Industry Notes: Canada’s Kids Can Press to Adapt YouTube ‘Carmilla’ Series into YA Book

In News by Porter Anderson

Following the cult success on YouTube of the vlog-series ‘Carmilla,’ a book deal has been struck between Toronto’s Kids Can Press and Shaftesbury films.

Screenshot from the YouTube series “Carmilla”

In a statement from the Los Angeles presentation of her company’s new YA imprint’s list, Kids Can Press‘ chief Lisa Lyons Johnston has announced optioning world publishing rights to Shaftesbury film productions’ digital series Carmilla.

Carmillawhich is seen on the YouTube channel KindaTV–is based on Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu’s (1814-1873) novella of the same title published as one of a collection of short stories, In a Glass Darkly, in 1872. It’s a vampire story that predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

And this is an interesting case of a cinematic product–an online series, at that–preceding its book development. The three-season series’ accolades have included the Streamy Awards, the Webby Awards, the Shorty Awards, and the Canadian Screen Awards, including a 2017 Fan’s Choice Award for Negovanlis.

The video interpretation produced by Smokebomb Entertainment, Shaftesbury’s digital studio, updates the tale to a modern Austrian college dorm room setting and is told as a narrative series of vlog episodes, just as a college student might be expected to deliver her story today. The series, which consists of very short episodes of some three to seven minutes’ duration, has made online celebrities of its stars Elise Bauman (Laura Hollis) and Natasha Negovanlis (Carmilla Karnstein).

Kids Can Press, which calls its YA imprint KCP Loft, reports that the series has been seen in 193 countries and translated by fans into more than 20 languages, drawing more than 69 million views since it was introduced in 2014.

A feature film is anticipated for a fall release this year from director Paul Wiffen.

Christina Jennings

In a prepared statement, Shaftesbury chair and CEO Christina Jennings is quoted, saying that the partnership with Kids Can Press will “expand the world of Carmilla and offer fans of the series and the soon-to-be-released feature film another opportunity to engage with characters who mean so much to them.

“Over the past three years, we have seen the audience of Carmilla grow at an exponential rate and become an international phenomenon…We are very excited to continue to branch out and build up this brand.”

Lisa Lyons Johnston

And speaking for Kids Can Press and it’s KCP Loft imprint, Johnston calls the move “a notable acquisition for KCP Loft.

“We introduced the YA imprint with the intention of seeking out content from both traditional publishing marketplaces as well as from innovative, emerging platforms.

“We are proud to partner with Shaftesbury to transform Carmilla into a hotly anticipated bestselling novel for the legions of fans around the world that this original web series has attracted.”

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.