If you’re on romance Twitter, you may have noticed it little by little in May: a fellow romance reader would post a few favorite titles all on the same theme – favorite authors to re-read, who/what triggers an auto-buy, best friendships in romance – flagged with #RomBkLove hashtag. Day after day, it happened more and more, and suddenly, Twitter had the kind of romance recommendations our wishlists wanted and our wallets feared.
You might have assumed that one of the major romance industry juggernauts was behind this campaign that was averaging hundreds of responses a day. The truth is, like all of the coolest parties, the #RomBkLove challenge started organically. Ana Coqui, a self-described librarian/reader/reviewer/Boricua (who also happens to be a wife, mother, and knitter), started the project as a way to facilitate romance conversations on social media, hoping for “a steady, fun conversation.”
Like a lot of us who read romance, Ana found a refuge from daily stress in the genre, and she’s been reading it for 6 years, blogging about it for 4 years, and writing reviews for RT since 2015. Most of the romance fans I know on social media came across #RomBkLove at one point or another in May, and when I learned that Ana was working with others to keep the project going, I asked her if she’d be willing to answer a few questions about the challenge. She was kind enough to oblige.
For those who aren’t familiar with it, can you explain your #RomBkLove project and how it came to be?
The #RomBkLove project was a month-long posting challenge, meant to spark romance conversation. I was inspired by two other hashtags. The first was #yarnlovechallenge, an Instagram-based photo challenge that I had been participating in. I loved how that challenge filled my IG with beautiful and interesting pictures and connected me with knitters around the world.
My second inspiration was @Willaful’s #bkbrk hashtag. Willa and a few other reader/reviewers started using the hashtag as way to help facilitate finding book conversations and posts amid the post-election flood of political or news-related tweets. Twitter activism and awareness-raising is very important to me, but streams full of retweets seemed to be overwhelming everything else and I desperately missed romance conversations.
On Twitter I asked if anyone knew of romance-related posting challenges. Turns out there had been a few Instagram-based ones back in February. There are also monthly/annual ones like @SuperWendy’s #TBRchallenge and @VaVeros’ #Shallowreaderbingo. None of these challenges were quite what I was looking for, but they inspired me.
Ideas for half-a-dozen romance prompts came pretty quickly, and with the encouragement of friends, I decided to start gathering ideas for topics via Twitter and my blog. Before the day was over it was clear that I was going to be able to gather more than enough for a month worth of prompts.
I took about a week to go through the topics, sort them to my satisfaction, rework them into prompts and create graphics. Despite – or maybe because – I was facing huge important deadlines at work, it came together in time to launch it May 1st. All through the month of May I posted a prompt on a romance related topic on my blog and on Twitter. The prompts were usually neutral, inviting people comment on the topic however they liked.
It seemed to me like every time I was on Twitter in May, the hashtag was popping up in my feed. Can you talk a little about the kind of response you got and whether it was in line with you had expected?
When I put this all together I really didn’t imagine it going very beyond the people I interact with regularly on Twitter. I am not a big name blogger. I was hoping for steady, fun conversation.
I didn’t have to leave my mentions all month because I was so busy responding or retweeting when I had a free moment. The prompts got on average more than 200 responses each day of the challenge. But for me, the best part was how many side conversations were started beyond that. Through the responses I met a ton of new romance readers and writers. Having their voices on my timeline has been incredibly refreshing because it means new perspectives and new recommendations.
Which #RomBkLove questions led to answers that were most interesting or unexpected to you? Which questions seemed to generate the strongest response?
One of our busiest days was actually Day 2: “Tropes, Tropes, Tropes” day. Romance readers love talking about their favorite and most hated tropes. I think it is because once you figure out your tropes, book discovery becomes much simpler. It is much easier to ask a fellow reader for recs based on tropes rather than on voice or tone. There were so many fantastic recommendations that day. Romance readers are passionate about their tropes. I think we could have done a month of #RomBkLove just on tropes.
Our biggest day, however, was near the end on Day 23: “Romancelandia.” I think there were great conversations about what it is, the good and bad in the community, and why we come together to read and discuss.
Do you have advice or tips for readers who want to seek out some of the #RomBkLove recommendations?
My biggest regret is that I didn’t Storify each day as I went along, but I was so focused on getting the next day’s prompts ready that I couldn’t keep up. The hashtag ended up getting so many responses (well over 6,000 tweets in May) that Storify kept timing out and failing to load when it was all over.
The best bet is to use the advance Twitter search of the hashtag for the topic date you are interested in. I will be going back and embedding those searches into my original posts this summer to ease the process. I have started archiving all the posts on the hashtag with the dream of someday putting together a collection of the recs.
Given the strength of the response, are you interested in trying to keep the conversation going? In other words, what – if anything – comes next?
May was fantastic, and I think it reminded me of how much I need regular romance conversation in my life. While for one brief moment I flirted with the idea of keeping it going on daily basis, I remembered that I have a family and full-time job and I actually like to sleep. Since the beginning of May, I have switched over to posting #RomBkLove prompts on a weekly basis.
I have also teamed up with Ellie and Ava of #readRchat to host bi-monthly hour-long chats on the topics. We discussed discovery and book choices a couple of weeks ago and our next chat will be July 1st (4PM ET) on the best books of 2017 so far. But the biggest news is that Jennifer Porter is doing a sexy #RomBkLove month in July. She has sent me a preview of her prompts and I expect the conversation in July to be fun and raunchy. I look forward to participating and enjoying the ride without the pressure of being responsible for a daily post.
To read more from Ana, visit Ana Coqui: Immersed in Books. And stay tuned to #RomBkLove all through July.