As an author contemplating their overall publishing career, a lot of time is spent figuring out how to diversify by creating print versions of a book, or selling merch from a website, or translating the catalog into another language.
Too often, people overlook a simple, low-key income stream that is available to every author with a website: affiliate income from bookstores.
Every major e-book storefront (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, GooglePlay, Apple Books, and Kobo) has an affiliate program in place that you can participate in. You don’t need to link to other author’s books, either; you can make extra money selling your own books using your own affiliate link. You will get the standard royalty from each storefront as always, but then also receive an affiliate payment for that same sale. It seems like it’s double dipping (because it is!) but every single store not only allows it, but encourages it. This is not you skating on the thin edge of the terms of service, only allowable if you squint and look at the rules just so; the stores want you to do this.
So, why not take them up on it?
How the Affiliate Programs Work
When you use an affiliate link to link to your book on an e-book storefront, the website is automatically notified that you’re the one who sent that reader to them. As a thank you for sending them traffic, the website gives you a tiny portion of the sale of your e-book.
It doesn’t stop there, though. The website places a small cookie on the reader’s device, tracking the sales that the reader makes after that point, and continues to give you affiliate income for all of those sales, too. Some storefront’s cookies last longer than others; the minimum time is 24 hours.
As an example, the instances where the reader buys your book and then goes on to buy two other books by other authors, you’re getting affiliate income for all of those sales, not just the sale of your book.
It doesn’t even stop there. GooglePlay and Apple also sell games, videos, and music. Amazon sells, well, everything. Kobo and Barnes & Noble sell audiobooks and e-readers. You can make affiliate income on any of those sales, as long as it’s your cookie on the reader’s device.
What Is Needed
In order to become an affiliate partner, each storefront will require that you apply for their program, and to qualify for said program, you must have a website to direct them to. You should list every place where you might use an affiliate link—your own website, but also your profile on social media platforms.
Warning: Do not include affiliate links in your newsletters. Not only do some of the storefronts forbid this (Amazon, I’m looking at you!) but it also makes your newsletter much more likely to be marked as spam, because the email providers see these redirect links as being a high indicator that the sender is a spammer.
Instead, link to your website, so people can click on one link in your newsletter, be sent to your website, and then click on the storefront of their choice from there. Yes, it is an extra click, but by making sure that it’s easy to do (“Click here to snag this good deal” leads the reader to a landing page where they choose from Apple Books, Kobo, Amazon, etc.), you won’t lose many people.
Where to Sign Up
Apple Books – appleservices-console.partnerize.com/login/appleservices/
GooglePlay – signup.partnerize.com/signup/en_us/google-play
Kobo – kobo.com/p/affiliate
Amazon – affiliate-program.amazon.com
Barnes & Noble – signup.cj.com/member/signup/publisher/?cid=4258829#/branded
Warning #2: Amazon tends to be the most picky to work with. If you use an Amazon affiliate link in a universal book link program like Books2Read, you can get your account taken away. If you use an Amazon affiliate link in the back of your books, you can get your account taken away. If you use an Amazon affiliate link in a newsletter, you can get your account taken away. Only ever use the Amazon link on your website, and you’ll be fine.
The other store affiliate programs do not have nearly as many restrictions, allowing you to use the affiliate code in your e-books, on your website, on social media, in Books2Read, in advertisements, and more. Always read the terms of service and make sure you understand what you’re agreeing to.
Once you get in the habit of using affiliate links, you’ll find that the monthly payments from the various sites really start to add up, giving you yet another passive revenue stream, and making your author career even more successful.
Erin Wright is a USA Today bestselling author who has worked every job under the sun, including library director, barista, teacher, website designer, and ranch hand helping brand cattle, before settling into the career she’s always dreamed about: author.