What Indie Authors Can Learn from the Kyrie Irving Controversy

Kyrie Irving is in hot water for posting a link to the documentary Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America to his Twitter account. The movie is a film adaption of the Independently Published book by the same name. It is alleged that the movie has much antisemitism in it, (I disagree but that’s a different post), and Irving has since taken the tweet down and apologized to the Jewish community via an Instagram post.

This post is about how he found the documentary and what Indie Authors can learn about platforms.

Kyrie Irving found the documentary by researching Yahweh on Amazon, saying that’s what his name translates into. According to this interview, he typed the name in the search engine, and the movie came up.

Many Indie Authors have long-cut ties with Amazon, which is their business. What I hope we can gain is an understanding of how people search for information, namely books, and the role that it plays for us as authors.

Photo by Ricardo Esquive

Amazon is not a distributor or bookstore. Amazon is a retailer that sells many things but is known for books. They are known for books because, in addition to selling books, they operate a Self-Publishing arm called Kindle Direct Publishing or KDP. Amazon is so very well connected with books that bookstores hate them, and people who think of buying a book (and now movies) turn to Amazon almost instinctively.

Amazon is also the world’s second-largest search engine, with Google being the first.

“Amazon, with 54 percent of product searches taking place, is the world’s largest search engine for e-commerce. Technically, Amazon is the second largest search engine in the world excluding Google.”

Decoding the World’s Largest E-commerce Search Engine: Amazon’s A9 Algorithm 

When someone wants to search for a book and does not want to visit an offline bookstore like Barnes and Noble, where will they search first?

That’s right. Amazon.

Hebrews to Negroes was released on December 6, 2014.

Today (11/2022), it is a #1 Bestseller with tons of new reviews. Yes, he searched for the movie, but the book is a #1 Bestseller.

All because a rich and famous celebrity tweeted the link.

And this celebrity found it on the second largest search engine in the US.

The Point

When deciding what platforms to put your book on, consider not what you want but what readers want.

When your average reader wants to look up a movie, topic, or book, they are not going to Smashwords. They are not going to Draft2Digital. They are not even going to Goodreads like that. They are also not flooding B&N.com, though they’ll visit the brick-and-mortar bookstore (catch that).

When people (not necessarily people who are always on the internet and are familiar with the book world but everyday people with jobs who happen to want to buy something) want to look up information, they go to Google and Amazon.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Ignoring this is just not good business sense, except that your goal is not to make money from your books or bring a whole lot of awareness to it, which is cool. Not everyone publishes a book for these reasons.

(It is also not wrong to be on the other platforms, also known in the Indie community as “going wide.” It means you are not exclusive to Amazon but have your book available at other online retailers, which is awesome. I go wide myself. At the risk of steering away from the topic, that’s a post for a different day.)

However, for those of you Self-Publishing books you want people to buy, not being on Amazon is not bad or wrong, but it is leaving a lot of money (and exposure) on the table. 

This post is a nudge to consider more strongly the platforms you wish to sell your book (if you are selling it).

It is a reminder to go to the places where your potential reader will most likely hang out. 

That is the message.

Kyrie Irving found Hebrews to Negroes and made it a bestseller by posting the Amazon link (without a caption) because the book was sitting on a platform where readers are most likely to search for books. 

Go where your readers are most likely to hang out, and search for books like yours.


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