The uber popular video blogger Zoe Sugg, who goes by the name Zoella online, is reportedly fielding some big offers for the rights to her best-selling novel Girl Online. The semi-autobiographical book about a teenage girl whose blog unexpectedly goes viral was published last year and broke the record for highest first week sales of a debut author, which had formerly been held by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. Now Deadline reports that studios are instigating a bidding war over the rights to turn the biggest-selling book of 2014 into either a movie or TV series that they’re hoping will be rabidly watched by Sugg’s nearly 7 million followers on YouTube.
The book is about a 15-year-old British blogger named Penny who writes about her difficulties with anxiety, self-esteem, and cyber-bullying. When Penny travels to New York with her mother, she meets and falls in love with the musician Noah, which causes her blog to go viral. While there are clearly parallels between their stories, Sugg has said that Penny’s story is not autobiographical.
The novel got mixed reviews from book critics, but it was never supposed to be high literature. There was even a minor scandal when the publisher Penguin revealed that Sugg wrote the book with the help of an editorial team, throwing a lot of question onto how much of it she actually wrote. Sugg responded to the controversy by tweeting, “Of course I was going to have help from Penguin’s editorial team in telling my story, which I talked about from the beginning. Everyone needs help when they try something new. The story and characters of Girl Online are mine.” Whether or not she had a ghostwriter is sort of irrelevant when looking at how quickly the book sold. Sugg’s fans will buy, watch, or read anything she puts her name on.
Penny’s story appeals to the fans of Sugg’s advice on life and beauty that she doles out on YouTube and her own blog. She gives makeup, hair, and skin care tips and advice on her own struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. She has been criticized for encouraging young girls to be materialistic and applauded for speaking up about her mental health issues. Sugg’s social media accounts are evidence of the nerve she’s struck with young girls, particularly in England. Aside from all those YouTube channel subscribers, she has 2 million Facebook page likes, 2.75 million Twitter followers, and 3.6 million followers on Instagram. Companies pay her to use and promote their products on her videos, which her followers quickly scoop up themselves in the hopes of looking like Zoella.
Now the online personality is going to have another big paycheck coming to her once the up-to-10 studios from both the U.K. and the U.S. that Deadline estimates are fighting for the book’s rights make their final offers. Zoella is more popular in her native Britain than in the U.S. for now, so going with a British company may be a better bet for her, but getting a successful movie or TV show in America could be the best way for her to crack the market here even more. Whichever studio ends up landing those rights will also get all those millions of social media-savvy teen girl fans who love Zoella.
Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS