Kindle Spy Review: How Spying On Your Competition Will Force You To Boost Sales!
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Kindle Spy 2019 Review Summary: Kindle Spy (aka KDSpy) is a Kindle Publishing tool in thousands of Kindle publishers' tool belt. As one of the first software for self publishers on Amazon, it's survived the test of time.
Now, it's become a bit less effective since it's launch. However, there's still one important use of Kindle Spy that other software have not been able to replicate as much. This will be discussed in the following article.
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hether you hate it or love it, competition analysis and getting a winning edge are part of the self publishing game.
When I first started self publishing, I only used Kindle Spy as a tool to do niche & keyword research.
Over the years other tools improved on what Kindle Spy does (other tools aren't extensions - so this is a plus for some people), but what wasn't replicated was what I'm going to show you how to do in this article.
The most useful benefit of Kindle Spy (these days) summed up in one sentence: With this software, and a few clicks, you can see how well a Kindle e-book category is doing compared to another.
While you're using Kindle Spy (KDSpy for short) for this main benefit, you'll notice that you can analyze the following:
- You can see the Amazon Best Seller Rankings for the category (top 20 books for the category),
- How much that category is making in approximated Kindle sales,
- and more we'll get to in just a bit, keep reading.
Today, I’ll show you how to use Kindle Spy to pick the best profitable categories for your Kindle books. This is by far, the main reason to get Kindle Spy—in my honest opinion.
So, the main focus will be on the software's main benefit (category analysis) and the exact step-by-step process for getting the big orange badge next to your books that screams "Click Me."
Before we get to that though, let's address how KDSpy is usually used.
How Most People Use Kindle Spy
Note: In my Kindle Spy Review video, I mentioned that I wasn't able to do a tutorial on how to do category analysis. This was because Amazon was split testing the way it displayed the Kindle Best Seller pages which prevented me from doing analysis the way I was used to. However, things are back to normal now and you can use KDSpy to still do category analysis in the way shown in this article (keep reading and you'll find the section).
There are usually 2 ways Kindle publishers mainly use this browser extension tool. However, I'm going to add a 3rd way of using Kindle Spy: tracking.
Let's go over these now and in the next section we'll cover category analysis—the real power behind KDSpy.
1) Checking the Profitability of A Keyword
For example purposes, let's say I'm looking to publish under the keyword paleo diet.
I went ahead and (1) typed this keyword in the Kindle store and got my page 1 Amazon results. Next, (2) I clicked on the KDSpy Chrome extension:
Doing this will give me columns worth of valuable data for each of the top ranking books, including:
Furthermore, you'll notice the bottom-right section of the KDSpy window:
Don't pay too much attention to what I boxed red above.
The Total Monthly Rev. is a rough guesstimate in my experience.
However, the three circles:
are sometimes good indicators.
In this case, "Popularity" for the keyword paleo diet, is red which if you hover over the bubble with your mouse, will say "Warning: this keyword is not very popular." I doubt that this claim, for this keyword, but let's continue.
The second bubble (green in our case), "Potential," is green. Obviously meaning here's a lot of potential.
And the third bubble, "Competition," is red. An indication that this is a highly competitive keyword.
Yellow can appear sometimes too—basically meaning it's neutral.
So, how does this data benefit you?
I can think of a few reasons:
A Somewhat Useful Feature...
One last thing I'll highlight about the Kindle Spy interface here is the Word Cloud.
It's a feature that I rarely use, however, it can be useful to some. It's not that I dislike this feature, but it's something I forget to use!
This is what the Word Cloud looks like (it's a hyper-link towards the top-right of the interface):
The Word Cloud can potentially reveal keywords that you might've missed or never thought of.
It reveals the most-used keywords surrounding the keyword being analyzed.
I'll make note to use it for my next book as it might prove to be useful!
Well, that was the first way most publishers use Kindle Spy. And it's how it's often presented and taught in self publishing courses.
Let's move onto to the second most common approach.
2) "Spying" On Other Authors
Another way I and other successful Kindle publishers have used KDSpy is by spying on a competitor's author page.
For this example, let's examines a well-known self publisher's book portfolio: Steve Scott.
From the image above, we can see that the 80/20 applies here. The majority of his Kindle books sales are coming from Steve's top 6 books.
None the less, this is an impressive portfolio in the habits niche.
Notice that KDSpy filters Steve's (or any author's) books by lowest (best selling) ABSR to highest ABSR (worst selling).
Steve's been at this for a few years and is an expert at his craft. He uses his blog, email list, and optimizes for the Amazon search engine to make passive income sales from his books.
If you decide to follow in Steve's footsteps (as am I) I recommend taking his self publishing course.
Other things you can draw from this type of KDSpy author analysis are the keywords the author is using in their book titles.
Depending on the level of competition and the status of the author you may be competing with...these keywords can potentially open some doors.
(I say potentially because software data is just the tip of the ice berg in Kindle publishing—no software shows the online marketing funnel that the author may be using).
3) Keep Track Of Your Competitor's Rankings (For 30 Days)
Another cool feature KDSpy has going for it, that no other Kindle software does, is keep track of your competitors. You do this by simply clicking the "T" while you're spying on a potential keyword (or author profile):
After you click on the "T" you'll be redirected to this KDSpy's page:
Click on the Green "Track SalesRank" button and KDSpy will start tracking your competitor's book.
I find this to be one of Kindle Spy's most valuable tools (after category analysis). When you don't have a tool like this, you're going to have to keep track of how well your competition is doing on a spreadsheet or paper.
I'm not sure about you, but I rather have a software do this type of tracking for me. This is a set it and forget it type of feature.
When a week has passed, feel free to check on this data graph by visiting your competitor's Amazon sales page and then clicking on the KDSpy extension. You'll find your past 7 days of data waiting for you ?.
I've recently been tracking the performance of a certain book's sales ranking with Kindle Spy. I wanted to see how this book is doing in a month's time and KDSpy's sales tracking feature delivered. Here's what my graph looks like:
With those 3 main methods of using Kindle Spy out of the way let's get to the good stuff... category analysis!
Why Should You Care About Your Book's Kindle Categories?
2 words: more exposure.
I’m sure you’ve done some form book research in the past and come across a book that has a great sales ranking and stands out … right?
Exposure is the name of the game when it comes to Kindle Categories.
I’m going to show you 2 solid reasons why you should choose your categories strategically if you want to leverage the power of Amazon.
#1 An Attractive Orange Badge Next To Your Book
Okay, let me set the scene.
You’re doing some niche research in a cookbook niche and you come across some books, on the first page of results, that are doing well.
Two out of the three books above are clearly different and stand out more.
The attractive orange “Best Seller” badge.
The publisher/author who has this by their book usually has an upper hand in the rankings.
This simple orange badge leads to higher click through rates for your books and signals to Amazon that your book should be ranked higher.
You too can get a Best Seller sticker by being first in your respective category.
For example, the first book in the image above has the following Amazon Best Sellers Rank in the paid Kindle Store:
and is #1 in its category: Turkish Cookbooks.
Turkish Cookbook? I thought this was an Instant Pot Cookbook!
Is this a little mischievous? Maybe. I haven’t purchased the actual cookbook myself and perhaps there are Turkish recipes in there.
At least it’s not under a sports category or something like that.
The point is that self publishers use this gray hat tactic to get that push into a semi-competitive yet easier to rank category.
On the other hand, book 3 in the first image above didn’t do the greatest job at choosing his/her category.
He or she probably chose a category that was overly competitive or just didn’t have enough Amazon traffic coming to it.
Furthermore, they never read this article and yet to have a Best Seller badge next to their book.
Update 7.17.17: The third book is actually #1 in a paid category, but was recently published when I initially wrote this article. Goes to say, even if you get #1 in a category ... there's a sales threshold that Amazon keeps secret. Eventually, you'll get it.
#2 Let Amazon Promote Your Book For You!
Whether you were doing Kindle niche research or just browsing for a book to read – if you searched and clicked through a book in a best selling category you’ve seen Amazon promote a book before.
That’s right, Amazon rewards best sellers with their own ad spend budget.
In my opinion, they utilize two of the best forms of traffics: email marketing and Facebook Ads.
Here’s an email I received from Amazon after searching for cookbooks:
And because Amazon has Facebook pixels throughout their site, they know when you’ve landed on a best selling book's page.
Because of this, you can expect to see some form of Facebook advertisement of that book soon. Amazon usually places these in the Sponsored area (side widget).
*editor correction: "ads" not "adds"
Enough said, rank 1st in your category and you’ll have good’ol Amazon in your ring corner feeding you sales!
How to Do Category Research With Kindle Spy
How do you start?
Well first off, know that there’s a manual way to do this (it takes forever and a day) and then there’s the KDSpy way to do category research.
If you want to know the long manual way, I'll think about adding it to this post... let me know in the comment section below.
One final note before we start...
It doesn’t matter whether you’re ranked #1 for the category Psychology of Marriage and you have a cookbook, you’ll still get a Best Seller orange sticker by your book and the reader will most likely never know.
Readers have to hover over the Best Seller badge to see the actually see the category
I highly discourage you from doing this. It’s not only ethically wrong but eventually, it’ll be short lived as people will start leaving you bad reviews for such blasphemy.
If you want to stretch category analysis to its limits then I suggest choosing a category that is ballpark close to what your book is about. Just like the publisher did who chose the Turkish Cookbook category.
Let’s begin by taking the same example of the three books above.
Step 1 – Figure Out Your Competitors' Categories
The first book is #1 in the Turkish child category of the main parent category Cookbooks, Food & Wine in the paid Kindle Store.
Back on track…
The second book and competitor offers more insight to other potential categories:
Notice that books are childs of the main parent category: Cookbooks, Food & Wine.
So far we have three (child) categories:
- Special Appliances
At this point, let’s open anyone of these categories up – let’s choose “International”.
We can access this category page by clicking the blue hyperlink “International” at the end of the category line above. The page should now appear like this:
As you can see book 2 is sitting firmly at the top of this category's best seller’s list.
Before we go to the next step, notice that there are lots of other child categories (sub-categories) under Cookbooks, Food & Wine.
Book 2, above, chose the International child category and still ranked. The point is he/she could've dug a little deeper ... but hey the book's still a #1 in the category.
Step 2 – Analyzing Category Pages with KDSpy
KDSpy will analyze the top 20 books in any category page and give many variables that’ll help us make a decision when it comes to choosing the 2 best categories for our books.
When I click on the KDSpy Google Chrome Extension, this is what I get for the book 2 analysis:
Notice right away that this is a good category to be in if you want a best seller badge by your book. However, notice that KDSpy gives you more insight.
Things are not as black and white as the traffic system algorithm (at the bottom right) KDSpy gives us.
Sure, it’ll be easier to be #1 in this category, but the economic nature of these types of Kindle books is in high supply.
You can tell this by Average Monthly Revenue the KDSpy software displays.
Even with the majority of the books priced at $0.99 the Avg. Sales Rank for the first 1-20 results is only around 75,000.
The great thing about KDSpy is that you can do this with any category page within seconds!
Let’s compare the above results of:
- Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Cookbooks, Food & Wine > Regional & International > International
- Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Cookbooks, Food & Wine
And see what we get:
Upon analyzing, we can quickly notice that the Avg. Monthly Rev. and Sales Rank are much better, but the competition is strong.
This category will get you more traffic to your books, but the chance for you ranking #1 are slim to none (indicated by the red bubble).
Starting to see how KDSpy can help you?
Summary on How to Use Kindle Spy for Category Analysis
- Benchmark your competitor’s Kindle categories
- See if their child categories are as far as you can go in the respective category tree & run KDSpy on them too
- Run Kindle Spy on your competitor’s category Amazon pages and see which ones are doing the best
- Choose the best categories for your book
It’s important to note that not all categories are available to you when you’re uploading a book to Kindle Direct Publishing. This is by design.
Amazon tends to hide a lot of the available categories from publishers.
Don’t worry though. When you're publishing your book on KDP, select a temporary category instead of the category you want and publish the book.
Once your book is live, contact KDP and ask them to add so and so category to your book. I usually provide my book’s ASIN in the email.
They’ll get back to you and your category should be added shortly!
Also, if you find yourself comparing two categories and they’re both easy to rank for (the third bubble is green), choose the category with the better average sales ranking as the statistics will be on your side.
Alternative Software to KindleSpy
Kindle Spy has made it's mark as one of the best Kindle publishing software on the market. However, you might've heard about two other competitor's. Namely KDP Rocket and Kindle Samurai.
If you're deciding on which one to get, between KDP Rocket vs Kindle Spy, I recommend both and here's why. Both of these software can do keyword research, category analysis and more.
Yet both have features that the other can't do.
For example, KDP Rocket can't pull the data from an Amazon's Best Seller page like explained in the Category Analysis section of this article. However, KDP Rocket has tried to compete with it's latest Category Hunter feature that was recently added to the software (which is actually another great way to do category analysis).
Additionally, KDP Rocket can't track a competitor's book sales ranking for 30 days an present in graph form as shown in this article.
On the flip side, Kindle Spy doesn't display estimated Amazon Searches Per Month of keywords. Which is something that KDP Rocket can do. Kindle Spy also can't do keyword research for AMS advertisements.
So as you can see, they are competing software in the Kindle marketplace, but they're actually different in multiple ways. I use both and am comfortable recommending both.
For more information on KDP Rocket, check out my in-depth Publisher Rocket review
KDP Rocket Review article.
Editor's Note: KDP Rocket has changed it's name to Publisher Rocket.
As for Kindle Samurai, I haven't personally used it. It never drew my attention and looks unimpressive. If you'd like me to review it let me know in the comments below. And if you've used it personally, please share your experience in the comments as I'd be interested to know if it's beneficial to have!
My Honest Kindle Spy Review
Kindle Spy is just one of the many tools in my Kindle Publishing tool belt. It’s not going to break or make your self publishing business – no software or tool will.
That being said, KDSpy can give you an upper hand when choosing categories wisely.
Wesley Atkins is the creator of Kindle Spy and I’ve seen some Amazon changes.
I noticed that he’s on top of any updates that Amazon comes out with which is great because the software draws data from Amazon.com.
You can’t beat the price for the lifetime access browser extension – coming in at a low $47.
It’s easy to install, Mac and PC compatible and available for Chrome and Firefox browsers.
If you’re looking for a competitive edge and a much better chance of success I recommend KDSpy.
I hope you found this review article informative and valuable.
To your publishing success,
If you've never seen KDSpy in action, here's an older video of me using it for keyword research.