• Sandi Gelles-Cole

WHAT’S THE STORY

Updated: Oct 27

WHY IS COLLEEN HOOVER KNOCKING ALL THE EVERGREENS OFF THE BESTSELLER LISTS

I don’t have much practical information—no tips on how to repair the holes my puppy has chewed into the Versace Barocco throw pillow or what to do to clean the trash we’re leaving on Mars.


But I have spent over 40 years laboring with love as an editor in the commercial book publishing industry. So I have seen things--patterns, trends, and learned the rights and wrongs: how we should never publish books for minorities because they don’t buy books (spoken by an editor in chief at a Monday morning editorial meeting) or if you put a submarine on a paperback book with a yellow cover it will always hit the NYTbestseller list (off-the-cuff comment by president of a major house that publishes lines in every format and for every audience, now folded into one of the Big Five).


So I would have to reflect on how Ms. Hoover has broken just about every rule I was taught since 1974 when I entered the book business.


It is my opinion and observation that every decade or so a talent comes along who defies the numbers kept by the sales crunchers. For example the evergreen classic western, MAN OF THE FOREST by Zane Grey, (Harper & Son), Nielson bookscan- reports 20 million books sold while Zane was alive, 20 million posthumously and the book is still selling. As of October 21, It is number 1054 on Amazon’s Western list. Good job Mrl. Grey. However Hoover sold 8.6 copies in 2022 alone. Her latest book, IT STARTS WITH US (Atria) had a firist printing of 800,000 and has in print through the 4th printing 2.5 copies in print and it was published yesterday.


In my lifetime I’ve witnessed a few of these artists soar whether or not they could write or sing well. Elvis comes to mind. Springsteen. In the book business immediately one thinks of Danielle Steel (who may have held the book world’s record for best sellers in fiction until Hoover came along)


When I was still typing and filing submission lists, Barbara Cartland, a superstar of historical romance fiction was photographed against a background my memory kicks up as a full page in Publishers Weekly where everything was pink. Her books have sold somewhere between 750 million and two billion according to google. And this was before the monstrous outreach of the World Wide Web. By the way,nobody working in that genre was thinking about how much sex was too risqué because no one considered adding sex scenes. So Ms. Cartland had some other special ingredient in her romance.


This group of spectacular artists are exceptional because of a singular talent. Their “products” soar past everything the field has tip sheets for. The talent is cutting straight through every aspect that makes a book work and going for the jugular--feeling.


My unscientific opinion is these rare creatures have an instinct for how to get directly through the public’s barriers of heart, mind, spirit. It’s like what our forebears must have felt when they first saw lightning or how it struck us to see Neil Armstrong step on to the moon.


The work Coleen Hoover writes doesn’t have to be great because she has penetrated our most raw places. She grocks her readers’ feelings like Jonah might have once out of the whale and this tells us we are not alone. With that she and all these other special artists awaken a part of us that has been waiting to be touched and shared.


So that’s my two cents about the phenomenon that is Coleen Hoover. Why else would she own 6 places on the NYTimes bestseller list the week of October 23?


Swipe away those multi book series named for the detective/protagonist and write straight from your gut to your readers’ heart. That’s what she is doing.


I would love to know what you think she is doing that has created a literary volcano.


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