She is the number one New York Times bestselling author who rose to fame through BookTok videos propelling her to global stardom.
Yet, while Colleen Hoover, from Saltillo, Texas, is a worldwide publishing sensation who sold more than James Patterson and John Grisham combined in 2022 – outside the world of TikTik and younger people – she is much less well known.
The 43-year-old writer and former social worker has now sold 20 million books worldwide in total after self-publishing her first novel in 2011, and six of the top 10 best-selling books of 2022 were her novels, according to Forbes.
But while she has won over a generation of fans, some have criticised her books as being very simple and marketed towards people who don’t normally read, and the subject matter is certainly not for snowflakes – with one character trying to abort her unborn babies with a coat hanger so they don’t take away her husband’s attention.
Colleen began writing as a hobby in 2011 while working as a social worker, and she had no plans to make it her full-time job at the time
The books are mostly aimed at young adults and often focus on love and destructive relationships, but the level of writing is increasingly being criticised online.
Recently, an American on TikTok reviewed her work, saying: ‘Simply written, they do not stimulate your imagination or make you step outside of your comfort zone.
‘They trap new readers and make them feel like they’re only capable of reading her books.
‘They’re literally books written for people who don’t read because they are easy to read.
‘Go to a beach and you’ll see a bunch of people reading them.
‘Why? Because that’s the one place people who don’t usually read read.
‘Furthermore representation is non-existent.’
Colleen Hoover has written 22 books and is considered America’s top bestselling author – but is relatively unknown in the UK
Many on TikTok are divided over whether the writing is good or not – but positive BookToks were key to Hoover’s success
While another said the writing style was ‘very simple’ with not many complicated words.
He added: ‘There aren’t going to be sentences that blow you away.’
Hoover’s novels cover dark themes, such as abortion and miscarriage, and people who get together because of shared trauma.
But the topics are often covered – according to some – in a relatively flippant way.
This is in part because Hoover has ADHD so writes in a fast-paced style, leaving out details she finds boring.
But she has been increasingly criticised by those who say her books can demean issues such as rape and domestic violence.
In her 2014 novel, Ugly Love, the book explores the idea of sleeping with a man for long enough until he falls in love with you.
While in It Ends With Us, there are violent scenes in a relationship.
Lines in her books include men using physical force against women and holding them down, and women ‘selling themselves short’ to keep their men, even though they know they deserve better.
In her novel Verity, the main character tries to kill her own unborn twins by drinking, taking pills and falling down the stairs because she’s worried they will take her husband’s attention away from her.
This has led to some people – often young women – making BookTok videos in an attempt to explain and defend violence perpetrated by the characters, with the videos often getting many likes.
Some of TikTok have criticised the author for her simple writing style, something which she attributes to having ADHD
The author has a huge social media following, with many posting BookTok reviews of her latest releases
She announced the drawing book was inspired by the book It Ends With Us, which is centred around domestic violence
The author was also slammed after she revealed plans to release an adult colouring book based on her novel about domestic violence.
She planned to use material from It Ends With Us, but fans accused her of cashing in on domestic violence in an attempt to keep her popularity up.
Hoover then cancelled the project following the criticism.
She wrote: ‘The coloring book was developed with Lily’s strength in mind, but I can absolutely see how this was tone-deaf.
‘I hear you guys and I agree with you. No excuses. No finger pointing.
‘I have contacted the publisher to let them know I would prefer we don’t move forward with it. Thank you for the respectful discourse and accountability. Nothing but love.’
After one day of criticism, she apologized for the insensitive activity book and noted that she was working with publishers to cease the project
The publisher Atria Books then also confirmed that the project was being cancelled following criticism from readers.
In an Instagram post, a spokesperson for the company wrote: ‘Atria Books will not move forward with the publication of The Official It Ends with Us Coloring Book.
‘Thank you for the honest conversation and passion for the world Colleen has created in her books and the characters within.’
It Ends With Us tells the story of a young woman who is assaulted by her husband and finds herself fighting to break the cycle of abuse.
The novel was based on the troubled marriage of Hoover’s parents and gained traction when social media users took to TikTok to gush about the best-seller.
Despite the criticisms surrounding her work, however, there is little doubt Hoover is a staggering success.
Now with 22 novels to her name, including psychological thrillers, in 2022, she took six of the top 10 bestselling spots of 2022.
Undoubtedly, the Covid pandemic helped boost her popularity, with many posting videos about her older books, which then re-entered the charts.
But the author was still caught by surprise, with her Twitter bio reading: ‘I don’t get it either.’
Her latest novel, It Starts With Us, released in October set a company record for first day fiction sales.
It reportedly sold a total of more than 800,000 copies on the day it was released.
Despite all of the success – she sold more books last year than James Patterson and John Grisham combined – Hoover still enjoys a low-key life.
And she has upended the publishing industry’s most entrenched assumptions about what sells books.
Following Hoovers apology, the publisher Atria Books also confirmed that the project was being cancelled following criticism from readers
Colleen Hoover has sold more books this year than James Patterson and John Grisham ‒ combined
Author Colleen Hoover has been slammed after she announced plans to create a coloring book based one of her best-selling novels
When she self-published her first young-adult novel, Slammed, in January 2012, Hoover was making minimum wage as a social worker, living in a trailer with her husband, a long-distance truck driver, and their three sons.
She was elated when she made a small sum in royalties as it was enough to pay the water bill.
Hoover didn’t have a publisher, an agent or any of the usual machinery that goes into engineering a bestseller: the six-figure marketing campaigns, the talk-show and podcast tours, the speaking gigs and literary awards, the glowing reviews from mainstream book critics.
But seven months later, Slammed hit the bestseller list. By May, Hoover had made £31,000 in royalties, money she used to pay back her stepfather for the trailer.
By the summer, with two books on the bestseller list ‒ Slammed and a sequel, Point of Retreat ‒ she quit her job to write full time.
Her success has happened largely on her terms, led by readers who act as her evangelists, driving sales through ecstatic online reviews and viral reaction videos.
Her fans, who are mostly women, call themselves CoHorts and post gushing reactions to her books’ devastating climaxes.
One CoHo fan said on TikTok: ‘I want Colleen Hoover to punch me in the face. That would hurt less than these books.’
Her top-selling book, It Ends With Us (pictured), a drama about a florist who falls for a brooding, abusive neurosurgeon, came out six years ago
So far in 2022, five of the top ten bestselling print books of any genre are Hoover’s, according to NPD BookScan, and many of her current bestsellers came out years ago, a phenomenon almost unheard of in publishing.
‘She’s defying the laws of how the market works,’ says publishing industry analyst Peter Hildick-Smith.
Most blockbuster authors break out because of a popular series, such as Twilight or Harry Potter, or build a brand by writing in a recognisable genre. Hoover is eclectic.
She has written romances, a steamy psychological thriller, a ghost story, harrowing novels about domestic violence, drug abuse, homelessness and poverty.
Although her books are hard to categorise, most of them have an addictive combination of sex, drama and outrageous plot twists.
‘I kept being told that authors need to brand themselves as one thing. And I was like, “Well, why can’t I brand myself as everything?”’ Hoover says. ‘Why can’t I just brand myself as Colleen Hoover?’
Hoover’s devoted fanbase has given her a degree of control over her work that is unusual in publishing.
Hoover’s deft use of social media, where she has 3.9 million followers across platforms and posts goofy, self-deprecating videos, helped grow her audience.
So did timing: although she built a strong fanbase early in her career, her sales soared during the pandemic, when her books became a sensation on TikTok. To date, the hashtag #colleenhoover has amassed more than 2.4 billion views.
Libby McGuire, head of Hoover’s main publisher, called the phenomenon ‘the reverse of the Oprah book club’.
Whereas Oprah Winfrey was one woman making a recommendation, and sometimes selling two million books, now it’s 100 people making a recommendation ‒ and selling four million books, McGuire says. ‘We’re all just sitting back going, “OK, what’s the next one they’re going to pick?”’
Hoover, who says she has ADHD and suffers from ‘the worst case of impostor syndrome in the world’, seems bewildered by it all.
‘I read other people’s books, and I’m so envious. I’m thinking, “Oh, my God, these are so much better, why are mine selling the way they are?”’ she said.
‘It’s not me,’ she added. ‘The readers are controlling what is selling right now.’