Whether you’re exclusive to Amazon or wide, there’s an easy way for you to earn a few more pennies per book sale. Yes, that would be in addition to your royalty share (and your readers won’t spend a penny more).
“How?” you ask…
Good question, my author friend, good question.
The answer is: Through affiliate income.
What are Affiliate Programs?
In a nutshell, most affiliate programs work like this:
1- You apply to become an affiliate. See below for links.
2- The retailer reviews your application. If you’re approved, you’ll be provided with tools or specific URLs that will include a tracking ID and/or an affiliate ID that is uniquely yours.
3- You include your affiliate links on your website. Sometimes you can include them elsewhere too.
(But be careful with where you use those links! Amazon doesn’t allow affiliate links in email or on social media, only on the websites that you list as part of your registration process. Always read the fine print.)
4- A cookie is placed on people’s device after they click your affiliate link. Depending on the specific retailer, that cookie will expire after so many hours/days. Amazon’s cookies will last 24 hours, and they are associated with one particular retailer (the “.com” or “.co.uk” version of the site, for example.) If the user who clicked on your link then purchases something at that retailer while your cookie is still valid, then you’ll earn a small commission.
BONUS- Not all retailers do the following, but Amazon does. Let’s say Joe visits your site and buys your e-book from Amazon.com. Great! Then, while he’s shopping on Amazon, he adds a large flat screen TV to his cart. Fantastic! Since your cookie is still valid (same transaction and he didn’t visit anyone else’s site) then you’ll receive a (small) commission on that expensive item as well. This is where your few pennies from a 4% commission can grow to a couple of dollars and more.
But be aware that Amazon keeps track of IP addresses, so you can’t earn affiliate income from your own purchases. Sorry!
5- You get paid… at some point. Several weeks after the sale occurred (exact timing will vary based on the retailer) and once your income reaches a certain threshold (also varies depending on your country and the retailer), then you’ll receive your payment. The delay exists to account for refunds (yes, they’ll deduct the affiliate income you earned if people ask for a refund).
6- Your account can be reviewed for fraud/activity. If you don’t make any income, your account may get shut down, so there’s no point wasting time applying to several retailers right away if you’re currently exclusive to Amazon. Similarly, retailers have the right to check your website to make sure you keep adhering to their requirements. It’s important to be careful with Amazon’s trademarks in particular. Learn more here. Some affiliate networks (like Commission Junction, the company used by Barnes & Noble and several major online retailers) begin to eat away at your earned income if you don’t earn new income for months in a row. I learned that the hard way.
Where can you use affiliate links?
You can earn extra income from your website, but also from the free Universal Book Links service provided by Draft2Digital* (at books2read.com). If you’re not familiar with the amazing free service by the fantastic D2D folks*, I highly recommend it. It’s a great way to set up a landing page that lists ALL your retailer links for one specific book. I use it when I compile my books. Instead of creating an Amazon version of my e-book, then a Kobo version, then an Apple Book version, I simply create the one version and include my books2read link (to the next book in the series) in my back-matter.
* This is my affiliate link to D2D. If you decide to distribute your books through their wonderful distribution platform, they will send me a small share of their cut (not your royalty income) to thank me for referring you to them.
If you choose to use the free service from Books2Read, you will see a section where you’ll be able to enter your affiliate links to ALL of the Amazon stores (.ca, .com, .co.uk, etc.), Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google, and Smashwords. Go to books2read.com, then use their menu to find this section:
My Account ➤ Affiliate Codes
Note: Last I checked, Amazon still forbids the use of affiliate links in email and on social media. The other book retailers seem more flexible, but make sure to read their terms and conditions before including your links.
Where can you apply?
Have I convinced you that joining an affiliate program or two may be worth your while? Great! Now, put aside at least an afternoon or two because you’ll have lots of fine-print reading if you want to join those programs.
You’ll have to apply to multiple Amazon associates programs if you want to make affiliate income from more than one Amazon store. For example, if a Canadian clicks on your Amazon.com link and then clicks the Canadian flag to go to Amazon.ca (as prompted by Amazon), you will NOT earn a commission UNLESS you’ve taken advantage of Amazon’s OneLink program and have properly connected your accounts AND included a tiny bit of code on your website. I’ll soon add an article explaining how to do that.
If you have lots of visitors from European countries, you may want to sign up for the ES, DE, FR, IT, etc. stores as well, but be advised that the affiliate interface is only available in the appropriate languages for those countries. Amazon AUS is also available (and in English) but, as of January 2019, the Australian store isn’t supported by the OneLink program, so you may want to hold off on applying unless the bulk of your readers are Aussies.
Also, you’ll need to earn affiliate income within a set period of time or else Amazon will shut down your inactive account(s).
NOTE: There are also affiliate programs for Mexico, Brazil, India, Japan, and China, but you’ll need a mailing address in those countries in order to be accepted (plus a major language obstacle applies for some/most of us, although Google Translate may help a little). You’ll find links to those programs by clicking on any of the previous links, then selecting the appropriate option in the flag drop-down menu (top-right).
Which Amazon programs are worth it?
If what I wrote above sounds like a lot of work, it is. But it may be worth it. Every author’s experience will vary (depending on their level of success and primary readership), but I can share my experience as a part-time author. I don’t make a full-time living out of my books, but I make enough affiliate income to receive regular affiliate payments from the US, Canada, and UK stores. I have a few Euros sitting in my DE and ES accounts, but they’ve been there for years. I may never reach the threshold to qualify for payment… (until I write a worldwide bestseller!) So, if your time is precious (and it is), I recommend you only apply to the US/UK/CA stores and then connect them through the Amazon OneLink system.
This is another tricky one that offers different affiliate income programs for each of their countries, but you only need to join one. If you’re wide and currently sell books on Kobo, it’s worth applying to one of their affiliate programs and then using those links on your site and when you run BookBub ads (not featured ads, but the ones at the bottom of emails). I personally use the Canadian Kobo links on my site since they are well established in Canada. Doing so allows me to see if my BookBub ads convert.
To become an affiliate for Kobo, read this article that provides step-by-step instructions.
Is it worth it?
Once again the answer will depend on how many sales you make at Kobo. If you’re exclusive to Amazon, going through the process would be a huge waste of time. But if you’re wide and if you’re planning on making full use of the promotional opportunities offered by Kobo, then I recommend you do. Once again, I share my success with Kobo’s affiliate program here.
Apple Books (formerly iBooks)
Is it worth it?
Once again the answer will depend on how many sales you make on Apple Books. Their affiliate interface isn’t the easiest to navigate, and I have yet to make enough to reach the payment threshold. Here’s the link that lists the official commission rate: https://affiliate.itunes.apple.com/resources/documentation/getting-started/
If you lost your login URL to review your affiliate income earned to date, here it is: https://itunes.phgconsole.performancehorizon.com/v2/overview/overview
If you wanted to recommend movies and/or music on your website (if it makes sense), you could make additional affiliate income from that, too.
I’m not a Smashwords affiliate, so I don’t know much about it. Here’s a link where you can join their affiliate program if you do use Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/about/affiliate
Is it worth it?
I think the creator of Smashwords was a pioneer and I thank him for all the hard work he’s done, but I don’t know a single person who buys books there, so… 🤷♀️ But go ahead and join their free program if you want. You can let me know if it’s worth it, and I’ll update this page to share your experience with other authors.
At the time of writing this post, I was not an affiliate (I couldn’t find the sign-up page!) but I just applied to join this program here: https://signup.partnerize.com/signup/en
I have no idea if it is the correct program, but I reached it after digging through Google Play’s instructions on how to set up links, then another link that explains how to understand their reports… This is the original page that (ultimately) led me to the sign up page:
If you are a Google Play affiliate, then please let me know how it’s working out for you, and I’ll update this page. The interface looks eerily similar to Apple’s complex interface.
On a side note, in terms of “selling” books there in the first place, I got my books listed at the Google Play store using StreetLib‘s service. I’m making some income through them, but bundles seem to be the only items that sell there for me.