Essays

How TikTok Gave Colleen Hoover and her Novels a Resurgence

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With a backlist of over a dozen novels and novellas, Colleen Hoover isn’t a new author. Since publishing her first novel in 2012, the romance writer has earned the loving nickname of CoHo and has worked to cultivate a huge following of devoted fans. She started a Facebook group in 2016 called Colleen Hoover’s CoHorts that is still active today with over 130,000 members gushing about her work. Other groups have sprung up dedicated to talking about her individual novels, like this one for Verity with over 30,000 members. Hoover is the 2nd most followed author on Goodreads.

Since TikTok’s emergence into the literary scene, she’s been dubbed the “Queen of BookTok,” accumulating over 800,000 followers and hundreds of videos under the hashtag #colleenhoover. According to Hoover’s publisher Atria, her most popular books on TikTok have spent a combined 151 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. Novels like It Ends with Us published in 2016 were back on the list in 2022 with staying power. What about Hoover and her books has resonated so much with TikTok?

Her TikTok Content

It doesn’t take long to see why Hoover is so engaging on her TikTok. Videos with her mom and family and the realities of authorhood give viewers a glimpse into who she really is. She posts updates about her books of course, glimpses of a new manuscript, and announcements about release dates along with duets with readers sobbing at the end of her emotional rollercoaster books. But she also posts videos of her “hot mess” life, posting even when her mic cuts out or when she forgets her mouse and keyboard on a writing getaway eighty miles from home. 

@colleenhoover

2,000 & done. Obviously taking up singing next. #booktok

♬ original sound – Colleen Hoover

@colleenhoover

#duet with @kierralewis75 Dont think ive ever laughed at a series of videos this hard, thank you, Kierra.

♬ original sound – Kierra Lewis

Her readers post about how emotional her books are, how easy to marathon they are. Videos talk about the wild plot twists, the emotional whiplash, the hype of Hoover’s books. Those in the know record people they see out in public, reading the last few pages or some big plot twist. Readers take satisfaction in going through the same emotional turmoil and keep coming back for more.

Her Pre-TikTok Social Media

To find out why Hoover and her novels resonate with TikTok, I wanted to look at her other social media from before the clock app was created. Her Instagram before 2020 is full of giveaways for her novels, glimpses into her writing life, and posts about her personal life. Pictures of over-melted butter in her microwave are bracketed by pictures promoting her novel Layla. Pictures of her mom and kiddos, fancy promotional layouts, and also a picture of a burnt pizza fill up her grid.

Her Twitter pre-TikTok years features similar content: giveaways, personal posts, and a peek into the author life. Her posts are often sarcastic, humor-filled, and don’t take themselves too seriously.

Really, comparing her content before TikTok to now, her content hasn’t much changed. She seemingly has always posted about her life of chaos, her books, and interacted with her fans. TikTok is just another platform for the content she posts.

Why TikTok?

So, why did TikTok give Colleen Hoover’s books a second life? Well, first, the audience of TikTok is uniquely suited for Hoover’s target audience with 60% in the 16 – 24 age range. On top of that, 60% are female, which is 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 that audience in the romance genre and don’t resonate nearly as much as Hoover and her novels do. This is where authenticity and emotionality come in.

TikTok seems to value authenticity more than most other social media platforms. Rather than the polished, perfect life of Instagram influencers or the sarcastic and often regurgitated content on Twitter, creators often come to TikTok make-up free (or at least appearing make-up free) and sharing their real-life struggles. Authenticity, or the guise of it, resonates with the audience. A study revealed 64% of TikTok users said they can be their “true selves” on the app, posting content they wouldn’t anywhere else, and 77% saying they can express themselves openly.

It’s hard to say whether it’s a matter of timing, the app’s popularity skyrocketing during early in the pandemic, or if it’s a matter of tastes shifting as Gen Z and their preference for “sincerity” engages more and more with social media. But the trend is clear: TikTokers want messiness and raw emotions.

Romance novels, with all of their in-your-face emotions and earnestness, have found a huge community on the app because of 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 gut punches. TikTok doesn’t care much for the newness or supposed artistic value of novels, but how it feels to read them, often promoting novels from years ago. It is more about if a novel is fun, if it makes them feel something, rather than how smart it makes you feel to read them. Young adult, fantasy, and romance are amongst the most popular genres on the BookTok community.

So, when Hoover posts videos of her messy life, their popularity makes sense. With the for-you page structure of the app and the speed at which users feed the TikTok algorithm exactly what they like, it’s a uniquely perfect environment to bring Hoover and her novels to the attention of more and more people than before.

The emotionally complex romances she writes and the author herself give off a sense of authenticity which is exactly why I think they resonate so much on the app.

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