Fanbases are the bleeding heart of the book publishing industry. Passionate readers pre-order titles, create wildly popular Bookstagrams, show up to events, and wait in long lines at book signings. But when it comes to the readership of author Colleen Hoover, the fervor is almost unprecedented in size and scope—bordering on religious. shaking hands. uncontrollable sobbing. Talk of emotional distress and healing. These might seem like over-the-top reactions to a writer’s work, but in Hoover’s world, they’re the norm.
Hoover has already built a dream writing career. According to her team de ella, her books de ella have spent a combined 120 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list over the past 10 years. she she’s the third most-followed author of all time on Goodreads behind Stephen King and Bill Gates. Ella’s videos with her hashtag have over 441 million views on TikTok, and there’s a 24,500-person Facebook group dedicated to discussing just one of her titles, truth. Her celebrity fans of her include haley bieber and Kylie Jenneras well as numerous actresses and influencers.
But despite this unbelievable trajectory, there’s a fair chance that if you’re not a young and Very Online female fiction reader, you’ve never heard of her. How could someone build such a massive and diehard readership without much of the literary world taking notice? The story of what it took to get to this point is worthy of her own book.
Born and raised in Texas, 42-year-old Colleen Hoover loved writing before she even really knew what it was. She was green with envy at four years old when her older sister could scribble words on paper before her. “I remember feeling back then like I had stories to tell,” she explains over Zoom. Throughout her childhood, she casually told people she wanted to be a writer when she grew up. But after marrying her high school sweetheart at 20 and having three kids before the age of 26, that interest went on the backburner in favor of a more practical route: Pursuing a career in social work.
It wasn’t until several years later that Hoover entertained the idea of picking up the pen. With the encouragement of friends and family, she self-published her 2012 debut novel slammed, the story of a teenager reeling from her father’s death, at the age of 32. She chose the indie route not because publishers weren’t interested, but because she didn’t know how to even begin the process of finding an agent. She thought she’d hit “Submit” on Amazon’s relatively new platform and move on.
to her surprise, slammed got traction thanks to book bloggers, indie reviewers, and a burgeoning class of e-book devotees. “I went into it so naively not knowing anything about the publishing industry,” Hoover explains. “I really thought, ‘Okay, just the people I want to read this are going to read it.’ [I] had no idea that there were book communities forming out there and online.” The attention paid off: The novel became a New York Times bestseller, a rarity for any book, let alone a self-published debut. The experience also encouraged her to begin cultivating a digital following long before many authors realized social media would become an integral part of the profession.
Since then, Hoover’s backlist has grown to include roughly two dozen titles and several genres, including romances, thrillers, and paranormal novels. Her from her 2016 blockbuster It Ends With Us explores the fallout of an abusive relationship, while her hyped book truth unravels a picture-perfect couple’s courtship and marriage in truly twisted—and jaw-dropping—fashion. Nowadays, ending up on the Times’ list seems to be a bare-minimum benchmark for any Hoover—affectionately called “CoHo” by her fanbase—release.
“No one person only has romance in their lives. No one story is only a mystery or suspense. Our lives are a combination of drama, ups-and-downs, and—hopefully—love and acceptance,” says Anh Schluep, Editorial Director at Amazon’s romance imprint Montlake. “Colleen’s books are a snapshot of our lives. They have threads of all genres, which is why I think her stories of her are so universal.”
Asking Hoover herself to pinpoint what gives her books that extra umph is a tougher task. Unlike many authors, she doesn’t plan her titles far in advance and instead bases them on mood. “I only make decisions that make me feel less stressed,” she explains. “Sometimes I feel like everyone needing things from me is very stressful, so I’ll self-publish a book because I just want to put it out there and be done. Then sometimes I want that help, and it feels less stressful if I go with a [traditional] publisher. There’s no rhyme or reason to my decisions.”
It might be an unorthodox way to write, but talk to any CoHo fan and words like “bingeable” and “addicting” come up constantly. As one reader says, Hoover may not parse every word, but “the woman has range and can tell a story.” Her tales of her often move at breakneck pace, an element that Hoover partially credits to her attention-deficit disorder of her. “When I write, I find myself getting distracted,” she notes. “If I’m supposed to [sit] here talking about character descriptions or describing a room or anything that’s going to make me not interested, I just skip it [and] start writing dialogue. I write what I want to read.”
Given her decade-long career in social work before writing full-time, it’s also easy to see why she gravitates towards unpacking complex traumas that befall young people, like deaths of loved ones, disability, incarceration, and violence. Most notably, many of Hoover’s protagonists are enigmatic women around ages 18 to 26, a demographic now largely considered “new adult”—a coming-of-age genre that rose to popularity in the early 2010s. Alongside contemporaries like Jennifer L. Armentrout and Anna Todd, Hoover was in the first crop of writers to continuously center these young characters—particularly women—in her work. I remember [reading] despues de slammed hit the New York Times list that [publishers] didn’t really want characters [who] were college age,” she recalls. “indie [publishing] has really opened the door for writers to write what readers are wanting without having to go through the gatekeeping.” Thanks to some of the groundwork laid over a decade ago, several of publishing’s most successful recent releases have been new adult books, including Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue and Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses.
Given her characters’ ages and her own popular social media persona, it’s unsurprising that Hoover’s work saw a resurgence on TikTok, where over 40% of users are between the ages of 16 and 24. Hoover herself has over half a million followers on the platform and posts a mix of book promotion, random happenings in her lifeand occasional Jake Gyllenhaal slander. To many in publishing, she’s considered the gold standard of digital author engagement. “Colleen has an enviable lack of self-consciousness,” explains romance-writing duo Christine Lauren on her social media appeal. “She is playful, messy, honest, and sarcastic — but her sarcasm de ella never carries an edge of malice or defensiveness.”
As expected with such a big platform, however, Hoover’s TikTok boost renewed and amplified criticism of her work. Namely, she criticizes her for the homogeneity of her characters—who are often coded by readers as white, cisgender, and heterosexual. Ella Hoover’s success in TikTok’s reader-centric BookTok community—alongside numerous other white writers—has led to bigger conversations about which authors are favored by the app’s content creators and have gotten more attention in the genre. Some detractors have also accused her and many new adult authors of being too obsessed with glorifying trauma, problematic relationships, and toxic interpersonal dynamics.
But the dismal outlook often presented in Hoover’s work may be what’s actually anchoring readers during these uncertain times. “I’m just a very dark person,” she says about what inspires her warped and morally murky storylines about her. “I feel like I have to kind of continue to make [my books] darker and more emotional so that I feel it.” At a time when the world is literally and figuratively on fire, it’s not a stretch to think many of her fans of her may want something to puncture their numbness too.
All of this success does come with more questions than answers. What does an author like Colleen Hoover do now that she has a gigantic legion of dedicated fans, limitless digital reach, and publishers clambering to work with her?
For now, she’s guided by whatever offers the path of least resistance and most excites her. Hoover doesn’t have a set writing schedule and instead sits down to type when she feels like it—which could mean months of no action followed by a few weeks writing 16 hours a day. She recently signed a publishing contract where she refused payment in case she wasn’t in the mood to write the book. “People in my life think I’m very scatterbrained, but it’s because I just live inside my head,” she says. “The book ideas in my head are very organized, but my real life is chaotic. I put all the effort into my imagination.”
Don’t let that seemingly bohemian approach to writing fool you. In addition to releasing her highly-anticipated new book Reminders of Him on January 18, Hoover’s simultaneously working on books for Atria, Grand Central Publishing, and Montlake. She’s also leading her book subscription service The Bookworm Box and her annual event Book Bonanzaboth of which donates all proceeds to charity.
Still, she doesn’t have a set plan for how she’ll work through her miles-long to-do list. “Every single day, I have no idea what tomorrow looks like,” she concludes. “That’s how I thrive.”
It sounds like something a CoHo character would say.
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