There are a lot of options out there when it comes to software for publishing. There are software options for outlining, writing, formatting, brainstorming, and researching. Today, I want to talk about two recent additions to that last category: researching.
No doubt about it, in publishing as in anything else, you need to research your market. You should know what’s selling and what’s not, and why. The more information you have about your competition, the better equipped you are to achieve your own success.
So, I took a deeper look into two of the recent popular offers for researching your book markets. Hopefully, I can clear up some of the confusion over which one is best, or which one does or does not do which tasks.
I’ll be comparing: search speed and ease of use, features and results (details returned,) sorting options, export options, price, and support.
So let’s get started with Kindle Spy vs KD Researcher. Let the best software win!
Let’s start with KD Researcher. It is being sold by two men I know and trust, Bill Platt and Sam England. They’ve both been around a long time, and I imaging they’ll be around for a long time still to come.
KD Researcher is software built on Adobe Air and it works on either PC or Mac. You do have to download it and install it on your computer, but when there are updates (there has already been one) it tells you when you log in. Updating is as easy as clicking a button. The current price (as I write this) is $20 but it is on dime sale pricing which means that the price increases a little bit every few sales.
With KD Researcher you search and sort from within the software. You can search by category, and you have the option to drill down one sub-category level. You can choose either the top 100 paid or the top 100 free in the category or sub-category. The results are returned to you in a visual grid, with the cover images displayed.
The details returned are: title, cover image, publication year, print page count, and number of reviews. You do not get sales rank, or estimated sales numbers (yet.) Again, you get 100 results, and it takes two or three minutes to get all results populated.
You have a lot of sorting options, but they aren’t really sorting options. They are instead narrow-down options. In other words, it doesn’t sort the results into a certain order based on the criteria, it drills down further and discards the results that don’t fit the new sort details. You can use the sorts or not, as you see fit.
Here are the criteria:
Price – you can choose one: Less than $1, $1.00 – $1.99, $2.00 – $2.98, $2.99 – $3.99, $4.00 – $9.99, $10.00 +.
Reviews – choose one: Less than 50, 50+, 100+, 250+, and 500+.
Format – the choices are Kindle, Paperback, Hardcover, and Audio. If you choose one of these, it will delete from the results any book that does not have this version.
Publication Date – choose one year: any year from 2007 to 2014.
Print Page Count – since Kindle doesn’t have actual pages, page count on Kindle books are based on the print versions. Choose one: Less than 50, 50+, 100+, 200+, 300+, 400+, and 500+.
Once you get all of the sorting done that you want, you can export your file. You are supposed to be able to export it in either a .csv file, a Word .doc, or a text file. Because of that, when you click to save, it gives you this:
I wouldn’t choose anything but the .csv file, because anything else is going to be too messy and jumbled to use. So change the “items” part to anything you want to name it, but keep the .csv. Then you can open the file to look at your results.
Here is where KD Researcher falls just a little short in my opinion. The file is just messy. There are no column headings, and there are extra columns in there that shouldn’t be. (I think it’s pulling data from the images you see in the results inside the software.)
Here is what you see:
Column A – Title
Column B – URL of the Book
Columns C through F – Unusable Data
Column G – Price
Column H – Not Sure (Unusable Data?)
Column I – # of Reviews
There is no Column J or K
Column L – Publication Date
Column M – Print Page Count
So this file would need a little clean-up to be most effective; get rid of columns that contain unusable data, and then give column headings to the rest. The export feature was added quickly after the software launched, at the request of customers. It probably wasn’t quite ready for prime time, and I have no doubt that it will only be a matter of time before it’s improved.
I do not know the vendor of this software as well as I do Bill and Sam. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t perfectly reliable, just that I can’t comment on that one way or the other. It does have a slick appearance and some cool features, so let’s dig in and take a look.
Kindle Spy isn’t downloadable software; it is instead a Google Chrome extension. You can only use it in the Google Chrome browser. The current price is $27, and will go up to $37 once the first 1000 copies are sold. The instructions to install it are given in the member’s area and they are super-easy.
Then to use the software, you must first go to Amazon.com in your Google Chrome browser. Then go to the Kindle Store. Start digging down into your categories and sub-categories, and when you’re ready to compare results, click the little icon up at the top right of your screen:
The results are almost instant.
You’ll get a pop-up box showing the first 20 results based on the category/sub-category you’re currently browsing. The results you’ll see in the list are: the rank within the category/sub-category (1-20,) title, price, estimated sales, estimated revenue, # of reviews, and overall sales rank (in the Kindle store.)
You’ll see a link to click if you want to extend the 20 results to 40, but you can’t go any higher than that. There is also a link to click and see a word cloud of the titles. This is a cool little feature than can be really helpful with coming up with keywords for your titles.
You can dig down a little deeper category-wise with Kindly Spy than with KD Researcher, but not with the same amount of detail. (You can see the prices but you can’t sort by price, for example.) Also, it gives you NO results from anything other than the Kindle store, so no other formats are even looked at.
You are supposed to be able to enter a keyword and then click Kindle Spy to analyze the results of a keyword search. I had trouble getting that feature to work correctly. I kept getting an error that it wasn’t a compatible page.
I sent in a support ticket and was sent a link to a troubleshooting video that I couldn’t access. (I’ll be checking back on this, it was likely just a typo in the link or something.) I was also told that I have to make sure my page is fully loaded or Kindle Spy couldn’t access the page, so slow connections might have problems. Even when I waited a while after my search, I continued to have some problems with that feature.
Then we move on to exporting the file. It exports quickly as a .csv. The file is laid out exactly like what you see in the pop-up, including the column headings. It has one extra column with the book’s URL.
So, what are my final thoughts? Which software wins?
I think KD Researcher is very easy to use. I like that I can see the books in a visual grid, and that they thought about other formats. I think there is overall more detail here, although I hope that update with the sales rank comes soon. The search isn’t as instant as Kindle Spy, although I personally got more consistent results with KD Researcher.
Kindle Spy has a very nice appearance. The pop-up box with the results is nice for a quick, on-the-fly search. You can also go deeper into sub-category levels than you can with KD Researcher.
I actually like both of them, and I’ll be using them both. If you like to have multiple research tools at your disposal, I think you should consider getting both as well. But if you must choose only one, I have to go with KD Researcher. Why? I mean it isn’t as “pretty” as Kindle Spy, and it has some things that weren’t exactly as I wanted them to be, right? In spite of those things, I really believe it’s a solid product, and I’m pretty sure the updates will be coming quickly and reliably from Bill and Sam. They are using it themselves, so they are going to want the same things we do.
Kindle Spy? It may be the same. I like to think that little bugs will get smashed, and new features will be added there too. I can’t say with the same certainty that it will though. In this case, KD Researcher wins, because of that ever famous KLT Factor. (Know, Like, Trust!)
UPDATE 8/3/2014: Since I wrote this post, both of these tools have had revisions, and all customers were sent updates.
KD Researcher now includes a global Kindle sales rank and average rating (# of stars) on results. It has also expanded the page count sorting to include more options.
Kindle Spy has expanded to include the top 100 of any search, and has made the results sortable BEFORE downloading to a spreadsheet.
This assures me that both software vendors plan to continue maintaining and improving their product. At this point, it simply becomes a matter of personal choice which one you like best. I like them both, and plan to use them both. You’ll have to decide for yourself. If you want to see the live demonstrations to help with that, you can visit their respective sales pages. (The demo videos may NOT include the most recent updates.)