Thursday, 11 December 2014

Girl Online Fiasco: Does It Matter?

Before I start this post I want to say that I have not bought Girl Online, I have not read it and I have never even held a copy so everything I say here will be due to what I have read and seen over the past few days.

Someone asked me on Tuesday if I had an opinion on this matter and my response was no. I had no plans to buy this book so why would it both me? It still doesn't really matter to me; however I feel that I can offer some insight on some things that I have come across and I have a few issues with.

If you don't know what I am talking about it became clear on the weekend that Zoe Sugg's (Zoella) debt novel was not actually 'written' by her, instead it was (presumably) written by an author called Siobhan Curham. The amount she contributed to to this novel is unclear - this is probably due to a contract she signed with Penguin - but Zoe stated on her Twitter that the story and the characters were all hers. This doesn't mean she wrote the novel; however it also doesn't mean she didn't write the novel. We shouldn't jump to conclusions.

If she was using a ghostwriter what does it matter? Well it doesn't. Not really. Everyone (by everyone I mean her 'Sugglets' or something and the media) is a bit upset because Zoe said that she had always wanted to write a book and now she finally has. Also some people think that Zoe had been taking advantage of her young audience to get more money. There is also the argument that the ghostwriter should have been credited to the same amount as Zoe and that Curham may have been taken advantage of. My response to these statements are as follow. 

To make a book you need two things: a story line and a writer. Without one of these things a story can not and will not be written. So if Zoe only came up with the characters and a story line then that's 50% of the work done and also, technically it is her story. This story is (supposedly) similar to that of Zoe Sugg's own experiences and she had this plot developing for months. The ghostwriter was not doing this. They just write around the subject they are told to. Now if we all had the chance to get our stories written well and sold without the really time consuming part we would all jump to do so. I know I would. Another point that has to be made is that none of us have any idea that amount that Zoe contributed to the writing. We are all going on educated guesses and blog posts.

Secondly you must remember Zoe is a businesswoman. A lot of her videos are going to be controlled by agents and paid for by companies - she is going to do them because it makes her money. YouTube is her job. Advertising is her job. And without it she would be stop doing a boring job somewhere probably close to her parents house. Zoe Sugg is a very clever businesswoman and although her main aim may not always be to make money but it sure is going to be one of them. That applies to merchandise that is released by her. Yes her audience may be young but she isn't forcing them to buy her book. It is like following your favourite band and buying their new CD. It's something that someone wants to enjoy and to show that they like what the person/band is doing. Also, yes a large majority of her audience is going to be quite young. Only the other day I was in Lush two 10 year old girls were talking to their mother about all the Lush products Zoella had. Sadly the truth about this age category is that they rarely read and the fact that this book is making so many tweens pick up a physical book and enjoy it is brilliant. It also means that bookshop that are closing down everywhere have ended the year on a high. It's good. It is all good.

Thirdly ghostwriters know that they aren't going to be credited to the same amount as the other author. They agree to this in their contract and it is their job. They can't be a ghostwriter otherwise. Also it isn't unfair to this writer. Before this whole debacle this writer probably earned a small percentage in comparison that the amount she is getting from the book. It has increased awareness about her writing and it may mean that fans of this novel go and buy her books as well. However she said in her blog post that she was receiving a lot of hate from fans of Zoella. Why? Who knows! She was doing her job. She didn't do this to get popular because she didn't think this would come out. So why hate on a woman for doing her job?

All in all I don't think it matters at all that Zoe's first book was ghostwritten. She's a YouTuber not a writer and it is silly to expect someone as busy as her to be able to write a 300 page book in such a short amount of time. If you want to read the book the fact that the person on the front cover may not have written it doesn't change the novel. It isn't an autobiography after all. So if it appeals to you go and get it and read it. If it doesn't then go and buy another book or read a blog post. Someone who is just doing their job shouldn't upset people this much.

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