It Starts with TikTok: Colleen Hoover’s Campaign Success
By Caitlin Davies, Danielle Hernandez and Georgia Rees
For those of us at all familiar with BookTok or Bookstagram, it has been hard to miss the Colleen Hoover phenomenon. An already successful self-published author, Hoover’s recent surge in popularity, thanks to her online “CoHort,” have led to multiple traditional publishing deals for many of her backlist books, and twenty million books sold as of October 2022. Hoover’s latest release, It Starts With Us, sold 120,997 copies in its first week and flew to first position in the UK Official Top 50, becoming Simon & Schuster’s most preordered book of all time. This week, we take a look at the marketing strategies behind the Colleen Hoover success story.
Social Media Campaigns
Colleen Hoover has seemingly burst onto the fiction scene, with several novels becoming instant bestsellers, appearing in every corner of social media. Hoover is a prolific writer with over twenty-four novels and short stories to her name. Part of her success is owed to the growing online community of book lovers across long standing platforms such as Twitter and Instagram. However, it is Hoover’s “heartland,” TikTok, which has particularly aided her ongoing success. Discussing Hoover’s newest novel, It Starts With Us, marketing manager Sarah Jeffcoate told the Bookseller, “it might start with us, but it certainly won’t end for some time!”
BookTok is now a familiar term in the publishing world, as marketers have discovered its potential for connecting with a global community of readers and shaping reading habits. “A TikTok subculture where book lovers discuss the books they can’t stop talking about,” BookTok has reached over 61.9 billion views (SproutSocial). Colleen Hoover is widely associated with this platform and has gained a ‘CoHo’ fandom in the process. It Ends With Us became one of the most talked about books in 2021, despite being published in 2016, due to the memorable videos and wide reaching recommendations shared. Hoover’s backlist has also grown in popularity, with new deals signed with Atria Books and Simon & Schuster to secure reprints and cohesive cover designs, with many of Hoover’s earlier works being self-published and hard to come by.
Hoover continues to use the strength of social media in marketing It Starts With Us. The marketing team promoted the title through BeReal, a photo sharing platform on the rise, indicating a continual interest to remain ahead of social media trends. Outside of BookTok, Hoover has over 1.9 million followers on Instagram, where her work, events and merchandise are promoted. For her latest book, posts included cover reveals, pub date announcements and celebrations for launch day. Hosting a giveaway, she informally asked, “I signed a bunch of copies of It Starts With Us. Who wants one?” With readers only required to comment to win a copy, a staggering 40,500 users responded. By maintaining a strong relationship with her followers, whilst ensuring her newest titles remain visible on the app, the campaign of It Starts With Us both celebrates Hoover’s loyal fandom whilst acknowledging the novel’s potential for further success.
Event and Bookshop Marketing
While taking advantage of the role social media has played in Hoover’s fame was a clear tactic, particularly with younger audiences, such a hugely anticipated publishing release hardly comes around often, and the marketing team have been careful not to waste such a special opportunity to bring readers together in publication events too.
Following the New York event in Rockefeller Centre, where Lily Bloom’s shop from the book was brought to life for a day, similarly immersive experiences have been created in Waterstones bookstores to celebrate the release in the UK. Collaborating with local creators, these themed events included pop-up workshops allowing readers to create their own flower crowns, design their own front covers and replicate character Lily Bloom’s tattoo in henna. Each participating Waterstones shop was also given bespoke tote bags filled with themed goodies for the attendees to take home. And of course, exclusive merchandise and special editions of the book were also available to buy, encouraging visitors to become readers and potentially long-term fans.
With such strong support across retailers, which the team has attributed to an incredible effort from the sales department, bookshops have also been provided with a huge selection of point-of-sale materials, branded shelving and shippers. These are the materials that help a bookshop decorate their shop floor and set up inviting displays for customers. The importance of the bookseller and publisher relationship cannot be understated. Therefore, working with individual bookshops to provide bespoke offerings that meet their individual requirements will always go a long way in helping a new release stand out.
Outdoor advertising opportunities, such as window displays and special build forty-eight-sheet billboards, are scheduled to come later in the year. Meanwhile, the marketing team has also admitted to exploring brand partnership opportunities as sales continue to break records.