“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!

6 thoughts on ““Down the Rabbit Hole” Topics for Viral Books”

  1. I love posts like this! I was just thinking about you this morning and then this post popped up in my inbox. Praise Freddie! I get the feeling you don’t approve of Rob Howard’s viral product. I went and read the sales page since I wasn’t familiar with him. I get a ton of WSO and other offers like that from Krizia, but I hardly ever buy any of them. I love your “Flash in the Pan” book (the only true and correct title. :p) I need to read it again.
    When you do your flash books do you just research lots, then sit down and write the book from your memory of what you read? Or do you compile an outline as you research and then fill in the blanks from your memory?
    And do you give yourself a deadline for how long to research? How do you know when you’ve done enough? Is it just a gut feeling thing? When you feel like you know enough about the subject and you’re just bursting at the seams to start the book? Or do you research until you’ve filled out your outline and then stop when it’s finished?

    1. Hi, K’Sennia! It’s always good to hear from you. Also, those are some great questions.

      My research & writing process can be kind of quirky.

      If I already have ideas/info about a topic, I may mindmap it on paper. Always yellow-lined paper (I ignore the lines) because I heard that yellow tends to stimulate creative thinking. (So far, that seems true for me.)

      I start with the main topic in the middle, and I start branching out with questions/subtopics.

      That gives me an idea of the scope of the book, or if it should be a bunch of books… assuming the first one does well, that is. That’s my usual plan: One book to see if the market is as juicy as it looks, and then publish follow-up books with more info, but only if the market is there.

      (In some cases, I publish two or three books at the same time, so I have an “instant backlist” for that pen name. But, at least once, I published two books – under one pen name – that were very woo-woo, and one – under another pen name – that kind of ripped the other books to shreds. Because I could see both sides of it, and – writing at the extremes, which can be good for some niches – both extremes had some gaping holes in logic.)

      I try to narrow my focus to the area/s that will be in the first book. (As I research, if I find cool things for any future books on the topic, I’ll jot a note or bookmark the page in folders named something like “book 2” and “book 3,” etc.)

      I do give myself a deadline. It varies with the topic and the urgency of getting the book into Kindle. It might be three days’ research (probably as brief as I’ll usually allow myself) or three weeks (that was for the three-book series, because there was a lot of information to digest & organize, to make the books stand out in the crowd).

      But, to be honest, a lot of “gut feeling” is involved. I get to something that feels like the coolest trivia, ever, and I know that’ll be the crown jewel of that particular book. I may dig deeper into that one thing, but… I dunno, it’s kind of like when I’m painting a landscape. There’s a point where I say, “Cool… I like this!” and – if I go past that point – it’s always, always a mistake. (My husband teases me about this, because he knows I so often take my art – and my book research – a little too far. LOL)

      And then I go back and mindmap the current book. Again, I do this with pen & ink. Sometimes, it involves a lot of crossing out and arrows that say, “No, put that there.”

      And then, I write.

      As I’m writing, I try not to pause for more research, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. I sit at my computer, and all of my resources are within reach.

      This means stacks of books on the floor. Lots of handwritten notes all over the desk, though I try to organize them into a notebook (with tabs) or manila folders. It’s messy. Very messy. (But I usually know exactly which pile contains which item I’m looking for. LOL)

      I may write with my keyboard. Sometimes, I try dictating (into Dragon, these days, but previously I was happy with the free voice recognition software that comes with Windows OS). Dictating is faster, but if the words don’t flow right, or I find myself wandering off-topic too much, the keyboard may be the better choice.

      (As I’m writing this, I realize my process may have changed since I wrote the how-to “flash in the pan” book. <-- Thank you for your comments about the book's original title. 🙂 So, though that book goes into some of these points in greater detail, the sequence may be different.) I hope that helps! If I didn't explain things you're still wondering about, ask more questions. They're always great! Cheerfully, Eibhlin

  2. Thank you for the detailed answer! 🙂
    I always struggle muchly with the research part because I get so easily overwhelmed and I don’t fare well with disorganization or messiness.
    I’m trying to work on short stories right now. My goal is 24 shorts this year. I did 12 last year. I always think nonfiction sounds fun, but the research is not easy.
    I tried a novel last year. I got to just under 40,000 words, but editing it became a problem. Plus, tons of other issues that you don’t want to hear about. 😀
    My best bet for success is with lots and lots of short stories. I can actually finish those when I actually bic myself. My other issue is that I have become accustomed to not exerting effort and being really lazy, and so until I create a new habit of exerting effort and that becomes my new normal, every word I type is a struggle. But I’ll get there one day, I hope. 🙂

    1. Hi again, K’Sennia!

      Like you, I do best when I manage to stay super-organized. Everything in clearly labeled file folders. Lots of action lists, daily to-do lists, and so on. It’s why I just finished Charlie Gilkey’s “Productive Flourishing” course, and loved it. (It’s the one that comes with his “Momentum Kickstarter Kit.” https://www.productiveflourishing.com/products/ )

      During the course (which took me much of a week, nearly full-time, because I did each lesson as he suggested), I realized that my entire view of books has been based on my “flash-in-the-pan” books. That is, if any book – fast, fiction, nonfiction, anything at all – takes more than 10 days to complete, something must be wrong.

      Too often, I put it aside “to look at more objectively, later” and leap into another book or project that seems like it should go faster.

      And then it doesn’t. (Yes: rinse, lather, repeat! LOL)

      So, the course was kind of excruciating (because I hate admitting to being wrong about anything, of course) but brilliant. Exactly what I needed, right now.

      With some luck (or, more likely: focus and determination), I’ll revisit some of my better book ideas, pick them up where I abandoned them, and actually finish them.

      I’m trying to look at this as a “glass half-full” moment, since I’ve had so many book ideas, and made some great progress with them… at least until that more-or-less 10-day “uh-oh” moment.


      1. Did you just implement a notification change? Cos I just looked yesterday and there was nothing there. But then I got a notif this morning and I was quite happy. I actually like the idea of a 10 day limit. I need limits. I spend too much time doing things the hard way. But of course things sometimes take as long as they take. Learning to stick with projects long term is hugely important, too.

        Right now I’m going through all my link lists. I had thousands of unsorted webpages, already, and I deleted them to start over properly. And I have discovered that yes, folders are super important. Small, sorted folders. The bigger they get the more unwieldy and impossible they become. I am so over that. I don’t know what will happen with my thousands of unsorted ebooks. But I am slowly on the path to getting more organized. I will check out the course you suggested!

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