Affiliate Marketing for Indie Authors Part 4: Advertising

Affiliate Marketing
They have what you want, but are you willing to pay? (Pic by Georgie Pauwels via Flickr)

For the past month, I’ve been talking about affiliate marketing as another stream of income and also about using it as an opportunity to promote your book. Today, I’ll talk about approaching affiliate marketing as an advertiser. Yes, you can pay an influencer to promote your book to their audience. However before you get excited, there are some questions you need to ask yourself.

Why Use An Affiliate?

If your platform is small to nonexistent then you’ll probably need to borrow someone’s audience. I talked about this in my post: “How to Pitch and Approach Influencers” last year. A large platform takes time and hard work to not only build but also to maintain and most authors don’t have the time or know how to do it. This is why it makes sense to seek out influencers to promote your book.

How Much Are You Willing To Pay Them?

This is important because price will matter significantly when it comes to interest in your product. If you’re selling a 99₵ eBook, there will be little interest in it, even if you’re splitting 75% of the profits. However, if you’re selling a print book for $8-$20 and splitting 75% of the profits, that may generate more interest. If you’re selling other products like eCourses, or workshops it will generate even more interest because those usually cost more and more money, means bigger profits for the content creator.

Do You Have A Marketing Plan?

Dellani
A meme I created for author Dellani Oakes

As convenient as hiring an influencer is, it doesn’t let you off the hook when it comes to promotion. You still have to plan because wishful thinking doesn’t sell books. You need a release date (or rerelease date in some cases), a good price, a social media strategy, blog posts, interviews, etc.  Yes, you still have a responsibility when promoting your own book.

Things To Consider Doing During Your Campaign:

1. Create a script for the content creator: You can be as formal or as informal as you want to be.
2. Create social media posts: If social media is part of the deal make sure to supply them with the info they need like; links, prices, sales dates, etc.
3. Create: Graphics such as memes.
4. Hold a giveaway or contest on your site.
5. When you get those people to your site, make sure you get them to sign up for your newsletter. You do have one right?
If all goes well, you’ll get a few sales and a few new subscribers for future promotions.

The Takeaway

Yes, affiliate marketing can be hard work no matter which side you’re approaching it from. It takes study, planning and not to mention, guts to succeed at this. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t remind you that affiliate marketing isn’t a get rich scheme. Like with most things, it takes time to learn and it takes time to build trust with advertisers and content creators.

Affiliate marketing isn’t just profitable monetarily but also in the sense of platform building. If you want to make a career as an author, your thoughts should be more on the long term rather than on the next sale. But that’s another post for another day…

If you missed the other 3 parts here they are listed below in order:

Social Media: Why Your Numbers Mean Nothing!

I just posted on the Cereal Author’s Blog an excerpt from a new book I’m working on about social media.  I hope you enjoy.

Source: Social Media: Why Your Numbers Mean Nothing!

Affiliate Marketing for Indie Authors Part 3: Targeted Opportunities

Affiliate Marketing
Pic by Boris Mann via Flickr

For the past two weeks I’ve been talking about affiliate marketing for authors. I shared several of the most popular online affiliate sites and today, I’m going to share more affiliate resources but this time, they will be more writing and book related. I also talk about how to find those hidden opportunities.

So let’s get started…

Where to Look

If you’re an indie author, and looking for an advertiser to partner with it makes sense to look for businesses within your industry. There are publishers, retailers, and online schools that are looking for access to an interested audience, and if you can provide that, you stand to make money.

Publishers

Retailers

Software

eCourses

Pitching Direct

Though there are many businesses that have affiliate programs, there are some that don’t publically announce it. This could mean hidden opportunities for an authorpreneur willing to do the research and who has the bravery to pitch. If you think major corporations are the only ones to approach think again, there are authors with books, and eCourses who would love to hear from you. There are also publishers and agents with seminars and workshops who are desperate to sell tickets to their events.

Now before I go on, most pitches fail because they’re terrible so here are a few tips to help you with your pitch letter.

Tips:

  1.  You have to contact the right people.
  2. You need to answer the question: “What’s in it for them?”
  3.  You’ll have to give them proof that you can reach the people they’re targeting and are a good match for their product.
  4. Describe how you’ll market their product to your audience.
  5. Give them several ways to contact you.

Keep in mind even if you do everything right, there is still a possibility that they may pass and that’s fine. You can easily pitch their competition instead, because that’s how business works.

I hope you found this post helpful, stick around next week because this series continues with Part 4: Advertising. If you missed the last two parts of the series check them out here:

Affiliate Marketing for Indie Authors Part 2: Rules & Expectations

Affiliate Marketing
By Martin Abegglen via Flickr

Last week, I talked about the basics of affiliate marketing and today, I’ll be discussing the steps a indie author can take for a successful and hopefully, a stress free campaign.

When selling someone’s product, it’s obvious you should put as much effort into it as if it were your own product. That means learning the rules and laws concerning selling products, yes, there are rules and if you don’t follow them there could be serious consequences. We’re talking about being banned as well as getting fined by the government in extreme cases.

Also, I discuss why you need not only a large following but an engaged one to sell anything. So let’s get started…

Rule #1: If They Don’t Make Money, You Don’t Make Money!

Affiliate marketing shouldn’t be something taken lightly. If your campaign is a disaster, you could lose long term opportunities. That means future advertisers won’t touch your platform with a 10 foot pole. Your goal should be to make the advertisers some money. That’s why it’s important to be choosey as to which products you’ll endorse. This is a job and not a get rich quick scheme so treat it like you would any professional project.

Rule #2: Platform Is Vital

In order to get sales, you’ll need to get a significantly large audience. Marketers know for a fact that a website needs a large number of visitors before someone converts (clicks buy). It’s not unusual for a large company to require bloggers have an audience of at least 10,000 unique visitors per month before they will consider doing business with them. Keep in mind they will require you prove your stats through a service like Google Analytics or Clicky.

With social media it’s worse, you not only need a large following but an engaged one before you can make a conversion. That means conversations where you’re not talking to yourself and lots of likes on your posts.  This is important because your sales will be tracked with a special link. If you don’t make any money, it’s unlikely you’ll get another shot with that advertiser.  So there’s no faking it till you make it here.

Rule #3: Share Those Links

If you are going to promote a product be sure to use those affiliate links everywhere. However just be sure not to spam people and don’t be too salesy. Also, if you’re a traditionally published or indie author, you can make more money promoting your own book so why not share those links on your blog, and social media accounts? Amazon and most retailers make that possible now.

Rule #4: Know the Law

Recently, reality television star Kim Kardashian, got in hot water with the FDA when she promoted an antinausea drug for pregnant women on her Instagram account. Apparently, the drug company she was affiliated with didn’t list the correct warnings by failing to mention the drug was never approved for pregnant women with a severe type of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum. Sadly, that fact wasn’t addressed in Kim’s post and because of that, it had to be taken down. Though this wasn’t Ms. Kardashian’s fault, it was still a faux-pas that could have been avoided. If you’re promoting prescription drugs, alcohol, adult products, or cigarettes, you need to know what the laws are concerning those products.

Another important law to remember, if you live in the U.S., is that you need to let others know you’re a paid affiliate if not, you can be fined by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). There is a PDF file you can download if you want to know more.

Rule #5: Know The Rules

Indie Authors
Pic by Thomas via Flickr

As if that wasn’t enough, they are also the rules concerning social media sites like Facebook, who forbid selling anything on personal accounts. You must have a business or a fan page for that. Also keep in mind that Facebook likes to lockdown accounts that post nudity or sexually suggestive images. So if you’re selling erotic books, be careful about the images you’re posting. If in doubt, go to Facebook’s community standards post and to their ad policies.

Every social media site from Pinterest to Youtube has its own rules and it’s your responsibility to find out what those rules are least you find yourself locked out of your own account.

Now if all this has you scared, be assured that most affiliate marketing campaigns go off without a hitch. However you do need to be educated about what’s expected of you.

Rule #6: Know Where To Look For Legit Opportunities

Did you know there are actually two ways to get affiliate deals?  Many entrepreneurs look for companies with large marketing budgets and directly pitch them.  The second way is through an affiliate website which is kind of like a dating service for affiliates and advertisers. However be warned, many sites take a percentage of all sales made through them. This is why pitching direct is the way to go for some business owners.  The percentages vary from site to site so be sure to read any contracts or agreements before signing. Here are the more popular sites used by bloggers and website owners.

  • Social Fabric
  • Tap Influence
  • Flex Offers
  • eJunkie
  • Link Vehicle
  • BlogHer
  • SITS Girls
  • Sponsored Tweets
  • CJ Affiliate
  • Influence Central (accepts small blogs)
  • Weave Made (small blogs)
  • IZEA (small blogs)

These are just some of the sites you should investigate if you are considering affiliate marketing.  There are a more targeted ways for indie authors to approach affiliate marketing and that’s  something I’ll address next week in part 3 of this series.   Yes, there’s a part three because as you may have already guessed, this is a complicated subject. o.O

If you missed last week’s post check it out here: http://writingbytheseatofmypants.com/2015/12/20/affiliate-marketing-for-indie-authors-part-1/

Affiliate Marketing For Indie Authors Part 1: The Basics

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Pic by Anthony Easton via Flickr

These days it seems as though everyone’s hustling products, from celebrities, athletes, and even politicians.  Usually, they can be found promoting anything from beauty products to prescription meds, often serving as an affiliate of a company or of several companies.  Before I go on, let me explain what an affiliate does: An affiliate is a person or entity chosen to promote services or products on behalf of a business.  Affiliates are usually given a percentage of any sale made through them.

There is serious money to be made these days selling products to your online audience.  And today, an indie author can approach affiliate marketing in two ways first, as an affiliate (also known as a content creator), and as an advertiser.

Now I have to be honest, most indie authors say that the earnings they make from affiliate marketing can barely cover their Netflix subscription.  On the other hand, there are few who are making thousands from affiliate marketing.  It all depends on what you sell and the deal you make.

Popular Things Authors Sell and Promote

  1. Books; digital, audio and print versions.
  2. Writing or editing software.
  3. Learning eCourses.
  4. Subscription services like; Audible or Amazon Prime.
  5. Book related swag like; T-shirts, posters and tote bags.
  6. Book cover design services.
  7. Editing services.
  8. Conference or workshop tickets.

Before You Start

Before you go signing up for all the affiliate programs available, please be careful and realistic as to what you are most comfortable promoting. If you’re a religious person, maybe signing up with Harlequin (a romance publisher) isn’t the best idea. Keep in mind, if you don’t like or understand a product, this affiliate experience will most likely end in a disaster.
Another thing to seriously consider is your audience’s tolerance for promotion. When your readers sign up for your blog or liked your social media page, they are signing up to connect with YOU not your benefactor. It is possible that if you promote too much, your audience may get turned off by it and leave.

You Don’t Have To Sell Your Soul

As a content creator, it is up to you as to who you’ll work with and what products you’ll promote. You can always say no to a deal especially, if the terms are unreasonable or pathetic. As I said before, it’s all about what you’re comfortable with.

What’s Expected

It’s not uncommon for a company to want a content creator to write an article or review about their product. This can mean anything from a Youtube video or a blog post. And as the content creator, you’ll have to act natural as well as keep the dialog organic.

Spaces You Can Rent To An Advertiser

  • Social Media
  • Blogs
  • Newsletters (Check the rules, Amazon doesn’t allow affiliate links in emails while other sites do.)
  • Podcasts

Be warned that some companies might give you a script that you’ll be required to read from or post on your blog.  Usually, these scripts consist of the sales copy, a call to action and links to the product. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are companies who will give you the freedom to sell a product anyway you see fit.

Know Who You’re Selling To

 

Affiliate Marketing
Pic by Anthony Easton via Flickr

The only way for this affiliate marketing thing to work is to make sure that you’re selling to the right crowd. For example, you can’t sell wheat bread to an audience of Celiacs. I mean you could, but I doubt they would appreciate you for it. So you need to know your audience before you can sell them ANYTHING. Hopefully, you’ve gotten to know your audience through your analytics, the comment section of your blog or through random polls. If you haven’t done this, you had better get started. The most common questions content creators ask their audiences are;

  1. What are you struggling with? (Find a product that can help them with their problems.)
  2. What are your favorite books or products? (Try pitching that publisher/ company for an affiliate opportunity.)
  3. What products do you hate? (Avoid them like the plague.)
  4. What are your goals? (Find a product to help them reach their goals.)

If you can get your audience to answer some of these questions, you’ll have a pretty good idea as to which products to sell and which ones to avoid.

Well there you have it, tune in next week where I’ll discuss the requirements for successful affiliate marketing.

5 Things Indies Can Get for Cheap or Free!

Holiday Gifts for Authors
Pic By Moyan Brenn via Flickr

It’s that time of year again and I got software that’s in serious need of an upgrade and several of my friends are looking for cheap book covers.  So I went on a quest to find the best deals on everything from advertising to free college courses.  And since I promised to share everything I learn, I’m passing this info on to you so you can share in the savings and spread the word.

Before I go on, I have to announce I am in no way affiliated with any of the products or services listed.

Word Processing Software

Did you know that your MS Office software has an expiration date? It’s called a lifecycle and when yours ends, the software no longer receives updates thus making your computer vulnerable.  So when the lifecycle on your software ends, you’ll have to upgrade.  Today, Microsoft has subscription based services ranging from $6.99-$9.99  per month or $69-$99 per year.  This sounds cheap but If you compare it to a one time purchase, it’s not.

For example, you can of course purchase Office Word 2016 for about $109.99, while, Office Home & Student 2016 costs $149.99 and includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.  If that’s not enough for you, Office Professional 2016 is $399 and includes Outlook, Access, and Publisher as well as the basics Word, Excel, etc.  According to Microsoft the 2016 software’s extended support date is over in 2025.  So long term, a one time purchase beats the subscription hands down.

Yes, Microsoft does have a free online version of their software, but as you may have already guessed, it’s not complete like the paid version. But if all you need is a very basic version of Word, this is a great thing because now MS Word is 100% free for you!

Check it out for yourself and while you’re doing that, I’ll list all the cheaper and free alternatives below.

Cheap:

  •  Scrivener: For the past few years Scrivener has made a name for itself as THE writer’s software. Everyone from novelists to screen writers sing the praises of this software. Scrivener is great for indie authors because it can convert files to .epub or .kobi making it easy to upload manuscripts to retailers.
    Price: $40 after a 30 day free trial.

 

  •  Word Perfect: MS Word’s twin cousin who is very basic in features. Price: $89 for the student version and $219 for the standard edition. *These are their holiday 2015 sale prices*

 

  •  KingSoftware: Often called the clone of Microsoft Office, KingSoftware is based in Hong Kong and offers both free and paid services. Their paid professional software will cost you around $79.99 and includes spreadsheet, word processor, and presentation software.

 

Free:

  • Google Docs: I have a Google account and shared both documents and spreadsheets on this blog.  It’s also convenient having your Gmail account, Google Drive and Youtube account all in the same place. However, Google Docs are relatively Spartan so I only use them to share documents with others.

 

  • Apache Open Office: I know several authors who use Open Office and sung the praises of this free word processing software. Over the past few years though, it’s fallen out of favor because of numerous bugs and user issues. However, developers have fixed those things and now Open Office is slowly mounting a comeback.

 

  • Libre Office is a spinoff of Open Office’s source code but is different in the sense that it is user friendly and less buggy. It also translates Word documents much better than it used to.

Wi-Fi

If your internet bill or data plan is sky high, then maybe it’s time to get your internet free. I know plenty of authors who use free wi-fi at libraries, cafes, and even airports in order to keep their expenses low.

But if you need to have the internet purchase a plan that is basic and cheap while occasionally going to wi-fi hot spots. This way you can surf all you want at a wi-fi hotspot while not exceeding your data limits. Consider it a 50/50 compromise.

Here are a few apps to help you find free wi-fi hotspots in your area.

Book Advertising

Holiday Shopping
Pic by ShadyL via Flickr

Many indie authors are frightened by the idea of advertising their books because they believe it will cost a fortune. However they couldn’t be more wrong. There are several reader-centric sites that offer cheap or even free advertising. Keep in mind some of these sites are only for books that are free. If you want to actually make a profit then go to my post Cheap Advertising for Indie Authors.
Free:

  • Book Daily Listing on their sales page with free sample chapter.
  • Awesome Gang Basic listing.
  • Digital Book Today: Weekly Featured Reads is temporarily free as of 12/1/15 You have to meet their requirements though 35 reviews of 4+ stars of more etc. P.S. They are looking to fill up their 2016 schedule so space is limited.  Also, their regular listing is available for free here too.

 

Cheap:

  • Bargain Booksy (The cousin of Free Booksy) offers advertising as low as $25.
  • Kboards: $35 to get a feature.
  • Free Kindle Books & Tips: This is for a regular posting and is $25 for books under $1.00 and $50 for books over $1.01.

Book Covers

I hesitated before writing this because of all of poorly made self-published book covers. However there are so many good free photo editing services and even cheap book cover designers I decided why not? Maybe this will be the year indies shake that image the rest of the industry has about our book covers. A girl can dream, right?
Free:

Cheap:

 

If you need more resources, I have a Pinterest board called: Affordable Book Cover Designers you can check out if you’re in the market for a book cover.

Education

Many indie authors are determined to perfect their craft and figure out business side of publishing while others are looking to perfect their craft. That’s great because an education hasn’t been this accessible since—  ever.
Free:

  • Open Culture: Courses include; young adult literature, Lord of the Rings #1-3 (I kid you not!), copyright law, journalism and business.
  • Coursera :Advanced writing, historical fiction, grammar and writing for young readers.
  • edX.org: Did you know that Ivy League schools are offering free courses online too?  At edX.org several ivy league schools like Harvard, Yale and Princeton are uploading courses like; how to write a novel, English comp, and electronic literature for free!

Cheap

  • Udemy:  Here courses can be anywhere from $199-$299.  Courses include; Marketing, communication and entrepreneurship.
  • Lynda.com: Has a subscription service of $19.99 $29.99 a month as well as yearly services that ranges from $239.88 to $359.88.  Courses range from; Email marketing, freelancing, and writing (look in the business category).   There is a free trial so it doesn’t hurt to try it before committing.

I know I dumped a lot of resources here but it’s the holiday season and I think you’re worth it! <3 If you know of any other publishing related services that indie authors could benefit from, speak up in the comments section. And happy holidays from my Death Star to yours.

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Pic by Randy Heinitz

Booktube for Indie Authors

Photo by: Rego Korosi via Flickr
Photo by: Rego Korosi via Flickr

Youtube isn’t the first site that comes to mind when authors go looking for reviews but maybe it should be. When I published my book in 2012, there weren’t that many people on Youtube who reviewed books and those that did, didn’t review indie books. In fact, some of them didn’t even know what an indie book was. Ouch! Fast forward to 2015 and Youtubers are a force to be reckoned with, they endorse everything from cosmetics, clothes, and yes, even books. Several Youtubers have even become millionaires and in response Forbes created a list of the wealthiest Youtubers.  Several of these channels have a subscriber base of millions which means they often reach more viewers than some popular television shows!  In fact, corporate America is taking notice and getting their products and services in front of this untapped market.  Sure ads are okay, but to get an influencer to endorse your business is gold and gives your product credibility.

Same thing goes with a book, if you can get a Booktuber (a person who reviews books on Youtube) to give the thumbs up on your book, that can be a powerful endorsement.  But before I go on, I should give a few facts…

The Rundown On Youtube

Youtube claims over 1 billion users reaching more young people (18-49 year olds) than cable television. Also, the hours spent on the site has gone up 60% in the past 2 years.  Youtube is so powerful that many book marketers have recommended authors create their own channels or the very least, create a book trailer for promotional purposes.

An author who took the plunge and created his own channel was bestselling author John Green, who along with his brother Hank, created Vlog Brothers, a channel where they discuss all things nerdy.  Since its launch in 2007, Vlog Brothers has amassed 2.6 million subscribers.  Not bad for an author, and his brother, huh?

¿BookTube en Español?

For those who doubt that Youtube could provide any opportunity for the indie book movement, doubt no more. The Booktuber phenomenon has gotten so strong that it’s gone global for instance, while I was researching for this post, I stumbled across several Booktube channels in Spanish. Amazingly, I got to watch John Green being interviewed in Spanglish. (Spanish & English) I loved it!

In case you have a book in Spanish and you’d like to get it reviewed, here are a few channels to check out:

Booktubers Who Review Indie Books

Before I go on, I need to give the disclaimer and remind you that many of these vloggers are busy, and have normal lives so they can’t review ever single book that is pitched to them. Also keep in mind, you are competing with other authors so if they say no, don’t take it personally.

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t state the obvious, but be sure to read the guidelines in a Booktuber’s “about” tab before pitching. Trust me there’s nothing worse than getting an unsolicited email from someone who never bothered to learn your name or the genre you review.

How To Find More BookTubers

If you want to find someone on Youtube who reviews books in your genre, it’s best to use the search engine. Try to use key phrases like; reviews, book recommendations, book hauls, book swag and of course, your genre. Use them in combination for maximum results:

  • YA Book Reviews
  • Book Hauls
  • Book Swag
  • Romance Novel Recommendation
  • Booktube

Helpful Tip: Many of the top Booktubers are inundated with requests so try to target a Booktuber with a smaller audience.

Well there you have it, another avenue to consider when promoting your book. As time progresses, I believe the Booktuber phenomenon will evolve giving indie authors a greater chance at exposure. Who knows, maybe you will be the one who builds the Youtube channel solely for indie books? As far as I can tell there isn’t anyone doing that right now and that’s a shame but that’s another post for another day.