Tuesday, 9 December 2014

zoella bad. penguin badder.

So, a book has been ghostwritten but this time the short reign of peace that existed after the last online furore (Russel Brand vs The Sun, anyone?) has been broken.

Yes, a book has been ghostwritten and the inaudible screeches of the ever-suffering online population come spewing out of the screen toward me. Engulfing my otherwise uneventful daily visit to Twitterlandia. I want to make a comment as I, too, will have two deluded tweenage daughters (maybe more) in ten years time.

First, the book was ghostwritten. You know what, who cares? Not the first time it was done.

Second, we have the people-are-just-jealous crew versus what-about-all-the-struggling-writers-trying-to-get-a-book-deal gang.  Yes, there could be a degree of greenness, or degreenness, in the fingertips of lesser known/unknown authors a.k.a. ‘I-keep-a-blog’ers as they click-click-clickety-click their views into the virtual highway. However, it is 2014 and self-publishing has become a viable avenue for getting noticed. If you have the touch and the determination, you can get noticed. Sell a couple of thousand copies through this system and the publishers will be knocking at your door. The good stuff always comes to the surface, this is something I am adamant about but also something I need to believe for my own sanity. I may be na├»ve but it is a small price to pay to keep my mental health.

Third, there are screams of ‘no way a tweenage-internet-idol wrote a book!’ What is this argument all about? It’s not Catcher in The Rye, and it is not trying to be. And she is 24. Dylan Thomas wrote and had ‘And death shall have no dominion’ published when he was 18.

Fourth, the girl is taking a lot of stick since the news broke. But, hey, she built a following on what those who watched her ramblings via Youtube believed to be an open, honest (and perhaps personal) relationship. She broke that trust but with the help of a publishing house and its marketing strategy. Yes, leverage some of your hate in that direction. A publisher once requested to take a manuscript off my hands if they could put a Z-lister’s name to it. I said no. That was in 2010. Trust me, the big boys had taken the manufactured ‘X-factor’ route long before Zoella logged on to Youtube for the first time – but at least One Direction were manufactured in front us, in the open. Her greed, be it financial or professional, led her into the trap. And to think, all she had to do was say that it was ghostwritten from the beginning. So, so simple.

Fifth, yes, 78,000 copies were sold in the first week. It broke all existing debut novel records. Let’s put that into a more appropriate context: 1.3% of her Youtube subscribers bought it. One point three percent. If I published my book today I reckon I could get five of my followers to buy a copy. Yep, 8% of my following. Smashing her record out of the water.

Finally, the girl was quite happy to lap up the attention as the records fell around her. She always dreamt of writing a book, who hasn’t? A couple of weeks ago she stood in front of the lenses of the world, beaming, proudly clutching her book knowing the truth. Her publishers stood by and were definitely high-fiving each other on a job well done, because it is a high-fiving industry. And quietly, in the shadows, sat the ghost clutching the non-disclosure agreement she had signed, legally-bound to bring the secret to her grave. Which brings me back to the vlogger’s age. She is 24. An adult who built a huge following by being open and honest. Clearly she is a smart woman. There is no doubt about that. But, it is because she is a smart woman it makes it that much harder to forgive her for deciding to go along with the publisher’s suggestion. You have to take the good with the bad, Zoella, that is just how life works. As for the publisher, just like when any scandal occurs nowadays amongst the ranks of the powerful, they will throw out some nonsensical non-answer to the pestering public and will hope everything will settle down. Why should they worry? There will be another ‘celebrity’ to market their wares down the line. And so the circle continues. Remember Pippa’s party book flop? Ah well, you win some you lose some.

However, it is this consistent attitude by those who hold the reins that the public is stupid that is the real issue I have. This saga is just another example. We have a duty to stand up for one simple moral: don’t lie to us, don't undermine our intelligence.

That is all. 

p.s. My 11-year-old niece, for once, decided to listen to her old uncle and would like a refund of the £12.99 she spent of her hard-saved pocket-money on ‘Online Girl’ as the description she was given when she made the purchase does not fit the product – Sales of Goods Act 1979, Law 1.01. Yeah, she is making a mini-stand.

p.p.s. I am looking forward to Twitter’s reaction to Zoella’s inevitable ‘coming clean’ vlog but I am sure there will be other occurrences to ‘outrage’ the good folk in the Twitter-sphere before then.

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