The idea behind Rooster is to make it easy for busy people to read books over a series of 15-minute increments. Rather than wasting time playing Candy Crush on the subway, Rooster hopes people will spend this time reading books, which are served up in bite-sized installments. Every month, the app releases two new books — one work of contemporary fiction, another classic. For $4.99 a month, you can access both books through the app.
We caught up with Yael Goldstein Love, Rooster’s co-founder/editorial director, to discuss the project.
GC: Why did you create this app?
YGL: We’re a team of writers and avid readers and, frankly, it bummed us out how often we heard people say they didn’t read anything longer than tweets or blog posts because they didn’t have the time. People tended to say this wistfully, and the wistfulness didn’t seem put on. But just to be sure we did some market testing and, lo and behold, even anonymously people claimed to wish they had more time to read novels. So we thought we’d see if we could find a way to help people find the time to read immersive, engaging works of fiction- the kind of fiction that makes every day better and even maybe makes us better people. We’re pretty pleased with the results.
GC: How do you decide to which work from a new writer goes with which classics? How do you pair these two?
YGL: We choose the contemporary work first and then choose the classic to go with it. We choose books that make interesting counterpoints and that might get you thinking in new ways about each and also about broader themes. In the case of our first picks, our contemporary title, “I Was Here” by Rachel Kadish, is a literary thriller (or a thrilling literary book?) about evil preying on innocence, so Herman Melville’s “Billy Budd” was a natural pairing. But there are other interesting points of comparison between these books as well. Both books are heart-pounding adventures that build their tension largely through character study. Both books do interesting things with multiple points of view. Both books make interesting use of religious symbolism. And both books leave you with a temporary case of almost painfully heightened empathy for everyone you come across – they make you see everyone as so vulnerable at the hands of large, uncontrollable forces. For me, that’s the real binding element here. But that’s just me. I hope everyone gets something different out of the pairing.
GC: How can writers get their work featured?
YGL: There are two routes. We publish original serial novels that we work on in a very hands-on way, sculpting them to fit the format without sacrificing anything in terms of literary quality. Right now we only accept those submissions through agents, but before too long we hope to get open submissions up and running. If you have an agent and a project you think would lend itself well to serialization, have your agent pitch us. And if you don’t have an agent, hold tight. We’ll also be featuring novels and novellas from other publishers, but we’re still in the middle of those discussions. The books we most want to feature from other publishers are those that deserve second chances – beautiful books that just didn’t find the vast audience they deserved for whatever reason, or that found it, but too briefly.
GC: What kind of royalties do writers earn if their work is featured?
YGL: To the writers of our original works we pay a modest advance and offer a generous revenue share.