It might start with a casual glance at the bestseller list: a book by Colleen Hoover. Hmmm … never heard of her, you think. Then you notice her name again, just below, and again a few lines past that. But it doesn’t stop there. Hoover, 42, who writes romantic fiction and thrillers, currently holds the first and second spots on The New York Times’ paperback trade fiction bestseller list and five more in the top 10. She also penned five of the top 10 best-selling books of 2022 so far, according to NPD BookScan.
At the top of the list is the author’s 2016 novel It Ends With Us, which is classic Colleen Hoover: a compelling, sexy and breezy read. Its much-anticipated sequel, It Starts With Us, comes out Oct. 18 with a first printing of 2.5 million copies. (For comparison, blockbuster author Harlan Coben’s next thriller, I Will Find You, has a planned first printing of 750,000 for its March release, according to Library Journal.)
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We’ve had publishing “moments” before, says Kristen McLean, the primary industry analyst for NPD BookScan, who points to past waves of reader excitement over the Twilight and Fifty Shades of Gray series, for instance. “What’s unique about Colleen’s story is that those books were single projects. This is all about Colleen and her readers,” who are buying up novels from her backlist. “That’s unusual,” McLean adds.
Steady, then stunning, success
Just a decade or so ago, Hoover was a social worker living in a mobile home in East Texas with her truck-driver husband and three young sons. She started writing for fun and self-published her first novel, Slammed, in 2012. It hit the bestseller list, and she went on to write more than 20 more books — and sell 20 million copies of them — in the heady years since.
So there are plenty of readers who have long been aware of the author many fondly refer to as CoHo. Those fans call themselves her CoHorts, including Karen Lawson, 72, a truly ardent Hoover follower since her daughter introduced her to Slammed 10 years ago. Hoover has Skyped with Lawson’s two different book clubs, whose members (all 60 and older) also “think she’s absolutely wonderful,” according to Lawson.
But the author’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent months, says Libby McGuire, senior vice president and publisher of Atria Publishing Group. “We were happy with her sales,” she says of Hoover’s previous success. “Little did we know that it could be amplified times 10.”
That amplification began around mid-2021, during the pandemic, McGuire says, “when people were reading more and started sharing their love for her books on social media.”