If you’re an indie writer, then you’re also a self-publisher. And if you are self-publishing on Amazon then you already know your book’s greatest opportunity for success is in gaining visibility. There are a few things you can do to give your book helpful visibility but one activity that is often overlooked is the review of an Amazon category – or more specifically, the category’s health. Placing your book in a category without paying attention to the health and profile of a category can severely impact your book’s opportunity for success. Placing your book in a healthy category will provide terrific visibility.
In this post, I want to show you a small web application, Genre Report — a useful tool when researching categories, sub-categories or to view popular keywords and reader shift across categories.
Like most of you, I write fiction. I also publish on Amazon and other platforms but find I concentrate my time working with KDP. I’ve spent countless hours researching Amazon’s categories in search of any opportunity to give my books a lift in visibility. What I’ve found is that not all Amazon categories are the same. Two important measures are the category’s Popularity and Competitiveness. But what about cover styles, pricing and page count? All of these makeup what I call a category’s profile. Give the reader what they expect. Give the reader what they want. After all, the last thing you want to do is add your book to a category where readers are expecting something different or where there is a lack of readers. Whether it’s the cover or the pricing or the page count, do everything you can to improve your book’s chances of hitting a reader’s attention.
Before delving into the details about my new web application, you might be wondering why I’ve been writing source code instead of a new book? It was more than six years ago when I first clicked the publish button, and over the years I’ve learned a lot from places like KBoards, Mark’s terrific videos and some great forums on Facebook. But nothing could prepare me for 2016. Last year was not great for a variety of reasonsto the extent that I’d just about given up my dream of being a writer. But rather than walk away, I decided to take a long break and concentrate on expanding my software engineering skills. However, in learning new skills, I had no interest in developing meaningless sample applications.
I like data and found plenty of it on Amazon’s site. I also like to play with data, rendering graphs, displaying changes and showing potential trends. For my home project, I decided to code a service that collected category data. But one category wasn’t enough so I collected all the sub-categories too.
Once I had some data to work with, I put together a web page to visualize my findings. And oh what findings! I quickly saw the potential of being able to show which of the categories were healthy and which were not. At that time, there was also a lot of online discussions about a category’s competitiveness which involved some of the data included in my analysis. Seeing an opportunity, I extended my service to include over 1,200 more fiction categories – sorry, no free or non-fiction. When I’d started the project, I was between books and thinking about which genre I wanted to work in next. The data helped me identify new categories to consider.
The first web page (shown below) was soon put up to list the main bestseller categories. Instead of just listing them, I put them in spreadsheet form with sortable column headers. This makes for an interesting view, allowing me to sort by a number of parameters.
A little more about the columns on the Reports page:
The name is self-explanatory and is clickable. Just like the Amazon bestseller list, links navigate to the sub-categories, listing them and producing a breadcrumb link across the top. Using the Breadcrumbs is one of the easiest ways to navigate back to the parent categories.
After the name, I list the averages calculated for the Top 100 bestselling books of each category. This is the gold in the data. Meaning, these are the measures you’ll want to review when identifying a category’s profile. I use them to help me determine if my book could/should fit with what the reader expects.
The last two columns, Competitive and Popularity, are calculated values, not collected. After I complete a collection from the 1,200++ categories, I perform a peer calculation to rank and sort all categories from 0 to 100 – a scoring that is similar to test scores. I’ve also added color to these values to give a visual indication.
For Competitive, the categories scoring a green are considered the healthiest and least congested while the red is considered too competitive. Green scores have a decent number of sales but are not overly crowded and could provide an opportunity for a book to gain visibility.
Popularity scores are also color coded for visual reference, using red, green and yellow as an indicator of good, mediocre and poor. I like to use the Competitive and Popularity scores together. For example, a Competitive score that presents as healthy could also show as having a low popularity. This indicates there is a lower than desired number of readers to support the category.
I also recommend using the canned report. I’ve taken the liberty of generating a few common reports and made them available in the dropdown list in the upper right of the screen. If a canned report doesn’t suit your needs, you can build your own with the AdHoc query tool.
There are many more features to the Reports page, including sorting and pinning subcategories for comparison, displaying graphs and listing sample covers to give you a very good idea of what a reader expects when visiting a category.
The next screen to talk about is my At-a-Glance (shown below) web page. This page isn’t necessarily a report, but a summary of the Top 10 and a Low 10 for each measured area. I consider this my go-to dashboard.
After logging in, I go to the At-a-Glance page for a quick look at what’s going on in the world of fiction (looks great on my phone too). My backend services work 24x7x365 and constantly collect data and crunch numbers. Checking back often, you’ll see the listings change.
Clicking on any of the category links will take you to the Reports page, selecting the category for a more detailed report.
Next up is my Trends/History page (shown below). As mentioned above, my backend services are always running, generating tens of thousands of measures. Rather than throw them away at the end of the day, I store them to generate historical reports.
The Trends/History page is a report full of graphs. While the screen shot above shows only four graphs, the web page includes ten completed graphs with a day parameter of seven days to six months. I’ll add a one-year option once the collected data exceeds 6 months.
I use these graphs to tell me how, or if, a category is changing. For example, let’s say you’ve seen a slowdown in sales, selecting your book’s primary category, you may find the popularity decreasing during the last six months. This could be an indication of reader-shift – readers moving from one sub-category to another. Additional investigation of the peer categories may show the direction of the reader shift.
The Top 100 tool (shown below) is my personal favorite. With this tool, you can find out if your book could rank in the top 100 of a category. This can save you a terrific amount of time. Rather than browse all the peer and sub-categories, searching for new placement to increase visibility, you can use the Top 100 tool instead.
Add your book’s ASIN and ranking and then select a category. Also, select to include all sub-categories and to only show popular categories. Once a report is rendered, you can download the results as a spreadsheet.
I’ve used this tool to find categories for a few of my books that I would have otherwise missed. A short email to KDP with the newly discovered Category paths, and within a day or so they’d added my book.
I do hope you find Genre Report to be useful. I invite you to use the reports and tools to show which categories might offer your books some greater visibility. Success on Amazon is all about visibility so use every tool available.
I’ve still got more work planned and will continue to develop as we move through 2017. For now, Genre Report is free to use while I scale out the backend and measure usage. If my web app proves useful to you, please send some feedback (the little thumbs-up icon in the footer). Also, check back often as I’ve got plans for additional reports and some rather funky animated reports to show reader shift.