Use KindleSpy for Genre Competitive Analysis

Authors can and should conduct analysis of their competitors. How do I know what I’m writing will sell? Are other authors selling similar content? Is there a gap that could be filled by my work?

These are important questions which can be answered by competitive (cooperative) analysis, and I’m sharing my process using KindleSpy to help me out.

competitiveAnalysis

Write a Cooperative Analysis

First, why cooperative analysis? I like to think of authors as a collective building a body of work together, which define and shape the genre. Some may disagree with me, but I liked the term when I read it in Marcy Kennedy’s guidelines:

  1. Compile a list of comparable, but more successful, authors
  2. Study their book descriptions
  3. Study their commonalities (pricing, categorization, cover design)
  4. Read their reviews (avoid what they “did wrong”)
  5. Determine what makes you special

While this list is pretty self-explanatory, I think the most difficult task is determining your set of comparable authors. If you’re not already reading the popular authors in your genre, how do you find them?

This is where I began using KindleSpy to help me out, and I suggest you try the same.

Use KindleSpy to Find Comparable Authors

Purchase and install KindleSpy in your browser (Chrome or Firefox). Watch the installation video, get familiar because it’s about to get weird. Or it did for me, anyway, because it has me questioning whether I’m writing in the correct genre!

Once I installed KindleSpy, I searched for “civil war historical fiction young adult” in the Kindle Store (the dropdown to the left of the Amazon search box).

There are 225 books in this category, not bad, but not good either. There are few books, so I could jump to the top of the pile if I wrote something amazing, but, sales are slow because it isn’t a popular search term.

kindleSpy_search

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find the correct search terms or categories which make the popularity, potential, and competition indicators green. You want something that is super popular (searched often), with great potential (revenue per keyword), and low competition (you’re unique enough).

Once you find the correct keywords you’re hoping to write for, study the top 20 list of authors per Mary’s suggestions. Learn how they use the search keywords, how do they categorize the book, what sort of covers do they market with?

Utilize the keyword and word cloud analysis to determine how to make your book findable in the Kindle Store, which of course influences your marketability!

This cooperative analysis is the another step of my authorpreneur plan series, where I’m sharing how I’m controlling my fate as an independent author. You can read my previous posts where I defined my goals and stories, identified my readersdefined business operations, and outlined a draft of my product plan through 2017.

Proposed 2017 Product Plan

DeathtoStock_Clementine10smYou guys, I am loving Marcy Kennedy’s blog series about breaking down how an independent author can be even more legitimate by defining a business plan. You can read my previous posts where I defined my goals and stories, identified my readers, and defined business operations.

What I find interesting is that the previous steps should be stable across multiple projects, as long as I retain the target audience and other general business needs. Moving forward, however, it seems the product plan, competitive analysis, etc, will depend on each individual project that sits under the business umbrella. Here we go!

Product Plan

This is a list of everything Bright Bird Press intends to produce over a given span of time, including novellas, short stories, speaking engagements, and merchandise such as posters and t-shirts. Since the Bright Bird Press business plan had a calendar goal of December 2016, it makes sense that this product plan include and extend beyond that date.

As such, the time span will cover a little more than two years (remainder of 2015, and all of 2016 – 2017). This will help budget and plan for hiring editing and cover design services as needed. This timeline will change as required (e.g. I anticipate buying a house in 2016, which might make the business take the backseat for a while).

2015 Projects

  • Complete the Bright Bird Press business plan
  • Build Facebook and Twitter presence by sharing interesting historical content
  • Fiction project (in progress, details under 2017 Projects)

2016 Projects

  • Continue working on the fiction project as outlined in 2017
  • Establish relationships with Ohio Historical Society, Grove City historical society for potential marketing and community outreach opportunities
  • Create merchandise for 2017 fiction project

2017 Projects

  • Fiction project (as hinted in 2015 Projects)
    • Title: Untitled Grove City, OH 1865
    • Summary: When an amnesiatic Confederate soldier collapses at the feet of Unionist Alina Miller, she must decide between family obligation and personal patriotism while the country  hunts for President Lincoln’s killer.
    • Length: 45,000 word novella
    • Genre: Young Adult Civil War
    • Ebook Release: April 2017
    • Print Release: April 2017
    • Audio Book Release: TBD
    • Budget: $1000

Future Projects

  • Looking for Mr. Knightly – Late Victorian YA – A bookish girl falls off her balcony into quite the adventure.
  • My Unwitting Heiress – Late Victorian YA – A twin is left to pick up the pieces after her sister sprints from the altar.
  • The Shortie and Crooner Chronicles – Children’s mystery book (series?) – Sleuth dogs use their super sniffers to solve crimes, to be written under another name.

 

My Author Business Operations

DeathtoStock_Clementine6smToday I continue my trek down authorpreneurship by following Marcy Kennedy’s business plan guidelines, where we focus on how my business will run. Until now, I’ve set my goals, chosen my stories, and identified my readers (I could probably tweak the last one a little better).

Summary Paragraph

Bright Bird Press will distribute Belinda Kroll’s books through all available online distributors, focusing on Amazon. Books will be produced in both ebook and print formats, with a focus on ebook. Income will be reinvested into the business until each book earns back what was invested into it for production and marketing—plus 10%. All additional income will be paid to Belinda Kroll as a salary.

Business Structure

Capital Investment

At the time of writing this portion of the business plan, the Bright Bird Press account has $759 (rounded down) available to be counted as seed money.

This account is separate from my personal accounts, and all purchases from this account are used expressly for either Bright Bird Press or my other freelance gigs. At this time, all funds that did not come directly from another freelance gig are available for the book portion of the business.

Legal Structure

Bright Bird Press is a sole proprietorship under my legal name, to be considered as one of many multiple lines of business. My co-authors are considered contractors and therefore have received a portion of book royalties in the past. Royalties to said co-author contractors will not be remitted if the cumulative royalty amount over a six month period (Jan – June / July – Dec) is below $100.

Production Responsibilities

Formatting of ebooks and print books will be the responsibility of Bright Bird Press unless noted otherwise on a per-project basis. Cover design for print and ebooks moving forward will be hired via contractors, unless the contractor work is deemed unsatisfactory, at which point Bright Bird Press will be responsible:

Editing services will be hired via contractors, as Bright Bird Press is unable to self-edit with credibility:

Marketing events such as blog tours and giveaways will be the responsibility of Bright Bird Press. Special marketing events such as book launches may require event organizers:

Contract Threshold

Unsure at this point when Bright Bird Press will require hiring more services such as formatting and other marketing needs. This will be revisited at another date. At minimum, the royalties from Bright Bird Press will need to meet $2000 within a six month period (Jan – June / July – Dec) to justify hiring out more services.

Equipment Requirements

The income from Bright Bird Press, in order to self-sustain, will offset costs for:

  • A computer
  • Production software (i.e. Adobe Creative Cloud licenses for InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop as needed)
  • External hard drives for file backups
  • Printers and printer cartridges
  • Marketing supplies (via Vistaprint)

These costs factor into the production and marketing overhead per project, and as such, salary will not be paid out until these costs have been recuperated, plus 10% beyond the original overhead.

Identifying my Readers

DeathtoStock_Clementine9smI was super excited the other day to see that Janice Hardy had posted the next step in developing an author business plan: identifying your readers. This is a part of the process I’ve always struggled to formalize… I know I write for young adults interested in history who also want to be entertained, but what else do I need to know about them?

Gender and Age Range

Janice emphasizes this is the gender and age range most likely to read my books. I think there are a couple men who have read Haunting Miss Trentwood and enjoyed it, but I’ll admit, they weren’t my target audience. I love that they had fun with the book, though!

  1. Primary audience: Girls ages 12 – 17 years
  2. Secondary audience: Women ages 30 – 44 years
    55% of YA purchased by adults; of that, 28% belong to this gender/age group according to Nielson Market Research

What popular authors write similar books to mine?

According to Amazon:

  • Amanda DeWees
  • Cheryl Bolen
  • Cheryl Holt
  • Theresa Greene
  • Jennifer Anne Davis (only YA)
According to myself:

  • Ann Rinaldi (more history-focused)
  • Laurie Halse Anderson (more dramatic)
  • Cheryl Bolen (sexier)
  • Richard Peck (definitively YA)

Somehow my books have been lumped up with far more gothic and sexier books than the ones I believe I’m writing. Hmm… I wonder how I can change that?

What TV shows draw a similar readers?

This is a hard one since there aren’t many historical shows out right now. But the shows which hint at the tone in my books (or the tone I perceive in my books)…

  • Reign
  • Pushing Daisies
  • Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
  • Anne of Green Gables

What expectations do they bring to the genre?

  • I want to learn a little about historical events.
  • I want to escape from my day-to-day worries and settle into something fun for a little while.

Will I fulfill or break these expectations?
Well, my hope is to meet these expectations, for sure. I think I’ll break expectations by not spending as much time “teaching” the way Ann Rinaldi does. Perhaps this is a way to differentiate so my writing seems more young adult rather than escapist adult fiction…

Authorpreneur Business Plan Brainstorm

Authorpreneur desks stay positive!
My desk at work reminds me to stay positive!

Hello! I return after ruminating about writing for months between family stuff, getting engaged(!), and rejoining the swing dance team. I’ve gotten a little breathing room, and my authorpreneur brain is whirring back into gear.

In the midst of it all, I despair over missing my writer’s group meetings, which are direct conflict with the swing dance team practices. I lament over my inability to concentrate on my research in the evenings. Instead I practice choreography, hunt for budget wedding supplies, veg out on Property Brothers and other Netflix necessary evils, and attempt to keep my place clean.

Today, I jump back into the writing world by brainstorming my authorpreneur business plan, which is inspired by Janice Hardy’s Fiction University blog series. Let’s jump right into the authorpreneur business plan brainstorm…

Authorpreneur Goals

What will it take for me to feel successful?

  1. Earning enough book royalties to pay for future books, i.e. current royalties pay for editing, design, publishing, or marketing services or fees for future books
  2. Receiving 25 positive reviews on the Amazon listing (whether print or eBook)
  3. Holding a physical copy in my hands

Why am I doing what I’m doing?

  • This is a creative outlet that balances me mentally and emotionally compared to my other creative outlets
  • This is a learning outlet that exposes me to a greater understanding of my Anglo-majority culture

What are my lines I won’t cross?

  • Smutty material; no sex scenes
  • Gore; egregious violence
  • Private life; only writing-related personal details will be shared

How do I want to improve?

  • Each book should display a stronger craft of writing than its predecessors
  • Each book should showcase better awareness of genre and audience marketing than its predecessors

In summary…

Bright Bird Press intends to spearhead the authorpreneurship and marketing of Belinda Kroll’s fiction. By December 2016, Bright Bird Press intends to earn enough royalties to cover the editing, design, and marketing costs of Kroll’s as yet unnamed book. Each book published will be in print and eBook formats, and will try to meet a minimum 4.5 star average (measured by Amazon.com reviews). Any book published will attempt to gather 25 book reviews within the first twelve months of publication and over fifty reviews by the end of the first three years.

To reach these goals, each book should improve on writing craft compared to previously released books, and Kroll will release one full-length novel every two years. Kroll will maintain a website and blog, post interesting internet finds on Twitter, and will release a newsletter announcing new releases and giveaways.

Bright Bird Press will make decisions toward reaching these monetary and quality goals while also respecting Kroll’s moral standards. Additionally, if a decision is made which puts Kroll’s personal life at risk, she reserves the right to reevaluate her writing career with impunity to reader expectations. Kroll is accessible to fans through her website and select social media accounts; names and stories of her family are to remain private.

Choosing Stories

What are common threads in books you enjoy reading?

  • Young women coming of age in eras where society has high expectations of them; so many apply to today’s society
  • A touch of romance, which either begins between friends, or presumed antagonists who have to join forces
  • This romance would be categorized as sweet; never going beyond kissing on the page
  • A moderate plot pace, which ends in a generally happy, perhaps bittersweet, ending
  • Familiar but distant history in United States and United Kingdom
  • Descriptive, flowing sentences combined with punchy, blunt sentences in moments of severe action

Do I want to be a single-genre author?

  • Yup

What themes touch your passion?

  • External: Father-daughter relationships in a patriarchal society
  • Internal: Trusting your instincts when no one else will
  • Thematic focus: Trust in the self

How long should my books be?

  • Young-adult length novels; 54,000 – 74,000

In summary…

 Belinda Kroll will write Victorian historical novels (or novellas) of between 50,000 and 75,000 words. These historicals will feature sweet romances, where physical contact does not progress beyond kissing on the page. Kroll and Bright Bird Press intend to build a brand where readers can look forward to coming of age stories featuring father-daughter relationships and bittersweet endings.

Kroll’s books will highlight challenges of establishing oneself in the face of an unsympathetic society. These books will explore the theme of trust, specifically the importance of working to trust oneself despite failings and mistakes. Readers should leave each reading experience with a sense of renewed determination to love oneself.

– – –

That’s it so far! I’m looking forward to the next installment in Janice’s series. I’m finding this helpful for me, and I’m curious to see how this influences my writing. I don’t think I realized my writing length has shortened over the years… my first book was a little over 100k and now I’m interested in writing fiction half that length!

My one concern is that heretofore, I’ve been a pantser… all this thinking and plotting and general authorpreneur stuff makes me worry that I’ll lose my creativity by documenting my (existing) constraints. Oh well! We shall see where this takes me.

All the best,
Belinda