WATCH | How does a Waffle House waitress score a major movie deal? Two words: Self publish.
How does a writer score a major movie deal without a single connection in Hollywood? Anna Todd can tell you how.
Todd is the author of the steamy ebook, "After," a love story akin to "Fifty Shades of Grey," minus all the S&M stuff. “I didn’t even know what the heck I was doing, honestly. I just was writing for fun. And then it all just kind of stumbled into my lap," she told Circa.
Using Wattpad, a social publishing platform, she racked up a billion reads in just a few months.
Her book is now on the New York Times best-seller list and her following across social media has ballooned -- and it all started with one post on Wattpad.
"I was working as a waitress. I was babysitting people's kids, I was working at Ulta," she said. "I just wrote for fun."
Based on One Direction member Harry Styles, Todd's sizzling fan-fiction series was picked up by Simon and Schuster.
And then, it was optioned by Paramount for the silver screen.
The flick is set to star actors Daniel Sharman and Indiana Evans.
Todd said what worked for her on Wattpad was being able to connect with readers. "I was responding to the readers’ comments. I was engaging with them throughout the entire story," she said.
In the decade since its launch, Wattpad has come a long way -- as has the publishing world. The Canadian company, which says it reaches 45 million people each month, brings writers and readers into a social network where they engage and give real-time feedback on posts.
Wattpad members have published over 300 million stories.
Todd leveraged the fast-changing self-publishing world much like E.L. James did with "Fifty Shades of Grey," which started as a self-published ebook.
Besides the "After" series, Todd has also penned the "Landon" series and is working on a modern day version of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women."
Today, Todd has 1.2 million followers on Wattpad, which, not surprisingly caught Hollywood's eye.
"It doesn't really work, in my opinion, unless you actually care about the story," she said.
Now, publishers and studios are vying to turn Wattpad's slate of insanely popular fan-fiction into novels and shows.
Wattpad says it doesn't have figures on how many members have gotten movie or book deals, but most recently Sourcebooks scooped up the rights to publish Wattpad's most-read story of 2016 at nearly 130 million reads, "Chasing Red" by Isabelle Ronin.
It's clear the technology is shaking up entertainment.
For her part, Todd says success isn't just in a good story, but in creating something binge-worthy.
"[Readers] want to feel like it's kind of a TV show. They want to come back and read a chapter and get sucked back in the story," she said, adding that the other trick is to not be afraid to self-publish.
"You just have to write to be a writer."