What Amazon’s Algorithm Means for Political Authors

I like to think of the current political climate as a war of information and ideas. This may not be the ideal situation, but it’s the one we’re living in at the moment. We need to make the best of the tools we have at our disposal, and part of that is understanding how these tools operate.

The goal of any true political advocate should be to influence people, to introduce them to new ideas, and change their minds on certain topics. Yes, there are some who are involved with politics for other reasons, but this is by far the most important. Every change in our society has come about because someone had an idea which influenced public opinion.

The internet has given us a whole new set of tools which we can use for persuading others, making the process much faster. First there was online bulletin boards and chat networks, then personal websites and blogs, and now we have streaming videos. The effect of each individual chain of this network is debatable, but as a whole, they’ve had a game changing result.

Obviously, this change has not gone without notice. When blogs became popular, they were bought out by corporations for the purpose of pushing narratives, just like what happened to the newspapers. Likewise, YouTube has also been co-opted in much the same way. Now, none of this is stopping anyone from starting their own blog or YouTube channel, but it does make persuading others that much harder.

On top of that, internet users do not have a very long attention span. The ideal length for most blog posts is around 800 words with a soft limit around the 2,500 work mark. For YouTube videos, you’re going to start losing people the longer you go past thirty minutes. This gives the medium certain limitations.

Take this video by Academic Agent on Classical Liberalism. It’s almost a half hour long, yet it barely scratches the surface. As informative as the video is, it’s basically a lead to introduce the viewer to a new classic thinkers.

For more complex and in depth topics, one could split the essay up into multiple videos, but too many viewers won’t watch the series to the end. Videos on YouTube aren’t suited to presenting complicated ideas. The longest videos we’ve done have been around six thousand words, and there’s only so much one can discuss in that short a time. YouTube videos are great for giving someone a crash course, but not so great for presenting the finer details.

This brings me to the main topic of this post. For introducing complex ideas into the public consciousness, the best medium is books. The longer format allows for ideas to be discussed in depth and weighed against opposing arguments. Even a shorter volume of around forty thousand words would take one three and a half hours to narrate, and that’s assuming that the narrator spoke as quickly as QuQu does.

Now for the general public to read a book, it must first be published through one channel or another. It’s been well documented for some time now that the largest book publishers in America, all of which happen to be centered around New York City, are run by leftist ideologues. We’ve done multiple videos showing this. The court documents involving Milo Yiannopoulos’s lawsuit against Simon & Schuster prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that the editors employed by these publishing houses are censoring ideas that they dislike.

Beyond that, these publishers are also not interested in books unless they are a guaranteed New York Times bestseller. They don’t want John Smith with his two thousand Twitter followers. They want famous people like Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton and Jake Paul. They want people who not only push the right narratives, but are popular enough to turn a guaranteed profit.

Since that option is out, the only others are to publish the book yourself on ebook sites like Amazon, or to sign with a small press publisher. For the sake of simplicity, I will be focusing on self publishing through Amazon, but what I’m saying will likely apply to both. Most small press publishers I’m aware of sell primarily through Amazon.

Since the birth of Amazon, they have been developing an algorithm to sell products to eager customers. Put hot triggers in front of motivated people, as the saying goes. The motivated people, in this case, are Amazon book shoppers, and the hot trigger is the Buy With One Click button. The job of the algorithm is to take the data that customers have given it through previous shopping and browser history and use it to find products for motivated customers to purchase.

This is really great if you want to be a fiction author like Edgar Rice Burroughs or Walter Gibson and earn a lot of money for writing a lot of books within one category. It’s also especially great if you want to write Science Fiction stories in the style of Philip K. Dick and Harlan Ellison, but I won’t get into that here. :^)

However, if you want write political books that introduce new ideas to the public, Amazon’s algorithm will not help you in the slightest. The point of the algorithm is to find customers who already want to buy your book and show it to them. If they already want to buy your book, that means they already agree with most, if not all of your book’s core ideas. Again, this is fantastic if you want to sell cyberpunk books to readers who buy a lot of cyberpunk stories, but it’s terrible for introducing political ideas to new audiences.

So for authors of political theory, I would suggest treating it the same way we’ve treated Twitter and YouTube’s algorithms for the past few years now. All three operate under the same principle: Put hot triggers in front of motivated people. All three will only introduce someone ideas and ways of thinking which they already agree with.

None of the alternatives to these platforms have grown large enough to replace them. That said, do not make your book exclusive to Amazon. The benefits you gain from the KDP Select program are not worth containing your book within the Amazon store.

Because this is a problem of containment. You can write whatever you want, but only the readers who already agree with you will be able to find it. To break containment, you must use the same methods that we already use for spreading content outside our immediate circles.





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