are spot on!

  12. Avatar Majicou says:

    Elvis never wrote his own songs.

    • Avatar Chloe says:

      Its a different situation. Elvis’ songs were written for him so he could show off his talent which is SINGING not song writing. Zoe’s book was written for her… what talent is she showing off… none, she is just getting the money and fame.

  13. Avatar Anna Miotello says:

    I do love Zoe, she’s a genuine and nice person. I’m not jealous of her success and I really don’t like to be mean, in fact I usually only write nice things on the internet because I just don’t like to spread negativity. This time though I want to express my opinion (while trying to be respecful) and I agree with some comments here. I think she shouldn’t have written a novel. She could have written about other things: youtube, make-up, fashion or even an autobiography… I value literature and I think she should have either written it on her own or given up the project completely. And even if she had written it on her own I think it was not a good idea because she’s not an experienced writer!

  14. Avatar Classy_Girl says:

    That last paragraph nails in the head what kills me about all these vloggers and “gurus.” They, because of their looks and charisma, are in a privileged position to reach tons of young people who hang on to their every word and yet, these vloggers squander that opportunity. I’m not saying Zoella should stop vlogging about hair and beauty and posting silly tags, I’m human and enjoy mindless fun as much as everyone, but she could try to balance that with some mindful fun, like the book club idea you suggest. Unfortunately that will probably never happen. Zoe didn’t write her book and she probably has never read one either…

  15. Avatar Foot of our stairs says:

    I am quite fascinated by the Youtube / new media industry and to an extent how mainstream has mostly ignored it. so its interesting to see this blow up the way it has,
    I think not being more clear about the extent of the collaboration up front was a mistake, was it Zollea or the marketing people at Penguin driving that? In the end the Zoella brand and lets call it that, is damaged and that was avoidable.
    Whatever, publishers will be on the look out for the next Zoella in spite of the poo storm, Penguin struck gold in them thar hills, so publishers start your wagons! Youtube has many seams, from gun slinging survivalist cowboys too well, Zoella, all getting huge number of impressions on social media.
    The quality of the literature is not so important, If Emily Bronte was around I don’t think she would be stuck doing the ghosting, Truly creative talent will find its audience. it s not about that, this is in no small part the market served by periodicals like “Jackie” though 60″s to whenever ? even though we outgrow those things, at the time they were important to us and we look back nostalgically. therefore If audience sees value in it then it not being proper literature stinks a little of snobbery.

  16. Avatar Judith1234 says:

    People please keep in mind that Girl Online is a YA (young adult) novel written for females between the ages of 12-17. It is not meant to be read like Dickens and the expectations thereof should be limited to the category. Having said that I could care less who wrote it but do understand them using Zoe’s popularity to sell it. This is the way the book industry works and while some might disagree with it. Please keep in mind that they are in business to make money.

    Please also keep in mind that Zoe is being managed by people who are telling her what to do. That is not very different from how others celebs are encouraged by agents and managers to project a certain image in order to sell films or music, etc.

    What I am trying to say is that she was once just a You Tuber.

    Now she is a brand spokesperson and being shaped into whatever it is her people are trying to sell.

    And she is doing the very best she can to keep up.

  17. Avatar Tynnika Fulloon says:

    I’m going to admit it straight up, I watch Zoe’s vlogs, along with many of the other YouTuber’s. I love many of her videos and i think she is a lovely person.

    However, this book deal irks me a great deal. As a watcher of her vlogs for over a year, she never spoke about books. She never spoke about writing, becoming an author, and she certainly never mentioned that is was a huge childhood dream of hers to publish a book.
    So, when her book deal was announced, it struck me a little odd. All of a sudden she was talking about covers, and Penguin, and how it is an opportunity she has always wanted.
    But then, nothing happened. There was never “oh sorry the vlog was boring today, I was writing.”
    There was never, ever any early morning where she was sleepy and complaining, “I had a late night trying to finish off chapter 13.”
    It never happened. What she did mention in the vlogs was always the cover, and contest for the cover, the books being made.
    But what else was there? Nothing.
    Now that the claims have come to light that she used a GhostWriter, I am saddened. Her impressionable fans are saying it’s because “every writer needs help on their first book.”
    Yes, in the editing part. Not the writing.
    If you cannot write a book, don’t try to pass it off like you did.

  18. Avatar Cazzoo says:

    Thank god for you. Glad there are some people out there with their heads screwed on. It’s disappointing that her name is on the front cover when she probably contributed 20 words to the actual novel. I have nothing against Zoella the YouTuber, however as a lover of literature, I’m not a fan of Zoella the “Author”.

  19. Avatar Colleen says:

    I totally agree with you. What even inspired her need to pretend to write a novel? She can do plenty of other things so well. And if she really wants to write novels, she should learn to write them herself! It takes away so much from people who truly have that talent.

    COOCOO FOR
    COCO

  20. Avatar Carolina Filipe says:

    I couldn’t agree more with you. And I don’t think literature is the only thing that is dying! Youtube which was a good thing a few years ago it’s been spoiled with business and false advertisement.

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Ebony. 25. Manchester.
Marketing Manager who likes to mouth off on here about stuff she cares about. Expect mental health, Borderline Personality Disorder, and reviews - from restaurants, to books, to fashion. Talks to cats more than people, but seemingly has a lot to say.
ebonylaurenn@gmail.com
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