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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

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


Romantic Lurve – or 50 Shades of Beige

Miss PiggyRomance, in one form or another, is threaded through all our books at New Romantics Press. Lately, we’ve been discussing how one reader’s sublime is another’s ‘cor blimey!’

Apparently, there was no such thing as romantic love until after the 12th century. Until then, knights regarded biffing each other as pretty much its own reward. After that, they needed an explanation for all the biffing, (if they couldn’t think of one, they asked a minstrel to make something up) and sagas of battle moved to tales of courtly love.

Sublime? So, what about the ‘cor blimey!’

E.L. James’s erotic bestseller has sold 100 million copies, and still counting. It’s women who are flocking to see the film.

Vileda MopAllegedly, before the launch, B&Q sent a memo to staff, warning of a possible increase in demand for certain products. These would be from customers recreating their own Fifty Shades experience. What were  they expecting? People stringing themselves up in the shelving section and spanking one another with Vileda mops?

Have I seen the film? Noo. I always feel a teensy bit self-conscious watching that sort of thing – a voyeur looking through a keyhole. There’s a sort of agony of embarrassment and my hand keeps creeping up to cover my face – as if a week-old kipper is being wafted around.

I often skip the more palpitating passages when reading, too – especially when it starts to sounds a tad gynaecological.

“I don’t make love. I ****. Hard.”

(Ooh, heck. Move over Heathcliffe.)

Those words from the film sound less erotic to me than the Victoria Wood song about turning off Gardeners’ Question Time in the hope of being bent over the hostess trolley and beaten on the bottom with Woman’s Weekly.

I’m not quite of the same mind as the film reviewer, who said 50 Shades made her want to rush for her pinny and start polishing the silver.

I admire people who write about sex and erotica well. It takes skill to get it right. I just know that I’m not one of them.

I’ve taken heart from writer Joan Didion who suggests that concealing something, can heighten its impact. She says: “It’s like dressing. If you’re covered up, it’s sexier than if you’re not.” (Discuss?)

I heard a theatre director say recently that sex on stage is a notoriously tricky thing. A little, he said, goes a long way. It’s the suggestion of sexiness, apparently – not the act itself – that raises the temperature in an auditorium.

Raising the temperature! That’s it! That’s what I’m always struggling to achieve in my novels. But I appreciate that what floats my boat, may well scupper yours.

So, what about  you? What do you think? Comments in plain brown envelopes, please!

I’ll leave you with another quote from Victoria Wood: ‘Orgasm? I haven’t blown my nose since Wednesday!’

And to cool things down, here’s a picture of myself at 5, dress tucked into knickers. (I still wear a similar voluminous sort which may go some way to explaining my own views on this topic.)