QJ Pop: YouTube meets print

I like to picture the publishing industry as a middle-school girl just on the periphery of the cool kids.

She’s very ambitious, lovely and intelligent, but infinitely dependent on her cooler counterparts.

Her most recent bid to win the hearts of her often disinterested classmates comes in the form of a liaison with the new kid at school: YouTube.

YouTube has been growing stars with massive, bankable audiences for years and the publishing industry is attempting to seize those audiences, mainly by hurling deals at successful YouTubers.

The latest of those stars is Grace Helbig, otherwise known as “it’sGrace” on YouTube, who topped the New York Times Best Seller list in the category of “Advice, How-To & Miscellaneous” with her non-fiction advice memoir Grace’s Guide: The Art of Pretending to Be a Grownup. Recently, Helbig beat out Oprah’s (Oprah’s!) latest installment What I Know For Sure, and the book is also in the top five for both “Humour” and “Relationships”.

Grace’s Guide is just one in a long and diverse list of recent literary offerings from online personalities. This October alone saw the release of Alfie Deyes’, of Pointless Blog fame, Pointless Book, beauty guru Michelle Phan’s Make Up: Your Life Guide to Beauty, Style and Success — Online and Off, as well as Helbig’s book.

Hannah Hart’s My Drunk Kitchen, a chatty, colourful cookbook was released this past August, and spent weeks on the bestseller lists and Urban Outfitters display tables across North America.

And there are more coming. Zoe Sugg, or lifestyle vlogger Zoella, will release her first novel Girl Online this month, vlogging actress Carrie Hope Fletcher’s advice book based on her blog of the same name, “All I Know Now”, comes out this April, and Mamrie Hart’s boozy memoir, You Deserve a Drink hits stores summer 2015.

The phenomenon is a win for a desperate industry. YouTube audiences are becoming less niche and more visible through the continued efforts of YouTubers to promote their own brands through merchandise and diverse platforms like movies, short films, fashion lines, music, radio and television.

The books are marketed so heavily via their channels and social media that Grace’s Guide and Girl Online were best-sellers before they even emerged from their pre-sale cocoons.

YouTube is unquestionably a cult of personality — a celebration of individuals who are narcissistic enough to comfortably promote themselves online, entertaining enough to hold our attention for a whopping two and a half minutes, and accessible enough to imagine ourselves as their siblings, BFFs or significant others. The illusion of intimacy with YouTubers creates our imagined relationships with them, and connotes a sense of loyalty to them and their creative projects.

So though I’m really not in the market for advice on how to be a grownup — Google is free and I’ve got parents who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s — I might buy Grace’s book.

I like Grace. I like her videos. And the desire to somehow involve myself in her story and success in a tangible way is strong.

I want to see her succeed, and the publishers, praying silently to one day sit with the cool kids, are banking on it too.

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