The line snaking through almost half of the top floor of the Union Square Barnes and Noble in New York City erupts into high-pitched cheers when Joey Graceffa, a lanky and cheerful 24-year-old YouTube star, finally makes his appearance. Fans have been waiting since 9am for a chance to meet him, snap a picture, and tell him how much he means to them.
“Whenever I’m feeling sad, his smile makes me feel happy,” explained 14-year-old Anthony, who stands excitedly in a clump with four other fans, ages 11 to 19, all of whom he just met today. “Honestly the experience is so perfect, because you get to meet the person you’ve been watching for so long, and you get to make new friends.”
Graceffa is here not as part of an event for YouTube, where he’s made his name with 4.7 million subscribers, but as an author of the recently published memoir In Real Life: My Journey to a Pixelated World, released by Keywords Press, Simon and Schuster’s imprint dedicated to digital stars.
Graceffa joins the long line of YouTubers turned publishing stars, and he was in New York in part to participate in BookExpo America along with other digital stars who stock the shelves alongside traditional young adult writers. Graceffa’s book is a nonfiction tale of his life growing up and the obstacles he faced, from bullying to coming out.
“I came up with the idea when I got kicked off The Amazing Race and was sequestered in Thailand,” Graceffa, who competed on seasons 22 and 24 of the CBS show, told the Daily Dot. “I had a lot of time to myself, and even though I didn’t have a book deal, I started writing and figuring out what I wanted to write about.”
Graceffa had intended the book to be his coming-out story, but just days before release, he posted a music video that featured him kissing a boy, along with a follow-up video confirming his sexual identity. Graceffa says that the book allowed him more space to tell his full story, however.
“I talk about my first dating experiences, my first kiss,” he explained, noting that not everyone in his life knew he was gay until the book’s release. “I wasn’t out to a lot of my family, so they all found out through the book.”
Graceffa will continue on a book tour to meet more of his fans before returning to L.A. to work on his next project, a murder mystery series featuring fellow YouTubers, funded by Google. While there’s no follow up book in the works yet, Graceffa said he found writing both “hard and easy.”
“It was just looking back at my past,” he said. “It wasn’t me coming up with stories, or creating a character, I was looking at my past writing down actual experiences.”
Screengrab via JoeyGraceffa/YouTube