YouTube’s Zoella might not actually have written her breakout novel

Zoella yellow shirt sitting on bed

Did a ghostwriter pen the YouTuber’s smash debut? And does it really matter?

It’s not all smooth sailing for the YouTube star who sold 78,000 copies of her debut novel in its first week. Suspicion has surfaced that the 24-year-old vlogger used a ghostwriter to pen her coming-of-age story. 

In the book, Zoe Sugg, known on YouTube as Zoella, acknowledges a woman named Siobhan Curham, but gives no details of her role in the novel.

“I want to thank everyone at Penguin for helping me put together my first novel, especially Amy Alward [editor] and Siobhan Curham, who were with me every step of the way.”

Curham is a novelist and freelance writer, and a Wayback Machine post from her blog notes that a publisher recently asked her to write a novel in six weeks. There’s no direct indication that the novel was Sugg’s Girl Online, but it is typical industry language for a ghostwriter to be acknowledged in the way Sugg did in her book, according to Bibliodaze

Of course, the biggest question is how much does it even matter if the novel was ghostwritten? As many have pointed out, Sugg’s out-of-the-gate success is a function of her 6.6 million subscriber base primed to purchase items under the Zoella brand, not tied to advance reviews or quality of the work. Ghostwriting is also an open secret in the celebrity publishing business and not altogether unsurprising. However, with YouTubers, authenticity is key, and Sugg passing off work that is not her own most likely wouldn’t sit well with her key demographic.

We reached out to both Sugg and publisher Keywords Press for comment on the speculation and will update this story with their responses.

Update 7:04am CT, Dec. 8: A report in the Daily Mail confirms Bibliodaze’s suspicions. According to this article, a Penguin spokesperson admitted the vlogger had help: “To be factually accurate, you would need to say Zoe Sugg did not write the book Girl Online on her own,” he or she said.

H/T Bibliodaze | Screengrab via Zoella/YouTube

Rae Votta

Rae Votta

A former YouTube reporter for the Daily Dot, Rae Votta has more than a decade of experience in the digital and entertainment industries. Her work has appeared on AOL, Huffington Post, Out Magazine, Logo, VH1, Current TV, Billboard, and NYMag. She joined Netflix in 2016.