As an author, chances are that you make your books available on Amazon. Whether you do it exclusively is irrelevant to what I’m about to explain here.
I recently read a post in a Facebook group associated with a well-known/highly reputable advertising course for authors. Someone got kicked out of Amazon’s associates (and lost the affiliate commission that he had yet to receive). Thankfully for him, that amount was small. But many authors make the same mistakes he made, so I’d like to help you avoid those mistakes (and lose your hard-earned income), if at all possible.
The gentleman posted an excerpt from the email he received from Amazon which I’ve used a tiny section here. (I don’t personally know the author, so that’s why I didn’t contact him/request his permission to post his name here.) But this is far from the first time I’ve heard of such things happening, so I just wanted to warn you about the DOs and DON’Ts of using Amazon’s trademarks on your author website, and I’m using his specific example since he shared the exact wording used by Amazon.
Also, I contacted KDP to get an exact answer on their official policy, and I copied the email exchange further down on this page so you can refer to it, if needed.
Different Programs, Different Rules
First of all, it’s important to remind you that Amazon has various programs. The Amazon platform where you publish your books (KDP) is NOT the same as the Associates Program, nor is it the same as their Vendor or Advantage (or whatever other Amazon program you may have joined). To further complicate things, their programs’ terms and conditions vary per country, but Amazon appears to be centralizing those. Make sure you adhere to ALL the regulations for ALL the Amazon programs you have joined.
Common Mistakes Made by Authors
Here are the three “violations” that were specifically pointed out in the official email that the author received when he got kicked out of the Associates program.
- You are promoting your Special Links by including them in emails to your customers.
- Your Site is using an Amazon logo that was not made available as Content in Associates Central.
- You are displaying our customer reviews in a manner that violates our terms. Your Site may only show reviews if we serve the link in which that data is displayed. Any modifications to customer reviews are prohibited.
So let’s look at those violations one by one.
Affiliate Links in Email
That’s a big NO-NO! If you want to track whether your email links get clicked and if they resulted in a sale, you first have to send people to a website that is listed in the settings of your Associates account. (And that website must clearly state that “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”)
For example, as far as I understand the terms and conditions, the following are NOT acceptable:
Mailchimp email => Amazon using your affiliate links
Author website (no clear statement about affiliate links) => Amazon using your affiliate links
The following scenarios SHOULD BE* acceptable:
Email => Amazon WITHOUT an affiliate link
Email => Your website (listed in your associates account + clear affiliate statement) => Redirect to Amazon with affiliate link
Email => Books2Read.com link => Redirect to Amazon (and other retailers) with affiliate link added by Books2Read
* This is MY understanding of their terms. I may be wrong or their terms may change in the future. Please read the terms yourself:
Creating Your Own Amazon Images
You are NOT allowed to make up your own Amazon-like images (and you can’t use those you find via Google image search either). Hiring a designer to create pretty ones won’t get you out of a trademark infringement situation either. Here is the official set of icons you can use: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/external/200573210?language=en-US
I didn’t want to include them here because that would go against their terms (since I’m not pointing to a product that is available for sale on Amazon). Just click that link above and download whichever version works best for your author website.
Now, you may have noted that the link above points to Amazon’s SellerCentral website, which had me worried that I was using unapproved icons on my author websites, so I contacted KDP. Here’s my email request:
I’d like to have a clear answer on which logo I can use on my website to tell my readers that my books are available on Amazon. I recently heard of another author getting kicked out of the Amazon associates program (and losing his earned commission) because he was using Amazon’s trademark image to send traffic to Amazon.
I just want to showcase the fact that my books are available on Amazon (among other retailers) and I would like to know what is or isn’t okay for me to do.
I’m asking specifically if I can use the black logo that says “Available at Amazon” as per this page here:
I realize I’m not with Amazon Seller Central, I use KDP and I’m an associates and I’d be connecting my affiliate link to that image (not modified, using as per the restrictions stated in the link above).”
“Yes, all those images are provided for you to use. As long as you comply with the 12 guidelines stated above on the same page you linked to you have nothing to worry about.
Thanks for using Amazon KDP.
Have a great day.”
And I will have a great day, Amazon.
What about Reviews?
Well, to be honest, I’m not 100% certain what the author did there.
As far as I know, if a reader has left a review for my book on Amazon (and possibly left the same review at other retailers), I should be able to use their review as I see fit. Perhaps the author had paraphrased the review. Perhaps the star rating had been modified. Perhaps a typo had been fixed in the original review.
This was the first time I’ve ever heard of this violation.
You probably shouldn’t quote your “average star rating” since that’s something that will change over time, so I could see Amazon getting upset with that, the same way they don’t want you to claim “best-selling” status for the fifteen-minute interval where you beat famous author X during your BookBub promotion. That’s just common sense to me since it’s misleading. They don’t want us to mislead customers in any way, shape, or form.
If you know something about this review violation, please let me know, and I’ll update this page.
Set It and Forget It?
While I’d like to think that once you’re approved into the Amazon Associates program you would be in the clear, this is NOT the case. The email the gentleman received included this sentence:
“We reviewed your account as part of our ongoing monitoring of the Amazon Associates Program. During our review, we determined that you are not in compliance with the Operating Agreement.”
It’s pretty clear that they may review your author website (and any other website that you’ve listed in the settings of your Amazon Associates account) at any point.
What about pointing readers to the USA or UK or Canadian Amazon store?
If you do it via text link and phrase those text links to meet the twelve requirements above, you should be fine. But I’m afraid Amazon doesn’t want you to create your own “Amazon-like” images to send people to their own stores.
I’m looking at you, the author who has custom badges that say Amazon CA / Amazon USA / etc.
If you don’t want to risk getting kicked out of Amazon’s Associates program and losing your affiliate commission, it’s best to ONLY include the logos shown on this page AND adhere to all twelve requirements listed there.
Redirecting to Country-Specific Amazon Stores
But I understand WHY you want to do set up your country-specific links, so here are the best options if you want to earn geo-localized income in the countries where your readers are located:
1- Use Amazon’s OneLink program and only use one Amazon image (the approved version). This official program will automatically redirect shoppers to the appropriate Amazon store AFTER you connect all of your country-specific accounts within the Associates program. The downside is that it does NOT include ALL stores. For example, as of March 2019, Australia isn’t supported (yet?). The countries currently supported are: USA, Canada, UK, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan. When the program launched a few years ago, it only supported the USA, Canada, and the UK, so I expect they will be expanding it again in the future. Learn more here: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/onelink
2- Join Books2Read.com and set up links for your books there. It’s free and you can include your affiliate IDs for various countries (and several stores, way more than just Amazon). Books2Read WILL redirect your links to the appropriate country + you’ll earn affiliate income from Amazon (and more!) All you have to do is spend a few minutes to connect all of your associates/affiliates account. The bonus? You can declutter your site and only include ONE LINK for all of your e-book links. Unfortunately, I don’t believe B2R offers this service for audiobooks or paperbacks, so see above for that.
3- There are paid services that promise to geo-localize your links for you. That’s a user-beware scenario, my friend. They either take a cut or ask for a monthly price to cover their redirection services. Up to you, but do your research first! There’s no guarantee that using such a service will NOT get you kicked out of Amazon’s associate program anyways. Only use reliable companies!
What about a “Follow Me” button that I could use in my footer or in my emails?
Do so at your own risk!
I contacted Amazon’s trademark office to request such a logo and also contacted KDP support in the same email, but I wasn’t provided with an approved image for that specific scenario. So, unless you know someone higher up in the Amazon hierarchy, I don’t expect we’ll be provided with a neat little “follow” icon anytime soon
TLDR – RECOMMENDATIONS
NEVER include Amazon affiliate links in your emails.
The ONLY Amazon image you can use anywhere on your site are located on this page and you must adhere to the fine print there too.
If you choose to include an unapproved Amazon image on your website or in your emails and get caught, you risk losing ALL of your affiliate commission earned (the portion yet to be paid, as I understand it).
Don’t mess with your reviews. Even if the reviewer made a big typo, don’t fix it and don’t quote the average star review or claim a “best-selling” status that is no longer true.
Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. I do not mean to represent Amazon in any way, shape, or form by posting this information on this site. I just want authors to be informed about which logo(s) they can use to promote their books when available for sale on Amazon.