Check the latest Publishers Weekly or The New York Times best-selling lists, and you’ll find Sulphur Springs author Colleen Hoover dominating in a big way.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Hoover’s romance novel It Ends with Us is No. 1 on Publisher’s Weekly’s top 10 overall and The Times’ paperback trade fiction. Meanwhile, other Hoover-authored books are occupying spots throughout the lists.
You would have expected a full-fledged marketing campaign to have achieved these results. Not so much.
Hoover achieved book dominance in a new way. Since 2020, a simple seven-letter hashtag on the Tiktok app — #BookTok — has become a significant marketing force, helping create some of the market’s biggest sellers. TikTokers use the tag to target an audience, then engage with other TikTokers to recommend titles, create videos or make emotional pitches about what they’ve just read.
“It’s been a huge surprise and really incredible to find so many readers on TikTok,” Hoover said.
Hoover, a 42-year-old mother of three who has been called the “Queen of BookTok” by BuzzFeed, is a noticeable influence on TikTok, a social media platform that trends young.
It’s not surprising.
Hoover’s works of young adult fiction and romance resonate with TikTok’s audience. Roughly 43% of TikTok’s users are between 18 and 24 years old and 57% are female, according to Dataportal.com. Hoover’s It Ends With Us was the second-best-selling Adult Fiction book and sixth-best-selling book overall in 2021.
“It’s absolutely a publisher’s dream,” said Ariele Fredman, Hoover’s publicist and deputy director of publicity at Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster.
“From the publicity, marketing and advertising side, there’s this echo chamber going on in TikTok, advertising to people who are not people on other platforms.”
Fredman has been with Hoover for a decade and appreciates the recognition that TikTok has received.
“From a Colleen perspective, we finally have the attention of people I’ve been reaching out to for eight or nine years,” Fredman said.
Over the past decade, Hoover has published more than 22 novels and novellas. Through her own TikTok hashtag, #coho, she’s drawn 295.5 million views as of Tuesday. TikTokers are talking about her current novels as well as those on her backlist.
“The fact that my books have somehow taken on a life of their own on the app has been mind-boggling and amazing,” Hoover said.
Hoover said she joined TikTok several years ago with “no intentions beyond just sharing my day to day life but noticed in 2020 that I was being tagged in more and more posts about my books.”
According to TikTok metrics, TikTokers who have used #BookTok have generated 71.7 billion views on the platform. In comparison, #dance, a topic that seems to attract the most TikToks has 449 billion views.
TikTok has surpassed the reach of Goodreads, a website where readers share what they enjoy reading. In its last accounting, Goodreads has 90 million members. Goodreads does track #BookTok on its book lists. In its list of “books tiktok keeps recomending [sic] me,” Hoover books It Ends with Us and Verity are running 1-2.
Ironically, TikTok’s book interest is reigniting the passion for print. According to NPD Bookscan, the U.S. print book market was up 9% compared to 2020. #BookTok has helped authors sell 20 million printed books in 2021 and sales, so far this year, are up another 50%, according to NPD Bookscan.
Barnes & Noble, an icon in the book retailer industry, teamed with TikTok to launch a summer reading campaign called #BookTokChallenge to encourage people to post about books they’re reading and to cross-pollinate readers.
Lori Feather, a co-owner at Interabang Books of Dallas, says she can attest that interest in Hoover had been high among readers, but it rose when #BookTok became a thing.
“Just because of #BookTok … it’s become a phenomenon the past four months,” Feather said. “We have seven to eight women, ages 15 to 24, coming in and wanting her books every day.”
“It’s just wild,” said Aimee Garnier, social media coordinator at Interabang. “Who would’ve thought #BookTok would have that kind of power?”
Garnier said she uses #BookTok on Interabang’s TikTok account, @interabangbooksdallas, not only for Hoover’s books but for other authors
“It’s affected what books I’ve read,” she said. “It’s fun to see what everybody’s reading. It kind of shows all the different readers of the world.”
Kristen McLean, executive director and industry analyst at NPD Bookscan, told Forbes that social media — particularly TikTok users who post about books — has “definitely been a factor” in surging book sales.
Again, Hoover’s work hits a sweet spot: Adult Fiction led the growth of sales in 2021, up 25% from the previous year, and Young Adult had its best year with sales quadrupling compared to 2004 data.
James Stafford, TikTok’s head of Partnerships and Community, said in a statement that #BookTok is “having a profound impact on the literary world” and is reigniting a passion for literature.
Mark Cuban, who has noticed TikTok’s influence on sports video, envisions the platform having even a greater impact on book sales.
“Wait ‘till books become NFTs with the reader and [digital rights management] built in,” Cuban said via email. “You can click on the tik :), and have it downloaded immediately.”
One of Hoover’s more animated fans on TikTok is Caitlin Bea, a YouTuber who is a beauty, fashion and lifestyle influencer. As @caitlinbea, many of her TikToks are about Hoover’s work.
In May, she ranked the top three Hoover-authored books you should read first: “I’ve ever read every Colleen Hoover so you don’t have to — but you should.”
Her two-minute review drew more than 136,200 likes and 1,131 comments.
Hoover can credit social media on how her career took off. In late 2001, she uploaded to Amazon her manuscript of what would become Slammed, a tale of a high school student who has a neighbor who is a fan of slam poetry.
From there, she grew more fans, some calling themselves CoHorts. She owns a bookstore in Sulphur Springs called The Bookworm Box Bookstore. She has used her position to support charitable causes, such as through her Book Bonanza event in Grapevine.
Along the way, she remembers her beginnings as a social worker and does her best to find a connection with those she meets, Fredman said.
“I think it’s important for people to know that Colleen has been using social media to connect with her readers,” Fredman said. “She’s always been able to harness social media in an amazing way.
“She’s connected to them in a certain way that makes them adore her and want to read her books.”