Wednesday, May 1, 2019

If You're An Author, You Really Need An Affiliate Marketing Account

Making money as an author isn't easy. Whether you're a self-publishing pen monkey or someone who has a big publisher backing their release, it can sometimes feel like pure, blind, dumb luck is the only thing that decides how big your paycheck is in any given month. With that said, imagine if you got paid twice twice for every book you sold. How awesome would that be?

Well, you can... if you've got an affiliate account, that is.

Two for me, one for Amazon, two for me...
If you're a long-time reader then you might remember I talked about affiliate marketing forever and a day ago in my post How To Make Money On Your Blog With Affiliate Marketing. It's been a while since then, though, so I thought I'd update my advice with a few additional pointers I left out way back when.

What Is Affiliate Marketing, And How Does It Work?

The short version is that an affiliate marketer is kind of like a freelance salesperson. You go to a website like Amazon, Drive Thru RPG, Smashwords, etc., and then you apply for a position. If the company approves you, then you now have the ability to make special links that track which customers you brought to the site, and which make sure you earn a fee for your successful sales.

So, as a for instance, I might suggest that you go pick up a copy of my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife over on Amazon. If you clicked that link, and you bought a copy of my novel, then I'd get paid twice for that one transaction. Once for my royalties (which is a couple of bucks), and once for selling something through an affiliate link (about .20 or so for selling something that costs as much as my book does).

Help a brother out, will ya?
As an addition to your marketing strategy, this is a solid way to capitalize on your own new releases and to get a little more mileage out of your monthly earnings. I explained as much in my previous blog on the subject. However, there are a few other things that I didn't emphasize at the time that I feel I should hammer a bit more firmly on now.

You Just Have To Sell Something

When a customer clicks through one of your links to buy something, their traffic is digitally earmarked as being your doing. That means that any activity a customer has once they've got your mark on them still earns you credit... whether they bought the thing you were advertising, or something else entirely!

Wait a minute, how does THAT work?!
Let's use another example to illustrate this point. Say that a client wanted to get a copy of the short story collection From A Cat's View, because they're a fan of cats and thought the idea of a neo-noir story with a Maine Coon protagonist sounded like a hoot. Especially since that story was written by yours truly!

Now as long as that person clicked through my affiliate link, I get credit for anything they buy as long as my earmark lasts. So maybe they buy a copy of that book, or maybe they don't. But let's say that, after they clicked that link, they decide to make a few other purchases. That new video game that came out, for instance. Or that handy kitchen appliance they've had their eye on for a bit. Maybe they're just buying a bunch of books or ebooks today, and my link caught their attention. No matter how much or how little they get, I still get the credit for it.

As an example, when I put up the blog post Need Cheap Minis? SCS Has You Covered! my goal was to get people who play tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons to check out the low-cost miniature toys for use as map minis. Someone who clicked that link also bought a $600 wheelchair while they were on that trip, which meant I got a nice, fat credit for an item I wasn't even advertising!

You Get A Little Time To Make Your Sale, Too

The other thing to remember when you're an affiliate marketer is that you don't have to make your sale on that first click; companies let that earmark last on the account for a certain period of time. That way you still get credit for being the person who initially drove the traffic, even if the person who clicked had to wait until they had some spare money before they made their purchase.

How much time do you have?
The amount of time your traffic is good for varies by program. If you're an Amazon affiliate, for instance, you typically get 24 hours worth of credit; if your traffic hasn't made a purchase in that period of time, then you're out of luck and you'll need to get them to re-click your link somehow. The only exception to this is if they put something in their shopping cart for later, in which case you'll get several weeks of time while your customers decide whether or not to make that purchase. If you take One Bookshelf on the other hand (the company that owns Drive Thru RPG, Storyteller's Vault, DMs Guild, and many other sites) then your traffic marks are good for up to five days for people to make a purchase. That means you could post a link on Monday, and have someone make purchases on Friday and still get credit for them!

Planting Land Mines

The best way to make sure you nab as much affiliate credit as you can is, of course, to make sure you share your links in as many (appropriate) places as you can. You can easily fit them into your blogs, probably, and you can use them when you're doing social media coverage about your latest releases. But you should think bigger than that!

As an example, when you make posts boosting your fellow creator's signals (like I did with my post 5 Phenomenal Authors Whose Work You Should Check Out last year over on Improved Initiative), remember to include your affiliate links. This helps out other people, and gives you the chance for some earnings as well. If you have a game you like, or you come across something cool you want to share, tag it. Most importantly, if you've got a big backlog of articles and blog posts, go through and add in your affiliate links. Especially in the ones that get the most traffic.

Just bury these on the path, arm the firing pin, and book it!
I call this practice burying land mines, because that's the logic behind these affiliate links. When you create a mine field, you know that not every mine you put down there is going to get stepped on... but some of them will. The key is to identify the most likely places for traffic, and to put a big, fat link right in the middle of it so you can suck up as much traffic as possible. However, that doesn't mean you should ignore less-popular or niche content, either. They might not see as much traffic, but it takes maybe 45 seconds to create a link and put it in your text.

Toss it in there, and see what happens.

Most importantly, remember that affiliate links can be put anywhere. On a forum post, in a blog entry, on social media pages, tucked into the description pages of YouTube videos, and the list goes on and on. Spread your links around, and you'll notice your earnings increase. Maybe not enough to make up for not hitting bestseller status, but as the economists say, every little bit helps.

That's all for this week's Business of Writing! If you'd like to see more of my work, take a look at my Vocal archive, or at My Amazon Author Page where you can find books like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife!

If you'd like to help support my work, then consider Buying Me A Ko-Fi, or heading over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page! Lastly, to keep up with my latest, follow me on FacebookTumblrTwitter, and now on Pinterest as well!


  1. When an individual signs up for affiliate programming, is it possible to show the products with a variety of modules (Say, an Amazon bar which scrolls horizontally), or do you have to post it with anchored text?

    1. There are multiple linking options, and you can usually make different kinds depending on your style. I go for anchor text, because it's what I know/what's worked for me.