Ordinary guys writing bestsellers. Italian YouTubers, by Emanuele Carletti

YouTubers are the new celebrities. Their videos have captured teenagers’ attention and recently also adults have been starting to notice them. A YouTuber – as of 2016 a word officially added to the OED – is  a person involved in shooting and uploading videos on YouTube, and now a well-known phenomenon also in Italy.

Generally speaking, as reported by journalist Noemi Milani,  there are two different categories of Italian YouTubers, the grown-up and the young. The former are men and women in their thirties who have started their career with YouTube and now are TV guest stars or movie actors, (e.g. Frank Matano and Willwoosh). The young ones, born in the nineties, are those who usually just go in front of the webcam, talking about their daily life, what they like or hate most and so on. They like introducing themselves as ordinary guys and that has been their key to success.

Being a YouTuber may also mean meeting fans, participating in events and writing books. Indeed, publishers have been particularly interested in YouTubers lately. Mondadori, one of the biggest publishing houses in Italy, has published various books written by them. Succede by Sofia Viscardi and Il mio Libro sbagliato by Greta Menchi are just two examples.

Both videos and books, by male YouTubers, are often about videogames. Playing videogames was basically the core of their early videos, which are called Gameplays in YouTube jargon. They record their gaming sessions, giving some advice about the games’ hardest levels while playing. On the other hand, recipes, dressing and love are female YouTubers’ main topics.

Autobiographical themes have become part of the mainstream in YouTubers’ videos and books, and this is the main reason why their books are often criticized. As YouTubers are young people in their twenties or thirties, to write an autobiography at that age sounds ridiculous. They usually talk about their life and experiences in their videos too, so it doesn’t really make sense to read things already said over and over again. Buying their books is probably a sort of act of devotion to that particular YouTuber. The same kind of devotion that is generally offered to TV celebrities and there lies, in my opinion, the contradiction, since YouTubers present themselves as ordinary guys and they apparently want to be described as such. After all, from the very beginning, YouTubers’ speciality has been mostly in criticizing Italian TV celebrities… and now most of them are acting the same way! To distinguish themselves from those belonging to the much-despised showbiz, they have chosen to appear as simple fellows as their nicknames suggest – e.g. Il Tizio Qualunque  (Random Guy), Quei Due Sul Server  (Two Guys On A Server), QuelTaleAle  (AleDude) – but in their books they often talk about autograph sessions and interviews so their ordinary nature has started to sound a bit false in most cases.

The problem with the majority of books by YouTubers is basically a blatant lack of content. Usually these books are nothing but a jumble of trivialities and stolen quotes. Stati d’animo su fogli di carta (My mood journal) by Francesco Sole, for example, fits this description. Reading Sole’s book is like reading Facebook walls: a few minutes are enough to forget everything written because of its flimsy content. Again, Io, Me e Me stesso (I, me and myself)  by CiccioGamer89 (ChubbyGamer89 a.k.a. Mirko Alessandrini), another case in point. It is just a very rough draft of a chaotic mix of themes.

Despite this, both Sole and Alessandrini’s works are bestsellers. How come? The reason is quite simple: fans have to buy a copy of these books in order to gain access to most of the signing sessions and other events organized by YouTubers. In other words, the book becomes a sort of ticket.

But fans buy these books mostly because their idol’s face is on the cover, and they want to have these fancy goods no matter what. Publishers know this and these books are a good business move for them.

In short, YouTubers presenting themselves as ordinary guys and mates of their fans have successfully involved them in a stronger relationship than that set up by TV celebrities and their audience. YouTubers know how to take advantage of this bond and the success of their books is due to this knowledge. Obviously there also a few  good books among those written by YouTubers. Personally I have enjoyed Agorafobia by Dario Moccia, a graphic novel about a lonely man living in fear, but this book seems to be a drop in the ocean.

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