Online Creators and the Rise of Click-Bait Books
If bookshop window displays are any indication, millennials are reading differently.
The front shelves of YA dystopian novels are making room for more memoirs and essay collections. On the covers are not historical figures or seasoned actors, but fresh-faced internet personalities.
New media creators, whether they are web-comics or YouTube personalities, have been introducing us to easily accessible content in a variety of styles and forms that were unavailable to us just a few years ago. We now crave quality content in short spurts. Web sketches, lists, and blog posts keep our scrolling-happy thumbs content while capturing our attention for a few minutes at the most. We demand fully realised content tied up in a neat little box (in no more than four minutes’ time). And it seems that our new taste for quick and poignant content is spilling over into the books we read and listen to.
The internet stars
Online creators like Mamrie Hart, Zoella and Kelly Williams Brown’s books started with successful blogs or YouTube channels. Their topics range from beauty to business, from comedy to cooking. They drive online traffic through platforms like Tumblr and Reddit, making small clips or posts easily sharable and popular.
Web cartoonist and comedian Allie Brosh found widespread success in 2014 with the publication of Hyperbole and a Half. The book contains a series of essays and comic illustrations on the writer’s life, ranging from embarrassing childhood plunders to her struggles with depression. The book is an adaption of her blog’s form, which hops from an exploration of mental health to knee-slapping ridiculousness with every post. Brosh will be expanding on the success of her first collection with another book, Solutions and Other Problems, due out in October of this year. The book’s scattered style lends itself to online readers, who have been sharing Brosh’s individual comics and posts on Facebook and other social media long before it was available on paper.
Personality over story?
These sharable pieces of content create a new catalyst within book publication. Creators are now coming to our bookshelves with a pre-existing and loyal niche audience. Blog-to-book success is not a new concept. Many literary authors have gone on to write novels after running popular blogs. Irish author Lisa McInerney, for example, recently won this year’s Baileys’ Women’s Prize for Fiction for her book The Glorious Heresies. However, she started her writing career with an award-winning comedic blog. The difference between the book-to-blog authors and new media creators is that their books are directly expanding on an established online personality. The resulting books are often more of an extension of the writer’s online presence than an independent piece of work. Readers care less about a book’s plot or cohesive theme and more about engaging with their favourite creator.
Our cravings for the internet in our books may reflect our everyday impatience, but it also shows a new shift in style. The novel could very well be stepping aside and giving the spotlight to short stories, graphic novels, poetry, and entirely new ways to interact with stories.
This article was written by Margaret Clark