An Author Who Has Found Success on Her Terms: Colleen Hoover

Monday, October 17, 2022

“Do you read Colleen Hoover’s books? Great success story.” My friend’s message came with a link to a New York Times article on . . . who? Colleen Hoover? 

I clicked through to see who she is and what she writes and was thrilled to find a success story about a woman writer who is crazy successful. Earlier this month, she had not one spot on the NYT paperback best seller list but six. Six! 

Hoover self-published her first book in January 2012. Slammed is a young adult novel and seven months later it was on the NYT bestseller list. 

By May 2012, she had made $50,000. She did this without a publicist or a mega-publisher’s marketing team. In short, her success was and continues to be largely because of enthusiastic online reviews and reaction videos from her fans. I love that her fans love her so much. They are her marketing team. But I also love that she has achieved this by breaking the rules. 

Let’s start with her brand. Multiple people have told Hoover that she needs a brand. When people hear her name, they need to think Colleen Hoover, the young adult author or Colleen Hoover, steamy romance author. But Hoover rejected this idea. Her idea for branding? She’ll be Colleen Hoover. 

What about linking herself to a genre? Young adult would be convenient since that’s where she started. Hoover really isn’t interested in that either. She’s written young adult, romance, a psychological thriller, a ghost story, and gripping fiction. What her books have in common are gripping plots. 

Then there’s her backlist. Publishing has trained us to look toward new releases. These are where we are going to find our future bestsellers. Right? That hasn’t been Hoover’s experience. During 2020, Hoover made five of her books free. As readers polished these titles off, they moved on to her backlist. Sales grew and soon books that were several years old moved onto the bestseller list as her fans made TikTok videos that urged other readers to buy her older books. Her success has been pushed by her fans. There are no movie tie-ins. Her books aren’t being pushed by Oprah or any other celebrity. 

Oh, wait. And you know how we are constantly told that character growth is where it is at? Apparently, Hoover’s characters are flawed and stayed flawed. Readers are enticed by the action and the plot twists.

Book sellers are impressed because they are accustomed to books that fly off the shelves for a few weeks, two examples being Crying at H Mart or The Summer I Turned Pretty. Hoovers books just keep selling. 

The next time that you have a story that just won’t leave you alone, but you aren’t certain that it ticks all the boxes and follows all the rules, just write. Write the best story that you can. It worked for Colleen Hoover.


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 35 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.

The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on November 6, 2022).  Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins November 6, 2022) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins November 6, 2022). 


Renee Roberson said...

I love this story! I keep seeing people sharing her books everywhere and they all look very different. I haven't read any of hers yet but now I'm intrigued by her "there are no rules" attitude and success. Did she ever get picked up by a traditional publisher or is she still doing this on her own?

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

She works with three publishers but also maintains her self-published backlist. Don't know if she is planning to add to her self-published titles or not. And since I read about her, I see her books here, there, and everywhere!

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