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Legally Blonde: From Self-Published Book to Iconic Chick Flick

When you think of the term “Legally Blonde,” you’ll most likely picture Reese Witherspoon’s Elle Woods strutting through Harvard Law School in her pink ensembles and sparkly heels.

While it may be true that Legally Blonde is one of the most popular chick flicks of all time, not many are aware of its literary origins. In fact, in 2001, a then-Stanford Law School Student, Amanda Brown, wrote the story while in tort class. Here’s what to know about how Legally Blonde went from an eBook to a cinematic hit.

Legally Blonde Summary:

Elle Woods is a California University senior who seems to have it all. As President of her sorority group, Elle has aced her major—a.k.a. sociopolitical jewelry design. Moreover, she’s also on the verge of officially becoming Mrs. Warner Huntington III.

Unfortunately for Elle, Warner, bound for Stanford Law (Harvard Law School in the movie), breaks up with her because he believes he needs a more serious woman by his side.

With this unexpected outcome, Elle heads to the same law school as her ex. With a creative video application, she is soon admitted into the prestigious university, where she’s determined to get her man back.

About the Author:

Amanda Brown was a Stanford Law School student when the story idea came to her head during tort class. Brown graduated from Arizona State University in 1993 and was born to two successful lawyers before attending the prestigious law school.

During her experience as a student, Brown compiled funny stories and letters based on her experience in law school. This compilation then became the basis of her first manuscript.

While Brown didn’t receive a J.D. degree, her experience in the school helped her decide on what she wanted to do, which was writing.

The Book’s Publishing History

Legally Blonde was first published on 1stBooks (now known as AuthorHouse), a self-publishing platform where authors retain full ownership and copyright of their books. The site also offers various services for authors, including publishing, editing, and promotional services.

Legally Blonde was first available as a print-on-demand option. After achieving success, a manuscript was created, resulting in a successful film adaptation. As of 2023, the franchise has spawned multiple films and a successful Broadway musical. News of a possible third film being in the works made it into the rounds in the media, although it still needs a set date. Fans anticipate Reese Witherspoon’s return to her iconic role as Elle Woods while Mindy Kaling and Dan Goor work as scriptwriters.

After Legally Blonde’s success, Brown sold the rights to her novel to Dutton, a division of Penguin Putnam Publishing. This move showcased how traditional publishers can pick up even self-published books, provided they achieve success and interest.

What Can We Learn from Amanda Brown?

Legally Blonde was an eBook published on 1stBooks, which was available as print-on-demand. While it’s not uncommon for authors to publish on alternative routes, Brown managed to keep her author and owner rights thanks to 1stBooks relatively flexible terms and conditions. Suppose you are hoping to exercise more creative caution with your book. In that case, publishing on a platform that ensures you have creative control and a fair percentage of royalties may be a good idea.

Aside from working on a flexible publishing platform, another interesting lesson we can learn from Brown is compiling relative information that can help you shape your manuscript. Like many authors, Brown used her experiences in law school to create an unforgettable plot combined with creativity and charismatic characters. Since then, Legally Blond has been a mainstay in pop culture phenomena, inspiring countless adaptations like films and musicals.

Brown’s experience in law school led her to succeed in a different realm. While she didn’t receive her J.D. degree and left Stanford after two years, her experience in the school helped her determine what she wanted to do in life: write.

The latter instance is something that many writers can relate to. Some people wanted to be writers while they were young, while others discovered they wanted to write at a later age. Regardless of age, you have decided to be a writer; it’s always worthwhile if you’re willing to put in the work and resources to make your story come to life.

Another point is that the best story ideas can sometimes come at the most random times. In Brown’s case, the story of Legally Blonde came to mind while she was sitting in tort class at Stanford. However, multiple authors have also gained ideas from seemingly random events.

Some examples include the following:

  • Dan Brown, the author of  “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels and Demons,” revealed in 2013 that he likes to wear gravity boots and hang from an exercise frame to generate ideas. The best-selling author believed that hanging upside down allows his brain to “overflow” with ideas relevant to his writing.
  • Another is literary rockstar Haruki Murakami, who likes to wake up early and go on a run every day. While he realized he wanted to become a writer after witnessing a baseball game, this daily running habit helped boost his creative ideas. The latter was a topic he discussed thoroughly in his book, “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.”

While Legally Blonde was the book that helped launch Brown’s literary career, she also has multiple works available, like Family Trust and School of Fortune.

The Bottomline: Amanda Brown was a law student whose unique experiences as a student enabled her to create a story. The latter of which involved compiling funny letters and anecdotes, which then shaped her first manuscript.

After finishing her story, she self-published her book on 1stBooks. This self-publishing platform allows writers creative freedom to own and market their work on various channels. Thanks to the relative flexibility of her self-publishing platform, Brown could sell her book, attain her rights, and have her book receive multiple adaptations.

Brown’s journey from law student to writer is inspiring. While she couldn’t receive her J.D. degree, Brown was able to determine what she really wanted to do in life and worked hard to achieve the success received.

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