On Wednesday, July 24, sisters Bea and Leah Koch, the owners of The Ripped Bodice romance bookstore in Los Angeles, announced the launch of the Ripped Bodice Awards for Excellence in Romance Fiction. The inaugural class of honorees will be announced on Valentine’s Day 2020.
For the annual award, 12 honorees will be selected each year; the only requirement is that the book must be published in the previous year and be 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. The monetary prizes will be furnished by sponsors, including Sony Pictures Television.
The Koches opened the Ripped Bodice in 2016 in part to give the romance genre a bookstore of its own and a physical presence for the romance community. “Romance absolutely deserves to have multiple high-caliber awards, just like other genres,” said Bea Koch.
When it came to designing the new award, “There are a lot of different models that can be used,” said Leah Koch. “We looked at how a bunch of other awards do things and consulted with people across the romance industry.”
The inspiration came from the film industry, specifically the New York Film Critics Circle Awards. For the new romance award, said Leah Koch, “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,” she said.
The new award will also have no category. Said Leah Koch, “Categories limit your ability to judge the best work. Perhaps the sixth best historical novel was better than the best paranormal novel. We want to give our committee as much freedom as possible to truly identify the best work of the year.”
“For better or for worse, money is a signifier of clout and importance,” she added. “We wanted to send a message right away that these awards are about honoring books that we think are so good, they are worth $1,000.”
The inaugural committee of judges features reviewers, tastemakers, bloggers, and others from all over the romance community, including New York Times romance columnist Jaime Green; tastemaker Ashley C. Ford; and blogger Corey Alexander. See the full list of judges here.