An author who stays on the bestseller lists for a long time gets a lot of praise and a lot of controversy.
Colleen Hoover is a very popular author in the US. She writes books about romance and thrillers, mostly for women. She started by publishing her own books while also doing other things, but now she has sold 14.3 million copies of her books in 2022.
Her most famous book, “It Ends With Us,” came out in 2016 but is still popular because of social media and people telling their friends about it. They are even making a movie based on the book, which will come out in 2024 and will star Blake Lively.
Hoover has a big following of fans who love her books. She has almost a million followers on her Facebook page and 1.4 million on TikTok. She is the second-most-followed author on Goodreads, after Stephen King. She was even named one of TIME’s most influential people in 2023. Last week, three of her books were in the top five of the New York Times bestseller list for paperback fiction.
People who read Hoover’s books really like them. They use words like “romantic” and “exciting” to describe them. Some people even post pictures on TikTok of themselves crying and holding her books, talking about a surprising plot twist, a sexy scene, or a sad moment.
But not everyone is a fan of Hoover’s work. Some people think her books are bad because they think she makes abuse seem romantic. These people include important social media influencers, as well as many readers and writers. Other people who like romance books say that Hoover’s books are different and don’t fit the usual romance conventions.
In short, some people have problems with Hoover’s books. These criticisms bring up complicated questions about what readers expect from different kinds of books, how art deals with hard topics, and how one author can be loved and hated at the same time.
Hoover’s experience with publishing her own work may clarify why she writes in various genres.
Hoover’s popularity shows that there are more books these days that mix different genres and are popular among BookTok users. According to Hoover and her publishers, her books are considered both New Adult and Young Adult contemporary romance, as well as psychological thrillers.
Her novel “It Ends With Us” is emotionally powerful and provides relief for women, which is similar to the old genre called “Chick Lit” but is now called women’s fiction. However, these books also have explicit sexual content, which appeals to the growing desire for “spicy” books on TikTok.
Even in the romance genre, the definitions and expectations are changing.
There’s a subgenre called “dark romance” that has a big following on social media. It can be as mild as spooky stories or as explicit as erotica. In this corner of the book world, there’s less emphasis on the typical happy ending, and many books can be classified as erotica.
To make things more confusing, traditional romance novels often incorporate elements from other genres like fantasy, murder, mystery, or history. Hoover’s books have multiple overlaps with these genres, leading one writer to describe them as “everything bagels of popular fiction.”
Hoover’s success started with self-publishing, where genres and marketability are more flexible. That might explain why her books are hard to classify now that she’s being published by bigger publishers.
According to Diehl, trade publishing has more marketing involved, and bookstores have a responsibility to accurately categorize the books they shelve.
Managing reader expectations becomes even more difficult when larger trends in the publishing industry mask the actual content of the book. Hoover’s books have vibrant and fashionable covers, and her author website sells merchandise with flowers and calligraphy that references her books.
This doesn’t align with the emotionally intense reading experiences her readers have. However, Diehl believes that this is a problem within the romance genre as a whole and not specific to Hoover.
Romance has a marketing problem, and they focus more on trends and what works on social media. It’s more important for a cover to look good in an Instagram photo surrounded by coffee cups and creating an aspirational scene than accurately representing what readers expect.
Hoover herself acknowledges the unconventional classification of her books that may disappoint some readers but keeps millions eagerly waiting for her next release.
Hoover’s Goodreads profile says, “I don’t like to be confined to one genre. If you put me in a box, I’ll claw my way out.”