Spotlight On

Anna Todd

Anna Todd discusses how her love for fanfiction spurred her on to being an internationally bestselling author who now has a book scheduled to release as a movie in 2019.

She also shares how she got her start posting her books on Wattpad, the need to create when what you want to read doesn’t exist, the importance of global sales, and the surprising developments in her characters and plot from book to big screen. You can find Anna at and start your own publishing journey with IngramSpark today.


Justine Bylo [00:00:08] Welcome to Go Publish Yourself. These are the Author Spotlights. I'm Justine Bylo, the Author Acquisitions Manager for IngramSpark. Alright everyone, I'm very excited about the guest we have for you today. We are joined by the absolutely fabulous and wonderful Anna Todd. Anna is the New York Times and number one internationally bestselling author of the After series. Hailed by Cosmopolitan as the biggest literary phenomenon of her generation, Anna began her literary career on the social storytelling platform Wattpad. Serialized on Wattpad in 2013, After has over 1.5 billion reads on the site. The print edition, published in 2014 by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, has over 15 million copies in circulation and has been published in over 30 languages. A film by the same name is in the making and is due to release in 2019. Wow, oh my gosh, welcome Anna. It's so great to have you!

Anna Todd [00:01:15] Thank you.

Justine Bylo [00:01:18] This is so exciting. Congratulations on the movie. So many fun things have been happening there.

Anna Todd [00:01:26] Yes, I'm so excited and so busy, busy, but it's so cool.

Justine Bylo [00:01:32] Yes, oh my gosh, yeah. Your life is so crazy busy these days. It just seems awesome. So, we have to start at the beginning, right? Like all good stories. This all began with the love for a boy band. Is that right?

Anna Todd [00:01:49] Yes. I pretty much had always been reading, but I never ever considered writing. It just seemed so out of…people from Dayton, Ohio, without college educations don't just write. So, I actually reconsidered it and I started reading fanfiction. I've always been reading fanfiction, like Twilight, but there is a ton of One Direction fanfiction. Tons, thousands.

Justine Bylo [00:02:17] That's crazy, I had no clue, because I myself love some good Harry Potter fanfic. Love it. But One Direction, that's so niche!

Anna Todd [00:02:28] It's very. I found it through a picture on Instagram my cousin sent me. It was part of an Imagine, which is what made me start reading One Direction fanfiction and made me think about writing my own. But I really honestly just, I wish I could say I had been trying to write since I was a child, but that's honestly not at all what happened. I'd been reading my whole life and I'd been, I always liked to write in school, but I never went out of my way to think I could ever be an author. I just felt like I ran out of stories on Wattpad, which is insane because there's millions of stories, but I just couldn't find anything to read and I only wanted to read One Direction fanfiction. I didn't want to read any published books. I didn't want to read any indie books. I didn't want to read any books whatsoever. I only wanted to read about Harry Styles. Then I ran out of them and I could write my own, I guess, and I didn't think anyone was going to read it. I thought it was just going to be a little thing that I did for that day, and then the first chapter and it was this crazy. There was this rush and this excitement even though no one was reading it. But it was just so fun to write it.

Justine Bylo [00:03:43] You totally created this phenomenon out of necessity because you wanted more fanfiction. That's crazy. I love that, I love that. It's kind of how I feel about romance novels. I want more of this kind of romance novel, and so, I guess I just have to write it.

Anna Todd [00:04:03] Exactly.

Justine Bylo [00:04:05] When you found Wattpad, did you have any inkling about how this was going to change the course of your life completely and thoroughly?

Anna Todd [00:04:15] No, honestly. I was reading one of these girl's fanfictions on Instagram and she said, "I'm going to put it on Wattpad." and I was like, "What in the world is that?" I was so not into social media. I only had a Twitter because I wanted to follow Twilight news. I was not…I did not want any more apps. I do not want another app. But I downloaded it. I'd never heard of it before. I never knew that there were millions of people writing stories just for fun and it blew my mind. The depth of fanfiction on Wattpad at that time especially, it kept me busy for a while.

Justine Bylo [00:04:57] Oh, totally.

Anna Todd [00:04:58] I could barely even navigate the site. I would get confused when I would post a chapter and then I would write a comment to someone and it wouldn't work. I didn't know. I used to submit tickets to their tech people, "I don't know how to do this, will you help me with it?" It's so funny now to think of those days, waiting for them to respond to me.

Justine Bylo [00:05:20] That's great. Probably those tech people are like, "You know, I used to talk to Anna Todd all the time." That's fantastic. For our listeners out there, if you don't know what Wattpad is, it is pretty much like a storytelling platform where you can post chapters and people can comment on them. It's a pretty cool thing. It's a great way to crowdsource your work in a way and get feedback in real time. It's pretty neat, so go check it out. We're talking about this platform and I realized, people might not know what it is. After, it just kind of spiraled and turned into books and you sold all these books. Now, it's being turned into a movie, which is just the dream for an author. How has the process been for you so far?

Anna Todd [00:06:21] It's been really incredible, honestly. It’s been a long…well not really long…I had the rights with Paramount for two and a half years. When I first signed my first, this is going to sound ridiculous, my first movie deal, but when I first signed my first movie deal, I had no idea about anything. I didn't have any clue what any legal terminology meant. I can't believe that anyone would even want this. So, with the first deal, I honestly didn't have any control whatsoever, zero. I was lucky they were even considering my stuff. I thought the moment you got a movie deal, you're going to be picking out if you want Liam Hemsworth or Chris Hemsworth in your movie the next week, but it's not what the process is. Then after a few years, I was like, "Wait a second…what are we doing?" I started learning more, I moved to LA, I started learning more about the film industry. I feel like we should try to take it back from Paramount. And we did. They were great about it. They were great, they just weren't… no one really is making movies for women right now.

Justine Bylo [00:07:31] That's a big move.

Anna Todd [00:07:33] Yeah! If we had a smaller studio that we could have more control, make sure it's the right kind of movie, content for women that's what we actually want. I found that and it's been a really great process. I've been very involved in the casting. I've been in the cast meetings, I've seen people read, I've watched all the tapes.

Justine Bylo [00:07:57] Oh, that's so cool.

Anna Todd [00:07:59] Almost every meeting, except for things that are none of my business, but all the creative stuff. They've been so amazing with it. We found our leads a while ago, and it's driven me crazy not to be able to talk about it.

Justine Bylo [00:08:15] That's right. That's such a big secret to keep from all your fans and everything.

Anna Todd [00:08:20] It drove me crazy. We finally announced last week, and it's just amazing. I cannot wait. We had another casting read yesterday, and it's just crazy watching people audition for my movie. It's so great.

Justine Bylo [00:08:37] It must be so crazy to see these characters that you've had in your head for so long, all of a sudden come to life in front of you and be manifested in actors. That's got to be the trippiest thing ever.

Anna Todd [00:08:55] It is so trippy, and it's even more trippy because the people who end up being my favorites for every role so far, literally every one of them looks nothing like what I thought they would.

Justine Bylo [00:09:07] Really?

Anna Todd [00:09:08] None of them ever. It's not about the way they look. They always bring in actors who look exactly like the roles, but there's always these wildcards in there. At first when I look at the page, because they give you a page with everyone's picture, I’m like, "What are some of these people doing on here? This person makes no sense." Then they audition and I'm like, it happened to me yesterday where one of the people, I was like, "What in the world? This guy doesn't look like anyone in my story at all.", And then he came in and he was the find of the day. I'm obsessed with this guy. He had more in common with the character, even though he looked completely different. He felt like the character more than anyone else. It's such a strange process.

Justine Bylo [00:09:48] Totally! Would you say that you can't judge a book by its cover then? To have a book pun.

Anna Todd [00:09:56] Totally.

Justine Bylo [00:09:57] That's so crazy. This world is going to come to life on the screen for you too. That's also got to be a crazy notion. How do you grapple with that as an author? This is your baby.

Anna Todd [00:10:16] I know. It's been up and down. Sometimes I'm like, "This movie is going to be exactly like the book." Which is never, ever what happens. But the more my movie becomes something separate, I mean it's not really separate because I'm involved in every step, but it feels like its own thing, but also feels like the book. I don't know…it's so hard to explain. There's sometimes where someone has an idea, "Hardin should do this or Hardin likes this" And it's like, "Nope, that's so not ever happening." Then, there's other moments where the director will say, "What do you think about moving this scene up here or moving this?" Actually, that is what I should have done. I'm so happy with the process. I think it's always good to remind my readers it's not going to be the same, no matter what. If it's too close, then it won't translate well because in the book, you have inner dialogue, you have pages and pages of it, and in the movie we have 45 seconds to portray what I had 10 pages to do.

Justine Bylo [00:11:24] Exactly, and it becomes its own living, breathing piece of art that is totally separate from the book at that point. It becomes its own entity, and that's what's crazy about the process, the adaptation process.

Anna Todd [00:11:42] It is. I was so worried about the cast, and if they didn't like her hair color and all these things. I started thinking, wait a second, most of the people that are going to watch this probably have never even heard of me. They have no idea. It's such a weird part, I think. I don't think I can grasp that just yet.

Justine Bylo [00:12:02] Yeah. That's so crazy. I think as the process progresses it's going to be even weirder. But more people will get to know you and get to know your books, which is great because they're awesome. Speaking of books, you have a new one coming out. Can we talk about it? The Brightest Stars.

Anna Todd [00:12:23] Totally.

Justine Bylo [00:12:24] This one's really exciting. You've decided to go indie with it, which is so fun. What made you take that leap?

Anna Todd [00:12:35] I think just wanting to step out of the box and try new things. I loved having Simon and Schuster. My editor at Gallery was amazing, and I couldn't have done any of the craziness that happened in the last couple of years without him.

Justine Bylo [00:12:50] Totally.

Anna Todd [00:12:51] I felt like I just outgrew it and I wanted to do all these things on my own. Different kinds of marketing, different types of tours. Publishing, unfortunately, doesn't really have tons of resources and its very old school, I feel like. It's like an old school thing. I feel bad even saying that, but it's true, honestly. This is my career and I want to do this for a really long time, and I felt like I was all of these things on the side that I might as well just take over and do it. Most of my books' success so far has been outside of the country, so I've learned so much from all these publishers and how they market and how they engage with the reading population. It's so different everywhere, of course, but I felt inspired and wait a second, "We can do this! I could do this myself!"

Justine Bylo [00:13:45] Have some control over the product, too. And be in charge of your own destiny a little bit. It's a fun process. I'm excited for the new book. It's going to be great.

Anna Todd [00:14:00] Thank you. I'm so excited!

Justine Bylo [00:14:04] Oh, yeah, it's going to be awesome. We are running out of time, so I'm going to ask you one final question. So, what is the one thing above all others that you wish someone had told you before you began on your book journey? I know this is a hard one.

Anna Todd [00:14:26] I think I would say, I've been kind of thinking about it lately, so it actually ends up not being so hard. I've been kind of thinking about it lately because I think I just wish someone would've told me…I don't know how to word it, but I had imposter syndrome the first three years of my career, where I felt I can't believe people let me into this publishing world. I can't believe I have books. I can't believe people actually think I should be writing. I felt like I didn't earn it because I started meeting writers who had been writing for 15 years, and they're incredible writers, and no publishers will pick them up. Even when they publish indie, they're not selling. So, I started seeing the reality of what authors do and how they get published most of the time. I just kind of stumbled in the back entry. So, I started feeling like I didn't do enough to earn this. But then, even talking to them and just owning my stuff, that is probably true, but I am going to do whatever I can to beat this. I'm in now and it's my responsibility to make sure my career is going from here. I maybe got in without years of querying. I didn't even know what querying was. Struggling to get published. That makes their ears bleed. I totally had imposter syndrome, so I wish someone would've been like, "It's OK to be appreciative or aware of not being the most qualified, but it's also OK to enjoy the happiness and not feel bad for it."

Justine Bylo [00:16:01] Totally. You have books that truly speak to people and have touched a ton of people, so I don't believe you are an imposter at all, Anna. I just hope you keep writing more and more wonderful books.

Anna Todd [00:16:15] Thank you so much.

Justine Bylo [00:16:18] Of course. Thank you so much for coming on our podcast and talking with me today. This has been awesome. I'm so excited to have had you today. I know that our listeners are going to be thrilled as well, so thank you, thank you.

Anna Todd [00:16:38] Thank you!

Justine Bylo [00:16:39] Alright everyone, thank you for listening to Go Publish Yourself. We've had Anna Todd on the show today. Please go check out her After series. They're fantastic. Look for her new book, The Brightest Stars. It's coming out soon. Thank you for listening to the Author Spotlights. This has been awesome. Go check out our Season 2 coming soon. Thank you, everyone.

Robin Cutler [00:17:08] Hi everyone, this is Robin Cutler, Director of IngramSpark. Thanks so much for tuning in to this special spotlight, feature episode, where authors and publishers just like you, share their experience on what's worked for them. We hope these episodes inspire you on your own publishing journey. If you're ready to publish today, visit the IngramSpark website. For more tips on publishing like a pro, subscribe to our podcast and weekly blog or check out our new free online self-publishing courses, available in the brand new IngramSpark Academy. Thanks for joining us today and talk to you soon.

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