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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14 comments:

  1. I agree with this completely! Couldn't have put it better myself.
    Jess x
    sprinkleofneon.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Thank you, I really appreciate that =] x

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  2. Brilliantly put, especially the part about her not uploading vlogs and its effect on her fans. I also love her videos but I can't hep but think that had she been completely honest from the beginning, it wouldn't have caused a backlash and probably would've still been a best seller anyway

    sheepishlyshameful.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Exactly what I think. Bet she is regretting it a tiny bit now eek :/ x

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  3. I agree with parts of this, like the fact that its so stupid that she can break records with her book sales simply because she is well known already, being a good writer doesnt come into it at all which is so depressing and frustrating for everyone else. I too find it annoying that she had it handed to her on a plate. On the other hand though, I don't think the break from videos has anything to do with her guiltily hiding. If you imagine being in her shoes, it must be horrible and from the personality you see in her videos, I doubt she is coping very well with it. Why would she want to do daily vlogs if shes upset and unsure of how her audience feels about her now? I think its probably unfair to criticise her for it when she most likely just upset etc. Its her videos and she doesnt HAVE to make them for anyone, its her choice.

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    1. That's very true actually. I guessed she would be upset but somehow I just didn't think that would then have on her vlogs which is stupid I know. And I agree, she does deserve a breather. All these vloggers let youtube take over their lives. They all need a break occasionally.

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  4. Completely agree! Great post Charlotte, it's the way it's all been handled that is the issue! I've actually uploaded a Zoella post as well: http://www.katielclark.co.uk

    Katie xoxo

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    1. Thank youuuuu =] will definitely check it out =] x

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  5. This reminds me of what happened a couple of years back, with a well-known series. The author (I don't want to name names, if you know about this, you'll know what I'm talking about) was fired from writing her own novels at book #6 because she made some character decisions the publishers didn't agree with, and didn't think the fans would like. So they hired someone to finish the books the way they wanted, profiting off the unsuspecting fans. They never released a statement telling readers about this, it was only because the author wrote a blog about it that anyone even found out. So yes, I agree with you that publishers are just trying to gain money, even if it means sacrificing the things that used to make literature so amazing...
    There's nothing wrong with what Zoella did, but at the same time it does make me wonder - what claim does she have on the story? It seems wrong to give someone the full credit if they didn't even come up with the story. I might just be biased because of the example I gave above, which gave me a really bad view of ghost writing, but it doesn't sit very well with me. Granted, in this case, Curham was fully aware that she wouldn't get the credit, but still.

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    1. I remember that but...the author was hired by the publisher because it was the publisher's idea. It was an uncomfortable situation and it doesn't happen often but kudos to that particular author for being so gracious about it. Publishing is in a desperate state, compared to years ago, so whilst it doesn't surprise me that this has happened, it is disappointing because as an industry, I thought the publishing world were one of the last ones to maintain some sort of integrity x

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    2. I don't remember that. god that's slightly depressing too isn't it? The author really is the lowest rung of the ladder in the literary world aren't they, which isn't how it should be at all. And I guess no one is ever going to know just how much of the work is Zoella's. The haters are going to say nothing while the fans are going to say the whole plot and stuff, just minus the storytelling bit. Which, even then, is not enough.

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  6. Hello Charlotte!

    Thank you so much for replying to my tweet, it's so important to show our support for the blogging world as it can sometimes feel a little lonely! I adore your blog, and your passion for life! It was obvious from the very moment I started reading that you have a lust for your life that can only be contained creatively! I love that you write poetry, and display it for all to see, you have a way with words and you should be proud of that.

    Your niche is very varied, with posts from fashion and beauty, to hard-hitting journalism pieces, to poetry and creative writing to debates! I can see that people really care about your content, and that is the most important thing when building a blog.

    More importantly, you do this for you - as an outlet for your many many thoughts, opinions and talents. You are doing brilliantly, keep it up.

    Georgi xxx

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