BY: ELIJAH BASSETT
What if your passion project could make it onto TV? With the recent deal between Wattpad (a Toronto-based self-publishing platform) and Universal Cable Productions (part of NBCUniversal), it’s more likely now than ever. This new arrangement will allow Universal to turn Wattpad hits into television series, and may empower a new set of voices that aren’t represented by traditional publishing, including fanfiction authors.
Wattpad has always been a good platform for self-publishing writers to access a large audience, but the opportunity for stories to get licensed for TV will increase the incentive for authors to bring their work to Wattpad, as well as the potential rewards. It won’t happen to everybody by any means, but this could still end up being a huge career boost for a lot of writers who might never have expected to make that much money through their hobby.
Luckily for the authors in question, Wattpad doesn’t take the rights to the stories they publish, so all the writers who get their work chosen should end up getting paid for the licensing. Not every website lets users keep the rights to what they upload, so this is good news for Wattpad’s authors, many of whom will now have TV executives from both Universal Cable and Turner Broadcasting Systems, who they also have a deal with, perusing their work looking for the next big hit.
Some self-publishing authors have already tasted success with deals like this, like Anna Todd, whose One Direction fanfiction actually ended up not only being turned into a bestselling novel, but having the screen rights bought by Paramount Pictures. Turning these kinds of fan works into TV shows probably raises some legal concerns, as well as ethical ones, so it is likely that many of the stories chosen will still be original fiction. Still, the fact that any fanfiction can reach this level of success now, along with these Wattpad deals, speaks to a greater democratization of the publishing world.
Historically, traditional publishers have always had a lot of control over what the wider public does and doesn’t read. Even though self-publishing has existed for a long time, the internet has given people more power than ever to share their own stories and perspectives, and the possibility of them now getting on TV goes to show how valued they can be.
It’s still too soon to say exactly what will come out of this deal, and it’s possible that the shows adapted from Wattpad stories will be pretty much the same as everything else that gets made. But the possibility of amplifying the voices of people who, for whatever reason, haven’t found or sought success in traditional publishing, is exciting and goes to show how radically the internet is changing the entertainment industry.