Affiliate marketing for authors

a few months ago
Affiliate Marketing for Authors Self-Publishers Carla King

Make money selling books and . . . stuff

As an author, you can easily increase your income stream with affiliate marketing programs because writing comes naturally for you. Affiliate programs and curation tools help you make a few more pennies on each sale of your book as well as on other books and products that you recommend. You can set up a page (or two) on your website to “curate” a selection of books using these links, too.

I started using affiliate links seven or eight years ago and recently when I added up the little deposits coming into my bank account I was astounded to realize that I was making between $200 and $1000 a month from affiliate marketing without even trying.

If you like and trust a product or service and you want to spread the word about it, and they’re not listed in the affiliate marketing programs I list further down in this post, ask the person or company if they have an affiliate program you can join. (Or just Google “affiliate program productname.”)


Authors: Increase you income stream with affiliate marketing


Before we move on to the list of affiliate marketing services and how you can make them work for you, you should understand these concepts:

  • It’s important to be ethical
  • The value of high-ticket items
  • The value of cookies

Then, I’ll show you how easy it is for writers to naturally incorporate affiliate links from these sources into your posts:

  • Amazon Associates for books and products
  • Smashwords for ebooks
  • Rakuten for Kobo ebooks
  • Aerio for books and creating a “shopping” page on your website
  • Commission Junction for all kinds of products and services

And, in conclusion, I’ll show you:

  • The power of social media in affiliate marketing
  • The legal requirements of full disclosure


It’s important to be ethical

Some bloggers make a business of reviewing products and services just for the affiliate links. You see a lot of this in the web hosting arena, for example. As a consumer, when you shop for a web host you’ll see tons of Top 10 Web Hosting Services articles. Often these are just affiliate marketers creating posts full of affiliate links. Some web hosting companies pay a big commission and professional affiliate marketers review them a lot. I’m not saying all are fake reviews, but it’s difficult to find the trusted sources in the sea of affiliate marketers.

I am an affiliate for many companies I recommend in my blog and my Consumer’s Guide, including Book Design Templates, BookBaby, Scribd, GoDaddy, Legal Zoom, ProWriting Aid, the Nonfiction Writers Conference, DropBox, and Grammarly.

Sometimes these companies offer special deals to the audience of their affiliate marketers. For example, the GoDaddy link will take you to a special $1/mo web hosting deal which costs $3.99/mo on their site. So I am really happy to help my readers save this kind of money. And, of course, when you click on any of these links and buy, I get a little money. Thank you!


High-Ticket Affiliate Sales

Most affiliate programs you join (Amazon, Smashwords,  Commission Junction or Share a Sale) offer between 5 and 12 percent of sales. When you sell books, the commissions can be small. But think bigger. What else do you like to write about?

In my other career as an adventure travel blogger I use affiliate links whenever I recommend a product in posts or social media. Some of the products I review are high-ticket items: dual-sport motorcycle boots can cost up to $500, helmets to $800, inflatable stand-up paddle boards over $1000. Do the math: 5 percent of $1000 is $50 so if 10 people click on my affiliate link and buy, I earn $500.

One of my blog posts on dual-sport boots went viral and made me thousands of dollars. I had simply worn out my boots and was doing research to find the best new pair and, being a writer, wrote about it in detail. I have a fair-sized mailing list and blog traffic, and I also used the right metadata on the post and on every single image in the piece. Then it got picked up by an online adventure travel magazine.

I want to point out a couple of things about this post. Take a look at the screenshot below and notice the images. Images are shareable, and a lot of people did share it to social media, including Pinterest.

If you read that post you’ll also notice that I linked to a discussion on my Facebook page. I have thousands of Facebook followers, many of whom are adventure travel motorcyclists, and gear is a big draw for them. The post got shared on Facebook to many other pages, and on Twitter and Pinterest, too. This is what it means to go viral.


Dual-Sport Adventure Motorcycle Boot Review Carla King Motorcycle Misadventures

I provided honest, detailed, and very opinionated reviews in this post for the 12 boots I was considering for purchase. And get this: these boots are actually men’s boots because there’s not a lot of options for women’s footwear in dual-sport motorcycling. So my market doubled. Both men and women were thrilled with this post.

So this is when I figured out affiliate marketing could be pretty awesome. I’ve updated it three times (and I see that I need to update it once again) and I continue to make money from it. It offers real value.

Writing about books and products is something I do naturally. Don’t you? Yes! You can make money from blogging.


The value of cookies

You know that cookies follow you around the web, right? So even if the person that clicked your link doesn’t buy that particular item but purchases something else you still get a percentage. So if somebody doesn’t end up buying your book on Amazon but starts getting click-happy, remembering that they wanted a juicer and an espresso maker, adds a cute rain jacket for their dog and this and that and the other, it can add up.

Some affiliate programs offer tracking for as long as a year. That means that if the same person who clicked 364 days earlier goes to the site to purchase something, you’ll be credited.

It’s kind of scary that the Internet knows this kind of thing but now that you’re considering becoming an affiliate marketer you see the value of it.


Amazon Associates Affiliate Marketing Program


Sign up for Amazon Affiliate program and make a few pennies on your own book and other books and products that you recommend when you use their affiliate links.

It’s very easy to do. Just search for a book, grab the link, and paste it anywhere on your site or social media.


How to use Amazon Associates to make money for author affiliate marketing


Now, every time somebody clicks on that link they go to Amazon. I hope they purchase your book or the book you reviewed, but even if they don’t and click over to order other things on Amazon you are going to make some cash.

They have lots of cool options beyond text links, such as banner ads like the one below for the Kindle Oasis.


Example of Kindle Reader affiliate marketing link good for any author blog

Edit your caption text here


As a writer, this is a perfectly appropriate “ad” to put on any of your blog posts or web pages, don’t you think?


Smashwords’ Affiliate Marketing Program


You can do the same thing with the Smashwords affiliate program as you did with Amazon Associates.  Make a little extra on your own book and other books you recommend when you use affiliate links.

How to enroll:

  • Sign up for a free Smashwords membership
  • Click on the hyperlink to activate your Smashwords membership
  • Go to your Account page
  • Follow the “Affiliate System Management” link
  • Click on the “Affiliate Marketers” sign-up button
  • Read the Terms of Service agreement and click to join the program

When you log in click the ACCOUNT menu item and then AFFILIATE SYSTEM MANAGEMENT, you can do two things:

You can set an affiliate share of your choice to your books. The higher the affiliate percentage the more motivated affiliate marketers will be to advertise your book.

You can manage your affiliate account. this is where you get the linking code to add your website.

Get the details on the Smashwords affiliate marketing program in this document.


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Kobo’s Affiliate Program via Rakuten


Kobo, the ebook publisher, is owned by Rakuten, who offers an affiliate program. Sign up as an affiliate and when you link to your book (or anyone else’s) you’ll get 6% commission on sales.


Kobo Rakuten Affiliate Program for Books


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Become a Publisher with Aerio’s Affiliate Program


Become an online bookstore! Upload your own books to Aerio and choose from their inventory of 14 million print books, gifts, games, and more to create a curated storefront on your website to make a small percentage of each sale made through your site.

I do this on my Misadventures Media publishing website. Go there now and click SHOP on the menu to see how it works


Demo of Website with Aerio Book Store Misadventures Media


To start, go to aer.io and sign up for a free account.

Add books to your catalog by searching on a topic or by ISBN.

Create a collection or two and click EMBED to grab the HTML code for the collection.


Example of Aerio Bookstore collection


Then go on over to your website and create a new page. Then just embed the code on your page.

Add any introductory material you want to “sell” the books in the catalog.

Add the page to your menu.

That’s it! You’re a bookseller!


Commission Junction Affiliate Marketing Program for Products


Commission Junction (CJ) is one of the leading affiliate marketing tools in the industry. If you have a niche market and think that you can sell products via your website and blog via recommendations and links, look here for vendors who will give you 5% and more for each sale. For example, I use links from CJ in reviews for travel gear.



Many companies understandably want to make sure that their product is being advertised by a respected professional in the field or at least by someone who is in a related industry. This protects their brand against being included in clickbait advertising on the web and social media, which can alienate future customers.

If you are denied at first, you can send a quick email to the contact listed and make your case. I was turned down by a couple of companies until I sent them a short email explaining the relevance of the product to my audience with links to similar content on my site.



If you have a blog of any kind I think you should look at the affiliate marketing opportunities at CJ, at Share-A-Sale, and others. Just google “productname affiliate program” to see what company a product you love is listed with.



So, here’s what it looks like inside the site. What you’re looking at below is a screen shot of my affiliate partner Revzilla, which is a motorcycle gear company. There’s 60% off sale on motorcycle boots that I think my friends would like to know about. I’ll tell them now!

Commission Junction Example Affiliate Link


Sharing your affiliate links on social networks

As I showed above with my dual-sport motorcycle boot review, the best way to make affiliate marketing work is by promoting books, products, and services that you would recommend even if you wouldn’t get any money from it. Your success requires that you build a strong platform; that is, knowing your audience, being known in your niche, and being active on social media and blogging.


Smart Phone Apps to make affiliate programs work for self-publishing


I’ve found that the incentive of making extra income gives me the motivation I need to craft posts and pages I may have otherwise put off. I like recommending good products to my tribes in the self-publishing and adventure niches. It helps me feel relevant and keeps me connected to professionals and consumers in these industries.

Fully disclose your use of affiliate links

The FTC makes it illegal to use affiliate links without disclosing them. This means that you need to let readers know that purchasing something using your link will benefit you financially. What the FTC cares about is misleading advertising.


Full disclosure legal requirements for affiliate links


Helen Sedwick, author of the Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook  assured me that, “Legally speaking, if you are endorsing a product and you honestly recommend it, then you are not being misleading. To be even safer, you should let readers know you receive an affiliate payment if they purchase products after clicking on your links.”

How do you do this? You could insert {affiliate} into the text but I prefer to include a general note at the top of the page that states that I may get a small commission when you click on some of the products I review. I also make it clear that I seek out affiliate relationships only for products I would recommend, even without the affiliate relationship.


Your thoughts?

Are you inspired to start using affiliate marketing links on your web pages and social media posts. Do you already use them? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the COMMENTS below.


Questions about social media marketing and social media for authors


Want to know more?

This was a pretty deep dive on affiliate marketing, and I hope you’ll take advantage of it and start making more money by using these techniques.

Want more on how to make a living as an author? I offer online courses on every aspect of self-publishing.  Subscribe to find out when the courses open for enrollment.

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Subscribe to get blog posts direct to your email, plus self-publishing news you can use like recommendations, discounts, and freebies for independent authors. You’ll also be notified when online courses are open for enrollment.

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