The Beginning of the End: Jake Paul’s ‘You Gotta Want It’ and the YouTuber Book Phenomenon
‘Jake, do you want this? There are a ton of people who want this. You gotta want it.’Alex Shakarchian, Jake Paul’s managerJake Paul, You Gotta Want It (London: Simon & Schuster, 2016), p.166. I’ll put page references in the text for any other quotes.
Welcome to 2021 – the year following 2020, the year that started in UK lockdown, the year of hockey, and the year that Jay starts reading YouTuber books in order to answer the age-old question: why do YouTubers keep getting book deals?
I’ve been ingesting a lot of content from commentary YouTubers recently, and after seeing some of the videos that try to explain the strange world of YouTuber literature, I decided to take the plunge myself and order a copy of Jake Paul’s You Gotta Want It (2016). I took one look at the big image of Jake on the book jacket – because you’d better believe this book is a hardback – and thought, yes, this is the perfect way to start a year. After placing my order from a secondhand site, I waited impatiently to start my journey, watching for the post every morning, until the fateful day of its arrival.
Upon opening my parcel, I immediately realised what I was getting myself into. This book is around 220 pages long, and has one of those glossy, rubbery photo-page middles, reminiscent of the film-to-novel publications of the 00s (Pirates of the Carribean 2: the book, for example). I must say, off the bat this book was a cursed object. The previous owner, if I had to guess, was much younger than myself, and this is not a surprise. What was a surprise was opening up the photo-pages of this book to find small hearts drawn in pencil across every photo of Jake Paul. This, while being cursed to the core, also makes me feel a little unwell.
The association with the Paul brothers and a younger audience is pretty much universal – from the content they produce, to Jake’s casting in the Disney channel show Bizaardvark, to the swaths of teenagers that have lined up outside of Jake’s house to try and meet the man.Taylor Lorenz, Meet the teens and parents who spend hours standing in the hot sun outside Jake Paul’s house (2017) … Continue reading The footage of Team 10 tours has audiences made up of screaming tweens and tired parents, and if you take a look at the Goodreads page for this book, You Gotta Want It has a handful of reviews that were clearly written by schoolchildren for a class book report assignment. I would highly recommend reading them.
However, I can’t say the same for the book itself, and that’s what I’m here to talk about. The blurb for this book describes it as an ‘extremely positive, motivational, and often laugh-out-loud memoir’, ‘with signature humour, honesty, and unstoppable attitude that ha[s] won him millions of devoted followers.’ Now, it’s impossible to deny Jake Paul’s follower count – as of writing this, Jake’s YouTube channel stands at 20.3M subscribers – but I can definitely debate the rest of these descriptors.
While I did laugh while reading this book – out-loud even, at times – I get the feeling that I wasn’t laughing with Jake Paul, and I’m not really sure I was laughing at him either. For example, this part really got me:
‘Once, when I was on a tour, several fans asked me to describe my worst day of high school, and I flippantly said, “Every day was the worst,” which played well to that crowd. But it was an exaggeration. Every day wasn’t the worst.’Jake Paul, ‘You Gotta Want It’, p.62.
This isn’t a joke, but it is funny.
But what really irked me about this blurb, and the book itself, is Jake Paul’s branding as this sort of motivational figure, this inspirational, ‘normal guy’ who made it big and wants to help you, dear audience, make it big too. This is his supposed foundation for creating Team 10, the infamous group of influencers that, if you’ve heard of them, you’ve probably heard of them in a bad way. In an article by Seventeen, which is basically just a huge list of Jake Paul’s controversies, they mention a news story from 2017 in which the neighbours of the Team 10 house have complained about the ‘crazy antics’ coming from the influencers, including Jake Paul ‘setting a ton of furniture on fire in an empty swimming pool.’Noelle Devoe and Tamara Fuentes, A Complete Timeline of Jake Paul’s Biggest Controversies (2020) <https://www.seventeen.com/celebrity/a12047947/timeline-of-jake-paul-controversy/> … Continue reading Team 10 has gained a bit of reputation for itself since its conception, and You Gotta Want It contains some of the process of Jake building the team.
In a chapter entitled ‘Why Don’t You Be Like Dr. Dre?’, Jake is beginning to imagine a business venture, in which ‘a team of collaborators’ could come together to boost each other’s follower count – ‘the bigger the team got, the easier it would be to make someone big.’ (p.174) This is Jake’s blueprint for Team 10, and the chapters after describe his signing of Alissa Violet, the first member of the house. Throughout his meetings with various Team 10 members, Jake is pushing the idea that he wants to help them follow their dreams, and notes that once Team 10 had started, ‘it turned into something more than just amassing followers. It was personal.’ (p.191) And while the friendships made along the way might be just as important, Jake is still running a business here, and thus begins my short info-dump about Team 1000.
Former Viner-turned-YouTuber Drew Gooden made a video about this that explores it in-depth, but essentially Team 1000 was another venture from Jake that sold membership to an exclusive series of lessons that would help you, aspiring influencer, learn from the expert tips and tricks to make it big – so it really was just Team 10 but for a price, and you don’t get to live in a big house. Having seen some footage from the now unavailable Team 1000 site (you should watch Drew’s video here), Jake’s advice echoes the motivational speaking in You Gotta Want It – mostly blanket statements that don’t really offer all that much. The thing is, it’s quite hard to predict whether or not you’ll make it in the world of social media influencing, and to throw pages into your book with statements like, ‘Don’t complain. Just get it done,’ (p.193) or ‘Wake up. No. Really. Wake up! Now, go do it,’ (p.99) feels like the motivational equivalent of someone telling you to ‘just stop feeling sad’ when you’re depressed.
And here’s the thing: I’m not saying that Jake Paul should have the answers to ‘how to be a successful influencer.’ There really isn’t one answer to that, and no one really knows. But between Team 10, Team 1000, and the text of You Gotta Want It, it seems that Jake Paul’s brand is a motivational coach for people that want to be just like him. And when your audience is essentially children, and they’re watching you set fire to a load of stuff, I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.
Overall, this book was not as bad as I thought it would be. Jake’s recounting of the early days of Vine and his rise on the platform was genuinely quite interesting, and made me a little nostalgic for the days of Vine. But it’s not a book that will change your life, and it’s not a book that will change Jake Paul’s life. It’s just a book that exists, and if you read it you’ll read it, put it back on the shelf, and maybe never think about it again.
|Jake Paul, You Gotta Want It (London: Simon & Schuster, 2016), p.166. I’ll put page references in the text for any other quotes.
|Taylor Lorenz, Meet the teens and parents who spend hours standing in the hot sun outside Jake Paul’s house (2017) <https://www.mic.com/articles/183081/meet-the-teens-and-parents-who-spend-hours-standing-in-the-hot-sun-outside-jake-pauls-house#.eZbeKdGTa> [accessed 25 January 2021].
|Noelle Devoe and Tamara Fuentes, A Complete Timeline of Jake Paul’s Biggest Controversies (2020) <https://www.seventeen.com/celebrity/a12047947/timeline-of-jake-paul-controversy/> [accessed 25 January 2021].