KDP Analysis For Dummies
Don’t get me wrong, I love Excel. Like, I really love Excel. I have difficulty making it through a day without entering something in a spreadsheet (This might require an intervention, but that’s a topic for another post). But it’s nice to have an easy-to-use tool available to help me analyze KDP sales data at a glance. BookReport does just that. Here’s my review after 48 hours of using this analysis tool:
In a nutshell: It’s cool. Is it $10 a month cool? The jury is still out.
In more detail:
You all know I’m a chronic over-sharer. I’ve gotten a record number of blog hits by posting my earnings for my indie Highlander books. Analyzing sales data and making comparisons is vital to writing such posts. Because every retailer reports sales and earnings differently, those of us who like to track these things with anal retentive obsessiveness generally use some kind of spreadsheet system to pool data from various retailers. Some retailers present the information in a more useful way than others.
One of my favorite retailers for reporting sales data is Nook Press. While their sales dashboard doesn’t offer many tools for customization, it does present the data I’m interested in seeing. Here’s a screenshot of what I see when I log onto Nook Press to check on sales:
At a glance, I get an idea of what’s selling currently, what sales trends look like over time and what my projected royalty will be for the given month. For more detailed data, I just click the “Monthly Sales Reports” button, and voila! I get a spreadsheet I can save in my royalty statements folder and analyze to my heart’s content. Nook press gets an B+ as far as attractiveness and usefulness of their sales dashboard.
Google Play, in my opinion, is the worst. Here’s what I see when I log into GP:
First, notice, I had to do two print-screen shots. As a rule of thumb for presenting dashboard information, it’s nice if you can present everything in the area of one screen. Scrolling equals increased work for the author.
Second, notice that total waste-of-space pie chart (or is it a donut chart?) taking up half of the top screen? Why do I need a pie chart to show me which of my books are live or not? Would I be interested in sales data for books I’ve uploaded to GP but not officially put on sale? No. I would not. Because those books wouldn’t be selling. In fact, I can’t imagine the rationale of uploading a book and then just letting it sit there and not earn royalties. I totally don’t get this chart, and therefore it pisses me off. Why is 50% of the dashboard space taken up by it?
Third, the graphics are so basic that I couldn’t even build something this ugly in Excel if I tried. What analysis software are they using, Analytics Steam Age? Come on, Google, you have an amazing search engine. Your e-store is nice looking. Why is the author dashboard tri-chromatic and completely uncreative?
Fourth, to see anything other than what’s shown on this pitiful excuse for a dashboard, I have to make like 8 different selections using drop down menus, including start and end dates, what kind of report I want (all the descriptions are long and convoluted and none include the word “royalties”) and country of sale. Then there’s this write-in “book identifiers” field with no explanation whatsoever. Is this for ISBNs? Titles? Genre? There’s not even a little info-bubble to give me a hint. I have never used this field.
Google Play gets a D-.
Amazon KDP presents a great deal of information. It’s not as pretty as Nook Press’s layout, but the sheer amount of information available results in my giving them an A-. Here’s what I see when I log onto KDP and look at my sales dashboard, which they call “reports”:
First, the layout is attractive and easy to navigate. Here’s what you see at the top of the “Reports” tab. You’ve got eight options of screens you can view, each presenting attractive, useful information. I find two of these screens most useful.
1. Sales Dashboard:
I like charts and graphs. This line graph shows my daily sales over time so I can see trends. I can use drop-down menus to view sales by individual book or by all books. This is for all books. I can change the x-axis using pretty much any range I want. With an easy click, I can look at a week or two weeks or six months or a year. If I want to do a few more clicks, I can enter a custom range (custom range is all that’s available on Google Play, and it’s a PITA to use).
One problem with this view is that I can’t get a line for each book. That would be very cool. I also can’t compare groups of books. I sell Highlander time-travel romances and I sell contemporary romances. It would be neat to compare trends for these two groups.
2. Month to Date Unit Sales
This is the other view I use a lot on KDP. At a glance, I can see what I’ve sold in a given month.
While there is a lot of clicking around on KDP to gather sundry information, it’s nice to have so much data at my fingertips. I mentioned a couple problems with KDP’s reporting, and that’s where the real meat of this post comes in.
My Passionate Kisses 2 Love in Bloom co-author Allie Boniface let me know about some cool software she saw on the Indie Romance Ink author’s chat loop (Yahoo group for info exchange). It’s this script you run from your Amazon KDP reports dashboard that presents your KDP sales data in a more user-friendly way.
I was a little skeptical about it (a) because I don’t really speak “computer” and the phrase “script you run” sounded complicated and (b) because KDP is already one of the better data reporters. I wasn’t sure how it would be improved upon.
But since there’s a 2-week free trial, I decided to give it a shot. I am a data freak, after all.
First, let me say, it was super easy to install. I just went here and followed the four-step instructions. It was actually so easy, I laughed. Seriously. Anyone can do this.
Here’s how it transformed my KDP reports dashboard:
First, notice I included my bookmark bar in this screen shot. See the little “Book Report” button? That’s what I installed. To use it, you go to your KDP reports page and click that button on your bookmark bar. (Note: if you don’t have a bookmark bar, don’t despair. There are instructions for you too. Also, this software works for Mac, PC, tablet, whatever you have.)
Next, It’s pretty. BookReport (BR) understands that authors are egomaniacs, so they put the covers of your bestselling titles right there at the top. Just for that, I give them an easy A. It also combines info from several KDP screens in one place. I can see not only my daily number of sales on this screen, but I can also see how much I’m making that day.
Similar to KDP, where you can click around to various screens, BR has screens accessible by tabs. Here’s the History tab:
It’s two screen’s worth of information, but I forgive BR for making me scroll because they present useful information in an attractive way. Using the nifty drop-down menus, you can view your sales history by an assortment of pre-programmed time frames, including a fortnight (bonus points for cuteness).
Also, PRETTY COLORS!
Now for my favorite BR feature. Here’s what I see when I click the “Compare” tab:
So, what in the world is Group 1 & Group 2? Group 1 represents my Highlander romances. Group 2 represents my contemporary romances.
None of the retailers make it easy to compare sales for book against book or for groups of books. To do that, you have to dig into the downloadable reports and do some fancy finger work. That’s why the “Compare” tab is where I find the most value in BR.
Now, I did have a little SNAFU. I have two KDP publishing accounts, one for my books and one for the boxed set I’m part of, for which I do the accounting. It’s important to keep the boxed set separate from my personal publishing account, because retailers don’t distinguish between books when they pay you. They just send you the lump sum of what you earned for each marketplace/store. I get between nine and twelve payments from Amazon each month PER publisher account. If I didn’t keep my accounts separate, I would have to open around 20 files each month and dissect out what royalty I need to distribute to my boxed set co-authors. I have enough trouble getting it right each month without twenty added complications (ask my very patient co-authors, they will confirm this!).
So… I wanted to use BR for each account just for kicks. Mostly, I wanted to use it for my personal account, since on the boxed set account, I only sell one book at a time. Well, my kicks cost me. I totally confused the software. Poor BR was giving me the daily dashboard report for my personal account and the history/comparison tabs for the boxed set account.
This resulted in my emailing BR help. I got a same-day reply from Liam, who suggested a fix that worked. He even answered a follow-up question I had about possible discounting of the $10/month price for yearly subscribers. He mentioned there would, in fact, be a discount annual plan made available in the near future.
Am I glad I made use of the free trial of BookReport? Yep. It’s attractive, fun, and easy to use.
Could it be better. Sure. It would be extra neat if it worked on every retailer’s sales dashboard, but even a programmer idiot like me knows that would be a huge headache to develop. As a single-retailer dashboard analysis, though, it’s pretty kick ass.
Will I continue to use it for $10 a month? Probably. I’m waiting for that annual plan. The only thing holding me back is that I CAN create this information with a little hard work, and it’s not like I NEED this information to get by. But it is nice to be able to see all this at a glance, especially the comparison of groups of books. For over-sharers like me, it will make blogging about sales and earnings even more fun!
Have fun checking out BR for yourself. The BookReport free trial is for 2-weeks. If you have any reason to email help, be sure to say hi to Liam for me.
Be sure to let me know what you think of it or if you’ve tried something better/worse/completely different for sales analysis.
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Thanks for reading!