50 Shades of Reader – What makes a great Bestseller?

Having had 50 Shades of Beige and 50 Shades of Greece, today we welcome Sarah Houldcroft to our blog with 50 Shades of Reader!

auburn haired lady reading 650Are there really 50 shades of reader or do we all basically want the same thing from the books we read?  The vast majority reading this blog will know of the hype surrounding 50 Shades of Grey and possibly a large number of those will have read the book, but is an almost equally large number criticising the way it was written?  It would appear so. There were, apparently, a large number of readers who were dissatisfied with the book, but it was still a runaway bestseller.

This would suggest that the style of writing does not necessarily dictate how popular a book will become. The ‘action’ and characters, in this instance, caught the imagination! But is that always the case? What makes a Bestseller?

I love to read to escape and become engrossed in the lives of the characters in the book I am reading. I almost think of them as friends and feel their pain or joy. I want to be transported away from my reading chair to other places and times.  For instance, in Lizzie Lamb’s own ‘Tall, Dark and Kilted’ I am standing on the side of the road with Fliss looking down into the Scottish Loch for the first time and catching a glimpse of the house that is to be her new home. With June Kearns’ The 20’s Girl, I could feel the Texas heat on my face and almost had to shake the desert sand off the book pages. So the warm water surrounding the Greek island in Margaret Cullingford’s Twins of a Gazelle was very refreshing and relaxing. I caught up with some old friends in the third and final part of Adrienne Vaughan’s Heartfelt series, I had really missed them!

But, does everyone else feel the same way I do about reading?

I asked three busy business ladies, who like to read to relax and switch off after a full day’s work, in their opinion what makes a bestseller.


Sue Ritchie‘To me what makes a bestseller is a combination of things:

Keeping the readers interest as you read the book and also evoking emotions, excitement, interest and intrigue and curiosity throughout.

I don’t think you particularly have to relate to the characters in the book, but they do have to have depth and character that is real.

Being able to paint the pictures so the reader can visualise the situation is very powerful too.’

Sue Ritchie

Louisa Sando Patel‘A strong, bold cover design goes a long way in terms of whether I reach for a brand new book in-store. Online, I do rely heavily upon customer reviews, unless I am very familiar with the author.

Story-wise, I like to be kept in suspense on every page, and I love unexpected endings. Some of my favourite bestsellers are those where a story has been set across many time periods, reaching back into history and then bringing a storyline right up-to-date. What’s more, a series of well-defined characters set against a well-described backdrop, I believe are essential traits of a bestseller. I want to be able to ‘taste the sea air’ and to ‘smell the roses’.’

Louisa Sando-Patel

Bernie Sarginson‘A great fictional best seller from my perspective is all about the storyline and how the web of the story is created and unfolds around the characters.

The cover will attract my attention in the first place if it looks intriguing and draws me in, to check out that all important first page. If I’m hooked after the first few lines or paragraphs, then I’ll buy the book.

What I’m always looking for is a real page turner that I can’t put down because there is always something else happening and I love unexpected surprises, twists and turns within the plotlines.’

Bernadette Sarginson


We all come from different backgrounds and our businesses are very diverse, but we all seem to read with the same purpose in mind– to relax and escape. Strong characters and intriguing plots together with the ability for us to become emotionally involved in the story are the most important traits for all of us. Coupled together with a stunning cover, that seems to be the essence of a bestseller.

Ok, I know this is only the opinions of the four of us, but I suspect that most women will feel the same. We want to not just read the book, but feel what the characters are feeling, see what they are seeing, hearing and even sometimes smelling! It needs to be a complete sensory experience.

Of course, the authors of New Romantics Press do provide us with a fabulous mix of emotional content, together with, a generous helping of humour, not to mention our very own hot heroes!

So, an entire 50 shades of reader? I’m not so sure.


Sarah Houldcroft VAforAuthors 400Sarah Houldcroft enjoys giving authors more time to write by helping them with all aspects of their self publishing journey. She offers a wide range of services from converting manuscripts to ebooks and print books, through to author websites and social media. She can be contacted at www.VAforAuthors.com

She lives in Leicestershire with her teenage son, three rescue dogs, two ageing bunnies and hundreds and hundreds of books.



About Lizzie Lamb

I write contemporary women's fiction mostly based in Scotland with hot heroes, feisty heroines and always a happy ending. Along with three other authors - Adrienne Vaughan, June Kearns and Margaret Cullingford - I formed the New Romantics Press under which our books are published. I have published six books since 2012, the latest being Harper's Highland Fling. I am currently working on #7 which I hope to publish in 2022. In the meantime, do check out my Amazon page: viewAuthor.at/LizzieLamb and click 'FOLLOW' to keep up to date with me and my news.

Posted on August 11, 2015, in Guest Blogs, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. newromanticspress

    Thanks to Sarah for posting this informative look into ‘what readers want.’ Writers are constantly striving to write the book it is in their heart but at the same time they have to keep a weather eye on what appeals to their reader. Otherwise the only writing for themselves and having a highly indulgent, if enjoyable time. Some great insights here and ones I will be taking note of. Thanks, Lizzie x

  2. newromanticspress

    Reblogged this on Lizzie Lamb.

  3. Margaret Cullingford

    I was an avid reader long before I became a writer, Sarah, and.everything you say,also Sue’s, Louisa’s and Bernadette’s comments chime with me. Thank you for reminding me, in my writers hat, the importance of plot played out by convincing characters immersed in places which, as a reader, you feel you’re there with them. Now I must finish novel number three p.d.q. .

  4. Thank you, Sarah – fascinating post!
    Thanks also to Sue, Louisa and Bernadette for some really interesting views.
    For me, they’re confirming that a reader has to care enough about your characters, to want to share the story’s journey with them.

  5. Very interesting blog post. As writers we feel we know what works in a novel but to hear those three readers confirm it is very reassuring. It also confirms that writer’s adage that we must keep the reader in our minds throughout the writing process.

    • newromanticspress

      Thanks for commenting Liz. I tried to write things I would enjoy reading when I pick up a book. I can’t stand loads of introspection with an author tells is the same thing over and over again. I feel like screaming, ‘we get it;move on.’ Hopefully my beta readers will pick up on that and give me a slap on the wrist. Lizzie

  6. For me, fantastic characters and an intriguing storyline are winners.

  7. I have not read 50 Shades of Grey, but it speaks volumes about what people want in their lives after a long day at the office. I enjoy reading and I write as well. I personally have found that bestsellers are using all about marketing. If a writer has signed on what a top publisher, that visibility puts the book in the center of people’s minds. Unfortunately, some really good books have gone unnoticed because they were not properly showcased. Lynn

    • newromanticspress

      Lynn, I agree with everything you’ve said! As an indie author I have to work hard to bring my books to the attention of readers. Not easy, is it ?

  1. Pingback: 50 Shades of Reader – What makes a great Bestseller? » VA for Authors

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: