Are You an Affiliate?

About a month back, I gave you all permission to laugh at me. My offense back then was that it took me about a year and a half to finally start a mailing list, so I missed out on hundreds, or possibly even thousands, of opportunities for sign-ups.

In the comments, author Courtney Milan pointed out that the buy-links you send out through your newsletter (you know, when you actually start one, which everyone should!) should be affiliate links. I totally agreed with her, but spending a few minutes surfing around on the websites of many author friends (several of which are Rubies, btw!),  gave me idea for today’s post.

Are you an affiliate? Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble all have affiliate programs, so there is no reason for an author not to sign up. But it seems a large number of authors haven’t bothered.

So what is an affiliate program? Each of the retailers structure their programs differently, but the basic idea is that the retailers encourage authors and other web marketers to refer customers. Simply put, affiliate programs are arrangements in which an online retailer pays an affiliate website (author, blogger, whatever) a commission to send them traffic.

And it’s not just sales that result directly from clicking on that link, but rather all sales that occur on that website for 24 hours after the customer has been referred. The direct link contains a unique code which places a “cookies” on the user’s web browser for a 24-hour period (unless the user clicks on someone else’s affiliate code, in which case the cookie is replaced by a new cookie and a new 24-hour clock starts). All sales that occur after the customer has been referred through your website (or a link in your newsletter or on Facebook, wherever) will be credited to you and you will receive a percentage of the purchase price (depending on the retailer and the agreement, which will be anywhere from 4% to 10%).

affiliate screenshot

So you know, if you’re ever planning to buy a diamond ring from Amazon, please do it after browsing my books. Thanks. (You laugh, but this actually happened to an author friend of mine. A diamond ring showed up in the list of purchases for which she received a commission. She has never advertised any diamond rings, so a reader obviously bought it after clicking on a link for a book that she did refer. She wasn’t complaining, of course, because it resulted in a significant chunk of change!)

In an ideal world, your earnings report will show mostly your own books, because obviously you want your readers to actually purchase your books after they look at them. Amazon gives you fairly decent analytics in their reports, so if you’re getting a lot of clicks, a decent amount of affiliate commissions, but few sales of your own books are resulting in affiliate commisions, then you should ask yourself why are they buying something else instead?

But the nice thing is that you don’t have to refer your own books.

Please note that this does not result in a blanket discount for products you yourself purchase. As stated in Amazon’s policies, “You may not purchase products during sessions initiated through your own Associates links and will not receive referral fees for such orders. This includes orders for customers, orders on behalf of customers, and orders for products to be used by you, your friends, your releatives, or your associates in any manner.”

 Is this only for self-published authors? Of course not.

The Amazon Associates program is perhaps the most well-known of the various retailer affiliate programs. It’s by far the easiest one to work with, because as long as you know your unique identification code (mine is ?tag=amanbric-20) you can append it to the end of links yourself without needing to use their clunky and unnecessarily complicated linking tool. Simply strip the link down to the ASIN, add your code, and voila! You’re in business.


Every product in Amazon’s category has an Amazon Standard Item Number (ASIN), which is a 10-digit number used when you want to link to a specific item on Historically the ASIN was the same as the ISBN-10, but with the move to ISBN-13 and the growing importance of items other than books in the Amazon catalog, most ASINs today bear no relation to the ISBN and are instead a series of numbers and letters. In the example given above, the ASIN is B0099R22SI. That is how we arrive at my 2-book bundle The Dani Spevak Mysteries. The ?tag=amanbric-20 at the end is how a cookie for my affiliate code appears on your computer.

Please note, that it is a requirement of the Federal Trade Commission to disclose that you participate in affiliate programs. You can list a similar disclaimer:

Amanda Brice is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of

I even use my affiliate code (?tag=amanbric-20) when recommending other authors’ books. So there’s no reason to wait until you’ve moved from the ranks of the unpublished to the published. The only requirement to join a program is that you have a website.

A caveat: Amazon Associates is “banned” in Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, North Carolina, and Rhode Island because of tax laws. So if you live in one of those states, then you cannot become an Amazon Associate directly, but can use an aggregator such as Viglink. Viglink takes a 25% cut of your affiliate commissions, but because of their volume they are receiving Amazon commissions at the 8.5% top tier, which means that you’ll be getting 6.4% (which is about the percentage many Amazon affiliates make at the lower tiers). Viglink is an affiliate for over 30,000 retail sites, including Amazon, so you don’t even need to sign up with Amazon (or any other of the 30,000+ merchants) in order to monetize your site.

In addition to the popular Amazon Associates program, the following book retailers also maintain affiliate programs:

Obviously not all of those will be applicable to you, and some of them seem to almost actively make it difficult to link (requiring you to first login to your account in order to generate links rather than giving you an easy code to append), not to mention that some get relatively little traffic, so you might find it easier to simply stick to Amazon Associates.

So why should you join affiliate programs? The better question is “why wouldn’t you join”? It’s easy, basically free money for doing what you’d be doing anyway — advertising your books.

Let’s say that per your contract with your publisher, you earn 7% on your mass market paperbacks. That’s pretty standard. But there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be getting as much as 13% (or more, depending on how many products you refer to Amazon each month) for those same mass market paperbacks when people stumble upon them through your own website. You would be if you joined an affiliate program and had your links on your website.

Some of the most powerful and popular bargain books sites are affiliates. Sure, Bookbub is able to charge big money for their daily ad spots because they’ve spent the time to develop their list, but the real money for Bookbub is in the affiliate fees rather than the ad slots. Large heavily-trafficked sites are easily earning 5-figures or more per month just in their affiliates commissions.

And it’s not just highly-trafficked bargain books sites that can make decent  “free money.” I’m literally not even a blip on the radar screen when it comes to the internet, but I’m pulling in triple-digits figures each month in commissions. Granted, it’s the very low end of the triple-digits scale, but how many of us would turn that down when it literally takes only a few minutes to set up in the first place, then a few extra seconds to add your code? Then like a Crockpot, you basically set it and forget it.

Even if you only earn coffee money, it’s still something. And in the case of Amazon Associates, you can choose whether they pay you by ETF or via Amazon gift cards. We’re authors — we can always use some extra Amazon gift cards.

So what are you waiting for? Seriously, it’s free money.

19 responses to “Are You an Affiliate?”

  1. Kate Parker says:

    Amanda, this is really good info to know. Thanks for an informative post.

  2. June Love says:

    Amanda, we just had this discussion at my last chapter meeting. Thanks for providing a clearer understanding of how it works. Great post!

  3. jodi says:

    great info, Amanda! Thanks!

  4. You have no idea how timely this is for me, Amanda. I was just looking over Amazon and B&N’s affiliate programs LAST NIGHT. LOL I got caught up in the gobbledy-gook of the contracts, so I decided to read it with a fresh mind this morning…off to have coffee and then tackle these again. 🙂

    And thanks for the note about the disclaimer – I didn’t know about that…

  5. Thanks for the heads up that you can just append a tag onto the link. Usually I can’t be bothered to jump through all the hoops, but I’m going to give that a try!

  6. Great blog, Amanda. And thanks a lot for giving me one more thing on my to-do list. I need more hours in the day.

  7. I have an Amazon affiliate account and have my books linked through there (although I just realized there’s a couple of links on my site that aren’t pointing to the correct link! Must go fix right now!) I also have a Linkshare account, but, um, am ashamed to admit that I never actually finished setting it up to use it. Whoops.

    Great post, Amanda! Thanks for shaming me into taking full advantage of my affiliate accounts. 😉

  8. Hope Ramsay says:

    Bless you. I’ve had this item on my author to-do list for months and months but every time I start looking into it I’m like Anne Marie — too pressed for time to try to wrap my brain around how to do it and why I should do it.

    You’ve made it all so much clearer. Thank you.

  9. Tamara Hogan says:

    Much like Anne Marie and Hope, researching affiliate programs has been on my list for awhile. Thanks for breaking this down!

  10. Rita Henuber says:

    WOW! Thanks for this. Good blog as always.

  11. Kate Parker says:

    Just tried to sign up and ooops! North Carolina, Rhode Island, Illinois, Arkansas, and Colorado are off limits to this program. Must have something to do with state law.

  12. Thanks for the kick, Amanda. I’ve had this on the back burner for months. Just signed up. step one done!

  13. Elisa Beatty says:

    Whoa! Hard to believe this actually exists!

    Just got back from a long day at work, so I can’t fully process it right now, but I’ll check it out once I’m awake again.

  14. Thanks for the information, Amanda. But beware, not everyone’s experience is the same. An online critique group that I once participated in had more than 50 members, we had an affiliate link with Amazon, and at the end of the year we routinely made less than five dollars. I hope all of us can do better than “coffee money” and achieve at least that three digit figure you’re getting. And you’re right, not doing it makes absolutely no sense.

  15. Mary Kennedy says:

    This is great, Amanda. I’ve been on the fence about signng up, but you have convinced me!!

  16. Helene says:

    Oh wow! I’ll have to investigate whether this is available in Australia or not. I was only vaguely aware of the affiliate programme so thanks for this fantastic post.

  17. All you never read about sunglass may well be costing much more than you may think.


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