What do you get when you blend the equally passionate communities of booktubers (a still-growing and ever-more influential community within YouTube where users enthusiastically vlog about all-things-book) and YA authors for a project? In Bloomsbury’s case, the answer is a new short-story anthology called Because You Love to Hate Me, which contains collaborations from 13 bestselling authors and 13 influential booktubers. Cindy Loh, v-p and U.S. publisher of Bloomsbury Children’s Books, has just acquired world rights to the collection, in an auction held by Joanna Volpe of New Leaf Literary & Media. Ameriie, the Grammy-nominated singer, writer, and major YouTube presence, conceived the idea and will edit the book, due out in July 2017.
In the volume, each booktuber will provide a writing prompt for a YA author to create a story from the point of view of a famous villain. “Each booktuber has a short essay, too, about how they feel about good and evil,” Ameriie told PW. “We see more morally ambiguous storylines everywhere now,” she added. “In real life no one is entirely good or entirely evil.”
Ameriie’s inspiration for the project was the culmination of some long-brewing ideas. On her YouTube channel, she said, “probably 80–85% of it is geeking out over books.” That wasn’t always the case. The vlogger had been known for her music, beauty, and style posts, but she began exploring other avenues several years ago, based on her interests. In 2012 she discovered the book blogosphere and “YouTube channels I had never watched before, where people were talking about books,” she recalled. As a voracious reader, she longed to have an outlet to talk books. “I saw the booktube community growing. People with channels are so passionate about reading and sharing the love – it’s a great way to get people excited about books. The digital world is becoming a lot larger, and people are just inhaling content.” She began posting videos gushing about what she’s read, what she wants to read, and what she recommends, among other things.
“It was an unexpected and inevitable thing,” Ameriie said, that her love of books, reading, and writing would somehow turn into a book. After the initial spark of the idea, she settled on a theme. “I have always had this love affair with the villainous characters, from Roald Dahl books to cartoons,” she said. “I used to think, doesn’t Matilda know these adults have had a tough time? We should feel bad for them!” she said with a laugh. “I don’t see the world in black and white. I love the grays. Villains are often very pragmatic and they do things the heroes aren’t willing to do, or can’t do because they will get their hands dirty.” With these new stories, she hopes readers will “look at villains in a different light. They are very complex. They are not less villainous, but there is often a truth there that we don’t want to acknowledge.”
When she set about selecting the booktuber contributors, Ameriie said that “it was not just about numbers of subscribers, or who’s more popular. I wanted a wide spectrum of perspectives and people with a great amount of engagement and different tastes.” As for choosing authors, she admitted, “I asked some of my favorites. I didn’t know some of them and wanted to contact them without being the crazy person on Twitter.” But she said it all turned out and in the end it was great to be “communicating artist to artist.” Renée Ahdieh, Ameriie, Soman Chainani, Susan Dennard, Sarah Enni, Marissa Meyer, Cindy Pon, Victoria Schwab, Samantha Shannon, Adam Silvera, Andrew Smith, April Genevieve Tucholke, and Nicola Yoon make up the final list of authors.
According to Ameriie, all the stories have been completed, though she can’t yet share any details. “It’s top secret right now,” she said. “We’re planning some fun reveals later: which booktuber was paired with which author, what inspired the prompts, their perspectives on villains in general.” She’s excited to be working with the team at Bloomsbury as the book takes shape. “We have some great things up our sleeves,” Ameriie added. “Bloomsbury is definitely ahead of the curve and they have come up with some great marketing ideas already. At the end of the day I know it’s a business, but everyone involved loves books and loves stories. You can feel the passion and enthusiasm. And it’s a happy project. It feels like a celebration.”