Anna Todd: From fan fiction to six-figure book deal


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Just over a year ago, Anna Todd started writing erotic fan fiction about Harry Styles, a member of the popular boy band One Direction, on Wattpad, a social reading platform. On Wattpad, writers can put their work up, and readers can comment on it, like it and share it. Since posting her first piece, Todd has racked up more than one billion views - the most in Wattpad history. Publisher Simon & Schuster snatched up the publishing rights and gave Todd a six figure advance. Todd has also sold the film rights to Paramount Pictures and comparisons are being made to that other self-published fan-fiction-turned-cultural phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey. The series is called After and is still available to read on Wattpad. It will, however, be published as a trilogy, with the first two parts out in bookstores now.

Todd was on CBC Radio's Q to talk about her meteoric rise to fan fiction fame. Listen to her conversation with Tom Power below:

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On sharing her writing chapter by chapter: "Having someone call you out on things, it's like having a lot of different editors at one time. So you get the good and you get the bad. Writing socially and having people giving me immediate feedback helped me be a better writer."

On keeping her readers guessing: "I like to have big plot twists, but I would like to drop little hints, and usually they wouldn't notice. But sometimes they would notice too soon. I wasn't ready for them to notice, so I would throw in something else just to make them think they were imagining it."

On being compared to Fifty Shades of Grey: "There are sexual scenes, which I enjoy writing and enjoy reading, but it's a different story. Being mentioned with Fifty Shades of Grey is not an insult in any way. I love Fifty Shades of Grey. It's cool to hear the comparison."

On transitioning from fan fiction to working with a traditional publisher: "It's a lot different. There was no structure in the Wattpad version. Writing every day, you can talk about stuff that doesn't necessarily go in a structured story. There are things in serialized writing you can expand that won't necessarily have a point to them when it comes to the actual published book. And my grammar improved. When I was posting in Wattpad, I wasn't editing it, it was just fun for me. "

On keeping the original story on Wattpad: "It was really important to me. I didn't set out to have a published book and my readers and their comments and their support of me, all the billion clicks that the stories have gotten is a huge part of it and I felt like my readers have an ownership in it too. It's a thing they share with me, and taking it away from them to have more book sales didn't sit well with me."

On the future of publishing: "There's always been this fourth wall between writing and reading, and between authors and their readers. If we can break down that wall, readers can feel connected to you. It's been amazing to have all these readers who are dedicated not only to my story, but to me."