Zoella, Girl Online, Ghostwriting and Honesty

Zoella, and her writing dreams.

First things first. Let’s get a few things out of the way.  While I may not be Zoella’s target audience, I am one of her 6m subscribers on YouTube.  I enjoy her videos, and have done for quite some time. So this post comes from someone who when they watched the announcement, felt nothing apart from happiness for Zoe. 

In June Zoe announced via a vlog that she would be working with Penguin and releasing a fiction novel, called Girl Online. In this vlog she talked about being the girl at fourteen who when they came home from school wrote short stories on the computer, and loved living through the characters she created. 

"As you guys may or may not know, or known, my dream has been to write a book,” Zoe said to the camera, trying her best to contain her excitement during her big announcement. It was clear her emotions were genuine, but all wasn't as it seemed at the time. 

Ghost-writing rumours.

Girl Online sold 78,109 copies in it's first week. As much as I was eager to read Zoe's novel, I held off from buying a copy because rumours had started to surface that Girl Online had been ghost-written. People began questioning the acknowledgements on the opening pages, because after thanking editor Amy Alward, she also thanked Siobhan Curham for being with her 'every step of the way'. 

Eventually Penguin came clean, and a spokesperson told the Sunday Times 'to be factually correct, you would need to say Zoe Sugg did not write the book Girl Online on her own.’ The truth is out. Girl Online was ghost-written. 

Does it matter?

Ghost-writing isn't a new thing, it's no secret and isn't anything to be ashamed of. Many people including celebrities use ghost writers, or co-author books.  Everyone knows that Katie Price doesn't write her books, and it hasn't caused this much of an uproar, so why has the truth about Girl Online exploded over social media, and does it matter?

I am just one person, and my opinion is just that - one opinion out of many. But, from where I stand - yes it matters. Thousands of young girls bought this book because they believed that Zoe herself has written it, because that's what they were led to believe via the vlogs and blog posts.

It doesn't bother me that the book was ghostwritten, although I am disappointed given Zoe's dreams to be a writer. She still had input of course, but ultimately she didn't write it, and that is what makes a novel at the end of the day. But what matters to me the most is the lack of honesty from Penguin, and also Zoe herself. 

Girl Online is different from the majority of ghost-written books, because we’ve watched this journey unfold before our eyes. From watching Zoe announce the book, telling us, her subscribers "I would love to have something that I have done myself," to seeing the book printed, or her working with editors in her vlogs, we have been there with her, cheering her on and ultimately, being proud of her. 

Ironically, I expect if Zoe/Penguin had been truthful and said the book was co written, or ghostwritten, she would still have sold as many copies. But by writing blog posts, detailing how she is writing a book, she has lost trust in some of her viewers.  

 Earlier today Zoe posted this from her twitter, hoping to clear up some of the rumours.

But does it really clear anything up at all? I certainly didn't doubt Zoe was going to have help, anything from creative writing coaching to editing was inevitable. Of course everyone needs help when they try something new, and of course the book was going to be edited by someone else - there's certainly no shame in that, it's part of the writing process. 

As a long time supporter of Zoe, I feel disappointed. Disappointed for the girl who made it clear she dreamt of being a writer, and disappointed for her fans who thought she wrote the book herself.  Although if they are reading it and enjoying it, then I guess that's the main thing.

As for me? I won't be reading Girl Online, because the lack of honesty surrounding the project from the beginning has put me off completely, which is a shame. Am I still a fan of Zoe? As a Youtuber, yes. As an author, no. 

What are your thoughts? Please comment below, but keep it friendly. 


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