Stop Saying that Zoella “Outsold J.K. Rowling!”

I am so bloody sick of these headlines.

Zoella’s book Girl Online outsells JK Rowling

This 24-Year-Old Blogger Is Selling Books Faster Than JK Rowling

Zoe Sugg Aka Zoella Shoots Past JK Rowling’s 1st Week Launch Records For Her New Book ‘Girl Online’

YouTube Star Zoella’s First Week Book Sales Surpass J.K. Rowling’s Debut


This is nothing against Zoe Sugg. This is about the misleading and, quite frankly, embarrassing headlines.

In its first week, Zoe’s book Girl Online sold almost 80,000 copies. This set a record for fastest selling debut book. You know what “debut” means? First book. That means Girl Online sold more copies in the first week than Harry Potter #1. Is that really something to brag about? I mean, yes, it is an accomplishment that the book has sold so many copies. But should you really go around screaming, “I outsold J.K. Rowling!!” NO! Because that’s just stupid.

J.K. Rowling wasn’t famous when she published Harry Potter #1

Rowling had no connections, no fans, nothing. She was just a regular, unknown writer trying to publish a book. Zoe Sugg published a book AFTER she had millions and millions of fans. If I were her, I’d be embarrassed to have people shouting that I’d “outsold J.K. Rowling”. Someone with millions of fans sold more books than someone with zero fans… Uhh, DUH!

Try comparing Girl Online’s sales to Harry Potter 7, and it’s just laughable

Let’s try to even things out, shall we?

As a reminder, Girl Online sold almost 80,000 copies in the first seven days.

Harry Potter #7 sold 8.3 million copies in the first 24 hours[1] (in the United States). No fucking contest.

This is just the start of it

There’s a lot of controversy right now surrounding Zoe Sugg, Girl Online, sales, and ghostwritten books. I’m not even focusing on all that. The only thing that’s really annoying me right now are these ridiculous headlines. It’s like someone with 10 million subscribers saying:

“Oh my god! My videos get more comments than that person with only three subscribers. THIS IS INCREDIBLE!!!”

Which would result in responses like, “Duh” and “What did you expect? Obviously someone with 10 million fans would get more comments than someone with only three fans.”

How do you feel about this?

Do you think it’s ‘amazing’ that Girl Online sold more books in its first week than the first Harry Potter book?

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    1. Yeah there is a ton of drama >_< I do have thoughts on the whole ghost writing thing, but it's not specifically to do with Zoe, it's more to do with ghost writing in general. I find it a little embarrassing that someone could have another person write their book, and then feel comfortable calling it "my book". How can you possibly be proud of something that you didn't even write?

      1. Yeah completely agree with you here. I find it best to stay quiet when things like this flare up because things can get pretty nasty. Personally, I’m not for this ghost writing lark. Like you said, in no way then is that YOUR book. I don’t like the lack of crediting of the contributor either.

        1. I don’t have much of an issue with ghostwriting as long as you don’t try to hide it. I would respect someone for saying, “I had an idea for a book that people thought could be a bestseller, but I needed help with execution.” There are also different levels of ghostwriting. If someone came up with the entire plot themselves, and did a good portion of the writing and the ghostwriter was more involved in rewrites and stuff, I think you deserve to call it your book.

  1. They’re saying that? I’ve been studying for my exams and pretty much living in a cave for the time being… but that’s pretty ridiculous! How would you actually compare the two, it’s two completely different things! (

    1. I know, it’s totally absurd! I bet one news outlet thought it would be an awesome, eye catching headline (even if it’s total BS) then all the rest followed suit…

  2. I’m trying to stay far far away from all this Zoella stuff, but of course I saw some people saying things like that and it’s so annoying. Is it surprising that she sold so many books in a short time? Nope. Is she even close to J.K Rowling? Never. You can’t beat the Queen and even so, since when is publishing such a competition? I know selling books is all about numbers, but this is just sad.

    THANKS for saying this out loud.

    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted: Review 305. A.G Howard – Unhinged.
    1. It felt REALLY good to get all this rage out, haha.

      And it annoyed me even more when I saw fans defending Zoe by saying, “People are just jealous. She’s sold more than J.K. Rowling so that proves how amazing she’s doing.”

      NO, NO, NO!!!

      I’m not even hating on Zoe. I have nothing against her. It’s just the inaccuracy of these statements that’s pissing me off. They’re so blatantly misleading and incorrect.

  3. No I don’t think it’s amazing and I agree with you. I actually rolled my eyes when I first saw one of these hedlines about Zoe vs. J.K Rowling… how can they even compare them?

      1. Mmm, I can understand that Zoe is proud of her book but.. how they even came up with the idea to make these headlines 😮 Apples and pears…
        Why can’t they compare her book with her boyfriend’s book instead, he’s a well known Youtuber as well and next year I know at least two big youtubers (both with aprox. 4 million subscribers) who are going to release a book.

  4. I swear I did not even know who this Zoe chick was. I had to google her! Things like this just make me laugh, it’s just another celebrity “trying” to write a book and not having any writing skills whatsoever. And this is a good example of how headlines skew the truth. It won’t take long for the media to get over her:-D

    Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy recently posted: Over-Booked [14] – A Book Haul Post
    1. Yeah I had no idea who she was until a few months ago (maybe August?). People were talking about her like everyone knew who she was and I had no idea.

      Then again I’m not really into YouTube or beauty stuff (which is what most of her videos—at least her older ones—are about). >_<

    2. Do you know how rude you guys are being.Zoella/Zoe really liked writing her book and she put a bunch of pride in that and she is proud of her book.Its not her that is saying oh my book sold more then j.k Rowling it’s the media and I do and don’t I agree but the media should stop bragging about it.STOP BEING SO RUDE.

      1. You do know she didn’t actually write it, yeah? Someone else was hired to write it.

        But not once did we say that she’s the one claiming she sold more than J.K. Rowling. If you’d read the post, you’d see that the whole thing is directed at the media.

    1. Same here. I NEVER use YouTube unless I’m looking up a movie trailer. I’m just not into it.

  5. Wow! I know I sometimes live under a rock, but I never heard of this Zoe person before reading your post. *shrugs* It seems stupid IMO to say something like that thought. I mean, that’s like saying she outsold Shakespeare’s sales while he was alive. It’s stupid to say you outsold anyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re new and unknown or if you have millions of subscribers (which might hint to the “why” of the number of sales…just saying’). In my humble and very strange opinion, it is tacky to say someone outsold someone. It’s apples and oranges, even if both parties produce stuff in the same genre. It’s not the same thing. She (or whomever is saying she outsold Rowling) could say “Wow, for a debut novel I really sold a lot of copies, OMG, I’m so excited!” and stop there. I might be wrong here, but saying that she outsold anyone who’s got millions of fans all over the world sounds like an attempt to draw attention. Which to me doesn’t make her sound successful.

    Ruby recently posted: Reading Blogs & Eating Popcorn #7
    1. Yeah it’s probably just all the media trying to entice people to click/read their headlines… It’s blatantly inaccurate information, but will probably draw attention (sadly..).

    1. It’s absurd! I don’t have any problem with Zoe herself, it’s not like she had any say in these headlines.. it’s the media that’s being insanely stupid!! GRR!

  6. I don’t think it’s amazing. As you said it – she is already famous/has follower and JK Rowling was complete unknown. And statement that ‘Zoella’s book Girl Online outsells JK Rowling’ is not true on so many levels. False advertising at it’s best. Just like every fantasy book is new ‘Game of thrones’ or ya dystopian is new ‘Hunger Games’…

    1. Yes, it’s totally false advertising!

      To be fair, I don’t think Zoe or her marketing team is responsible for it; it’s just the media being stupid. But it does show how the media will practically lie (or at least seriously mislead) just to get attention/views/clicks.

  7. Everything everything that has been said here!!! I’ve not watched a single Zoella video, but I’ve heard about her and her fame and this whole Youtuber community etc. While there are other reasons that I won’t get into that make me reaaaally slightly cross about the fact that she’s written a book (mainly because it’s about blogging…something she does. How original), but what you’ve pointed out is grinding my gears sooooo much. She’s had this handed to her on a plate. She was bound to get the numbers, regardless if it sold 80,000 or 8 million in the first week. JKR had nothing. She had years of rejection. Years of laughter behind her back. To compare it is completely infuriating. Then to find out that the book was ghost written? And she’s gone and said how much she’s always longed to write a book? Just no. End of ranting. 😀

    1. Yeah I’m almost tempted to write another post about the whole ghost writing ordeal. I would NEVER be able to hire a ghost writer and then call the book “mine”. I’d feel like a complete fraud every time I said “my book”. It’s not your bloody book if you didn’t write it!! >:(

      1. Please do! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Especially on ghostwriting for celebrities vs ghostwriting for a series like Sweet Valley or Babysitters Club.

  8. THANK YOU! Frankly, for someone who’s as famous as she seems to be, writing a book that seems to follow a proven formula for a YA best-seller, I was actually kind of surprised the numbers weren’t higher.

  9. Saying things like this is yet another marketing trick that makes people buy that book (besides Zoe’s name all over it). Someone that didn’t do any research and sees something like “this book outsold J.K. Rowling” must think “oh wow it’s gotta be reaaaaaally good then, I’ll buy it” and BOOM more books are sold, more money in the publisher’s pocket.

    Kaylie @ Potterhead Reviews recently posted: BOOK REVIEW | The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson
  10. I didn’t know who she was until just a couple of days ago when I saw someone else complaining about her sales being compared to Rowling. I agree that the comparison is plain silly. The whole thing just comes off as desperate. The sad thing is that she’s actually getting some more publicity out of the controversy – even if it’s negative. People like me who had no idea who she is now know her name (though I won’t be rushing out to buy her book – but, who knows, some people might check it out).

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction recently posted: Let’s Discuss – I’m a Disorganized Blogger!
  11. I agree with everything that you said. It’s crazy for her to even be compared to J.K. Rowling. It’s not surprising that she sold that many novels, but people have to realize that she already has a fan base of over 6 million. Other debut authors don’t even have fan bases, they’re unknown and trying to get their book out there. And don’t even get me started on the ghost writer thing. I have some opinions on that as well. I have no interest at all to read her books.

  12. I really don’t see the big deal with Zoella’s book or all the controversy that it was ghostwritten. I figured that it was the first time she even announced her book deal. J.K. Rowling is one of the most memorable authors of this generation, starting from nothing when her first book was released. While it is a huge accomplishment that Zoe set, it’s like comparing apples to oranges. It just doesn’t work that way.

    1. I’m not surprised that Zoe’s book was ghost written, but in general I’m kind of anti-ghost writing (or at least “anti-hire a ghost writer and don’t give them clear credit”).

      I think the big deal is that a lot of Zoe’s fans aren’t readers. They don’t realize that ghost writing is EXTREMELY common when “celebrities” write a book. So when Zoe, a girl who built her channel based around being genuine, had someone ghost write her book and DIDN’T clearly disclose that… some of her fans felt a bit betrayed. That I can understand.

  13. Firstly, fantastic post! I’ve also been seeing these headlines too and I may have rolled my eyes several times. I think it’s great that she’s accomplished this (even though I am disappointed that she didn’t make us aware of the fact that it was ghostwritten) but people shouldn’t be comparing her sales to J.K. Rowling when Zoe did have such a large fan base already. Most people know about her and subscribe to her (a lot of my friends do) and a lot of these girls will be buying her book because they look up to her and want to read things she’s written, so, naturally the book would have large sales. Thank you for writing this post!

  14. I saw the report on E and rolled my eyes at their lack of research. I doubt she wrote this herself, and even if she did it’s stupid to even try to compare it to Rowling or whoever else they are comparing her to.

    I’m kind of annoyed at S&S for publishing these books and those stupid 1D fanfics. 4 books at 600+ pages each about a couple? Did anyone bother editing this? Does a contemporary romance REALLY need to be that damn long??? (side rant)

    Nereyda @Mostly YA Book Obsessed recently posted: Do You Compare Your 5 Star Books to Each Other???
  15. Ugh yessss I hate all the articles I’ve seen comparing them. I watch Zoe’s videos on Youtube once in a while, but I don’t think her writing skills will ever surpass J.K. Rowling’s. It’s actually kind of insulting to us the readers… Kind of like false advertisement.

    Also, Zoe’s publisher admited that she did, in fact use an “anonymous” ghost writer. No surprise here.

    Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms recently posted: Court by Cat Patrick- Blog Tour & Review
  16. I absolutely agree with you! You know, throughout the post, I was thinking, “I sould search up how well HP#7 sold” and then you stated that little fact! Awesome!

    I have nothing against Zoella and I’m in no way saying that she’s a bad writer but she already has a huge fan base! Even if her writing WAS bad, I’m pretty sure her fans would still buy the book!

    Also, I have made a rule to not judge how good a series might possibly be by the number of ratings the first book on Goodreads page, but rather the sequels. How many people actually liked the first book and moved on to the sequel?


    Fari @My Little Corner of Books recently posted: Does the Guilt Crush You?
  17. I. LOVE. THIS. POST.

    That’s been driving me crazy because it’s EXACTLY like you said. Zoella had a following who would buy her book regardless of quality, just because they liked her on YouTube. JK Rowling was a newbie author with no following and the Internet fandom community hadn’t really exploded because Harry Potter was one of the fandoms that really made Internet fandoms a community. Comparing them isn’t the same and especially when you compare her later releases once the series got big and she had equivalent fame.

    The ghostwriting thing was underhanded by the publisher, but it happens all the time, and since I didn’t read it nor do I intend to read it, it doesn’t bother me too much.

  18. I have so so so many mixed opinions about this. :/ On one hand, I like Zoe and am happy that she’s gained even more success at only 24. I’m getting annoyed at people on Goodreads complaining about her YouTube fame, and I find that they hold a bit of a double standard. If a well-known YouTube individual publishes a novel — ghostwritten or not — it doesn’t mean they’re cashing in on their millions of fans. It’s likely that Zoe really DID want to be an author and have a published book, and I don’t think it’s fair of the GR community to say she doesn’t deserve that simply because she has 6+ million YouTube subscribers.

    But, at the same time I 100% agree with you. I hate hearing that she “sold out J.K. Rowling” when Harry Potter is an absolute classic, and Rowling earned her fanbase through the stories she told (whereas Sugg earned hers through her blog + videos). So I get tired of news writers spinning this to look like Sugg is more popular than Rowling when in reality Rowling has longevity, and there’s a chance that Sugg’s book sold 80k+ its first week but will have tanking sales until the next book when her fans jump on that.

    I probably won’t read this and if I do I’ll get it from the library. I’ve read enough negative reviews on the story to know it probably isn’t for me. However, I still like Zoe enough to not want to talk negatively about her.

    Sydney recently posted: New Favorites In My Playlists (2)
  19. Obviously I live under a rock as I’ve never heard of her – I’ve not even heard of the book actually. LOL. I think there is a BIG difference between saying “I wrote a book” and having your name on it only, and saying “I have the characters and the story” and someone else writes it. BIG difference. Even Tom Clancy has the “real” author on his books now even if his name is in bigger type on them. I have a real problem with “celebrity” books – ones where the book is written by someone else, but they put the “celebrity’s” name on it, as if they were the sole author (Naomi Campbell, I’m looking at you). I firmly believe ghostwritten books should have both author’s names on it. I doubt very much that she has “outsold JK” – it may have outsold the INITIAL printing of JK’s first book, but I doubt it will CONTINUE to outsell either JK’s first Harry Potter or the rest of the series. (Plus I’m pretty sure JK actually wrote her own book…without another author). And I’m also bias against the “media”. Headlines are deliberate hooks – so much reporting is speculation and outright lies masquerading as the “truth”. Which it’s not. Too many cases of “trial by media” in a lot of high profile criminal cases, and too many cases of the “media” flat out lying in newspapers/tv news shows. The media can destroy a person, because people believe without finding out for themselves the truth.

    Jaki recently posted: Current Pageturners #3
  20. I loved everything about this.
    I will say that I had (and still, to some extent) no knowledge of who this “author” was until a couple weeks ago. Good for the industry that books are selling, but I think that to put anyone in the same realm as J.K. Rowling is a little crazy. We mustn’t forget that J.K. Rowling’s sales numbers came at a time in which youtube was not as relevant (or even in existence). So as you said, this is quite ludicrous.

  21. It makes me sad to see such headlines. Because, y’know, JK Rowling wrote her book 😉

    I said it on your review post: I don’t like that it was ghostwritten, especially not since it’s all come out after the fact, which damages Zoe’s credibility I think. I like Zoe, her blogs are cute (but I don’t watch them all, I’d probably overdose on the cuteness) and I actually knew of her book before I even knew what Zoella was.

    Like I say, it just makes me sad. People are saying, “But it gets kids reading” as if that’s something to applaud Zoella for – yay, she invented books, did she?

    I just wish she had done a video bigging up her ghost-writer, or had her ghost-writers name on the cover, too. To peddle a book “The first by Zoella” when it’s actually by someone else is just so horrifically fake. I also just wish I didn’t care haha. I’ve already bought Girl Online, but unless she tries a bit of honesty before book 2, I am not buying that one!

    Leah recently posted: Coming Soon!
    1. Also, I feel like the whole “it gets kids reading” argument only actually works if the readers then continue to read more books. If they ONLY read Zoe’s book and never pick up another book… does that really mean something?


    What a load of bullshit. Not to mention, Jo was a struggling single mom who got rejected by loads of publishers before one finally agreed to publish The Sorcerer’s Stone. And even then, she was forced to reduce her first and middle names to initials, because publicists were afraid that sales of the book might be impacted if anyone found out it was a woman who had written it. I hope those article writers feel ashamed of themselves.

    Megan recently posted: Bromance is the Way to Go
  23. I agree about the headlines, it’s ridiculous and click bait. Even with 8,000 copies sold in the first week, she’s definitely not a household name and probably won’t be, if we’re honest. I’d never even heard of her, I heard of this book, I thought it sounded interesting, it was only after that, that I even found out she was a youtuber. It’s obvious that the only reason her book sold “so” many copies is because of all her youtube subscribers. Gah….

    I’ll overlook the ghostwriting, I just will if I want to read this book, which I do, but I recently found out about that too and needless to say, as a sort of (past) writer, I don’t like the ghost writing aspect. I don’t know though. I mean, I’ve heard she got advice/input/etc. from another writer, and I’ve heard that the publishers determine what the cover says, which is why it only has her name and ghostwriters don’t exactly “want” credit for it. Like I said, I don’t know. The whole thing is exhausting to think about.

  24. I picked up Girl Online because I was curious. I thought it was really good, I mean, it outsold Harry Potter! (but the headlines were just misleading)
    I did not know about Zoella before Girl Online and I think it would make sense that her book will sell thousands if she had millions of fans. I am reading Girl Online right now, I think I’m about 70 percent through it. I am deeply disappointed because the story doesn’t have substance, at all! Penny and Noah knows each other for only two days and then boom they are in love. UGH!
    Such a shame, really, because Girl Online has some relevance in real life, like the effect of social media and blogging to people, but the writing was just bad. Tsk tsk, such a shame.

    Farzy @ Books Keep Me Sane recently posted: Top Ten Tuesday #22: New-To-Me Authors of 2014
    1. Yeah, you’re right, the book has very little substance and is riddled with clichés that any frequent YA reader would probably roll their eyes at (insta-love being a big one).

      I originally wanted to read the book not because of Zoella, but because it was about blogging. But even the blogging bits were dull.

  25. I agree. I’ve been seeing all these articles about Zoella (I’ve never even heard of her before all this) and I simply don’t think this Zoella can even be compared with J.K. Rowling. You said it – Zoella already had millions of fans before she ‘wrote a book’ and those are most probably the same fans who bought the book. And I agree with Berls above. I think it’s embarrassing for her to be compared with Rowling. Harry Potter will live on forever and Zoella and her whatever book do not even begin to compare AT ALL. I’ve never read her book though and I don’t think I will haha.

  26. You did write the post! I just went and ranted on Goodreads, and all the people who’ve commented so far makes me so happy. Like, I just feel so happy that there are people who sees that this is just all bullshit. I’m also glad I wrote it, because I really let off steam doing so.

    Shannelle C. recently posted: My New Love for Podcasts
  27. This is the best thing iv read recently about the zoella’s new book , i completely agree with this she has gained millions of followers and then wrote a book , of course it’s going to sell out well during the first week, you would expect that of someone with that many followers, but what disappoints me is zoella’s new book was ghost written. yeah the stories were hers but she didn’t put as much effort in as J.K.Rowling , who has written all the harry potter books. I find its just a shame that they have compared it to someone that is not even on the same level as zoella, not even in the slightest !

  28. No offense, but J.K. Rowling needs no one to come to her aid, and frankly I for one am sick and tired of every childrens adventure novel being compared to Harry Potter as if it sets some sort of standard.
    Theres plenty of great childrens fiction about magic and mythology or folkore that have nothing to do with Harry Potter.
    And yes there are actually writers out there who can write better than Rowling. Its just for some reason Harry Potter caught on and became so popular in the 90s when was a gap in creative literature and nothing else as new or exciting was being released at the time.
    But yeah. Shes had her time in the spot light. Its time to step aside and give other up and coming writers an opportunity to shine.

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