Zoella becomes fastest-selling debut author
James R | On 03, Dec 2014
Zoella’s debut novel has smashed book selling records, with the highest first-week sales for a first-time author since records began.
Granted, those records only began in 1998, but for many of Zoella’s fans, that was before they were born.
That’s precisely why the sales of Girl Online are so remarkable, marking the point at which the culture of the young enters the realm of the adult – and an everyday girl can become a literary sensation simply by being themselves.
If you haven’t heard of Zoella – or Zoe Sugg – she is a YouTube celebrity, who produces video blogs about her life. If you haven’t heard of books, they’re what people did before they watched video blogs on YouTube.
It may seem like a bizarre risk, commissioning the online star for a two-book deal, but Penguin Random House made the decision without much hesitation. The deciding factor? A 13 year old girl.
CEO Tom Weldon says that they gave Suggs the green light after consulting his daughter. Her reply? “Oh my God, you should buy Zoe’s first novel, she is amazing, the book will be a huge best-seller.”
Several months later and that’s exactly what has happened, with Girl Online selling 78,109 copies last week – more than JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book in its first week, or EL James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, or any other debut author’s book in the last 16 years, when Nielsen BookScan first began to keep count.
I’m legit blown away by this. I never in a million years thought that so many of you would pick up a copy of Girl Online. Almost wanna cry..
— Zoë (@ZozeeBo) December 2, 2014
One bookseller at Waterstones tells us that the sales in their store have largely been driven by Zoella’s core fan group: young girls eager to snap up the latest slice of the star’s work. As Christmas approaches, though, will older relatives begin to request the book too, as a gift for the YouTube watcher in their household?
Judging by the rate at which these are flying off the shelves, by the time that happens, the youngsters in question will already have bought the book themselves, read it, and posted their own video blog reviews on YouTube.
Weldon says they will continue publishing Zoella’s books “for many, many years to come”. Who knows what the TV or book landscape will look like then? But one thing is for sure: the power of the YouTube celebrity is not a purely online phenomenon. It just walked off the web and into the high street – and its fans followed.
Only another 5.9 million to go.