50 Shades of….. Book Buyers


Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few months, you’ve probably heard of Fifty Shades of Grey, a very adult novel series that has sold millions of copies and spawned many parodies, include 50 Shades of Gravy.

What made that series so popular?  It wasn’t great writing or a unique plot twist.  The story line is as old as the written word: young woman meets mysterious older man with a dark secret.

There are two little words that can make the difference between a book readers that can’t wait to read and a book that gets put down unfinished.

These words are…to and for

When a book, product or other digital content is written to a reader, it feels preachy.  The reader may know deep down that the author is correct and she should follow the information in the material.  However, the chances that that reader will finish the book, implement the material or go to the author’s website for future purchases are slim to none.

Let me illustrate this point with an over the top example. (NOTE: This example is completely fictional LOL)  Let’s say you are the world’s foremost authority on productivity.  In your lab research you’ve discovered that people will become more productive if they eat three raw onions every morning before work.

You decide to write a long book detailing how the enzymes in raw onions interact with the chemistry of your blood and reviewing the years of research you conducted in your lab with human and animal subjects.  This book tells everyone what you have discovered.  You imagine everyone in the world reading it, from scientists to consumers, to members of the Nobel Prize committee.

This book may be full of scientific data, but would it be a best-seller?  Probably not. Readers buy books that they want.  Even if you need to be more productive would you spend hours wading through a scientific tome on onion juice?

Instead, let’s imagine that you used to have a serious problem with procrastination and low productivity.  You went on a quest to help yourself become more productive by experimenting with nutrition, exercise, and various personal development techniques.

After you mastered your own productivity problem, you started helping other people become more productive.  During the course of your work, you discovered 7 holistic techniques which helped people you worked with to get more done and be happier.

You decide to write a book specifically for people who are suffering from procrastination, sharing your story and experience and teaching them how to implement the steps you have discovered.  You market your book as a holistic guide to ending procrastination forever.

This silly example shows you the difference between writing a book to the reader and writing a book for a reader.

Books that are written for readers are:

  • Constructed for a specific target reader not the general public
  • Developed after market research into what that target reader desires- usually to solve a problem that is serious enough that it keeps her up at night
  • Written in a fashion the demonstrates your understanding of that problem and success is solving it so that your reader trusts you and views you as a wise mentor or guide

50 Shades of Grey was written specifically for women bored with their romantic lives.  It’s under lying message was “Read this adult fairy tale and escape from your hum-drum life.”  In fact, that underlying message is the theme of almost every successful fiction book, from thrillers to historical romance.  Fiction is always written for entertainment and escape.

Geneen Roth’s best-selling book, Women, Food, and God was written for women who struggle with food.  It spoke honestly and supportively of the struggle some women have with feelings of worthiness and how those feelings can create problems with eating

Roth shared her stories of disordered eating as well as the stories of how she’s helped thousands of women face similar challenges. The underlying them of the book was, “I healed myself from a terrible problem and I can help you heal too.”

Michael Port’s best-selling book, Book Yourself Solid was written for coaches struggling to begin a successful coaching practice and included concrete steps Port used to transform himself from an actor to a successful coach.  The underlying message of this book was “I built a great business from scratch and you can too.”

So how do you write a book for readers, a book which makes them eager for your next book or your next product/seminar?

First, write a book that you would like to read.  Think of your past self, that part of you before you solved the problem your book addresses. What would you have liked to know back then?

Next, connect with people who fit the demographics of your book.  Find them in your community, on blogs, in forums, and on Facebook.  What magazines and online publications are these people reading, what methods are they trying that disappoint, and how is this challenge impacting their lives?

Finally, determine what steps you’d like reader to take after they finish your book.  Do you want them to buy the next book in a series, attend a workshop, purchase a homestudy course, or hire you to coach them?

Once you are clear on who you are writing for, what she needs, and what steps you want her to take once she finishes your book, you will be able to write a book specifically for her, instead of something general written to everyone.

To and for are little words that create a big difference in the success of your book and help you find YOUR 50 shades of readers!

Lynne Klippel
Lynne Klippel is a best-selling author, publisher, and book strategist who focuses on books which build a business. Her clients are non-fiction writers who create books on spirituality, business, personal development, relationships, and how to books which delight readers and convert them to clients.
Lynne Klippel
Lynne Klippel


  1. Thanks D’vorah- As a former teacher myself, I totally understand your desire to teach thoroughly and well in your books. By the way, you do a great job of this. The trick to this concept is to continue to teach and provide solid content but shape it around a strong need/desire of the reader so she will open up your book in the first place. Hope this helps to clarify things a bit.

  2. Wow Lynne! What a thought provoking article. It had me reexamining my writing style. Perhaps it’s my teaching background, but I find that I am always trying to “teach the science of onion juice” in a serious manner because “there is so much to learn!” Shifting focus to writing FOR the author can be very liberating as the writing can be more fun and more in service of the reader than in the authors need to impart knowledge.