True Love on Tapas WinnersWhat’s the hottest genre out there? It’s probably “Romantasy,” a mix of romance and fantasy that’s sweeping the book world and topping the mobile webtoon charts. 

Tapas is one of the most-read webtoon platforms for romantasy webtoons and webnovels in N. America. Little wonder, given that Tapas is the English sister app/platform to S. Korea media giant Kakao Entertainment‘s Kakao Page and Kakao Webtoon and affiliate to Piccoma, some of the most popular webtoon/webnovel platforms in S. Korea and Japan respectively.  One look at Tapas’ main Spotlight page will give you a hint of romantasy’s dominance in this space. With their flowy, colorful hair, gorgeous and highly detailed dresses, and their equally gorgeous male leads next to them, there’s so many heroines or villainesses featured on Tapas’ home screens, waiting for readers to discover their stories.

To solidify their spot as the home of romantasy even more, late last year Tapas announced True Love, a contest for romance webnovels. It wasn’t solely for romantasy stories – entries were accepted in five genres: contemporary, fantasy, historical, LGBTQ+, and erotic – but there’s quite a bit of romance in the winning stories, which is no surprise, given the huge interest in prose romantasy. Open to US residents, the submissions to the Tapas True Love webnovel contest were judged on their number of views received, and the amount of Tapas readers who opted to subscribe to each series, along with the quality of the story, grammar and syntax, and their potential for long-term serialization.

The winners were announced on Valentine’s Day, and the authors of each winning series will receive a minimum-guarantee contract of $10,000 USD. Given that there are 15 winners in this contest, the combined prize pool of $150,000 USD makes it one of the largest contests in the industry. The contest started in October 2023, and received 264 entries — so competition was pretty fierce for those 15 winning stories.

Tapas Media app logo“Our goal is to invite U.S. writers to experience the thriving digital storytelling model already established in Korea in which both the medium of the web novel as well as the profession of the web novel creator have already been legitimized as an integral part of a burgeoning industry, said Kristianna Lee, Director of Content Management and Novels Growth at Tapas. “What I love about the webnovel as a medium is that it democratizes storytelling by removing the pressure to appeal to the mainstream, allowing each creator to focus on the story they want to tell.” 

Lee says Tapas will have more contests focused on other story genres in the future, so keep an eye out for that, aspiring authors!

Here’s the winners from the Tapas True Love webnovel contest:

I Didn't Ask to Marry You, Male Lead! by AKG webnovelI Didn’t Ask to Marry You, Male Lead! by AKG
(Romance Fantasy, Drama)
Paloma Beaumont never lived the charmed life everyone thought she did. Her vain mother hated her, her devoted father was dead, and her beautiful sister Adora was the apple of society’s eye. Then she fell out a window.

Now she’s stuck living the life of Lady Irina Lis, the popular and magnanimous daughter of a Duke, and the unfortunate bearer of a familial curse. Trouble is: Irina’s family and her prickly fiance, Duke Einar Rinne, know she’s an imposter. And Duke Rinne isn’t impressed. Einar may look like a male lead from Paloma’s favorite romantic fantasy novels, but he hasn’t got the attitude to match. Besides, she didn’t ask to marry you, Mr. Male Lead!

The Prince and the Pirates by YourPersonalPrince webnovelThe Prince and the Pirates by Yourpersonalprince
(BL-Boys Love, LGBTQ+, Romance Fantasy)
The mer-prince Castian wants nothing more than to escape the seas. A deal with a sea witch finally grants him his wish—but with a catch. In return for his human legs, he must spy on the infamous pirate captain Valentine.

As Cas comes onboard Valentine’s ship, he finds both the crew and its mysterious captain have secrets of their own. Cas is determined to uncover them and remain human, but things grow complicated when the prince finds himself falling for the pirate he’s spying on.

Prince of Fire and Ash by Leveret MoreauPrince of Fire and Ash by Leveret Moreau
(BL-boys love, Romance Fantasy, Romance)
Markus was raised as the heir to the masters of dragons, the noble Eliseo family. He was expected to be the finest lord in his family’s long history… until Markus returns from the dragon nest without a pair, and the burden of his family name falls on the reluctant shoulders of his wild sister.

Katrina wants nothing to do with the forced pleasantries of nobility, but she can’t turn down an invitation from the crown prince himself. Everything he thought he knew has been swiped out from under his feet, but Markus is still sure of one thing: he loves his sister, and he’ll do anything to make her happy.

When he takes her place, the last thing Markus expects is to find himself involved with the infamously cold, half-elf captain of the royal guard. Markus can’t help the affection which grows as he comes to know the man. Embroiled in royal politics in the capital, a stunning revelation changes the course of his life, and Markus finds he has more to worry about than his heart- because the fate of the empire lies in his hands.

Respectfully Yours, by Danni webnovelRespectfully Yours, by Danni
(LGBTQ+, Romance, Slice of Life)
Charles Aughtly can’t stop thinking about Lucas Sawyer and his sexy Doc Martens. But he’s the heir to Aughtly Co–destined to take over his father’s company and live a life of luxury and heteronormativity. He can’t like a boy, that’s not part of his father’s plan.

Lucas Sawyer has everything figured out: his sexuality, his future, his grades, and all the shallow people attending his school (yes, even Charles Aughtly, who hates his guts). The only thing he doesn’t know is his gender–and the identity of the anonymous, closeted classmate who has been emailing him, which is much more pressing. But when online meets reality, their secrets could either be their solace or their downfall.

The Mafia's Nanny by Suleidy Merced webnovelThe Mafia’s Nanny by Suleidy Merced
(Romance, Drama, Thriller/Horror)
Lex Biagini is the head of the Italian Mafia. He is known to be cold and ruthless. His name is feared in every corner of Chicago. People whisper that he got worse after his wife died during childbirth. His son Hunter is now four, and he has fired every nanny who has looked after Hunter. Cassie Walker is running away from a destiny that has been determined for her by her father. She thought Chicago would be her freedom. That is until she is on her last dollar and a day from becoming homeless.

What happens when Lex decides that Cassie is Hunter’s new nanny? Will Cassie meet his expectations or be another fired nanny?

The Seventh Date by KG Brightwell webnovelThe Seventh Date by KG Brightwell
(BL-Boys Love, LGBTQ+, Romance)
When fake dating leads to real feelings… Theo can be a little overprotective of his younger sister; he has chased away anyone who has so much as looked at her. Then he meets Lex, the hot new kid in school who seems like ideal boyfriend material. Just to be sure, Theo suggests that he and Lex go on a series of six “trial dates.” Only then will he allow Lex to ask his sister out.

It doesn’t take many dates for Theo to realize that Lex is exactly the kind of person he would choose for his sister: a standup guy who is a lot of fun to be around. Unfortunately, Theo enjoys his dates with Lex a little too much. He isn’t so sure he wants to hand Lex over to his sister when the six-date trial period is over.

Hail to the Saintess by Xula Von Ziegel webnovelHail To The Saintess! by Xula Von Ziegel
(Romance Fantasy, Action Fantasy, Drama)
Going from an orphanage to a brothel industry was the life of Diana. After realizing that her boss was cheating with her on his own wife, and having to go through an abortion on her first child, she decides to end it all.

However, she wakes up in the body of Fantasia Everdeen, the youngest daughter of Marquis Everdeen of the Proscotti Kingdom. Married off to the king of the neighboring kingdom, Alabastrum, at the age of sixteen under the guise of peace; Fantasia had nothing but a life of suffering. Can Diana turn it all around and back at her enemies?

Summoned: Familiar of the Dark Magician by Rachel Ashton webnovelSummoned: Familiar of the Dark Magician by Rachel Ashton
(Romance Fantasy, Action Fantasy)
Ennette is summoned to another world she recognizes from a romance novel she was reading—but she doesn’t end up as the heroine, the villainess, or even a plucky sidekick. Instead, she’s trapped in a familiar contract due to a summoning spell gone wrong! And the caster? Seventeen-year-old Maziar Kreeth, the worthless son of the Grand Wizard of the Northern Tower and the man who will one day become the main villain of the story!

Can Ennette navigate her troubled life with her new master and avoid her death flags long enough to find her way home? Or will she be forced to live a life she never imagined as she learns the truth behind her summoning and the secrets of the story she remembers?

Bondage by GiveMeThatBread webnovelBondage by GiveMeThatBread
(BL-Boys Love, Drama, Slice of Life)
Minwoo Kim is the textbook definition of a hypocrite. He works as a choreographer with military-like methods for Seoul’s biggest entertainment company while secretly participating in banned street dancing.

His top-ranked crew, SCORPIO, had just finished crashing an aristocratic event with their flash mob. All went according to plan as Minwoo escapes from the authorities…until his identity is discovered by one of the party’s guests – a pretty boy with baby-pink hair!

Minwoo’s company assigns him to SATURN, the current generation’s most popular rookie boy group, to practice the challenging choreography for their upcoming album, “Bondage.” Much to his horror, their main dancer is none other than his cotton candy-haired downfall, aka Yejun Sang.

Whispers and Shadows by mariehallwrites webnovelWhispers and Shadows by Mariehallwrites
(Romance Fantasy, Action Fantasy)
My name is Blue. No last name. Why, because I’m a half-breed in a world where that’s not accepted. I’ve had to fight tooth and nail to even be recognized as the bastard daughter of the kingdom’s third prince Dameon. The world views his recognition of me as generosity, but they don’t know the truth.

In Demonia, legend speaks of a deadly assassin known only as: Whispers and Shadows. Only two people know the assassin’s identity. The third prince and me. Why, because I am Whispers and Shadows. Father’s “benevolence” comes at a price. My complete loyalty, no matter what’s asked to win him the throne. The plan was executed flawlessly and in return for my years of sacrifice, my reward was my murder. By his own hands. Father thinks he’s gotten away with the perfect crime. But something far greater and more mysterious than he has pulled me back from death’s cold embrace, returning me years in the past. I alone know the memories of the future that’s in store for us all and, now, I am no longer daddy’s little pet. I will get my revenge. I will make him pay. I will make them all pay…

Free Radical by AmourAccompli webnovelFree Radical by AmourAccompli
(BL-Boys Love, LGBTQ+, Romance)
Andie met his fated mate when he was young enough to believe not just in destiny and happily-ever-afters, but also in the Easter Bunny. From the minute they met in a heated dispute over a plastic egg full of jelly beans, Andie Dahl and Jake Rivera knew they were a perfect pairing. Just like in a fairy tale, their childhood friendship grew into true love. Just like in a fairy tale, they were never apart. Just like in a fairy tale, they pledged to stay together forever and joined themselves in a claim bond that would last for as long as they lived. And then Jake broke Andie’s heart and abandoned him.

And then, one day, by accident… Jake finds Andie again. Can Jake prove himself after making a mistake that injured his mate, body and soul and deprived him of the ability to make his dreams come true? Can Andie be persuaded to give Fairy Tales and Happily Ever Afters a second chance?

Iron Blood Bride by PixxiePinkIron Blood Bride by PixxiePink
(BL-boys love, Fantasy, Action Fantasy)
The family disappointment, Osmond has always been too “emotional” to ever be a proper Monster Hunter. Stuck as a lowly page, cleaning gear and pouring ale for his victorious siblings. Until the Wild Hunt arrives at their door and it is only Osmond who stands in their way.

The Unseelie Prince offers him a choice. He becomes the sole survivor of his family – finally able to earn his own glory as a Monster Hunter, or he accepts a life bargain with the prince – tossing away his humanity. Osmond doesn’t hesitate. Though he wishes the prince specified exactly what he wanted with him, because somehow Osmond has ended up as the Unseelie Prince’s bride-to-be!

Onabi Hex by N.A. Carson webnovelOnabi Hex by A. Carson
(BL-Boys Love, Science Fiction, Romance Fantasy)
What Eiko thought was a fun trick to impress the other kids destroyed his life. He saw no harm in showing his classmate the blue light that danced through his fingers. As the news spread, parents found out, and Eiko was taken away to an institution for children with special talents.

Some are labeled as healers, manipulators, and shifters, but Eiko is something else. The energy coursing through his body, if left unharnessed, could flatten a building. So, he’s kept isolated and is strictly punished for any signs of disobedience. The government sees him as the ultimate asset—the Onabi.

Serving the Undying King by Twoony webnovelServing the Undying King by Twoony
(BL-Boys Love, Romance Fantasy, Drama)
Foster Laywell kissed his first love and lost him to a raging fire in the same evening. Over a decade later, a stranger knocks at Foster’s door claiming not only is his first love alive, but he is Sylas Sarraze, the Undying King, a cursed creature ruling the neighboring kingdom with an iron fist. Sylas is on a destructive path and this stranger hopes the return of a first love may stop the king from destroying himself and the kingdom in the process.

Foster takes the enormous risk of leaving behind his home to attend to Sylas’ every need, but the shy boy Foster loved is long gone. Sylas is standoffish, rude, downright deplorable, and infuriated by Foster’s presence. But Foster soon learns there is more to Sylas’ boorish mood than originally suspected, and Sylas may come to learn that Foster is hiding much more than anyone thought possible.

My Husband's Divorce Attorney by Flying BookwormMy Husband’s Divorce Attorney by TheFlyingBookworm
After twenty years of marriage, Tiffany got divorce papers for Valentine’s Day. Finally released from a dead marriage, she sets to the task of re-establishing her new life but finds a surprise along the way.

The return of an old flame that she has been burned on a few too many times reappears at the best, and worst, possible time. And he just so happens to be her husband’s divorce attorney.

Just as a reminder, these winning stories are prose/webnovels, and NOT webtoons/comics, although several have character backstory and guides, given that a lot of world-building goes into the fantasy end of romantasy.

These top 15 winners aren’t the only stories spotlighted as part of Tapas’ True Love webnovel contest. You can read these winning stories, and check out the rest of the Top 50 stories at Tapas’ True Love Contest website.

Solo Leveling by Chugong novelWhile not yet a household word in N. America, webnovels are hugely popular in Asia, especially in S. Korea. They’re the source material for a lot of webcomics, animated and live action TV series in S. Korea. Kakao Entertainment, Tapas’ parent company, has produced more than 1,200 webcomics based on popular web novels, including such worldwide hits as fantasy-action series Solo Leveling, which debuted as a webnovel by Chugong, and is now a hugely popular webtoon series, with both the Solo Leveling novels and graphic novels published by Yen Press / Ize Press, and the Solo Leveling anime series now streaming on Crunchyroll. 

Other webnovels that have been adapted into successful webtoons and TV dramas include contemporary romantic comedies like A Business Proposal, and What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim?, which are both available as graphic novels from Ize Press, with drama series streaming on Netflix and Hulu, and The Beginning After the End, an action-fantasy webnovel series by TurtleMe on Tapas that also has a webtoon adaptation.

Web novels are also a growing genre for Tapas, with plans to add more than 200 web novels by the end of the year — some will be popular S. Korean titles translated into English, while others will be new, original stories by international authors, including many from US and Canada. Check out Tapas’ webnovels to discover your next favorite read or visit their Creators page to learn how you can submit your webnovel stories to be published on Tapas.
[Merve Giray and Deb Aoki contributed to this report.]