How TikTok gave Colleen Hoover and her novels a resurgence
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With a list of over a dozen novels and short stories, Colleen Hoover is not a new author. Since publishing her debut novel in 2012, the romance author has earned the affectionate nickname CoHo and has worked to cultivate a huge following of devoted fans. She started a Facebook group in 2016 called Colleen Hoover’s CoHorts which is still active today with over 130,000 members springing from her work. Other groups have sprung up dedicated to talking about his individual novels, like this one for Truth with over 30,000 members. Hoover is the 2nd most followed author on Goodreads.
Since TikTok emerged on the literary scene, she’s been dubbed the “Queen of BookTok,” amassing over 800,000 followers and hundreds of videos under the hashtag #colleenhoover. According to Hoover’s publisher Atria, his most popular books on TikTok spent a combined 151 weeks on The New York Times list of bestsellers. Novels like It ends with us released in 2016 were back on the list in 2022 with endurance. What about Hoover and his books that resonated so much with TikTok?
His TikTok content
It doesn’t take long to see why Hoover is so engaging on his TikTok. Videos with her mother and family and the realities of fatherhood give viewers a glimpse of who she really is. Of course, she posts updates on her books, previews of a new manuscript and announcements about release dates as well as duets with sobbing readers at the end of her emotional roller coaster books. But she also posts videos of her “hot” life, even when her microphone cuts out or when she forgets her mouse and keyboard during a writing getaway eighty miles from home.
Her readers write about how moving her books are, how easy to marathon them. The videos talk about the wild twists and turns of the plot, the emotional whiplash, the hype of Hoover’s books. Those in the know record people they see in public, read the back pages, or a big twist. Readers are content to ride through the same emotional turmoil and keep coming back for more.
His pre-TikTok social media
To find out why Hoover and his novels resonate with TikTok, I wanted to look at his other social media before the clock app was created. Her pre-2020 Instagram is full of giveaways for her novels, glimpses into her life as a writer, and posts about her personal life. Images of overly melted butter in his microwave are framed by images promoting his novel Layla. Photos of his mother and children, whimsical promotional layouts, as well as a photo of a burnt pizza fill his grid.
His Twitter The pre-TikTok years feature similar content: giveaways, personal messages, and insight into the author’s life. His posts are often sarcastic, humorous and don’t take themselves too seriously.
Really, comparing his content before TikTok to now, his content hasn’t changed much. She apparently always posted about her chaos life, her books, and interacted with her fans. TikTok is just another platform for the content it publishes.
So why has TikTok given Colleen Hoover’s books a second life? Well, first of all, TikTok’s audience is particularly suited to Hoover’s target audience with 60% in the 16-24 age bracket. On top of that, 60% are women, who are the primary audience for romance novels. With her characters often young adults, it’s easy to see why TikTok is a perfect platform for her novels.
But I think it’s a little deeper than that. Hundreds of authors write for this audience in the romance genre and don’t resonate as much as Hoover and his novels. This is where authenticity and emotion come in.
TikTok seems to value authenticity more than most other social media platforms. Rather than the polished, picture-perfect lives of Instagram influencers or the sarcastic and oft-regurgitated content on Twitter, creators often come to TikTok makeup-free (or at least pretend to be makeup-free) and share their real-life struggles. Authenticity, or the look of it, resonates with audiences. A study found that 64% of TikTok users said they could be themselves on the app, posting content they wouldn’t see anywhere else, and 77% said that they could express themselves openly.
It’s hard to say if it’s a matter of timing, with the app’s popularity skyrocketing at the start of the pandemic, or if it’s a matter of changing tastes as Gen Z and their preference for “sincerity” are increasingly engaging with social media. But the trend is clear: TikTokers want clutter and raw emotions.
Romance novels, with all their emotion and earnestness, have found a huge community on the app due to this trend. Readers often focus on the emotions books make them feel, compiling lists full of books that made them ugly cry or ones with emotional punches. TikTok doesn’t care much about novelty or the supposed artistic value of novels, but about how it feels to read them, often promoting novels from years ago. It’s more about whether a novel is fun, whether it makes them feel something, rather than how smart it makes you feel to read them. Young adult, fantasy and romance are among the most popular genres in the BookTok community.
So when Hoover posts videos of his messy life, their popularity really comes into its own. With the app’s page structure for you and the speed at which users feed the TikTok algorithm exactly what they love, it’s a unique and perfect environment to get the attention of Hoover and his novels on more and more people.
The emotionally complex novels she writes and the author herself exude a sense of authenticity, which is exactly why I think they resonate so much on the app.