This was the month of Zoella the Vlogger, (that’s “video-blogger”, for those who haven’t been following the story.) For reasons too complicated to be bothered with, I was aware of this book’s approach before the full page article in the Sunday Times explained that it was the fastest selling new release from a debut author since the beginning of time. The article was a sort of expose, telling shocked readers that Miss Sugg, (Zoella’s wonderfully Dickensian real name), had had the help of a ghostwriter to pen her debut novel, “Girl Online.” A languidly affronted Will Self was quoted as saying that he did not regard Zoella as a writer “in the sense that I’d regard Marcel Proust or Franz Kafka as one.”
The following morning my in-box was filled with requests from eminent journalists asking if I had any thoughts on the whole shocking scandal. Always eager for a bit of free publicity I stared hard, (it has also of course been a triumphant month for that greatest of all starers, Paddington Bear,) into the depths of my soul to see what I truly thought about the whole broo-haha.
Why, I wondered, was everyone being so po-faced about the whole thing?
A likeable young woman had been blogging and vlogging about stuff most young girls are interested in. Digital word-of-mouth had led to millions of followers, which whetted the appetites of agents and publishers. They suggested she wrote a novel – why wouldn’t she? It’s a fun thing to do!
Writing a book takes a bit of practice, so obviously she would need some help if it was to be done quickly, which she freely admits to. A professional writer was then paid a rather mean fee by the publisher considering the company’s managing director has been quoted as saying that he knew immediately that the book was going to be a “Christmas number one.” As a member of the Society of Authors Management Committee I am well aware most writers are grateful for any crumbs thrown their way, but I don’t think that the fee this writer was allegedly paid, (£8,000), supports the general argument that publishers like to put forward about being authors’ best friends and supporters, unlike that naughty bunch of ruthless business people over at Amazon.
I’m sure, however, that the ghostwriter enjoyed herself; the publisher got a jolly romantic novel for teenagers, which did indeed go to number one, and the teenagers were hysterically happy when their heroine signed their copies. The book was so successful, however, that the denizens of Fleet Street felt stirred to shoot it out of the sky with the revelation that a ghost had done the whole thing, (something which Zoella herself had never denied but which the publisher became extremely mealy-mouthed about when asked to comment).
A little bit of fluffy glitz had illuminated the usually sombre world of publishing for a few days. Why would Will Self even have an opinion? (The same reason as me, I suppose). Why did so many highly educated, well-read and literate people want to rain on this poor girl’s parade? This has got nothing to do with Kafka or Proust. This is a little Christmas treat for young people who like reading about celebrities as much as they like reading about vampires, boy wizards and romantic goings-on and ponies. Maybe if the publishing industry lightened up a bit more often it wouldn’t find it so hard to get people to buy books! That, I think, is what I think.