From bloggers to authors: As digital stars release books, print most certainly isn’t over.

Nowadays everything within publishing is leaning towards digital. Seeing someone with a book and not a kindle on public transport is a rarity. You can download your magazine subscription through your iPad and being able to get your daily newspaper on your tablet is making print look like a thing of the past. However, in comes the new digital sensation of bloggers turning the process around. This isn’t a new thing either. Book deals are being given left, right and centre to bloggers and the number of bloggers turning into authors is only increasing. With millions of subscribers between their several different social media platforms, why bother going to print? Why are publishers pursuing these people? What this shows is that print is most certainly not dead.

The most recent move towards this new venture in publishing comes from Simon and Schuster. Well to be specific Atria, a division of Simon and Schuster, has teamed up with United Talent Agency to create Keywords Press. This unique project is the first book publishing imprint created specifically for online stars and their fans, ‘a new publishing house for a new kind of storyteller’. However, bloggers being offered book deals has been happening since the late noughties. Popular titles such as, ‘Stuff White People Like’, ‘Twitter Wit’ and ‘This is why you’re fat’ were all published before 2010.

The Success Stories

One of the most successful examples of the blog to book process is Julie Powell’s Julie/Julia Project. In 2002 Julie Powell decided to cook Julia Child’s 564 recipes from her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking and write a blog about her attempts. This led to a large following and subsequently her book deal in 2005. Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously then turned into a hit film featuring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. This is proof of how a blog can turn heads and can gain some serious attention, especially the attention of publishers.

Penguin, one of the most renowned British publishers, over the past couple of years has signed a total of three bloggers, Zoe Sugg, John Green and the latest star to sign a deal being Tanya Burr. Known for revolutionising the publishing industry in the 1930s, Penguin is now leading the way in publishing blogger’s books. It only seems right that the publishing house that made readily available the classics, such as The Odyssey, is now signing these digital age phenomenons. Zoe Sugg, known as Zoella to her loyal band of followers, is an example of a fashion, beauty and lifestyle blogger that has written a novel. Sugg is the success story of the blogging generation. Selling 78,000 copies of her book in its first week, her novel Girl Online is described by Penguin as ‘a modern day Notting Hill for teens. John Green, author of A Fault In Our Stars, was listed in Times magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2014. It is no wonder that Penguin is signing these up and coming, prominent digital stars.

penguin & zoella

Penguin has bought two books from Zoella, the first already a bestseller.


What are the benefits of going to print?

So what are the benefits of taking a blog and making a book version, or already having a blog and then creating a book? Each blogger, YouTuber and Tweeter already has a loyal following therefore when their book is released there is already a niche market. The benefit of already having a presence on a social media platform means that people are already interested in the message trying to be conveyed, it doesn’t have to be pushed upon them. And with loyal followers there are guaranteed book sales. Not only this, book publishers are attempting to engage with new audiences. President and publisher of Atria, Judith Curr says, ‘It gives us access to a whole new talent pool’.

Developing new audiences

The development of new audiences is a main benefit of bloggers gaining book deals. Abigail Bergstrom, commissioning editor at Simon & Schuster said, ‘Vloggers are generating and sharing content in a new way but, most importantly for publishers, they’re bringing a new and young audience back to books’. The blogging come author community are also drawing a younger audience by bringing new genres of book to life. Mintel’s Lifestyles of Children and Teens – UK, May 2014 report shows that most children are keen readers, with over half (53%) of Internet users aged 10-15 appreciating the educational value of reading books, and a further third indicating that books keep them interested. This link between Internet users and book readers supports that the people watching or reading these bloggers will go out and buy their books, therefore bringing a younger audience into bookshops.

A more traditional market

One of the key reasons that bloggers are keen to have a book deal is so they can engage with the more conventional market. As described by The New York Times, a book deal adds ‘a touch of gravitas’ for the blog stars. Jasper Sutcliffe, head of buying at Foyles, said that ‘while some people had been quick to say print is over, vloggers still want to be exposed to a slightly more traditional market’. Turning to print is a natural step as its what the blogger’s fans want. There is a close relationship between the consumer and blogger, due to the immediacy of the platforms these bloggers are using. And of course, relatability is a huge factor in turning to print. Audiences of today want someone that they can relate to. Turning to print is so successful because of the coming of age of a new generation of savvy consumers who care about trust.

These bloggers that are being signed by publishers are also changing the traditional publishing model. The New York Times highlights this shift in an article about the collaboration of Simon and Schuster with United Talent. ‘Keywords books will be crowdsourced, meaning that authors will directly involve their followers in storytelling decisions from the earliest stages’. This involvement of fans captures what the blogging generation is about, the idea of sharing while helping preserve their original ‘distinct message and voice’.

“But why buy a book when you can watch the make up tutorial for free?”

Food blogs naturally become a recipe book, and bloggers turned authors are a different kettle of fish too. However, with the blog Humans of New York the book is exactly the same but a number one bestseller. And the popular Twitter page Very British Problems, with a following of 889k, book is exactly the same too. Mainly there is something about a book that will always surpass the Internet from a consumer point of view: the physicality of it and the permanency. The Humans of New York book boasts beautiful pages of the author and photographer Brandon Staton’s work. It transfers smoothly into print and would make a great coffee table book. And as for Very British Problems, who wouldn’t want one of these hilarious books in their stocking? The UK’s largest book retailing chain Waterstones saw sales of physical books rise 5% in December 2014. From the perspective of the blogger, they are keen to learn a different medium, and these statistics show that there is an audience for their new venture.

Humans of New York blog.

Humans of New York blog.

As the number of bloggers that write books only increases it proves that print is not over. Not only are these bloggers gaining from writing books, they are also giving back to the publishing industry. The advances in technology that enable interaction and accessibility means bloggers are bringing a younger, and new kind of audience into bookshops. As audiences are starting to want to engage with a newer voice rather than a tried and tested author, there is room for these bloggers in the publishing industry. With Zoella gaining the highest first week’s sales of a new author ever, and the creation of new publishing imprint Keywords Press, certainly confirms that this is a new genre of book publishing. As the way we consume content continues to change, the one thing that remains is our love for books. And even as the publishing world continues to become more and more digital, the stars of the digital world are turning to print.

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