Authors on YouTube: I'm a celebrity, and I'm shameless

Big names are using YouTube videos to promote their books. Do their unsubtle tactics really work? By Arifa Akbar

Would a YouTube clip of Russell Brand speaking directly to camera and urging you to buy his Booky Wook (2), telling you that "it's better than the other one" inspire you to rush out to the shops?

How about a more earnest sales-pitch by the TV chef Jamie Oliver, delivered within clear view of his hob, which promises, no, PROMISES, to transform you from a microwave slave to a mini-me with the help of his latest book? Or Nigella Lawson's beguiling two-minute address extolling the virtues of her latest recipe book, Kitchen, with mentions of her home and hearth, her children and her siblings, and all that cosy, Aga-ish stuff that might appeal to your unconscious desire to be part of her domestic set-up?

These videos, made by Waterstones.com, are so commercially brazen and awkward that they are a wonder to behold. Waterstone's has long been making YouTube videos that tie in to book releases, but many feature the likes of Ian McEwan and Jacqueline Wilson giving mini book readings or discussing the themes of their latest works, rather than blatantly employing their charms to get you to buy the book. This clutch of "celebrity" addresses, however, appear much more geared up to a personality-driven hard sell, for book-chart purposes, rather than focusing on a genuine discussion of the book in question.

Waterstone's has clearly sharpened its advertising campaign in recent times, and some may view such strategies as movie-style trailers (complete with deep throated voice-overs) as the book industry catching up with the rest of the world. And who knows, Oliver's YouTube pledge might have helped Jamie's 30-Minute Meals to top the book charts last month.

Lawson, Stephen Fry, Alan Sugar, Michael McIntyre, all of whom made Waterstones.com videos, also made it into the top 10 of the Christmas charts. So there is every reason to think their online appearances might have helped to shift books off shelves. Yet there is something undignified, at best, and cheaply manipulative, at worst, about them.

A number of these "personalities" appear on their clips like slippery-tongued salesmen with pleading eyes. Some go for a hard sell, others don't even bother with the sales pitch and just implore us to "buy my book" as if that alone could turn our heads.

Justin Bieber, the Canadian singer, cajoles future readers as if they were friends. "Hey, guys. Justin Bieber here. Just wanted to say 'whats up'. I'm coming out with a book... It's got a lot of cool stuff about me and how I got discovered. I wanted to say go buy it". Alan Sugar, the businessman and television host of The Apprentice, goes for a sharper spiel: "Whether you are a youngster that wants to be inspired, a business person who wants to pick up a few tips, a football fan or an Apprentice fan, you need to go out and buy this book because you are going to get a bit of everything in it."

Harry Hill laughs ironically as he reads from his autobiography; Michael McIntyre puts on a similar performance of being enamoured of his memoir, Life & Laughing; and Dawn French ends up answering questions from readers that range from "What is your hair-care routine?" to "What is your perfect day?" while promoting her first novel, A Tiny Bit Marvellous. She gives wonderfully inventive answers to them all, although seems slightly stumped by a mother's request for advice for her aspiring-novelist daughter: "Obviously I'm a new fiction author so I probably haven't got many tips for a 10-year-old yet..."

French's natural charisma aside, the idea behind the videos appears to be built around the cult of personality. On-screen charisma does not, of course, necessarily translate into good writing, or reading, as anyone watching these videos will know, but there is the irritating implication behind this advertising concept that we will be seduced by these starry little YouTube turns into forgetting this fact.

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk