October 23, 2018

Wattpad Wants To Be Your Literary Agent

“It took a less than an hour in 2013 for Anna Todd to change her life. The Army wife and part-time babysitter had spent a lot of time reading fan fiction, stories by amateur writers about existing fictional universes and real-life celebrities. So her erotic tale about Tessa and Hardin—a wholesome college freshman and a tattooed bad boy who is a thinly veiled stand-in for singer Harry Styles—came together quickly when she sat down to type the first chapter of After on her phone. Todd posted it to Wattpad, one of the world’s largest destinations for online reading and writing.

After has since been read more than 1.5 billion times on Wattpad. It’s now a bestselling book series, with 11 million copies sold after Wattpad brokered a mid-six-figure deal for Todd with Simon & Schuster. She fully credits Wattpad with getting her in the door. “If I had sent After to any publisher, there’s no way they would have even read it,” says Todd, 29. Wattpad got paid for its work, taking an estimated 15% of Todd’s book earnings–about what a typical literary agent would charge—and it’s also a co-producer of the After movie that began production in June. The lucrative evolution from Wattpad post to mainstream book to Hollywood movie is precisely what Wattpad wants to see more of.

“We had built the audience for the writers, the platform for them to share their stories,” says Wattpad cofounder Allen Lau, 50. “But we did have the idea, ‘Hey, we have millions of stories already. Perhaps we can expand that.’”

Canadian engineers Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen were inspired by their love for reading to found Wattpad, the largest writing platform outside of China, where Tencent’s China Literature reigns supreme.

Wattpad’s 65 million active users (most of them women under 30) spend 383 million hours a month on its site and its mobile apps, reading pieces like “Brave,” a yarn about the Harry Potter character Neville Longbottom, and “Taking Selfies and Overthrowing the Patriarchy With Kim Kardashian.”

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