Amazon Associates: How to Use Affiliate Links to Earn More Money From Your Book

Amazon Associates
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As a writer, yesterday I earned a commission of $1.60 for an “ultra-high-density external battery pack.” Yes, that sentence does make sense — if you know how to use the Amazon Associates Program to boost the revenue from your books.

Here’s what happened: A visitor to one of my websites clicked a link to the Amazon sales page for my book, 101 Weird Ways to Make Money. After adding a copy to his cart, he continued shopping. The link to the book’s sales page includes my Amazon affiliate code, so not only did I earn a royalty from my publisher, but Amazon paid me a commission for the book as well as anything else the visitor bought within 24 hours, which in this case included that battery pack.

If you haven’t taken advantage of Amazon’s Associates Program to earn royalties from your links to your books — and other products — you’ll want to get started.

How Amazon Associates Works

When you sign up for Amazon Associates, you’re paid 4 to 10 percent commission for sales you refer to Amazon using your affiliate links (the URLs that include your unique tracking code). The exact percentage depends on the types of products sold and your sales volume for the month.

Of course, you can earn commissions by linking to any product on Amazon (more on that in a moment), but as an author your first goal is to squeeze more profit from your book sales. Every time you promote your books on your website or blog, make sure to use your affiliate links.

Here’s an example for traditionally published authors. Suppose the cover price of your book is $19.95, and Amazon is currently charging $14.95 (their price often changes and its generally below list price). When a visitor clicks the link on your blog and buys a copy from Amazon, you’ll get at least 59 cents (4 percent) as a commission — in addition to whatever the royalty is from your publisher.

Self-published? If your ebook sells for $5.99 in the Kindle store, you’re probably already earning a royalty of $4.19 (Amazon pays up to 70 percent), which is great. But why not also get an extra 24 cents by linking to your book with your affiliate code to earn a 4 percent commission? And if you sell enough books, you can do even better.

For example, if you sell more than six items through your referral links in a month, your commission goes up to 6 percent. Notice I said “items,” because the people who buy your books will also buy other things while shopping on Amazon, and you earn a commission on those sales as long as they occur within 24 hours (or longer if the visitor adds an item to her shopping cart and returns to pay later).

Some items have set rates, while others’ rates fluctuate based on volume. Here are some examples of the set rates from Amazon’s Advertising Fee Schedule:

  • Grocery products: 4 percent
  • Instant video products: 6 percent
  • Headphone products: 6 percent
  • Jewelry products: 10 percent
  • Game downloads: 10 percent

How much money can you earn?

I receive a royalty of $1.50 from my publisher for each book I sell, so if I also get a 77-cent affiliate commission (6 percent when Amazon sells my book for $12.95), that’s a 51 percent boost in revenue per book. I don’t sell 100 copies weekly like I did back when the book first came out, and most sales now aren’t through my links, so that extra revenue has dropped to less than 10 dollars each month.

On the other hand, after replacing regular links with my affiliate links years ago, I haven’t had to spend one extra minute to keep making that extra money.

Then there are those “other” sales. Once I started using this strategy, I was surprised to see that on top of the affiliate income for my books, I was making another $30 monthly in commissions for other items people bought after arriving at Amazon through my links. That too has dropped as sales have declined, but hey, every little bit helps.

The payoff can be bigger than my experience indicates. “On average, I make a few hundred dollars each month from my affiliate account, because every time I link to my books from my website I use an Amazon Associates URL that’s got a tracking ID attached,” said Paul Jarvis in a post at Forbes. A few hundred dollars a month is a few thousand dollars a year — not a bad payoff for taking a few minutes to set things up the right way.

Playing by Amazon’s rules

Authors often think it’s against the rules to use affiliate links for their own books. It isn’t. What is against the rules is using your affiliate links when you buy things for yourself. It’s perfectly okay to make commissions on your books when other people buy them. This is true when you sell Kindle books, too.

In response to the question, “Can I link to my Kindle book via the Amazon Associates program?” Amazon says:

Yes, the Amazon Associates Program provides vendors specially formatted links to Amazon on their websites in exchange for advertising fees when their visitors follow the links and place an order. Anyone with a website may apply for our Associates Program, although we do have certain requirements that may prevent a site from participating.

One of those “certain requirements” is that you live in an approved state, a list that fortunately includes all but five states. According to the Associates Program Operating Agreement, the only states where you can’t participate are Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Missouri and Rhode Island.

If you happen to live in one of those states you’re out of luck . . . almost. You still can sign up for the Books-a-Million affiliate program and send your readers to their website to buy your books. You’ll get a 5 percent commission on sales made within 30 days of the customer using your link to arrive at BooksAMillion.com.

Read up on the rest of Amazon’s rules. You can’t use affiliate links in emails or PDFs, for example, and Amazon requires you to disclose on your site or blog that you are “a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.” Getting your affiliate account closed means your extra income stream is gone, and it’s easy to make a mistake. In fact, I may have used my affiliate link in my newsletters once or twice before realizing this was against the rules.

What does the law say?

As an advertiser (which is essentially what you become), you also have to be aware of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations. For example, the FTC Guidelines say you have to disclose the fact that you might receive payment when visitors use your links to buy something, and they provide these more specific suggestions:

  • Place the disclosure as close as possible to the triggering claim.
  • Preferably, design advertisements so that “scrolling” is not necessary in order to find a disclosure.
  • Necessary disclosures should not be relegated to “terms of use” and similar contractual agreements.

A simple disclosure might look something like this:

Disclosure: This website may be compensated for linking to other sites or for sales of products we link to.

Some bloggers put a statement at the bottom of each page, while others just provide a link there to a disclosure page that has the more-detailed information. That has apparently been enough for website and blog owners to avoid trouble with the FTC so far, but it also appears that neither practice is in complete compliance with the regulations, so you may have to put that disclosure a bit closer to the links. (I’m not a lawyer, though, so you may want to speak with one to make sure you’re covered.)

Of course, you could be very clear and label it “My affiliate link to my book,” or even say something like, “Do me a favor and use this link to check out my book, so I can make a commission if you buy it.” (Editor’s note: Since we published this post, it sounds like Amazon has started discouraging this type of wording.)

How to make more money with Amazon Associates

It’s possible to make even more affiliate income while promoting your books. One method is to share the sales pages on social media using your affiliate code. This is tricky because it is against Amazon’s rules to shorten your affiliate URLs and they may be too long for Twitter, or might be shortened automatically on Facebook.

Fortunately, Amazon provides a way to share your book’s sales page on Twitter and Facebook while using your affiliate tracking code. Go to your book’s sales page while logged into your affiliate account, then use the “share” tab at the top to post to Twitter or Facebook. Here’s a simple tutorial that walks you through the process.

Another way to get an Amazon-approved short link is to search for your book from your Associates home page. See the yellow “Get Link” button? Click the arrow next to it and choose “Shorten URL with amzn.to?”

I discovered another creative way to boost your affiliate income in a Kindle publishers’ forum. “One thing I’ve done is post product links to the equipment that I or my fictional hero use in the books. Things like knives, optics, tents and such,” said one user.

For example, he says he made an 8 percent commission on a rifle scope that costs over $2,000 — that’s more than $160 from one sale through his affiliate link!

Letting your book’s characters sell things for you is a neat trick! Unfortunately, the consensus of Kindle forum users is that it’s against the rules to include affiliate links in Kindle books. Many authors get away with it and Amazon has not fully clarified the matter, but a safer strategy might be to have “character profile” pages on your website, with affiliate links to each character’s favorite products. You could then link to those profile pages at the end of your book, or link to a “more information” page on your site.

Finally, your readers probably value your opinion, so why not have a list of your favorite books by other authors on your website or blog? Of course, you’ll link to all of their books using your Amazon Associates links.

Will you join Amazon Associates?

The program offers a way to boost your income from book sales. More than ever writers have to be marketers anyhow, so why not add affiliate marketing to your plan? You’ll at least make more money from your own books, and perhaps profit from recommending other books and products as well.

Do you use affiliate links to promote your books?

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Steve Gillman's experiences inspired a website about odd businesses and jobs, which in turn led to writing .

Webhiker Services | @stevegillman

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Comments

  1. Even though this is rational, almost nobody (from the bloggers and book writers I know) discloses that their links are affiliate links. Plus, many authors put their links inside books…

    • Do you mean putting a disclosure right next to the links, Chris? Amazon requires a disclosure on the site, but not necessarily right next to links — it’s often on its own a “Disclosures” page or combined with the privacy policy.

      Heather
      TWL Assistant Editor

  2. I’m an affiliate and just earned my first commission the other day (~$1), but it wasn’t from anything I linked to, which is funny. I think it can be a great strategy with decent traffic and if done tastefully (i.e. also w/proper disclosure).

    • Yes, it’s funny to see some of the products people buy through your links! (For those worried about anonymity, affiliates can see products but no information about who bought them.)

      Heather
      TWL Assistant Editor

  3. I was actually planning to use these, but I don’t live in the US. I really wish this can only be done there because of legal issues and not just because… Frankly, if there is no legal issue, that’s just, well, discriminatory. Amazon has done so much to help indie writers, I hope they will make this program worldwide and help even further! Great post, I love the blog.

  4. …. and don’t also forget that using Amazon affiliate links on your web pages in order to get that little bit of extra sales revenue is also a great way of tracking your sales, click-through rates etc. – in ways that would not be possible if you simply just linked direct to the Amazon sales page.

  5. This is a fantastic post Steve. Lots of great info in there! There is one thing that you might want to clarify however. You mentioned that an Amazon Associate could use a line such as this:

    “Do me a favor and use this link to check out my book, so I can make a commission if you buy it.”

    Amazon has recently been cracking down on affiliates who use sentences of this nature. In fact, even a few high-volume affiliates have had their accounts terminated for this reason.

    Apparently Amazon considers such language as giving the reader an incentive to buy, and that is strictly prohibited in the Amazon Affiliates TOS. I’m not trying to hijack your awesome post (and it IS awesome). I just don’t want to see anyone lose their affiliate account.

    Thanks for a great site, and an awesome post!

    • Thanks for commenting, Rick. I hadn’t heard about this! Is the reasoning that you can’t try to *convince* a reader to buy through your link?

      It’s interesting, especially the program requires that you include a disclosure policy noting that you’re compensated when people buy through your links.

      Thanks!
      Heather
      TWL Assistant Editor

      • That’s right Heather. You can use your page copy to sell the heck out of the item, but you aren’t allowed to try to coax a sale in any way. Amazon wants the sale to be 100% the customer’s idea. The only way we’re allowed to influence the buying decision is by talking about the product itself. Again, I love your blog!

  6. Hi Heather,

    This is the applicable page of the Amazon Associates Operating Agreement.

    https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/associates/help/operating/participation/

    The section in question is section 14:

    14. You will not offer any person or entity any consideration or incentive (including any money, rebate, discount, points, donation to charity or other organization, or other benefit) for using Special Links (e.g., by implementing any “rewards” or loyalty program that incentivizes persons or entities to visit the Amazon Site via your Special Links).

    It’s the last part of the sentence where it discusses a “loyalty program”. Amazon has recently started interpreting that phrase very loosely, and they have kicked out a lot of Associates simply for mentioning that a purchase via an Amazon Affiliate link helps keep the site up and running.

    This is only a guess, but it could be that they don’t like incentivized purchases because they would likely have a higher return rate. Again, that’s just a guess.

  7. Thanks so much for this clearly stated and up-to-the-point info. I’m just preparing the first Amazon affiliate post on my blog and it was pleasure to read all the nuts and bolts here instead of trying to decypher Amazon’s lawspeak.

  8. thanks for your great post. i just now created the affiliate account and i am in confusion.

    when some one clicked any product that is displayed on the site but he did not purchased and within 24 hrs he purchased another product. Do we receive any commission or not.

    • Yes, as long as they make a purchase within 24 hours you will earn a commission on those items even if they don’t purchase the item that was the target of your affiliate link.

  9. Are you sure Affiliate links are still prohibited? I couldn’t find that on their website.

  10. Hi, great post. Did you say Amazon prohibits shortening links? What about redirects?

    • Yes Sam, they prohibit both of those practices.

    • They do. However, you can get a shortened link from Amazon itself within your Associates account, and that’s a great option to have a shortened link without violating the TOS. When you search for a product on Associates Central, instead of clicking on the yellow “get link” button, click the little arrow next to it. You’ll see an option to shorten the URL with amzn.to, and there you go!

  11. Hello Steve. My name is Dan and I am a founder of Self Employment Ideas website. Thanks for a very inspiring and informative article about on-line marketing with Amazon. It’s a great value and a perfect example for the people (and myself) looking for the fresh ideas on-line and the new ways to succeed in internet marketing world.
    “The path to success is to take a massive, determined action” – Tony Robbins.
    Cheers and have a nice day!
    My regards,
    Dan
    Founder of website http://www.selfemploymentideas365.com
    Self Employment Ideas – From Opportunities & Challengers to Prosperity

  12. Hiya Steve,

    excellent article what do you think the best way to implement the links into a blog, hidden hyper links in picture of products you already have (which I think is more tasteful) or amazons already made advertisements banners etc

    Pete Needham

    If you want to see my journey to becoming rich visit http://www.privateriches.com got loads of articles of how I’ve built up my empire through P2P lending mystery shopping and other things…… read the blog to find out

  13. Great post! I found it because I wanted to check something about Amazon’s terms of service.

    I agree with what you say about people buying random items. One month, someone went from my site http://www.tabletpccomparison.net to Amazon and bought 10 of a very cheap item – it bumped me from 4% to 6% commission. Those sales didn’t do much themselves but made all the rest more valuable.

    I like the name of your book and I’m going to check it out!

    Simon

  14. Hi Steve,

    Awesome post, just what a doctor ordered. Is it available in China? I start my blogs few months ago, but didn’t spend too much time on it. Can I track how many products sold though my affiliate link? That’s amazing if so, cuz if a vendor sponsor for my post or video, we can talk about the commission with specific stats.

    Again, thank you for the great post!

  15. Just an FYI. Amazon does not permit you to use your affiliate link to your own book. A friend had his affiliate link set up on his book website and Amazon sent him a stern email letting him know that this practice is not allowed.

  16. How many ads affiliate link can i put in one post/page.
    And did i get commission when user click to that link.

  17. I have read the amazon tos at least 10 times but many things are still vague for me and I don’t know whether I may do them or not. One example is tracking: I want to know how many people land on my landing page and how many click. So my links from the landing page to the offer go through my tracking server. So the links go to tracking and then redirect to the offer (through my affiliate link). Redirecting is prohibited, BUT I am passing on all referrer information (so amazon can see where the visitor came from before going through tracking. Am I ok with this set up or not?

  18. Very interesting information. Found it useful too. Keep up the good work. Thanks

  19. I use Amazon Affiliate links on my site pretty sparingly so far, but find the SiteStripe is pretty useful on mobile. The discreet pop ups don’t overpower the content but provide pretty good click throughs and additional content.

    If you have time to check it out, take a look: http://www.trueprepper.com/

  20. Hello, are you allowed to advertise to your site visitors that if they shop on Amazon via your link, it provides you a commission %? For example, could I say “Help support my website by coming to this page and clicking this link anytime before you shop on Amazon, as a % of your sale will go toward supporting this site?”

    • I’m afraid not Mikah. Amazon considers that to incentivizing the sale, and it’s forbidden in the Associate agreement. If they see something like that on your site they’ll boot you from the program and you’ll forfeit any commissions you have earned up to that point. I recommend reading the Associate agreement top to bottom, several times. You’ll come out way ahead in the long run if you do. Just my 2 cents worth…

  21. I am using Amazon affiliate marketing these tips of your will help me in making money. thanks..

  22. Mandeep Narang says:

    I am not able to link amazon products on my facebook or twitter or blog.the link is too long to paste and i dont know how to paste banners on my facebook from amazon.can anyone tell plz

  23. can I use amazon affilated program with adsence ? and how much i get paid for sports equipments ?

  24. I love using Amazon Associates, they are the majority of my financial gain. I make anyplace from $600-$1200 a month right currently, I hope to double that by the end of 2015. I love that they pay you for all the world that individuals buy on Amazon once they come back through your link, like you, a lot of my sales aren’t even what I sell on my blog. People love Amazon, take them there and they will notice one thing to shop for. LOL Nice blog.

  25. Interesting article. I started my own site recently but so far – no luck with amazon affiliate. Any ideas how to drive more traffic apart from creating original content. Do backlinks work and should I buy some on Fiverr or similar sites?
    Check it out if you have time:
    http://www.pearly-teeth.com

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