Good soapmaking books are essential, but so are good soapmaking friends. If you don’t live in a neighborhood where everyone around you happens to be a soapmaker, then check out soapmaker’s forums, such as the Teach Soap forum or the Soap Making Forum, for on-the-ground info, troubleshooting, and inspiration from experienced soapmakers around the world.
The archives alone are well worth a couple of hours of your time to sort through, but the ideas–bundt cake soap? Mud soap?–are also invaluable.
[The image on this page belongs to Teach Soap.]