1. Field guides, part 1
A field guide is a book that helps people identify specific things, so another name for this type of book would be identification guide.
Objects occurring in nature—especially plants and animals—are particularly well suited to be the subjects of field guides. I’m an avid rock climber and have always thought that a rock identification guide specifically for climbers would be really neat, because sometimes you’re not 100% sure what specific kind of sandstone you’re climbing on, for example.
The subject of your field guide doesn’t have to be natural, though; you could create field guides for anything from Mexican graffiti to cars from the 1960s. The thing you’re identifying doesn’t even have to be tangible. A lover of language could create a book or course on how to identify different accents or dialects.
This type of book can be humorous, too, as shown in some of the examples below.
Questions to ask
- What things in your niche do people need or want to be able to identify better?
- Are there any things in your niche that people often have trouble distinguishing from one another?
- How does being able to better identify things benefit someone in your niche?
- A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and central North America
- National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Rocks and Minerals
- The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America
- Field Guide to the Little People: A Curious Journey Into the Hidden Realm of Elves, Faeries, Hobgoblins & Other Not-So-Mythical Creatures
- Hechinger’s Field Guide to Ethnic Stereotypes
- A Field Guide to Sailboats of North America
- Bike Tribes: A Field Guide to North American Cyclists
- Warman’s Jewelry Field Guide
- Field Guide to Chicks of the United States
- Dragonflies of California and the Greater Southwest A Beginner’s Guide
- A Field Guide to Shells of the Texas Coast
2. Field guides, part 2
Field guides can also refer broadly to books that are to be used in the field, or while the person is “out there” (wherever that may be) actively engaging in the activity. These field guides have less to do with identification and more to do with solving common problems and overcoming common obstacles that people may encounter.
Questions to ask
- What are a number of situations a person might find himself/herself in while active in your niche?
- What are some complicated things in your niche that a person might have to deal with unexpectedly?
- What problems do people in your niche routinely have have to deal with?
- National Geographic Photography Field Guide: People and Portraits
- Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Wilderness Survival
- Nikon D3300 Digital Field Guide
- Field Guide to Covering Sports
- A Field Guide for Female Interrogators
- Climbing Anchors Field Guide
- Exploring Gallipoli: An Australian Army Battlefield Guide to Gallipoli
- Field Guide to the Difficult Patient Interview
3. Places, part 1
This first type of place-related book is the traditional guidebook. Think Lonely Planet travel guidebooks. Guidebooks include a lot of details on things to see and do in a particular geographical area.
How can you apply this guidebook model to your niche? Easy. Create a guidebook for specifically for your audience.
Moab, a small town in the desert of southeastern Utah, is one of America’s best rock climbing areas, and for a long time I wanted to create a Moab guidebook for climbers. It wouldn’t talk about the local climbing areas (there are already plenty of guidebooks that do that) as much as it would show Moab from a climber’s perspective. Many rock climbers are notoriously frugal, so the restaurants listed would be on the cheaper end of the pricing spectrum. I’d list free camping areas around town, and include activities that climbers could do on rest days (when their muscles are tired and they need to take a break).
Questions to ask
- What special needs or interests does your target audience have?
- What are some places that a lot of people interested in your niche visit?
- What other kind of spin can you put on a traditional guidebook?
- How can have a location-specific guide benefit people in your niche?
- Fodor’s Gay Guide to the USA, 3rd Edition: Plus Toronto and Montreal
- The Travel Hacking Guide to Norway: A guide for travelers with more time than money
- Vegetarian Disneyland – How To Find Great Vegetarian Food at Disneyland
- Tips for Transportation: All You Need to Know to Get Around in Italy
- The Cash-Strapped Entrepreneur’s Guide to Silicon Valley (Fictional example)
4. Places, part 2
This second type of place-related book is more broad and goes into less detail for each thing listed. The best example of this that I’ve seen is the book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Going back to using rock climbing as an example niche, I think that something like 101 Best Climbing Areas in the United States would be a great idea.
The idea here is essentially to just give an overview of a bunch of different places that are relevant to your niche. You generally don’t go into the large amount of detail as you would with the traditional Lonely Planet-esque guidebook. While a more targeted guidebook like that helps people plan a trip, this kind of place-related book is more to inspire a trip.
- What notable areas related to your niche are in a certain geographical area?
- What are a bunch of places that people in your niche would find interesting and like to visit one day?
- Does “armchair travel” exist to any degree in your niche?
- 1,000 Places to See Before You Die
- 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: San Francisco
- 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go
- Fly Fishing Yellowstone National Park: An Insider’s Guide to the 50 Best Places
- Haunted Castles & Houses of Scotland
- The 40 Most Interesting Czech WWII Bunkers
- Doggin’ Atlanta: The 50 Best Places To Hike With Your Dog In North Georgia
This can be one of the easiest types of ebooks to write. It essentially boils down to a big list of tips and tricks for your niche. First, brainstorm a bunch of tips (ways to do things better, faster, cheaper, more efficiently, etc.). Then you just need to expound on each one and voila! You’ve got an ebook.
The “tips” here don’t have to be tips, per se. You can see in the examples below that you could also make a big list of ideas, strategies, techniques, secrets, questions, or whatever else you want.
- How many tips or ideas can you come up with for your niche?
- What other niche-related things can you make a big list of?
- What are some little tricks and hacks that make your life (as it relates to your niche) easier?
- 101 Rock Climbing Tips and Tricks
- Clutter Rehab: 101 Tips and Tricks to Become an Organization Junkie and Love It!
- 101 Organic Gardening Tips
- 101 Bass Tips: Stuff All the Pros Know and Use
- The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills
- A Tip a Day with Ellie Kay: 12 Months’ Worth of Money-Saving Ideas
- 1,001 Tips for Writers
- 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions
6. The core principles
It’s harder to explain what I mean by this than it is to just show you examples (see below). You’re essentially writing about the core principles of your niche or an aspect of your niche. There’s usually a number in the title, and the number is usually relatively small. Each core principle is expounded on at great length and with many examples.
Words like habits, pillars, commandments, rules, and essentials all work well in the title of this kind of book.
- What are the most essential aspects of your niche or of part of your niche?
- In what part of your niche do you see a lot of confusion in people?
- What are good habits or best practices people in your niche should get into?
- What are the most basic principles that people absolutely need a solid foundation in?
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
- The The Seven Pillars of Health
- The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
- The 9 Mirages of Love: How to Stop Chasing What Doesn’t Exist
- The Five Habits of Highly Successful Bonsai People (No longer available)
In this type of book, you enumerate the mistakes that people in your niche commonly make (or that you have made). Making mistakes can be costly in a variety of ways, and that’s why this style of ebook can be a great resource for people.
If you’d like to take a bit of a different approach to the mistakes angle, you could write a How to Suck at ___ or How to Not Suck at ___ style of book.
- What common mistakes do you often see people in your niche make?
- What mistakes have you made as you’ve progressed in your niche?
- What mistakes or bad habits are holding back the people in your niche?
- How can these mistakes be avoided?
- Ten Most Common Mistakes Made by Church Starts
- 7 Mistakes Expats Make When They Move Abroad (Moving Abroad Series Book 5)
- Investment Mistakes Even Smart Investors Make and How to Avoid Them
- Why You Suck at Golf: 50 Most Common Mistakes by Recreational Golfers
- 10 Detox Mistakes To Avoid
- 7 Emotions That Prevent Your Success
8. Mental preparation
Some activities and niches benefit from increased mental preparation or training, and you can write a great book by discussing how and why people should develop that increased mental strength. Though this mental preparation can be a huge benefit to physical activities (e.g., football), it can also be very helpful for menial or unpleasant activities (e.g., a job you don’t like).
- Does your niche require any mental preparation?
- Does “mind over matter” ever apply to your niche?
- How does mental preparation help?
- The Rock Warrior’s Way: Mental Training for Climbers
- Mental Training: How to prepare mentally for combat sports
- The Competitive Edge: Mental Preparation For Distance Running
- Executive Toughness: The Mental-Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance
- METTLE: Mental Toughness Training for Law Enforcement
- Mastering the Mental Game in Tennis: 11 Tips for Winning More Tennis Matches
9. Event preparation
Most niches have events or processes that involve some degree of preparation, and these events/processes make for great book subjects. These types of books generally contain both specific and general advice that helps people prepare for a particular event.
Another way to think of of this type of book is to take a goal that people commonly have and then go into detail about how that goal can be reached.
- Are there any tests, contests, or certifications that people in your niche have to go through?
- What are some milestones or big events in your niche?
- What are some bad things that can happen to people in your niche?
- EMP Survival: How to Prepare Now and Survive, When an Electromagnetic Pulse Destroys Our Power Grid
- Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst-Case Scenarios
- Cracking the SAT, 2013 Edition (College Test Preparation)
- Before Your Pregnancy: A 90-Day Guide for Couples on How to Prepare for a Healthy Conception
- Represent Yourself in Court: How to Prepare and Try a Winning Case
10. In 30 days
There’s something magical about being able to accomplish a difficult task or process in 30 days. A month is long enough to get some serious work done but short enough that you never lose sight of the finish line.
Take something that people in your niche find difficult to complete or accomplish and break it down into 30 steps. Each of those steps becomes a different day’s “homework” and the bulk of your book’s content.
The book doesn’t necessarily have to be “in 30 days.” It could be “in 24 hours” if you break the task down into 24 1-hour chunks, or you could use any other period of time as appropriate.
- What are some things in your niche that people often start but don’t finish?
- What are some goals in your niche that people have but struggle to meet?
- What is something that would make people say, “I’d love to be able to do that in a month!”?
- 30 Days to Taming Your Tongue: What You Say (and Don’t Say) Will Improve Your Relationships
- The Biggest Loser 30-Day Jump Start: Lose Weight, Get in Shape, and Start Living the Biggest Loser Lifestyle Today!
- How to Write a Fiction Novel in 30 Days or Less
- Learn the Bible in 24 Hours
- Sams Teach Yourself Visual Basic 2010 in 24 Hours Complete Starter Kit
- The Time-Crunched Cyclist, 2nd Ed.: Fit, Fast, Powerful in 6 Hours a Week
- Wow! Glowing Bride in 30 Days
- 5 Minute Guide to Buying a Hamster
Photo: Matt Ming