“When you’re a little girl and people ask you what you want to be when you grow up, no one says beauty guru. Or vlogger. Or YouTube phenomenon,” writes Michelle Phan, who is all three, in her forthcoming book “Make Up: Your Life Guide to Beauty, Style and Success Online and Off” (Harmony, Oct. 21).
But as more YouTube stars like Phan land book deals and endorsements, the idea of creating a career and a brand out of vlogging may seem more and more viable. And while Phan’s book describes in detail how she was able to achieve her unconventional career success, readers should not necessarily use her story as a blueprint, as Phan admits she is an "accidental entrepreneur."
In a report on the phenomenon of YouTube personalities getting book deals, David Steinberger of Perseus Books Group told the Wall Street Journal, “It’s a harbinger of a book-publishing tsunami that is on its way.” In addition to Phan’s book, YouTube comedian Grace Helbig of the YouTube channel It’sGrace has a book coming out through Simon & Schuster called “Grace’s Guide: The Art of Pretending to Be a Grown-Up.” And English YouTube star Alfie Deyes, who according to the WSJ report has three YouTube channels and more than 5 million subscribers, is set to publish an interactive workbook called “The Pointless Book.”
This is a relatively new publishing frontier, and industry experts are cautiously optimistic about whether the online audiences will translate to enough book sales.
“It doesn’t take much time or money to watch something on YouTube," Lorraine Shanley, president of consulting firm Market Partners International Inc., told the WSJ, "but it takes both time and money to read something in book form. That said, if you can get a substantial portion of 1 million followers, you’d be happy.”
Cindy Dach, co-owner of Arizona bookstore Changing Hands, told WSJ book signings tend to be very popular at her store, and YouTube fans want to get their picture taken with the “stars.” “I’m happy to sell six to 12 copies of a best-selling novel in a month. But when a YouTube star comes in, we sell hundreds in a few hours.” Bookstores are taking note, and beginning to track YouTube stars, particularly ones with cult followings.
Phan’s rise to YouTube stardom, she tells readers in “Make Up,” was unanticipated. “Back in the early days of YouTube, I started posting beauty tutorials on a regular basis. A lot of people watched them, then a lot more. Within a short period of time, I had hundreds of millions of views and became the most-subscribed-to woman on YouTube,” she writes. “It was quite the 21st century career and not the job I ever imagined having.”
“Make Up,” as expected, provides plenty of makeup tips, along with Phan's story as a child of Vietnamese immigrants. Its final chapters, however, are not typically featured in a book on how to apply makeup. In “Find (and keep) a job you love,” Phan provides advice on internships, writing cover letters, and going on interviews. “Turn Your Passion Into a Profession” is a 19-page primer for the entrepreneurially minded, with advice on how to turn your brand into a business. "Make Up" also includes sections on ”How to do public relations” and ”Social Media Success.”
In charting her success and doling out tips on makeup, manners and job interviews, Phan suggests that while a reader might emulate her, there's no guarantee her kind of success can be duplicated. Perhaps this is why she ends her book the same way she does her tutorials -- with the sign-off “Good luck.”