Tamara Lush calls her romance novels, published via app in weekly installments, "snack size reading" for your smartphone. Seung Yoon Lee, founder and CEO of Radish Fiction, calls his mobile platform for books like hers "Candy Crush meets serial fiction."
Lush and Lee will appear at the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading on Saturday to talk about this new paradigm in publishing.
Lush's new novel, Constant Craving, is different from many romances in that it's set in the world of journalism. The female narrator owns a struggling newspaper, and, despite their difficult past, an ex-love offers to save it financially. "That's the most fantastical part," the author says with a laugh.
Lush, 46, lives in St. Petersburg with her husband and is a reporter for the Associated Press. (She talked about her books by phone this week from Sutherland Springs, Texas, where she was covering the mass shooting.) She formerly was a staff writer at the then-St.Petersburg Times.
Constant Craving is Lush's fourth romance novel. Her earlier books were published traditionally and well reviewed, but didn't take off in terms of sales.
When she heard about Radish from a critique partner, she decided to give it a try. "I got the rights back" for the earlier books, she says, "so I thought, I'll put my back list up and see what happens." In May, the first month, she made $180, "a nice little revenue stream."
Constant Craving was scheduled to be released as a print and e-book this month, but in July Lush began releasing it as a serial, one 2,000-word chapter per week, at radishfiction.com.
"I thought, this can't be. Literally, I have made $10,000 on that book since July," she says.
Encouraged by Radish to write a second book in the series, she recast the first-person story from the point of view of the female main character to the man's. "It had 33,000 views in September," she says, and she's writing a third in the series this month.
The Radish format doesn't allow reader comments, but Lush has set up a private Facebook site for her readers to connect. "They await the new chapters, so they can talk about who (in the book) they hate this week."
She has heard from readers not just in the United States but in the Philippines, South Africa, Mexico and the Middle East. Recently, she says, for the first time one of her readers wrote fan fiction about one of her characters. "I was blown away."
Lee, 26, is from South Korea and was named to Forbes' 30 Under 30 East Asia list of entrepreneurs to watch. He graduated from the University of Oxford in 2014 and co-founded Byline, an online crowd-funded site for longform journalism, before creating Radish Fiction. Among its investors is author Amy Tan.
There are other mobile apps for readers, among them Wattpad, which was founded in 2006 and has 50 million users.
Radish, Lush says, targets fans of genre fiction, not just romance but YA, fantasy, science fiction and more, using the serial format. The all-original content is free, as is the app, but Radish generates income by selling "coins" that give readers earlier access to new chapters.
Lush says she has learned to adapt to "the psychology of the cliffhanger," structuring each chapter to leave readers eager for more. She's also learned how well that can work for Radish's writers: "I spent $6 on a book about zombies called Dead in Bed, and I'm not even a zombie fan. But I had to find out what happened."
.if you go
Times Festival of Reading
Tamara Lush and Seung Yoon Lee will appear in a panel discussion at 2:15 p.m. Saturday in the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute Auditorium, University of South Florida St. Petersburg, 140 Seventh Ave. S. Admission is free.