Shepard carves niche with ABC Family

Sara Shepard never intended to be ABC Family’s novelist of choice, but that’s the way things turned out. At about 25, while getting a Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction and looking for a job, she landed a gig as ghostwriter on the “Samurai Girls” book series, which the cabler turned into a miniseries in 2008.

That was followed by two more shows based on her writing: ABC Family’s hit “Pretty Little Liars” in 2010 and “The Lying Game,” which airs in August.

Shepard writes for Alloy Entertainment, a media content company that generates series novels favored by tweens and teens such as “Gossip Girl” and “Vampire Diaries,” and are published by the major publishing houses. Not all the TV adaptations made a splash — ABC Family’s “Huge” wasn’t picked up for a second season after its initial 10-episode run — but Alloy’s ratio of hits to flops is notably high.

Alloy topper Les Morgenstein says the company realized early on it wanted to nurture Shepard as a writer. After the success of “Samurai Girl,” he began searching for new projects. “We had worked on ‘Pretty Little Liars’ for a while before we brought it to her,” Morgenstein says, “but she really helped develop the characters and the world.”

Shepard holds the rights to the series with Alloy — she can’t be replaced as the writer, as “Vampire Diaries” scribe L.J. Smith was, earlier this year.

ABC Family also has reasons to continue working with Shepard.

The “Liars” season finale drew 3.64 million viewers March 21, and it’s cable’s No. 2 rated series among women 18-34.

Shepherd uses social media to communicate with the ABC Family aud. Net programmer Kate Juergens says this gives the show a competitive advantage.

Shepard, who hasn’t given up on trying her hand at literary fiction, says she isn’t worried whether her next projects will land on TV. “I think I usually just have my head down and do the writing part of it,” she adds. “If anything else comes out of it, that’s wonderful.”

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