Coming up with the right book idea can be a serious challenge regardless of how experienced you are as a writer.
Whether you’re a brand new writer or a seasoned author ready for a new writing project, it can be incredibly difficult to find the inspiration you need, in order to commit to an endeavor as arduous as writing a book. I’m a firm believer that the best book ideas must come from within.
However, the ways in which you find and cultivate the internal spark that has the potential to turn into a book idea you’re passionate about writing, are plentiful.
Equally as important, is how you decide to write and publish that book. Thankfully, we’ve brought in Tara Gentile to teach a class specifically on How to Write and Self-Publish a Book right here on CreativeLive.
As a writer myself, I’ve gone through a lot of creative ups and downs. For this exhaustive list of potential book ideas, I’m pulling straight from my personal list of ways to find inspiration for my own writing process, when I’m lacking motivation.
Over the years, this list has grown with ideas and inspiration I’ve gleaned from a handful of my favorite experimental storytellers like Tim Ferriss, Dan Carlin, Alex Blumberg and others who’ve created some of my favorite dynamic podcasts.
These techniques to finding inspiration as a writer, come from pushing myself outside of my comfort zone with trying new experiences, conducting massive amounts of research on topics I’m interested in, running massive lifestyle experiments, taking a deeper dive into my thoughts and dreams, and so much more. Let’s dive in.
Here are my 43 ways to come up with the best book ideas that’ll help you hit the ground running as a new writer.
1. Write About What Pisses You Off Most.
I could write endlessly about the mistakes entrepreneurs tend to make with their first businesses. It doesn’t quite piss me off, but I care so much about this topic and want to help others avoid the most painful mistakes I’ve made myself, that it fuels my ability to write ad nauseam on the complexities of how to start a business. What gets you most heated?
Take that topic and write about it without any creative restraints whatsoever. Let the words meet the page, don’t judge your ideas, and then structure the content later. This approach has fueled many of my best blog posts that could easily turn into book ideas in the future, a strategy Tara Gentile teaches in her class about How to Write and Publish an eBook.
2. Do Something Remarkable, Then Write About It.
Imagine the story you could tell if you made a trip like Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman did on their 20,000 mile bike crossing 12 counties and 19 time zones in 2004. Of course, these were celebrities taking time off to raise money for charity. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably not in a position to travel unpaid for 115 days. However, there are still many smaller-scale remarkable endeavors that you could do, that’d be worth writing about. For instance, you could ride a bicycle through every state in the US, in one year or attempt to break a world record then share the experiences and lessons learned with your readers.
3. Start a Blog and Write Chapters One Post at a Time.
This works particularly well for niche topics. Gain a loyal following writing a series of blog posts on something you’re interested in. Once you have built up a quality library of posts, you can repackage them into a book. Philip Sandifer is a fan of British sci-fi show, Doctor Who. He wrote an essay on every Doctor Who story (there are more than 800 stories in the show’s 53-year history) and then collected his blog posts into a series of books. Tara Gentile has also had a lot of success with this approach, and teaches the technique in her self-publishing class. Whether you plan on going the traditional publisher route, or self-publishing a book on Amazon, this is one of the best paths toward writing a book over a more realistic period of time without undue pressure.
4. Create a Podcast and Write a Book Based on What You’ve Learned from Guests.
Did you know that one in four Americans ages 12-54 listened to a podcast last month? In fact, according to Jay Baer of Convince and Convert with an assist from Edison Research, the same number of Americans listen to podcasts each month, as use Twitter. One of the most popular podcast formats is to invite an interesting guest onto your show and interview them for your audience. Entrepreneur and CreativeLive instructor, Lewis Howes took this exact approach when he wrote his New York Times best-selling book, The School of Greatness, which shares everything he’s learned from interviewing hundreds of the world’s top creatives.
5. Write and Self-Publish a Short eBook to Test the Waters.
If you have an idea for a book, but you’re not sure whether or not there’s enough demand in the market to support book sales, why not test the waters by writing a smaller eBook on the subject? If you find that there’s a positive response to your shorter-form eBook, this will give you the confidence to dig deeper into your subject matter and write a full book on the topic. We talk a lot about how to deploy this book validation strategy in How to Write and Publish an eBook with Tara Gentile.
6. Write a Book and Publish One Chapter at a Time with Amazon Kindle Singles.
If the thought of writing a full-length novel is too intimidating, then one very real option is to break your book into smaller chunks that you publish one at a time. You would be in good company if you did, Charles Dickens wrote The Pickwick Papers, his very first novel, as a series of short stories in the 19th century. With easy-to-use blogging platforms, the Internet now makes this a very easy task. As an added benefit beyond publishing all of the stories at once, you’ll have the opportunity to adjust your writing style for the later chapters in response to feedback you get early on.
7. Ask Your Friends What They Like Reading Most, Write Something For Them.
Your friends are already a captive audience. Ask them what they like reading about, chances are there are more people out there who have similar tastes. Write your book imagining that your friends are your target readers. Of course, your friends are unlikely to be fierce critics if the first draft of your book isn’t up to snuff, so make sure you elicit honest (sometimes brutal) feedback on the first versions of your book, in order to avoid them just telling you what they think you want to hear.
8. Jot Down Everything You Laugh About for 1 Full Week, Write a Story About It.
We carry around smartphones around with us wherever we go, so jotting down some quick notes every time you laugh for a full week isn’t very difficult. While it may be challenging to remember to write down the reason for every burst of laughter, it could very well provide you with a rich source of material for your next piece of writing. Try and capture these three things with each laughter entry and you’ll have some great writing inspiration for a solid book idea: who made you laugh, why you laughed, and how that made you feel. I’ve done this in short journal entry format, and it’s been some of my favorite material to re-read weeks or even months later.
9. Write About What Makes You Laugh Hardest.
This could easily tie in with the activity above, but I’ve found that it’s often more fun to expand upon just one instance when you laughed hysterically in the past. To me, laughter is a sign of a truly great story, and it’s usually highly contagious. Of course, you might be embarrassed about what makes you laugh most, and it may not be politically correct. However, the more outlandish or embarrassing the story, the more likely you are to attract an engaged audience for your book idea.
10. Write About the Most Upsetting Experience You’ve Ever Had.
One of the stranger quirks of the human state I’ve come to observe, is that we’re drawn in to read, watch and consume traumatic stories that highlight the difficulties others have triumphed over in life. While you may struggle to tell the world about your most upsetting experiences, it’s likely that people would benefit tremendously from hearing how you’ve gone through unfortunate circumstances or failures, and what you’ve learned on the other side.
11. Write About the Person Who’s Had the Most Impact on Your Life.
Have you had a mentor that’s left a lasting impression in your personal life or within your career? Maybe it was your best school teacher, youth leader, business advisor, or simply an older friend or family member. Think about how they’ve impacted your life, pull out specific lessons they imprinted on you and dedicate the book to them as the ultimate thank you. Gratitude is contagious, and this format makes for an incredibly empowering book idea.
12. Take Photographs of Your City and Write About Your Experiences.
Do you live in an interesting, vibrant city? People love to hear stories about interesting people in fascinating places. This book idea is particularly compelling if you already have skill at using a camera. Have you been into an Urban Outfitters recently? There is a huge demand for visually stimulating books featuring beautiful urban photography and stories explaining the tale behind the images.
13. Write About One of Your Hobbies.
People love to learn more about their hobbies. Whether you are a cake decorator, an ice skater or a fly fisherman, there is potential for you to share your knowledge with others who have the same interests. As a freelance content marketer by trade, I can sit down and write for hours in ridiculous detail about something I recently learned. Quite often you can even sell hobby-related books to people who do not otherwise read often. Even “non-readers” have a desire to improve their favorite hobbies, especially when they can take their new skills and monetize them in some way.
14. Take Inspiration From Your Favorite Songs and Musicians.
You could choose to write about your favorite musician from a fan’s perspective. Perhaps you’ve been to one their concerts and could write about the experience. If you have a good music collection, perhaps you could choose to write about the songs they have released, possibly looking at the messages behind them. Alternatively, you could examine some song lyrics, and see if these can inspire you to tell a tale. Here’s an example: Right now I’m listening to “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night. One of the lyrics in the song is, “If I were the king of the world, I’ll tell you what I’d do… I’d throw away the cars and the bars and the war.” Even from a line that simple, one potential book idea that inspires me would be to cover the impact music has had on politics in the US. Throughout the 60’s and 70’s, there were a lot of bands that became very influential in our culture, by promoting a message of peace and equality. Uncovering a correlation between positive social changes in that time period and the positive music that rose in popularity would undoubtedly stir up a readership.
15. Write About Your Career Experience Within Your Industry.
Most of us have built up a wealth of life experiences. Many books have been written by people telling tales from within the industry in which they work. Have you been working in a job long enough to build up a series of anecdotes that might interest or amuse potential readers? How about teaching them something that’ll accelerate their path to becoming an expert within your space? I’ve done exactly this by chronicling my own personal journey of becoming a freelancer within the content marketing world, and have written a series of posts about how to start a freelance business, that have attracted a large readership.
16. Write About the Biggest Problem Facing Your Industry (and Potential Solutions).
Discuss any major problems or issues that you can identify within your industry and thoughtfully propose new solutions. If you’ve tested these solutions yourself, even better! This will be particularly useful if you can come up with practical and cost-effective solutions to the challenges other businesses in your space are facing, and will help you position yourself as an expert, one of the major reasons people decide to write a book in the first place.
17. Commit a Random Act of Kindness Every Day for a Month and Write About the Experience.
If you’ve spent any amount of time on Facebook or YouTube over the past few years, you’ve undoubtedly seen viral videos of people committing random acts of kindness. And they do so for good reason, the results of sharing stories of random acts of kindness can be so inspiring that others around the world are compelled to follow in kind. While newspapers thrive largely on bad news, there is still a huge demand by people to learn about selfless acts and be reminded that good people are out there. The more creative you can get with the content medium for translating this book idea into a true work of art, the better.
18. Take a Spontaneous Trip and Write About Your Experiences.
Another way to gain new experiences, is through travel. Michael Palin managed to reinvent himself (from being part of comedy team Monty Python) to being a travel writer and videographer. You may not have the resources to devote your life to travel, as he has been able to. However, I am sure that you could create a book sharing your experiences and what lessons you have learned, no matter how modest your trip is. Check out this post from Shannon O’Donnell as a starting point for creating a lifestyle of traveling the world and doing freelance work remotely.
19. Record Talks or Workshops You Give and Have Them Transcribed.
Do you have the opportunity to give talks or hold in-person workshops to teach people about a specific subject matter? This could be work-related, or it could simply be a subject on which people recognize you as being knowledgeable. Unless you are an off-the-cuff speaker, you have probably already prepared a lecture or resources that’ll serve as the foundation for this book idea, which will in turn widen your audience and potentially lead to more paid speaking gigs.
20. Have Your Webinars and Videos Transcribed and Compiled.
Have you built a library of webinars or video content for yourself? There’s so much value that’s delivered through video content and it’s rarely transcribed into written form to be used elsewhere. If you transcribe your videos and fill in the gaps to complete each thought and make the finished work highly relevant, you have the potential to reach an entirely new audience with this easy-to-implement book idea. Check out Upwork’s Transcription Listings to find some affordable help to outsource transcription to.
21. Write About the Answers to the Questions You’re Asked Most By Friends and Co-Workers.
If you haven’t yet noticed the most common questions people ask you on a daily or weekly basis, now would be a good time to start recording those queries. Every time somebody asks you a question, write it down. After a while, you may see trends. If your friends and co-workers want answers on particular topics, then it’s highly likely that others are seeking the same answers as well. This is the process by which I wrote one of my most successful blog posts. Every day I had visitors from my website asking me to share business ideas with them, so I created an exhaustive list featuring over one hundred of the best business ideas and that post has helped thousands of people over the past year. This approach could even apply to a stay-at-home mom. What questions are your kids always asking? There is a great book idea here, for creating something fun, educational and relevant to children. If you aren’t fielding a lot of questions yourself right now, head over to Quora and see which questions are ranking well within your areas of interest, then weigh in on questions you feel qualified enough to answer.
22. Experiment with Your Physical Limits.
This is a variation of the second book idea on this list. You may not be able to commit yourself to performing something remarkable at the moment, but there is still interest in books where authors experiment with pushing their physical boundaries. For example, if you are you a middle-aged professional who works out very infrequently, try training for a marathon and write a book chronicling your progress. Perhaps you’re not in the physical condition you desire and you’d like to lose a significant amount of weight. Again, push yourself to your limit with diet and exercise experiments. Others who are seeking to make similar transformations can benefit greatly from your experiences.
23. Get Creative with Your Content Medium.
Who said books have to be comprised solely of text? Write a book that leans on photographs, GIFs (totally possible if you self-publish your own eBook) video clips, and other creative content mediums. Making your eBook a truly multimedia experience alone would differentiate your book idea from the rest of the crowd.
24. Experiment with Radical Changes in Your Daily Routine and Write About the Effects.
Are you someone who sticks to a similar routine every day? I know I am. Challenge yourself to make a drastic change to your routine and observe how your daily life changes. Sleep at different times, meditate when you wake up, eat six small meals a day, change your method of transport, do a rigorous workout twice daily. You can be the subject of your own documentary, and your book can be the lab results.
25. Take a Different Class Every Day for a Month and Write About the Effects.
Do you have a thirst for knowledge? Spend a month experimenting with a wide range of transformative courses. You could try different exercise classes, cooking mediums, business skills, writing, drawing, and designing. The list of potential classes is as long as your imagination. As a starting point, check out a few of my favorite free online and in-person class providers: CreativeLive, Saylor Academy and Open Culture. On the other side, write about how you feel after a month of varied study. Will you feel that you’ve learned much or will you have simply taken a shallow dip into each subject matter? Do you think you could discover a new interest that may fuel a future book idea, in itself?
26. Completely Cut Out Social Media and Write About the Effects.
U.S. adults spend an average of over 4.7 hours on their phones per day. A significant amount of that time is spent checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and other social media platforms. To many people, social media is an essential part of their daily lives. It’s the first thing we do in the morning and the last thing we do at night. Wean yourself off it for a period and then write about how you have managed while not using social media. Have you suffered from withdrawal? Has your absence angered others? What have you replaced that time with?
27. Experiment with Your Diet and Exercise Regimen.
Virtually everywhere you look, somebody is promoting a new diet or exercise regimen. It might be low GI, low carbs, fat burning, diet plans to lose weight, diet plans to gain weight, low intensity, high intensity, the list goes on. Experiment with a program yourself or create your own regimen and write about your experiences, either successful or unsuccessful. Were you able to create a positive transformation for yourself?
28. Get Drunk and Create Art.
While I don’t personally endorse this one, it is a novel concept. Bryony Kimmings spent seven days drinking vodka to see how alcohol affects creativity. Under the influence of alcohol, she composed music, wrote sketches, choreographed dances and read academic papers. She then created a part lecture, part song, part dance, and part “glamorous cabaret” performance. The Lords of the Drinks website names artists Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso amongst its Famous Drunks in History. You too could undertake a drunken experiment to test out your own drunken artistic capabilities and write about it once you’ve sobered up.
29. Choose a Topic You Know Nothing About and Challenge Yourself to Write 1,000 Words About It.
A good test for any writer is to see how well they can write on a topic about which they know absolutely nothing. Start with a 1,000-word essay, and if that piques your interest, continue researching and evaluate whether or not this could be a sustainable book idea for you. If you’re lucky, you may find yourself fascinated by something you’ve never explored before and who knows, maybe your research could even lead you to a new fascination and eventually plant the seed for you to start a business around the topic.
30. Research and Write About Your Family’s History and Origin.
Social history is the study of the lives of ordinary people in our past. Humanity is fascinated by the lives of others, even people as ordinary as themselves. Even if your family lacks interesting tales, and you are unable to unearth any fascinating nuggets of information about your ancestors you will at least have the captive audience of your extended family for your work. If you discover something truly exciting about an ancestor, the size of your potential readership will grow from there.
31. Identify a Need: Write the Book You Wish Already Existed.
Think about a subject you’re genuinely interested in. Are there any types of books that you wish had been available, yet haven’t existed? Are there any obvious gaps in the market where you can share your knowledge? Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn more about, but can’t ever seem to find much reliable information on? Well here you have a great book idea. Blaze a trail and become the person that creates the research (and book) you’ve been seeking out
32. Read One of Your Favorite Books or Podcasts and Look for Passages or Topics that Inspire You.
If you’re a writer, then I’d be willing to bet that you’re also an avid reader and consumer of educational content. You probably have favorite books, podcasts, or movies, and possibly even specific chapters or passages within these content pieces that you particularly admire. Reread these passages and see if they inspire you to come up with your own material, possibly expanding on the original subject to develop your own unique book idea.
33. Take Your Biggest Failure and Write About It.
Most successful people have experienced frequent failures on the path to their eventual success. They have seen these failures as learning opportunities. Writing about your “darkest days” may be a cathartic experience, giving you the opportunity to delve into your inner self. Focus on providing potential solutions (if you’ve gotten that far) or on ways for others to avoid these same failures, and you could quickly attract a loyal readership seeking to learn from you.
34. Write About Your Biggest Regret in Life.
Some people spend most of their lives regretting decisions not made. What if I had quit my job to start a business? What if I had travelled the world for a few years before getting serious about my career? How would things have been different if I had chosen to have children? Addressing your biggest regrets give you an opportunity to move forward, and is such a compelling book idea that others will identify with on a deep level. This is another one of those situations where the process of writing about your regret helps you find other potential futures and reinvent yourself at the same time.
35. Write About Your Biggest Success.
Of course, there is no reason why you shouldn’t celebrate and chronicle your successes either. The massive sales of celebrity autobiographies show how popular success stories can be, as long as they’re grounded in actionable advice and direction for others to replicate your success. An added benefit of this approach, is that by sharing your successes, you may well be motivating others to follow the same path. This gives you yet another opportunity to brand yourself as an expert within your field.
36. Answer the Question: “One Year From Today, What Would You Regret Not Doing?”
This is always a very positive form of introspection for me. It’s inspired by a question Tim Ferriss asked one of his recent podcast guests, and I’ve been returning to it in the interviews I do with entrepreneurs, myself. It gives you the opportunity to look closely at your current priorities and determine what’s really most important in the moment. By writing this down and sharing it, you are publicly committing yourself, which provides further motivation for you to follow that path. Documenting this process for the world to see, can also have a massively positive benefit on the live of others who crave a similar transformation.
37. Take a Single Interaction You Had with a Stranger and Create a Story Around It.
This unique book idea gives you the opportunity to create some truly interesting fictional work. Let go of all preconceived notions and allow yourself to write without judgement. Could it be that you fell in love with the stranger? After falling in love, did they turn out to be your long-lost sibling that got switched in the hospital at birth? The possibilities are endless within your own imagination.
38. Take Your Dreams and Create Stories That Chronicle and Expand Upon Them.
If you are lucky enough to remember your dreams, you have a wealth of imaginative thought to draw on as far as book ideas go. Make certain that you have a writing pad near your bed (or set up your phone as a Dictaphone) so you can record the content of your dreams as soon as you awake. Revisit those recordings or writings later in the day and see if they spark any unique book ideas.
39. Investigate Historical Events and Tell Stories with New Perspectives.
Whether you’re writing history or fiction set in a historical background, there will always be a demand for tales told from new perspectives. It doesn’t have to be a famous historical moment known to all, either. It will be far easier to find a fresh take on a locally relevant historical event that a smaller (more invested) audience may care deeply about.
40. Pose Fantastical ‘What If’ Scenarios and Play Them Out in a Book.
This book idea gives you another chance to let your imagination run wild. For example: “What if Adolf Hitler had become successful as an artist, and he had never entered the military?” You could play out endless possibilities, focus on just a handful of the most plausible, and take your book in any direction you please.
41. Meet 100 Strangers in 100 Days and Share Their Answers to Common Challenges.
Come up with some interesting challenges or questions to ask the strangers you meet. Then grab your recording device, possibly a camera, and start roaming the streets. The resulting random humanity you uncover and share with the world could very much surprise you and certainly make for an interesting book. Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York popularized this format and has created an incredible community of loyal readers for his blog and books.
42. Interview Businesspeople and Compile Their Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs.
If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, you likely look up to role models yourself. Articles or books that provide advice from businesspeople who’ve experienced the highs and lows of actually running a business will always be read and valued. One recent example of this content format here on CreativeLive our 30 Days of Genius series, which could very well be the topic of an awesome book.
43. Interview Sports Figures and Deconstruct the Attitudes and Qualities that Create Successful Athletes.
Similarly, young sports players look up to their successful heroes, and try and emulate their success. If you can interview these sports heroes and encapsulate the essence of their success, you’ll have a captive audience already primed to tune in to your book.
Now that you’ve found some inspiration to help you land on the right book idea, I want to challenge you to actually start writing that book. Today.
Join me in Tara Gentile’s amazing class, How to Write and Publish an eBook and you’ll learn how to write, edit, self-publish, sell, and market a book in just 5 days.