I’ve made several Tumblrs that collected ill-considered selfies. They got around; one of them, Selfies At Funerals, made Tumblr’s “most viral” list in 2013. Friends asked, half-jokingly, when my book deal was coming–and truth be told, I was surprised nobody made me an offer. Judging by Tumblrs-turned-books like Shit Rough Drafts and Feminist Ryan Gosling, it seemed like hungry agents spent their days scouring Tumblr for their next payday.
But now Kim Kardashian has explained the deafening silence to me: Unless you’re Kim Kardashian, your book about selfies is destined to fail.
The publisher Rizzoli has just announced Kardashian’s new book, Selfish, a $20 collection of selfies you can already see for free on her Instagram–along with a few “never-before-seen personal images” that will look exactly like the ones you’ve already seen. Maybe it won’t sell. It probably will, though, because Kim knows how to sell stuff. And Rizzoli claims she’s “widely regarded as a trailblazer of the ‘selfie movement,’” which is totally true if you also believe that selfies are a movement. The revolution will not be televised, because it’ll be on Instagram!
But the world’s (mostly digital) bookshelves are already stuffed with many other books about selfies, books that are… decidedly less promising. There are collections of funny selfies for people who don’t know this stuff is free on BuzzFeed. A lot of erotica with “selfie” in the title. Self-published fiction. Children’s books. And a surprising number of instructional manuals on how to take selfies, which I guess you can read after you’ve finished The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Breathing.
A sample: The book Selfie Secrets: How to Shoot Like A Pro is fronted by an image of a woman not taking a selfie, and contains important tips like “Have you recently lost weight? That can be a driving force behind taking selfies!” and “It isn’t necessary for your full body to be in every single selfie.” It has four positive Amazon reviews, from, uh, the author’s friends? One of them: “I had been disappointed with my selfies and given up trying. This brought many little things out so now I am going to keep trying the many sugestion (sic) list in this great little book.”
Keep at it, you poor thing!
The conclusion is clear: Books about selfies are mostly written to make money off the word “selfie,” not to provide value to people who buy books. But then, that’s about the only thing a selfie in a book can do. Selfies in books are like tweets reprinted in magazines, a digitally native form that just doesn’t make sense in a different context. So let us thank the agents of the world, who didn’t even try talking me into writing a “Selfies at Funerals” book. My deflated finances are best for us all. That’s one less book to ignore.
Kim, the selfie book genre is all yours.