Here are a few quick thoughts on some starting points for choosing a topic for an e-book – mainly for people who already have a blog:
Todd – Good question. For me it was partly just about blogging for a number of years in my niche and starting to just get a hunch for what would work. I guess in that time I began to see patterns in what was working and what was not working in my niche. I also began to get to know my readers more and saw the challenges and problems that they faced.
Of course saying ‘go with your hunches’ isn’t probably the answer you were after – so below I’ve identified a few steps to work through in choosing a topic for an E-book.
Step 1: Ask Some Questions about Your Readers and Their Needs
here are some questions I’d suggest you consider to help you identify and sort through those hunches.
- what questions do you keep getting asked repeatedly by readers (via email, in comments etc)?
- what are readers asking you to make recommendations on?
- what posts on your blog are getting the most visitors?
- what posts on your blog are getting most comments/discussion?
- what trends are emerging on your topic in your niche?
- what’s the biggest problem or challenge for people in your niche – particularly for beginners?
- what terms are people searching for to arrive on your blog?
- what words are people searching for on your blogs search tool?
Answering these types of questions should point you in the direction of some topics that could be suitable for an e-book.
Step 2: Ask Some some More Probing Questions to Narrow in on the Topic
Once you’ve identified some of these topics you will probably want to narrow the field a little by asking some of these questions:
- what topics have you written a lot about already that you could pull together as the basis for an e-book? (see a note on this below)
- what do you know enough about to write something useful? Do you have the authority and expertise to write it yourself or should you outsource the writing?
- are you interested in or passionate about the topic? I’m sure that not all authors are passionate about their topics but it sure helps because there is a lot of work involved!
- is the topic you’re thinking of writing about something that really needs more than a single post – can you write enough to justify it being an e-book and something people pay money for?
- are there many other resources already available on the topic – how will yours be different?
- is the topic you’re thinking about too wide or narrow? Sometimes topics are too big and could end up being a series of e-books. ON the other hand some topics are too narrow to really justify being an e-book and perhaps it’d be best to widen it and look at a larger topic.
Step 3: Test Your Topics
Once you’ve narrowed Your Field – test the topics that you’ve come up with. I’ve seen a number of bloggers come up with ideas for big projects that they think are great which in reality are not. If only they’d tested their ideas before investing significant time into them!
You might want to bounce them off a fellow blogger, perhaps test them with a small group of trusted readers, ask some questions on Twitter etc. If you’ve not covered the topic much on your blog before you might also want to test the idea on your blog with a post on the topic to gauge reader interest. Alternatively you might run some kind of poll to see if your suspicions about your readers needs are confirmed.
The key is to try to find out if the topics you’re thinking of writing about are the types of things people are REALLY interested in and willing to pay for. Note: This might be an ideal time for a survey.
Three last thoughts:
1. ‘How To’ Topics – My suspicion is that ‘teaching’ or ‘how to’ type e-books are going to be more attractive to potential buyers than other types. I’m sure there will be exceptions but most of the e-books that I’ve seen do well either lead people through a process, explain something, solve a problem or give them skills and understanding over a particular topic.
2. Start with a Problem – when it comes to selling an e-book you’ve got a lot better chance of convincing someone to buy it if you can tell them that it’ll solve a problem that they have. In my e-books I took the problems/challenges of ‘building a better blog’ and ‘taking better portraits’ and centered everything in the e-book around them. These problems were reflected both in the writing and the marketing of the books. Once you’ve identified a problem you’re on the right track.
3. Repurposing Old Posts – I mentioned above that you might like to consider what topics you’ve written about a lot already that you might be able to base an e-book on. All I’d want to qualify this with is that you’ll probably want to add some solid extra content to these types of e-books. I’ve proved (twice) that people are willing to pay for stuff you’ve published before but in each case I worked hard on adding extra material to make it more valuable.