13 Proven Tools for Discovering Bestselling Book Ideas
It’s not easy to find the right topic for your next book.
Either your mind is full of half-formed ideas…
Or, you simply don’t know how to get started.
Fortunately, there are a number of excellent tools you can use to find that next book topic. In fact, I use a combination of over 13 tools to research the various topics in my book catalog.
The best part?
If you go through the process just one time, then you’ll have a notebook full of ideas that will form the foundation of your author business. This means you never have to struggle with what you’ll write next. All you need to do is open up your idea book and pick the topic that relates to your passion and personal experience.
In this blog post, I’ll go over 13 resources that I personally use to generate bestselling book ideas. But first, I’d like to start with two key points.
Ideas! NOT Plagiarism.
While research is an important part of the publishing process, what you shouldn’t do is rip off any of the content that you find. The purpose of this initial research is to jog the creative part of your brain so you can identify topics that you might not have considered before.
Then once you have a notebook of ideas, you should find topics that directly relate to an area where you can provide expert information. In other words, never copy the content that you find during the book idea research phase. If you find a really valuable resource, then jot down the link to it and then use it as a reference within your next book.
Generating Book Ideas: A Case Study
Another key point is the blog post will be a case study of how I would research a niche using these 13 resources. So for each of these entries, I will include an example of how I’d go about identifying book ideas for the “save money / frugal living” market.
Why did I pick this niche?
Well, it’s related to one of my wife’s passions. She absolutely loves saving money and getting bargains on various items.
The reason I’m talking about my wife’s interests instead of my own is because I want to show how easy it is to identify book topics—even if you don’t know that much about a market.
What I’m trying to prove here is that I can think of quick market (like the “save money/frugal living” niche), take this kernel of an idea, spend a day researching it, and come back with pages of potential book ideas.
Want to see how this works?
Well, let’s dive into the 13 different resources and talk about how each is an important part of the research process.
1. Wikipedia: List of Hobbies
Connecting to a passion is an important part of picking a successful niche. Remember you’ll probably write in this market for at least two to three years. So the topics you select should relate to your personal interests.
If you’re stuck when picking a market, then Wikipedia’s list of hobbies provides a great starting point for drilling down your market. With almost 300 different topics listed here, this grab bag of ideas allows you to quickly explore various markets and find out more about each one of them.
Here’s a partial screenshot of the Wikipedia page. What attracted my attention is the list of indoor activities, specifically the couponing link.
Click on that and you come to an overview of the couponing hobby. At the top of the page, there are a few topics that might be good book topics:
Now, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and you’ll see a “See also” section, which lists pages related to couponing. Sure, “love coupon” only tangentially relates to this niche, but if you’re a creative person, you can create a print workbook (through CreateSpace.com) and sell it as part of your brand.
If you’re still stuck in the “what market do I pick?” step in the process, then this Wikipedia place is a great place to start.
Now, if you’re still stuck with market selection, then AllTop is another great place to look. While the site is designed as a blog aggregator, it’s also a useful tool for exploring a market and identifying the content pieces that get the most exposure.
You have two choices with AllTop:
- Scan through the 10 major categories including: Work, Health, Interests, and News.
- Look at all of the alphabetical pages that each include dozens of topics.
My advice is to pick option #2 because it’ll give you the largest selection of potential niches. Simply go to the top of AllTop, click on the Topics tab, and you’ll see 30+ pages with dozens of sub-pages within each one.
With a quick scan of the “D” category, I came across a Deals page, which has posts from sites like DealsPlus, Spoofee, FatWallet, and SlickDeals.
A smart budgeter could easily write a book about how to “hack” all these coupon sites and not waste hours doing it. (This is definitely a book I’d love to read if I was into couponing.)
3. Niche Hacks
The sole purpose of the Niche Hacks website is to identify hidden niches that aren’t obvious with keyword research alone. So it’s another great place to go if you’re stuck with picking a niche for your books.
While Niche Hacks primarily focuses on building niche websites for Amazon products and other affiliate offers, it’s still a very useful tool for nonfiction authors. If you spend an hour or so here, I guarantee you’ll generate dozens of ideas.
One resource you should check out is their 1,781 niche market report. You have to provide your email address (and go through a couple of one-time-offers), but this spreadsheet does a good job of breaking down potential markets and their profit potential on specific platforms like: Amazon, Clickbank, blogs, forums, and social media.
The downside of Niche Hacks is it has a lot of information. You could easily spend hours here and get a cramp in your hands from all the ideas you write down. So while researching this site, I simply downloaded the 1,781 niche reports and looked for topics related to saving money.
What stood out was the “healthy snacks” idea.
While this idea doesn’t directly relate to our market, you tweak the concept a bit and come up with something like: “101 Healthy Snacks for Kids That Won’t Break the Bank.”
My point here is sometimes you have to be a little creative when researching a niche. Not only should you look for specific problems in your market, you should also look for cross-over ideas that could lead into an affinity market.
Clickbank is one of the largest vendors of information-based products. It’s great for both selling products and finding offers to promote as an affiliate. It’s also a valuable resource for identifying book ideas.
To get started, I recommend going to the affiliate marketplace.
Here you have two options:
- Enter phrases related to your market in the search box.
- Check out the 23 categories listed in the left sidebar.
My suggestion is to pick the second option because the results from search function often don’t produce results that match your query.
Once you find products related to your market, you can use this information in a few different ways. First, look at the topic of the product and see if it’s a potential book idea. Next, click on the pages for the top-selling products and check out their sales copy. Often you can find a number of bullet points and benefits that could form the backbone of a potential book topic.
Clickbank is not easy to navigate, but I focused on one category (Self-Help >> Personal Finance) to research different book ideas. This generated 40 products that might relate to the “save money / frugal living” market:
I would throw out the “get rich quick” product ideas, but I did find a few that work well for this case study, like: credit repair, unclaimed government money, power couponing, planning out a budget, property tax reduction and saving for a house. And I’m sure if I analyzed the sales pages for these products, I’d uncover a number of additional ideas.
Udemy is quickly becoming the platform for online education. What I like about this site is they have a uniform look to the design of their courses. Plus, they make it super simple to find products related to a particular challenge you want to overcome or that next skill you’d like to build.
When it comes to researching a niche, Udemy has a few different options you can use to find potential book topics. Primarily, they have an intuitive search bar where you can drill down the results using a few different parameters like: free vs. paid, length of course, level of experience, and special features (like closed caption and quizzes). With a few minutes of searching, you can find a bunch of great ideas.
A quick search for “save money” on Udemy generates over 1,000 results. From there, you can drill down the results using different parameters.
Sure, most of these courses won’t apply to our market. But I found a number of hidden gems like: saving money on your phone bill, travel hacks, AirBnB secrets, house sitting to get free accommodations, save money while buying a car, and lowering the cost of college. Even without looking at Amazon, I know for certain that these ideas would work as an information-packed book.
Odds are, you’ve probably heard the advice that one of the best ways to explore a niche is to go to a bookstore and browse the magazine rack. Well, Magazines.com will save you a trip because they make it easy to scan the digital magazine rack and learn what content works best for your market.
Magazines.com offers a few options for browsing their catalog. You can find titles in 38 categories, check out their bestselling titles, and select magazines based on specific demographics (like men, women, and children.)
I recommend a two-step process for using this site.
First, you should identify the magazines that pique your interest or relate to a niche you’re currently in. You can then subscribe to the best option to learn more about your market on a monthly basis.
Next, type the name of each magazine into Google and check out their companion website. (Most have online versions of their content.) You can use this site to check out their articles and use this information to generate a bunch of ideas.
Bonus idea: Most of these sites have a “most shared/liked” option, which can be a great way to identify topics that you know people already like.)
Now… let’s take this idea and implement a super-ninja strategy that will help you take that next step to truly understanding this market.
Go back to the Google and type in the phrases “rate card” (or “media kit”) and the name of the magazine (i.e. “rate card Kiplinger’s”).
The benefit of this strategy is it will give you a wealth of information about your target demographic. Ideally, these are the people who will read your books. So it only makes sense to know as much about them as possible.
It was a little tricky to find great ideas on Magazines.com, because the Business and Finance category is geared toward investing, not saving money. But with a little digging, I came across the Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. While Kiplinger’s primarily focuses on investing, I did a little thinking (and creative searching) and found these pieces of content.
You can easily take the above concepts and turn them into a few nonfiction books like:
- Ways to save on gas money
- Amazing things you can get for free
- How to save money on your cellphone
- Free or cheap activities you can do with your kids
- Ways stay-at-home parents can make money
Now, this was just a quick 5-minute search. I guarantee if I dug deeply into Kiplinger’s Saving category, I would easily find many more book ideas.
Pinterest has recently become my go-to resource for exploring a market. Not only is it a top social media destination, its search results often rival (or even exceed) what you’ll get from Google—especially if you want to generate a bunch of ideas in a short amount of time.
There are two ways to use Pinterest to explore a market.
- Type the keywords related to your market into search bar and you’ll see hundreds of images related to interesting pieces of content. From there, you can click on the items that grab your attention and get more information on the specific topics.
- Follow top Pinners in your market and check out what they regularly post. (A simple way to find them is to type “best Pinterest” + “your market” into Google to find blog posts that have compiled the top authorities in your niche.
It’s easy to spend hours on Pinterest exploring a market. So if you’re really stuck with identifying book topics, then I’d recommend poking around the different images posted here.
To keep things easy, I typed in the phrase “best Pinterest save money” into Google and found a few pages that listed the top-rated Pinners who regularly write about living the frugal lifestyle. Here are just a few that I found:
In addition, there is a Pinterest compiled board called 1,001+ ideas about personal finance. This one page alone is enough to fill my notebook with dozens of great ideas.
With a few minutes of searching, I found an assortment of potential book topics:
- Good financial habits to build
- How to grocery shop for free
- DIY products you can create yourself
- Free printables
- 15-minute healthy (and cheap) meals to make
- Coupon hacks for people with limited time
- DIY discount wedding planning
- The ultimate shopping hack guide for all major stores (Trader Joes, Walmart, Gap, Target, and Whole Foods)
8. Google Keyword Planner
Google Keyword Planner (part of their Adwords program) is best tool for understanding the exact demand for information related to a particular topic. It should only be used after you’ve picked a niche because you’ll need to enter specific keywords into the tool to learn more about this market.
Keyword Planner is fairly intuitive. You enter a few phrases related to your topic and tool will generate two types of results:
- Ad group ideas that show phrases related to your original search (this is a goldmine for generating book ideas).
- Keyword ideas which shows the amount of times that exact phrase was entered into Google. The larger the number, the more demand there is for this topic.
My recommended strategy for Keyword Planner is to start with a few phrases, then look for additional suggestions in the ad group ideas tab. After that, take the best suggestions you found in these initial results and then run a second search to find even ore results. Repeat this process until you have a large list of keywords and potential book topics.
I started with a quick search using “how to save money” (49,500) exact searches) and “coupon” (450,000). These searches produced additional ideas, like “budgeting tips” (4,400 searches) and “online deals” (5,400 searches.) When I ran another search for all these phrases, I found a wide-range of ad group ideas that could lead to quality book ides.
- Finding the best restaurant coupons (49,410 searches)
- How to save money on food (1,000 searches)
- How to save money on a house (1,600 searches)
- How to save money every month (880 searches)
Sure, some of these ideas overlap with previous ideas we’ve discovered, but this is a good thing because it shows there is a consistent demand for this kind of information.
Also…keep in mind that these are exact searches. Almost always, there are dozens of phrases and long-tail keywords that relate to each search term. So even if you find that there are only 880 searches for a phrase, the demand is probably much bigger because there are dozens of related phrases that are typed into Google every month.
9. Long-Tail Pro
Google’s Keyword Planner is just the first step in the process of researching a specific market. In order to get the whole picture, you need to use a keyword tool that will generate variations of your primary phrases and also show how much competition there is for each one in the Google search results.
On the surface, this strategy might not seem immediately applicable to self-publishing, but think of it this way…
Your goal as an author is to build a long-term business.
One of the best ways to achieve this goal is to build an authority site filled with quality content that ranks well for book-related search terms, which directs people to your page.
Now, there are a lot of keyword tools available in the market. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. My keyword tool of choice is Long-Tail Pro because it can generate thousands of keywords and also uses a simple metric (called “Keyword Competitiveness) that shows you how hard it will be to get at top 10 ranking in Google.
Unfortunately, SEO (search engine optimization) is a very difficult process to explain (and I’m definitely not an expert on this topic.) So the simplest explanation of how to best use Long-Tail Pro is to look for keywords that get between a 10 to 30 KC count. Typically these phrases only get a handful of searches per month, but if you create a series of articles that each target a low competition keyword, you can build a nice level of traffic to your blog and ultimately your books.
Now, another advantage of a tool like Long-Tail Pro is it can identify potential book topics that you might not have discovered using any other resources mentioned in this article. Sure, you might not be able to rank an idea in Google, but you can easily find a phrase that has a lot of keyword searches and write a book that sells well on Amazon and other book platforms.
Using simple phrases like “save money,” “online deals,” “budgeting tips,” and “frugal living,” I was able to generate 2,700 related keywords. Within these results, I looked for ideas in the 440 to 4,400 exact searches range because this shows good demand for specific information, not large generalized searches like “save money.”
For instance, here are a few of the terms that I found using this tool:
Yet again, these results a similar to the ideas we discovered from other sites, but I love seeing this kind of stuff because it shows that people want information about this topic on a consistent basis. That means if I could rank a piece of content on my site for these phrases and send visitors to one of my books, then I’d have a long-term source of attention that doesn’t depend on Amazon.
Now, the keyword competition for most of the results are ridiculously hard — hard as in “if-your-last-name-isn’t-Cutts-then-don’t-even-bother-with-trying-to-rank-for-it” hard.
But I found two results that were very interesting: “how to save money for a house” (KC: 32) and “how to save money for a car” (KC: 36). This means it would be challenging to rank a piece of content for these phrases, but not impossible.
Okay, that’s as far as I’ll go down the rabbit hole of SEO. If you want to learn more about this topic, then I’d recommend checking out the Niche Site Project 3.0 series on NichePursuits.com hosted by Spencer Haws, Perrin Carrell, and Jake Cain or the entire Authority Hacker website run by Gael Breton and Mark Webster. Both are my go-to websites for getting a crash course on building a long-term website—without having to spend hours on Moz on a daily basis.
10. Niche Specific Blogs
Examining a niche-specific blog can be a powerful way to discover content that your audience wants. Usually, it’s run by someone who understands this market and knows what type of content is in demand. My suggestion is to look for articles with a lot of comments, views, or are part of a “best of” series. Since this information is already validated by others, it’ll probably be a good topic for your next book.
It’s not hard to find niche specific blog. Simply type “your market” + “blog” into Google to find a wide variety of options.
The trick here is to find blogs with quality information. One way to do this is to install the MozBar Toolbar Chome extension and look for sites with a Domain Authority (DA) of 30 or above. This usually means the site probably has good content that’s worth checking out. (I’ll admit this isn’t an exact science, but it’s a decent starting point.)
From there, you should poke around the site, check out content that’s similar to topics that are personally interesting, and find opportunities for that next book idea.
A simple search for “frugal living blog,” led to a wide number of excellent websites. You can see here that there were blogs with a DA range of 30 to 52 in the top results:
(I chose to ignore the DA 92 rank because it’s derived from high ranking of the Blogspot.com website.)
To be honest, it was hard to find the “best of” content on the sites that showed up in the top results. However, the #5 result (Thrifty Frugal Mom) has a number of excellent series that might work as book ideas:
- Saving at the grocery store
- Saving while planning meals
- Canning and freezing items to save money
- How to save money on your baby
- Save money on activities for each season (spring, summer, autumn and winter.)
- Gift ideas for kids/spouse/friends for under $50
Once again, some of the ideas were discovered elsewhere, but it’s a good thing to see the same topics show up on different platforms. My suggestion is to check out at least 5 to 6 blogs until you have a large number of ideas.
Sorting through blog content is often like looking for a needle in a haystack. Some websites bury the good stuff where it’s impossible to figure out what readers like best. So that’s why I like to use the BuzzSumo tool to analyze popular websites.
BuzzSumo is an interesting tool because it lists the number of social shares for a piece of content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google Plus. The logic here? The more shares an article gets, the more it’s probably something that people love.
There are two ways you can use BuzzSumo:
- Enter the URL of one of the top sites in your industry and see which piece of their content gets shared the most.
- Enter a keyword phrase to find the most shared posts for that search term.
To be honest, the second option can be hit or miss. Sometimes you find great article ideas, but other times the results are skewed because the article happens to be on a popular website (like The Huffington Post or Lifehacker). So my recommendation is to try both methods to see which one generates the best result.
Using the website example from before (TheFrugalMom.com), a search on BuzzSumo generates a few book topics that might work:
Sure, the first one is pretty niche, but a whole series on canning vegetables could work (if that’s related to your passion or personal interest).
To be honest, I was a little disappointed by the results from BuzzSumo, so I decided to run another search using the term “frugal living,” which also generated limited results.
What I found to be interesting was the #4 result—an article titled “Top 25 Frugal Living Pinners on Pinterest” on BusyBudgeter (Sidenote: I love the site that Rosemarie put together and the excellent Pinterest advice that she gave in a podcast interview with my buddy Nick Loper.) Anyway, the cool thing about this article is it links out to the top Pinterest experts you can check out to generate even more ideas for your content.
In my opinion, BuzzSumo can be helpful or it can be a waste of your time. I’d recommend using it run a few searches a day (they put a cap on your total searches), but this tool should be used in conjunction with the others mentioned in this article.
12. Niche Specific Forums
Another great resource for generating book ideas is to look at niche-specific forums. These are websites where folks gather and exchange ideas. Sure, many folks now prefer Facebook groups (see below), but I like forums because they make it easy to find content and identify the topics that are in demand.
It’s really simple to find a forum. Simply go to Google and enter “your market” + “forum.”
My recommendation is to quickly scan the search results until you find a forum that has thousands of threads and replies from members.
Once you discover a great forum, click on the categories related to your market and then sort the results by the most views. This will generate a list of the top articles that are interesting to members. Sure, there is a little bit of schadenfreude when it comes to certain topics (i.e. people are more likely to click on a thread like “My husband moved out…and I want him back,” than they would for a bland question), but generally speaking, if a topic has lots of views, it’s probably interesting to folks in that market.
A quick search of “frugal living forum” generated a few results like:
I picked Frugal Village because it had the largest collection of threads related to saving money.
To be honest, it was hard to find many book ideas on this site because there’s too much information on it. With hundreds of individual forums and thousands of threads, it was kind of hard to know where to start, but I was able to find a number of compelling ideas:
- How to stockpile food and store it in your home
- Money management tools (and reviews)
- Envelope budgeting system
- Affordable places to live outside the United States (i.e. the ex-pat lifestyle)
- Hacks for saving money on your utility bill
- Secondhand clothes shopping hacks
- How to plan the perfect staycation
These were just a few book ideas that I uncovered with a quick search, but I’m sure you could find dozens more if you spent a few hours here. The point here is that forums do a great job of categorizing and archiving topics, which makes it easy to discover a wealth of book ideas.
13. Facebook Groups
Facebook groups are starting to replace forums as the place to meet others interested in a topic and exchange ideas. They’ve grown in popularity because most people already spend lots of time on Facebook, so why not join a group and become part of the conversation. (In other words, you don’t have to build a brand new habit to interact with others—you just piggyback on an existing one.)
It’s not hard to find a Facebook group that fits your needs. Simply type a market-related phrase into Facebook’s search bar and then click the “see all the results for [keyword]” link at the bottom of the results.
From there, you should look for a group that has at least a few thousand members and then submit a request to join. (Usually, it takes a day or so to get accepted.) Once you’re a member, you should look at: questions asked, recommend resources, and any complaints/frustrations posted by members.
I’ll admit that it’s not easy to find a lot of useful data with Facebook groups, but it’s a great place for having organic one-on-one conversation with people interested in your topic. So it’s a great tool to build those long-term connections that are important for your book-based business.
With two quick keyword searches (“frugal living” and “save money”), I came across a few great groups related to our core topic. I won’t post images of specific treads because that violates the privacy of individual members. However, a search through Facebook groups did spark a few book ideas.
Specifically, I found a bunch of groups interested in getting bargains in their local area. I know these pages are a great resource for saving money because my wife uses them all the time. For instance, there is a group in my area called Bergen County Bargains where members exchange and sell items for rock-bottom prices.
Write a book like: “How to use Facebook groups to get extreme bargains.”
I think it would be a winner because most people don’t know about these groups and if you know how to leverage them (like my wife does), you can save hundreds (even thousands) of dollars. I guarantee this would totally work as a book topic.
This post is a bit of monster.
Originally, my notes included over 20 websites that I’ve used to discover book ideas, but 5,000 words later, I realized that there was no way I could include every website in a single post.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
In the comment box below, tell me if you’ve used any of these tools to identify book ideas. Or do you have a favorite tool that wasn’t mentioned? If so, I’d love to hear about it.