These days it seems as though everyone’s hustling products, from celebrities, athletes, and even politicians. They can be found promoting anything from beauty products to prescription meds, often serving as an affiliate of a company. 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. Also, affiliates are usually given a percentage of any sale made through them. So can authors make money doing affiliate marketing? The answer is yes. Now I have to be honest, most 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 how hard you’re willing to hustle.
Popular Things Authors Sell and Promote
- Books; digital, audio and print versions.
- Writing or editing software.
- Learning eCourses.
- Subscription services like; Audible or Amazon Prime.
- Book related swag like; T-shirts, posters and tote bags.
- Book cover design services.
- Editing services.
- 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 a company that makes adult products 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 important 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.
The most common form of affiliate marketing entails an ad place somewhere within a blog post or on the side portion of your website. However, that’s not the only way affiliate marketing can work, some companies may want a content creator to write an article or review about their product. This can mean anything from a Youtube video or an entire 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 Posts
- Newsletters (Check the rules, Amazon doesn’t allow affiliate links in emails while other sites do.)
Be warned that some companies might give you a script that you’ll be required to read from or post on your blog or social media account. 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
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. Remember, 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 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;
- What are you struggling with? (Find a product that can help them with their problems.)
- What are your favorite books or products? (Try pitching that publisher/ company for an affiliate opportunity.)
- What products do you hate? (Avoid them like the plague.)
- 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.
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, 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, you’ll not only need a large following but an engaged one before you can make a conversion. 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 annoying. 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
Years ago, reality T.V. 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 easily 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., 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: Be Wary Of Social Media Rules
As if that wasn’t enough, they are also the rules concerning social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest 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 suspend accounts that post nudity or sexually suggestive images. So if you’re selling adult products, 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. Sounds cool, right? However be warned, many sites take a percentage of all sales made through them. This is why pitching direct is the best 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:
- Sponsored Tweets (Twitter only)
- IZEA (small blogs)
More Targeted Programs For Authors
Of course there are publishers, retailers, and educational sites that have their own affiliate programs and it’s worth checking them out too:
Design Centric Sites:
Wrapping It Up
Affiliate marketing can be an opportunity for passive income but as you can see, you need a strong platform before committing. Another thing worth mentioning is the fact that you can also approach affiliate marketing as an advertiser if you have products you’d like to sell but that’s another blog post, for another day.
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