By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
‘That Built-In Audience’
On the first day of the Frankfurter Buchmesse, Wattpad Studios deputy manager for publishing Ashleigh Gardner told Publishing Perspectives that Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial had bought the Spanish-language rights to A través de mi ventana (Through My Window, in an English edition).
Written by Ariana Godoy, who’s known as @cold_lady19 on Wattpad, the book is listed as having more than 55 million reads and was the winner of a Watty, the big platform’s award, in 2016. So popular is the piece that Wattpad readers have contributed book trailers for the title, many of which seem to owe a lot to Calvin Klein and Abercrombie & Fitch imagery.
Grupo Editorial’s acquisition editors are presumably impressed, as many buying publishers are, with the kind of numbers a Wattpad author can rack up, and the idea of more than 50 million fans of a work of YA romance getting excited about buying their favorite story as a book, risk mitigation for publishers.
Today (October 23), Wattpad readers have begun voting for one of three filmmaking teams who would like to develop Expiration Date by Mikaela Bender into a network television series.
Each of the three production teams has created a trailer, and you can watch them on SYFY’s site here. Voting ends–maybe a bit ironically–by November 6 (on which date Americans will be casting their votes in the midterm elections).
The three suitably melodramatic trailers chosen for competition are titled:
- Bring Them Down by filmmakers Katie Anne Moy and Tancredi di Paola
- Resistance by Kristen Brancaccio, an HBO Project Greenlight finalist
- Expiration Night by Richard Wyndham and Otis Patridge
The filmmaker(s) behind one of these trailers will then adapt Bender’s science-fiction thriller, which has mild Logan’s Run echoes, set as it is in a world in which an outfit called The Society determines—and tattoos on one’s arm—the date on which each person is to die.
“Publishers need to pay more attention to readers. And trying to get closer to readers.”Ashleigh Gardner
Tongal is set up almost as a screen-production parallel to Wattapd. It develops young and/or non-aligned producers and developers, connecting them to professional studios for video and digital platforms.
Much better known, SYFY is the latest iteration (formerly branded as the Sci-Fi Channel) of Comcast subsidiary NBCUniversal’s science fiction network. Often given more to horror than science-fiction, it has nevertheless become a longstanding fixture on the cable television dial, reportedly available to more than 90 million US households.
For publishers, the marketing interest here is Wattpad’s 65 million active users monthly—and its US$117 million in investments from parties as diverse as China’s Tencent and San Francisco’s August Capital.
Now on Hulu: Wattpad’s ‘Light as a Feather’
As Publishing Perspectives reported at Frankfurt in our Show Daily, on October 12, US-based entertainment network Hulu launched its new production of Light as a Feather that day, based on the wildly popular Wattpad story by Zoe Aarsen.
The new series stars Ajiona Alexus, Liana Liberato, Peyton List, Jordan Rodrigues, and Dykland Sprayberry, and its showrunner and creator is R. Lee Fleming Jr. of The Lying Game. In Light as a Feather, a group of teen girls deal with “supernatural fallout” when an innocent game called “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board” is followed by a series of deaths. (Would Agatha Christie have loved Wattpad, or what?)
Currently with more than 3 million reads on Wattpad, Aarsen’s tale was released on October 9 as a book by Simon & Schuster. It’s the latest of the Wattpad stories to go to a Big Five publisher. Light as a Feather is, in fact, a series on Wattpad with three volumes—and a stunning 5.7 million reads for the trilogy. Wattpad’s Toronto offices tell us that Aarsen’s story is so big on the platform that it’s been read in some of the most diverse regions of its coverage including India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nigeria, the Philippines, and more, with a total of nearly 1.5 billion minutes (yes, billion) spent reading the text.
Simon & Schuster was among the first major houses to see the potential of what Wattpad’s writers were creating. That’s the house which gave Wattpad star Anna Todd her start with the blockbuster After series. The film adaptation is set to come out in 2019 from director Jenny Gage.
When we asked Gardner whether a wider range of publishers is beginning to show interest in working with Wattpad, she said, “It differs from country to country and publisher to publisher. Wen they do get it, it’s because they see that built-in audience loving a story. There’s much less risk in bringing a story to market that has a million readers already [as opposed to bringing out] a debut on the hunch of one editor.”
If Gardner had a chance, we asked her, what would she say to publishers gathered in Frankfurt for the 2018 fair?
“I’d tell them,” she said, “that entertainment is in a period of disruption. And how people find and experience stories is evolving. And I think publishers need to pay more attention to readers. And trying to get closer to readers.”
You can review our coverage from the 2018 Frankfurter Buchmesse with free downloads of our Publishing Perspective Show Daily magazines.