Need a guide?

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?

Examples

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?

Examples

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?

Examples

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.

Questions

  • 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?

Examples

5. Tips

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.

Questions

  • 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?

Examples

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.

Questions

  • 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?

Examples

7. Mistakes

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.

Questions

  • 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?

Examples

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).

Questions

  • Does your niche require any mental preparation?
  • Does “mind over matter” ever apply to your niche?
  • How does mental preparation help?

Examples

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.

Questions

  • 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?

Examples

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.

Questions

  • 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!”?

Examples

 

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Photo: Matt Ming