“Down the Rabbit Hole” Topics for Viral Books

How to find "rabbit hole" topics for fast, viral booksOkay, since Rob Howard’s appalling “easy, viral books” report came out, I’m reluctant to go anywhere near that phrase.

But… that phrase does describe a very broad niche in which I’ve been successful.

I’m talking about easy, viral books. The ones I describe in my own book about writing… well, viral books.

(That’s different from what Rob talks about. We just happen to use similar phrases, talking about books that can be written quickly, and sell well.)


I should be writing (as Mur Lafferty says), but I woke up realizing I should also share a couple of resources with you.

They’re strictly for topical, viral books. The kinds of books I write in a few days. Maybe a couple of weeks, max.

It all starts with an “ooh, shiny!” topic. Maybe it’s in the news. Maybe it’s evergreen. Maybe it’s both.

I research it, and share the juiciest, most interesting things I’ve learned. (Kind of like this article, I guess.)

Some of those books sell in the four-figures region for a couple of months, and then go flat. A few keep selling. And selling. And selling.

Of course, it helps if I re-energize them regularly, following the recommendations in Chris Fox’s superb book, Relaunch Your Novel. (Except, of course, my books are rarely novels. His principles apply to nonfiction, too.)


I find my book topics in the news. Usually, I’m browsing their “weird news” section, or – less often – skimming their strange opinion/editorial topics.

(The latter are the ones I blink at and wonder, “Who thought that was important – or even credible – right now?” But, clearly, someone did, and so did an editor with her – or his – finger on the pulse of a broad group of readers.)

Example: The Washington Post’s “wild card” option, in their digital editions. (I read it daily on my Kindle Fire. $1 for six months of daily news…? Lots of quirky, viral book ideas…? Ooh, yes!)

This morning, it was an article about taste buds and weight gain.  A book on that topic – and suggestions for dealing with it – could do very well. My goodness, it could even spawn a cookbook series featuring healthy, extra tasty foods.

That’s one of maybe half a dozen great, viral-ish topics I saw in the Washington Post in the past 24 hours.

The other resource is where I get more evergreen ideas: An American magazine that’s near every grocery store cash register. It’s called “First for Women.”

Every one of their magazine covers could provide at least two or three really good book ideas. Usually, more.

I have their December 4th (2017) issue next to me. Here are a few headlines and subtitles/blurbs. Any of them could be great, viral books. And each would be unique, because it would be based on your topical research and your angle on the subject.

  • “Reclaim your brain… bye-bye tired! / The heavy metal making women feel slow and tired & the natural compound that sweeps it away. Feel the fog lift in 24 hours!”
  • “Instant Confidence! / Double chin – Saggy butt – Belly rolls – Thigh jiggles…”
  • “Body Clock Cures / Insomnia – Anxiety – Slow metabolism – Winter sadness – Headaches – Cravings”

And that’s not even the main headline on the cover. (It’s about a thyroid detox. That’s a topic they feature at least once every few months.)

As I’m looking at this cover, and thinking about the endless winter this year – the storms that keep bringing snow and gloomy skies in the American northeast and across much of the UK – I’m thinking about “winter sadness” and SAD. A well-marketed book about that could do very well, this year.

So anyway, that was on my mind this morning. I hope this information is helpful. Now, I need to get my current book finished and in Kindle.

If you write one of these books in the near future, feel free to link to it in a comment at this article. I’d love to see your ideas for books like these!

2014 Smashwords Survey

This is very new survey is worth paying attention to, if you’re building a career as an author.

checkbox-greenFor me, key, interesting points include:

  • The $3.99 price point and 100k+ words, per book. Neither guarantee success, but while my success has been built on shorter books (in nonfiction), the longer length is something to think about. Maybe. The price point is more iffy, because a lot of authors are doing well with $2.99 – $3.99. Others are doing fine in $4.99+ territory. In general, I’d avoid the 99-cent price, unless your audience eats up books in that range… or they borrow them. (The vast majority of “borrows” among books I’ve published are for 99-cent books. Weird, but there it is.)
  • The importance of a free first book in a series. I’m thinking very seriously about that.
  • Increasing each book in a series to above 50k words. It could be worthwhile. I was about to test books in the 40k range, but now I’m going to expand them to 50k. The extra 10k words is not a big deal, once I’m in that higher range anyway. In my current sub-genres, the 50k range has been pretty solid for decades. I definitely would not exceed 75k unless I was absolutely certain my readers’ attention span would continue that long.
  • I’m taking another look at the convenience of Smashwords, as well as the pre-orders concept. I haven’t used either, but it may be time to do so, soon.
  • The nonfiction results are equally surprising. I’m considering expanding some of my nonfiction books so I’m more comfortable with a higher price. Then, I’ll see what happens.

Read more detailed analyses: http://blog.smashwords.com/2014/07/2014-smashwords-survey-reveals-new.html

Watch the slide show below (the real info starts around page 18), or see it at http://www.slideshare.net/Smashwords/2014-smashwords-survey-how-to-sell-more-ebooks