April 17

Affiliate marketing for authors

Make money selling books and . . . stuff

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

It wasn't only from my books. In fact, affiliate money from books have been trivial compared to product links for the adventure travel gear I review. Adventure motorcycle helmets range from $200-$800, dual-sport motorcycle boots cost $150-$600, inflatable paddleboards, kayaks, and fishing boats range from $650-$2000. A 7% to 9% commission on high ticket items like this make it worth the extra time to write about these kinds of products. 

My readers are happy, too because I've done the shopping for them. They trust me to find the best gear,and I try very hard not to disappoint. It's incredibly important to be ethical when recommending products.

You can start even if you're not an influencer. In fact, reviewing products and services can help you become an influencer, that is, if you don't betray the trust of your audience. 

I'm an influencer in two main areas: book publishing (and marketing) and also adventure travel (solo women's travel, motorcycle travel, various countries and states, paddleboarding). My affiliate links include products and services for all my interests. It's become clear to me that my audience has many of the same interests as I do, so it really doesn't matter what my area of expertise is. Even if I like a certain brand of coffee grinder, I try to find an affiliate link for it. Turns out that lots of writers and adventurers and travelers also love coffee, and yoga, and good shoes. Go figure.

Authors: Increase you income stream with affiliate marketing

The little deposits into your bank account can really add up!

What you'll learn in this post

In this post, you'll learn:

  • What is affiliate marketing: terms and definitions
  • How to find affiliate programs
  • Ideas on to use affiliate marketing

About affiliate marketing opportunities for books:

  • Amazon Associates
  • Smashwords
  • Books2Read (by Draft2Digital)
  • Kobo
  • Apple
  • Aerio

About affiliate marketing opportunities for products:

  • Commission Junction (CJ)
  • AvantLink
  • ShareASale
  • Rakuten

You'll also learn about:

  • The value of high-ticket items
  • The value of social media and especially, of images
  • The value of being honest and ethical
  • The value of cookies
  • Legal requirements


What is affiliate marketing, exactly?

Right. Let's look as some terminology: affiliate marketing, affiliate marketing service, affiliate program, advertiser, publisher.

Affiliate marketing is when a company⁠—this is the Advertiser⁠—offers a percentage of a sale to an intermediary⁠—this is the Publisher (that's you)—when you lead customers to purchase their products. Most advertisers use a third party affiliate marketing service to handle this process.

Affiliate marketing services include Amazon, whose program is unique in that it is specific to Amazon products. Kobo's program seems like it's specific to Kobo because you have to sign up on Kobo.com, but it's actually handled through an affiliate marketing service called Rakuten Advertising.

Commission Junction (CJ), is the largest affiliate marketing service, followed by others like ShareASale, AvantLink, and Rakuen.

Approval can be automatic or a company may vet their publishers. Once you, the publisher, is approved you'll sign in to the affiliate marketing service (CJ, etc). That's where you'll find links to the advertiser's banners, product categories (boots, helmets), specific products, sales, and holiday specials. 

Advertisers hope you'll create web pages, blog and social media posts, and write newsletters about their products, so they can sell more. Some advertisers track performance, and may drop publishers (that's you) if they aren't seeing sales.

How to find affiliate programs

When you find a product or a company (advertiser) you want to promote, here's what you (publisher) you'll do. 

  1. Search to find out if the advertiser offer an affiliate program, and through which affiliate marketing service.
  2. Sign up for the affiliate marketing service. This requires providing financial information like your tax ID, bank account, STRIPE, or PayPal.
  3. Now sign into the affiliate marketing service and apply to join the advertiser's program. Be specific. Some advertisers are super-picky. Others accept just about anyone.
  4. On acceptance (which can be immediate or a couple of days), return to the affiliate marketing service and find links to the advertiser's store, product category, or specific product you want to advertise. 

Now write about it in your newsletter, blog and social media posts, and web pages.


Love a topic, sport, activity? Share your expertise and the love to your audience while making money doing it.

You can set up a page (or two) on your website to “curate” a selection of books using affiliate links. Heck, some people set up entire websites that curate certain kinds of products. I know a savvy marketer who loves coffee and coffee gadgets, and he set up an entire website reviewing all kinds of coffee stuff. He's known as an expert and he gets affiliate money from every product he reviews. 

When you sell books, the commissions can be small. But think bigger. What else do you like to write about?

The value of high-ticket items

For example, in my other career as an adventure travel writer 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 $600, 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 I earned thousands of dollars. I had simply worn out my boots and was doing research to find the best new pair and, frustrated with the lack of options for women, wrote about it in detail. I have a fair-sized platform (mailing list, blog, and social media), and I also used the right metadata on the post and on every single image in the post. Then an online adventure travel magazine shared my article. From there, a fair number of their tens of thousands of readers clicked over and shared it, too.

That's what it means to go viral.

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

The value of social media and especially, of images

I want to point out a couple of things about my motorcycle boots post. Take a look at the image below and notice that I took a lot of time creating the image. Images are shareable, and a lot of people did share it to social media, including to Pinterest.

I also shared the post 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. I made sure the post was sharable. As I'd hoped, it got reposted a lot, 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 have made thousands of dollars on this blog post. It took a lot of work to create it, but it was worth it.

I provided honest, detailed, and opinionated reviews in this post for the 12 pairs of boots I was considering for purchase. (Don't underestimate the power of voice, individuality, opinion.) And get this: most of these boots are actually men's boots, because, again, there haven't been 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 need to update it 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 share what you love with your friends? Yes! You can make money from blogging.

The value of cookies

You know that cookies follow you around the web, right? It probably creeps you out sometimes but when you use affiliate links, you learn to love cookies.

Even if the person that clicked your link doesn't buy that particular item, but instead, purchases something else, you still get a percentage of that sale. So they don't buy the thing you wanted them to buy. They might look at it (using your link) and then get click-happy on that same site, maybe even the next day or even the next week, remembering that they wanted a juicer and an espresso maker, and adding that cute rain jacket for their dog, and this and that and the other. You will get a percentage of everything they buy.

If an affiliate program offer tracking for as long as 30 days, that means that if the same person who clicked 30 days earlier goes to the site to purchase something, you'll be credited for the sale. 

Amazon only tracks users for 24 hours. Kobo, for 14 days. Commission Junction's standard tracking is 30 days but advertisers can change the duration. 


Amazon Associates affiliate marketing program

Sign up for Amazon Affiliates and make a few pennies on your own book and other books. But think bigger! You can recommend products on Amazon, too. 

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

Affiliate Link to Book

Note the affiliate link at top left of the book sales page.

Now, every time somebody clicks on that link and purchases my book, I get just a little bit more money. Even if they don't buy your book, they may click over to order other things on Amazon, and you are going to make some cash from that!

I also sometimes link to things that interest readers and writers, such as the Kindle Scribe device for reading and writing.

This is a Kindle Scribe, an ebook reading device that you can write on. I need this! 

I also used Amazon links in my Discover Baja column. For example, in one a post I recommended that people take their own of PFD (Personal Flotation Devices, aka lifejackets) with them. Most of the links came from Amazon. If you write a column or contribute an article for someone else, make sure they are good with that. 

Carla Discover Baja column


These programs include:

  • Amazon (described above)
  • Smashwords
  • Books2Read (by Draft2Digital)
  • Apple
  • Kobo
  • Aerio


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
Smashwords affiliate program sign up

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

  1. Log in, click the ACCOUNT menu item and then AFFILIATE SYSTEM MANAGEMENT.
  2. 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.
  3. In the MANAGE area, get the linking code to add your website.

NOTE: Draft2Digital purchased Smashwords in early 2022, so it will be interesting to see how they eventually merge their store, affiliate programs, and other features.

Books2Read by Draft2Digital

Books2Read by Draft2Digital 

Books2Read isn't an affiliate marketing program, per se, but a free tool from Draft2Digital that lets authors collect links to their books in multiple stores to offer with a single link. These links could (and should) be affiliate links where possible. That way, you can provide one link to your book and, when a customer clicks on it, they'll get all the links to all the stores where your book is available.

Books2Read by Draft2Digital

It's super quick and easy and simplifies your website, too. (Have you ever had to line up all those store icons in a neat row? Impossible!)

You only need one link wherever you display your book. Yay!

Apple Affiliate Program

Apple's affiliate program

It used to be iTunes affiliates but now it's called the Performance Partners Program. You can earn commissions on ebooks and audiobooks as well as qualifying Apple Music memberships, movie and tv show sales, and more. 

After you sign up, it's an awkward three-step process. 

1. Find your Partner (Affiliate) Token and copy it.

2. Find your book.

3. Enter the Partner Token in the Affiliate Token space.

4. Copy the URL in the Content Link.

Here's what it looks like:

Apple Affiliate Program
Apple Affiliate Program
Apple Affiliate Program

Commissions are eligible on sales for up to 24 hours after a user clicks on your iTunes link. Movies, TV, Mac Apps, Mac In-Apps, iBooks, and paid apps earn a 7% commission rate while iOS In-App purchases and iTunes Music earn a 2.5% commission rate.

Kobo Affiliate Program eBooks

Kobo's affiliate program

Sign up for Kobo's affiliate program and share links for your book, others' books, and Kobo's devices. The program is run by Rakuten, which also has an Amazon-like affiliate program for all kinds of products. More on that later in the post.

Kobo Affiliate Program eBooks

Kobo gives you 5% commission on ebooks, audiobooks, and Kobo devices. You'll get 10% on device accessories such as a stylus or a cover. And they track visitors for 14 days so if your reader decides to come back and by anything, you'll be credited and paid for the transaction. Gotta love cookies!

Kobo accessories ebooks

aerio commision on books publishing

Aerio 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 used to curate books about motorcycle travel. Here's what it looked like.

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. Finally, embed the code on your page. 

Add any introductory material you need to sell your books in the catalog.

Add the page to your menu. 

That's it! You're a bookseller!

NOTE: Ingram purchased Aerio and makes it available to anyone. Ingram also uses it to power Bookshop.org.


Popular affiliate services described here include:

  • Commission Junction (CJ)
  • ShareASale
  • AvantLink
  • Rakuten Advertising

CJ Commission Junction affiliate program for authors

Commission Junction 

Commission Junction (CJ) is the leading affiliate marketing service.

Commission Junction

Look here for vendors who will give you 5% and more for each sale. CJ is the affiliate home of my best advertiser, Revzilla, who sells motorcycle gear. I might write a blog post about products or just include a banner in a post or a page. Here's an example of a banner. 

Here's what it looks like inside the site. You'll get a lot of options for advertising a product, the brand, or a brand category, such as books or gloves. There are also always a lot of sales and specials, so it's easy to find an excuse to lead readers to product pages.

Commission Junction Example Affiliate Link

The application process

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 quick email explaining the relevance of the product to my audience with links to similar content on my site.

Other companies like CJ: ShareASale and AvantLink

If you have a blog of any kind I think you should look at the affiliate marketing opportunities at CJ, ShareASale, AvantLink, and others. Just google "productname affiliate program" to see what company a product you love is listed with.

Another favorite advertiser is an inflatable board and boat company, SeaEagle Boats. They use AdvantLink. I love their products and talk about them a lot. Especially their touring paddleboard. This deluxe model costs $12950 but goes on sale for $900 a couple times a year.  I can make up to $117 on a purchase, even more if they buy an electric pump, accessories, or other boards for their families. 

SeaEagle touring paddleboard inflatable

Rakuten advertising affiliate program

Rakuten Advertising

Publishers (that's you) can use Rakuten to recommend and link to all kinds of projects and services. Advertisers sign up to use Rakuten (similar to Commision Junction and ShareASale). You can browse advertisers by category once you sign up.

Rakuten advertising for authors (Kobo and more)

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.


Popular affiliate services described here include:x

  • Reputation
  • Disclosure: a legal requirement

Protect your reputation

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. Readers notice this!

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, AutoCrit, Publisher Rocket, the Nonfiction Writers Conference, DropBox, and Grammarly. You can also check out my Consumer's Guide for more product reviews and links, some of which are affiliate links.

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 somewhere on 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 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 discussion area below. 

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Amazon, Smashwords, Social Media

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