I was recently attending a Zoom meeting about book publishing when the speaker announced that the author with 8.5 percent of all books sales in the U. S. last year was Colleen Hoover.
Who? I thought I had misunderstood. Surely, the speaker meant that the top book sales in the country went to someone like Stephen King or James Patterson. Or a hundred other authors I have read and could name.
I’d never heard of Colleen Hoover. Maybe it’s because I stopped checking The New York Times best-selling list when someone told me, with great sincerity, that the numbers can be rigged.
“She’s some kind of romance author,” a writer friend of mine said after I mentioned the author’s staggering sales figures. By the way she said it, I could tell that my friend thought Colleen Hoover wasn’t to be put in the same class as other contemporary authors who routinely arrive on The Times list.
Not wanting to dismiss her accomplishments so quickly, I looked up Colleen Hoover in Wikipedia. She started out self-publishing, her bio said. Those words reached out to me like a flashing neon sign on a dreary night. Hadn’t my Zoom class speaker just said, to my dismay, that NO publishing company would ever pick up a book that had been self-published?
Turns out that Colleen’s first venture into writing, a book named Slammed that was written for her mother, was given a five-star review by a book blogger and ended up at No. 8 on The Times list. Shortly afterward Slammed and its sequel Point of Retreat were re-published by Atria Books.
After the success of her early novels, Colleen quit her job and devoted herself to becoming a full-time author. And the rest is literary history. By 2022, she had sold more than twenty million books. I’d be happy to sell twenty thousand.
Three weeks ago, Colleen Hoover, a 44-year-old mother of three who lives in Texas, became—if not my hero—certainly someone worthy of my reading time. I downloaded her novel Verity on my Kindle. Verity is about a female writer who is hired to finish a series by a famous author who is in a coma following a horrific automobile accident. The writer ends up moving in with the bedridden author, her husband, and young son and finds the woman’s unfinished autobiography, which contains twisted and horrifying secrets.
I read a scathing and somewhat humorous review of Verity a couple of days ago. “The story was captivating . . . everything else sucked,” the reviewer began and then wrote thirteen more paragraphs of complaints. I laughed at the review but found the book entertaining. Who am I to criticize a book that sold three million copies globally?
So, as I prepare to publish my next mystery—Under the Sand—I’ll be hoping to channel my inner Colleen Hoover. Not so much her plot lines or writing style, but her determination. Oh, and her success.