Each month, we offer the spotlight to one of our funded researchers to exhibit their research projects in more detail.
The Featured Researcher for September was Nicola Torch, with a PhD Project titled Field Migration the Publishing Ecosystem in the Digital Age.
‘Social media star’, ‘internet celebrity’, ‘content creator’ and ‘influencer’. These are all terms that have become embedded within vernacular and academic discourse surrounding internet culture and fame, a burgeoning ecosystem with a landscape inextricably tied to the evolution and growth of social media platforms in the mid 2000s and early 2010s (Senft 2008; 2013; Marwick 2015; Abidin 2018). Over a decade later, social media platforms have given rise to creators who utilise platform affordances to build up distinct popularity and success online, enabling them to carve out professional careers, both inside and outside of their initial digital space (Giles 2018; Cunningham and Craig 2021). Nicola’s doctoral research examines the emergence of these online content creators in relation to the publishing industry, looking specifically at how creators on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok transition into the field of book publishing.
Social media platforms are undoubtedly valuable marketing assets for publishers today, both in terms of reaching new audiences and the opportunities they bring in publicising new titles; however, it is also increasingly evident that platforms play a significant role in acquisition and content generation within the industry, with many publishers routinely collaborating with online content creators on successful publications, many of which break sales records and sit firmly within bestseller lists (Johnson 2021; Bryan 2022).
Screenshot from Waterstones website
In 2014, Zoe Sugg – known widely online as Zoella – broke publishing records when her Young Adult novel Girl Online recorded the biggest first week sales for a debut author, beating the likes of J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown and E.L James (Farrington 2014). Since the boom of ‘YouTuber books’ in the mid 2010s, new platforms and faces have emerged, yet platform publishing still appears to be a thriving opportunity for publishers and creators alike; 2022 alone saw titles such as Molly-Mae Hague’s Becoming Molly-Mae debut top of the Hardback Non-Fiction list (O’Brien 2022) and Jonathan Graziano’s Noodle and the No Bones Day become a New York Times bestseller (Jones 2022). This project seeks to explore this intersection between contemporary book publishing and social media environments to better understand how creative activities on social media platforms successfully transition into the field of book publishing.
Each chapter of this research project draws out themes and experiences through case studies that each focus on a particular social media platform – YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok – and outline their individual publishing histories. Each platform and affiliated content creators are analysed in relation to their offline literary production and the ways in which publishers capitalise on successful social media spaces to transform online content creators into published authors. Fundamentally, this research project examines the commercial force that digital creators wield within contemporary culture and the power their literary outputs have on contemporary publishing.
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Abidin, Crystal. 2018. Internet Celebrity: Understanding Fame Online. SocietyNow. United Kingdom: Emerald Publishing.
Bryan, Hena J. 2022. ‘Where Is “Platform Publishing” Leading Us?’ Bad Form. October 2022. https://www.badformreview.com/read/xgo.
Cunningham, Stuart, and David Craig, eds. 2021. Creator Culture: An Introduction to Global Social Media Entertainment. New York: New York University Press.
Farrington, Joshua. 2014. ‘Zoella Smashes First Week Début Record’. The Bookseller. December 2014. https://www.thebookseller.com/news/zoella-smashes-first-week-d-record.
Giles, David. 2018. Twenty-First Century Celebrity: Fame in Digital Culture. United Kingdom: Emerald Publishing.
Johnson, Miriam J. 2021. Books and Social Media: How the Digital Age Is Shaping the Printed Word. Abington, Oxon: Routledge.
Jones, Iyana. 2022. ‘What’s the Buzz?: “Noodle and the No Bones Day”’. Publishers Weekly. June 2022. https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-book-news/article/89489-what-s-the-buzz-noodle-and-the-no-bones-day.html.
Marwick, Alice. 2015. ‘You May Know Me From YouTube: (Micro)-Celebrity in Social Media’. In A Companion to Celebrity, by P. David Marshall and Sean Redmond, 333–50. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell.
O’Brien, Kiera. 2022. ‘Non-Fiction: Becoming Molly-Mae Clocks in at the Top’. The Bookseller. June 2022. https://www.thebookseller.com/bestsellers/non-fiction-becoming-molly-mae-clocks-in-at-the-top.
Senft, Theresa M. 2008. Camgirls: Celebrity and Community in the Age of Social Networks. Digital Formations. New York: Peter Lang.
———. 2013. ‘Microcelebrity and the Branded Self’. In A Companion to New Media Dynamics, by Jean Burgess, Axel Bruns, and John Hartley, 346–54. Malden, MA: Blackwell.