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.


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.


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.

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.

Chatting with Eloisa James

Dear Reader,

I contacted Eloisa James after I finished reading This Duchess of Mine about five minutes after I put the book down.  I didn’t understand it. I began the book disliking the characters. I finished the book still disliking them a little, but feeling as though I understood them.

Despite my disliking them, I cared about them.

This boggled my mind as a reader and an author. How did Eloisa make me care about characters I disagreed with? I was so impressed I sent her an email asking about her trick. Her answers fascinated me, and I asked if I could post our conversation on our blog.

Eloisa, being the gracious lady she is, gave me permission.

Dear Belinda,

Thank you for this lovely note!  I’m sorry it took me a while to answer.  My characters were manipulative—I am too *g*.  At any rate, I’m glad you decided to like them anyway.  One of my goals as a writer is not to write characters that everyone will love, every time—but to try to write characters who have realistic traits, but still fall in love and are lovable.

I’ll give a shot to your three questions:

How do you transform your passion into focused research?
Passion is a vague word for writing…. what I have is an idea.  The idea generally springs from some sort of historical fact, say the condition of toilets in the Georgian period (When the Duke Returns) or the discovery of digitalis (This Duchess of Mine) or the disgraceful conditions behind child-workers & gold wire buttons (A Duke of Her Own).  I do just as much research as I need to to feel that I have a handle on that situation–because always the goal of a book is to create a great story, not to give readers an information dump.  Knowing too much can be a liability sometimes.

How do you translate your research into an entertaining narrative?
See above.  I take a problem: something that interests me about the past and then weave a story about it.  For Affair before Christmas, for example, I found myself wondering what it was really like to have all that tall Marie Antoinette hair piled on one’s head.  Voila:  the plot springs from the question.

How do you sneak an underlying message into your entertaining narrative?
Well, underlying messages…  I don’t know that I have all that many of those.  I guess some come along with the characters.  When I created a drunk in Much Ado about You, for example, I dried him out in Taming the Duke, so there was a message there about alcohol.  But I don’t have the sense that many of my readers are looking to my books to solve their substance abuse problems.  If I have an underlying message it would be that it IS possible to have a thoughtful, loving, and kindly relationship–and no woman should settle for less.  And in tandem with that, marriage is no picnic, and that kind of relationship needs as much nourishing as any other.  And finally, that every man can learn to be good in bed.

Awesome answers, right? And, can I just say how exciting it is to have an author respond to an email when you figure they are way too busy? Indie authors take note!

So I responded to Eloisa’s email because I thought she wasn’t giving herself enough credit with her answer to my third question…


Thank you for the reply! Yes, your answers do help, and give me insight into your writing. My mother, for instance, doesn’t like manipulative characters, and doesn’t understand why anyone would write about them. This is very helpful for me to explain why and how a writer can go in this direction.

I suppose underlying messages come more from readers’ perceptions of our work, rather than our purposeful insertion of a message. In This Duchess of Mine, I felt as though the underlying message was to never give up; that people can mature and make a difficult situation work if they both try. It’s a good thing to keep in mind for a young, professional, single girl like me!

Suffice it to say, I’m not sure I could ever pull it off myself. Props to you for working with difficult-to-love-but-we-love-them-anyway characters!

So there you have it. Big name authors like Eloisa James are pretty fricking sweet. I’m definitely going to check out another of her books just because I feel I understand her a little better and will probably enjoy her writing more because of it.

All the best,