How Colleen Hoover Rose to Rule the Best-Seller List

After “Slammed,” she wrote more than 20 books, jumping from young adult romance to erotica to a thriller. But it was in 2020, with the pandemic, that Hoover’s sales really started to pick up. That spring, Hoover made five of her e-books free. Readers devoured the free novels — and started buying her entire backlist. Hoover thought it was a fleeting moment, but it persisted. Novels that were years old popped back on the best seller lists.

“We were like, ‘Where is this coming from?’” said Melanie Iglesias Pérez, Hoover’s editor at Atria. “That’s when we started to see the TikTok videos.”

It was better publicity than anyone in sales or marketing could have engineered, she said.

Neither Hoover nor her business manager, Cohen, offered exact sales figures, and the total is hard to calculate, since royalty rates are different for self-published books, and she spreads her titles across several publishers. But there’s no question her books, now carried by chains like Walmart, Sam’s Club and Costco, have made a fortune: Collectively, Hoover’s publishers have sold more than 20 million copies.

“I used to get excited if I went into a bookstore and saw a paperback. Now I walk into a Barnes & Noble and they have a Colleen Hoover table,” Hoover told me. “It’s insane.”

Fame has come as a shock to Hoover, who is almost painfully introverted, and dislikes being in the spotlight. “I’ve been so nervous about this,” she said about participating in this article. “I don’t do well with interviews.”

She still shops at Walmart in her pajamas, and lives on the same 100-acre plot of land where her family’s farm used to be. Her uncle still harvests hay for his cattle on the property.

In 2015, with profits from her books, her family demolished the old dairy barn and built a spacious but homey single story ranch house. Hoover allowed herself a few indulgences: Her living room has built-in display spaces for gem stones and crystals. In her home office, a bookcase opens onto a secret second office where she sometimes hides away to write.

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