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by Stassi Schroeder of Bravo's Vanderpump Rules
As a writer, it's annoying to see huge advertisements in the Union Square Barnes & Noble window for books "written" by reality TV stars and social media influencers, because I strongly suspect that those "stars" and influencers wouldn't be published if they didn't (appear) to have large amounts of fans.
But Julie McCarron's shared in her article "What’s an Influencer Worth to Books?" on Publishers Weekly that being a realty star or influencer doesn't always equal a large number of book sales - especially when some of the "influencers" have fake followers.
Julie McCarron's "What’s an Influencer Worth to Books?"
A mini-scandal lit up Twitter last month when the Cut featured a tell-all essay by 27-year-old writer Natalie Beach. In the piece, Beach exposes her seven-year relationship with her friend Caroline Calloway, who scored an agent and a reputed $375,000 book deal for her memoir. Beach, who ghostwrote the book, says her former bestie bought Instagram followers after being told by literary professionals that “no one would buy a memoir from a girl with no claim to fame and no fan base.”
Platform has always been key when putting together a nonfiction book proposal. But back in the not-so-very-distant past—a mere dozen years ago!—publishers were throwing six figures and two-book deals at anyone who had a half-decent story and a clip in the local newspaper. These days, a huge following on social media, particularly Instagram, is a must for a book deal.
The moment agents or editors hear an author has a small following or no following, it’s over. Yes, there are exceptions. Still, worthy authors are overlooked every day—in favor of a young woman with a photo of macarons that went viral? Now her friend the ghostwriter has CAA shopping rights to her story? Which era is crazier?
The Kardashian/Jenner sisters have 500 million followers. So how come fewer than 500,000 viewers (18–49) tuned in to the latest episode of their show? Kim Kardashian’s book of selfies sold fewer than 40,000 copies, according to BookScan—yet she remains a powerful influencer. When are publishers going to concede that number of followers (fake or not) is only one key to book sales?
Naturally, some influencers produce books that are megabestsellers (usually with a lot of help). That is because they deserve a wide audience for whatever message they are sending. Ariana Grande, who has one of the biggest social media followings in the world, should get a huge deal... because she’s an incredible singer with a fantastic story to tell—not because of her follower count!
Recently, at a trendy store in Los Angeles, I attended a well-publicized book signing by the latest Bachelorette contestant (1.2 million followers). She breezed in late and sold 10 books. So how about it, agents and editors? I know a lot of fascinating people with stories to share—well-written ones, too. They just don’t have a lot of Instagram followers. Want to see?