Inaugural Ripped Bodice Awards for Excellence in Romantic Fiction Announced
July 24, 2019 - When sisters Bea and Leah Koch opened the only romance bookstore in the country, The Ripped Bodice, in 2016, they did so because they felt the romance genre deserved a bookstore of its own, and the community needed a physical presence in the independent bookstore world. Now they continue their mission to bring attention and prestige to the genre with their newly announced literary award: The Ripped Bodice Awards for Excellence in Romance Fiction. “Romance absolutely deserves to have multiple high caliber awards, just like other genres,” says Bea.
The Koches gave a lot of thought to how to design a new literary award. “There are a lot of different models that can be used,” says Leah. “We looked at how a bunch of other awards do things and consulted with people across the romance industry.” Ultimately however, they ended up getting inspiration from the film industry. “The New York Films Critics Circle awards seem really smartly designed to us. You gather a group of people whose job it is to have already seen everything that might be up for consideration. Our goal was to do the same. Instead of having judges read specific books, we anticipate that through their regular jobs in the industry, they will read most major works throughout the year. With 17 judges who each read between 100 and 300 books a year, we’re guaranteed to have eyeballs on at least 1000 unique titles.”
The awards have no categories, another thing the Koches dislike from other awards. “Categories limit your ability to judge the best work. Perhaps the 6th best historical novel was better than the best paranormal novel,” says Leah. “We want to give our committee as much freedom as possible to truly identify the best work of the year.” Each year the committee will identify up to 12 honorees. The only requirements a book must meet to be eligible are that is was originally published in 2019 and that it is a romance novel, meaning it has a central love story and a happy ending.
Up to 12 honorees in a given year will receive a cash prize of $1,000, as well as a $100 donation in their name to the charity of their choice. Leah says it was very important to her that the honor come with prize money. “For better or for worse, money is a signifier of clout and importance. We wanted to send a message right away that these awards are about honoring books that we think are so good, they are worth $1000.” The monetary prizes will be furnished by sponsors, including Sony Pictures Television (SPT), which came on board as the premiere sponsor. The sisters signed a first look deal with SPT in 2018. “We have had a fantastic relationship with Sony for the past year, we are so grateful that they continue to support our endeavors,” says Bea.
The freshman class of judges come from all corners of the romance community. They include many of the top reviewers, including Jaime Green, the romance columnist for the New York Times, tastemakers such as Ashley C. Ford and bloggers like Corey Alexander. A full list of judges and their credentials is available at the Ripped Bodice’s website.
The inaugural class of honorees will be announced on Valentine’s Day, 2020.
Love in Panels contributor Ana Coqui is on the inaugural team of judges. We'll be asking her some questions soon , so stay tuned! The full list of judges is here.