The topic of payment amongst book bloggers has long been a taboo subject that most like to keep hush, hush on. I have never really been able to figure out why but it’s something that frustrates me to no end, which is why I wrote this article on why book bloggers need to get paid. You can also find out what some of the top book bloggers think about influencer marketing in this post.
Whilst sponsored post opportunities for book bloggers and bookstagrammers are few and far between, there are a number of other ways in which book bloggers can monetise their websites. One such method, is affiliate marketing. I get the impression that a lot of book bloggers either don’t know what affiliate marketing is or are confused by it and hence don’t make use of it.
In this post I hope to answer all the possible questions a book blogger might have about affiliate marketing including what it is, how you can integrate it into your blog and what you can expect to earn. This is my ultimate guide to affiliate marketing for book bloggers!
What is affiliate marketing?
First things first, what is affiliate marketing? Simply put, affiliate marketing means earning commission for sales made through your website. You can create links to buy that are unique to you and insert them into articles on your site. When someone clicks on that link and makes a purchase, you will receive a very small percentage of the sale price.
To be absolutely clear, affiliate marketing is not the same as sponsored posts or display marketing. Affiliate marketing is passive income that is generated through sales, whilst sponsored posts generate active income, in that you need to produce specific content for specific products etc. It is also different from display marketing because a simple click will not earn you any money. Your readers actually need to make a purchase from your specific link in order for you to generate any income.
Why should I consider affiliate marketing?
A lot of influencers and bloggers have had their careers made by the rise of influencer marketing, particularly Instagram influencer marketing. The majority of my income comes from sponsored posts on Instagram but this makes me feel a little easy. Isn’t this too good to be true? What happens when Instagram implodes? That day may never come and Instagram may well be around forever. However, it is wise as a blogger to diversify your income stream just in case. If your blogging business model relies solely on one income stream, you are running a very risky business.
As I’ve already discussed, there are a distinct lack of sponsored post opportunities for book bloggers anyway, which is why it is even more important for those looking to monetise their book blogs to seek other opportunities if they are hoping to turn their blogs into lucrative side hustles or even careers.
I have never accepted money for a book review and I don’t think I ever will. However, there are hundreds of book reviews on whatshotblog.com that I have written voluntarily and it seems a shame not to try and monetise my hard work. This is where affiliate marketing for book bloggers comes in. An easy way to monetise new and old posts that requires zero upkeep on your behalf once you’ve integrated your personalised links.
No harm in trying, right?
How do I use affiliate marketing on my blog?
There are a number of different ways that you can integrate affiliate links into your content. You could insert deep links into your book reviews and articles or you could use banner ads that lead to sellers’ websites. Ideally you’ll use both.
Personally, I’d suggest inserting a link to the book’s product page every time you mention the title of the book in a review. This shouldn’t disrupt the reading of the text but does ensure that if they choose to click through to find out more, that link includes your own personal ID tag.
If you’ve written a listicle then each number on your list should lead to the book in question’s product page. At the end of the description of each book, you could add another link directing people to places where they can purchase the book.
Links to Buy
You should also include a link to buy at the end of the article so people know where to head next. This can be a line of text directing them to a certain site, in which case, you might like to include some price information, or you could use image links.
Amazon has a widget that allows you to easily insert these image links into your posts, however, my personal feeling is that they’re clunky and unattractive. There are a number of other alternatives that you can download from WordPress or it’s possible that your chosen theme comes with one integrated. I use a blog theme from pipdig and they have their own SHOPR plugin which I have chosen to buy separately.
Finally, you can use banner ads on your site. These could be on your homepage, in your sidebar, at the end of posts, or even throughout your posts. I personally wouldn’t recommend the latter as I find it breaks up the article and readers find it very irritating. However, using banner links for sites that you know your readers like to shop at can be very useful.
Whilst deep links will link to a specific product page, banner ads may lead them to a shop’s sale section or their section on fantasy books, for example. This functions a little like display advertising channels like Google Adsense, except the reader needs to purchase something in order for you to earn any money.
How do I sign up for affiliate marketing?
There are a number of different affiliate networks which book bloggers can sign up to, some of which are directly with the seller, others are through third parties. For example, Amazon runs its own affiliate programme called Amazon Associates, but you can find stores like Waterstones on a third party affiliate network such as AWIN.
The application process is usually very simple but some advertisers will manually check each blog that applies to their programme. As such, you want to make sure that your blog is suitable for the programme you are applying for and that you are consistently producing high quality content. If you’re not, even if you’re accepted, it seems unlikely you’ll be able to generate much revenue through sales so a great blog is always step number one before you even think about monetising!
What programmes are there are which is best for me?
Pretty much every single affiliate programme is country or region specific since sales will be made in different currencies. Whilst some platforms will automatically redirect to the right website for the customer, others will not. Be sure to research whether the programmes you are signing up for have separate programmes for other regions and then decide which is best for your readership.
I have rounded up some of the most popular affiliate programmes for book bloggers including the pros and cons of each.
Amazon’s affiliate programme is undoubtedly one of the most popular out there and is probably the best choice for book bloggers. It is the place where most people shop for books online and the prices are usually the most attractive. However, sometimes a sale goes through but I don’t receive any commission, which can be frustrating.
Commission rate: 5% on books. Up to 10% for some other products.
Minimum payment threshold: £25.
There are two ways to sign up for the Audible affiliate programme. The first is through Amazon directly, which I would recommend. However, you can also join via AWIN (discussed in detail below), which may be better for you if you plan on using a lot of other advertisers on AWIN.
Commission rate: £5 for every free trial sign up.
Minimum payment threshold: £25.
Waterstones operate using a third party affiliate website called AWIN. The good thing about using AWIN is that you can sign up to several different programmes for several different products but have your earnings all come into one pot.
My favourite thing about AWIN is that you can insert some code into your blog which will automatically convert any links on your site into an affiliate link if you are part of their programme. This means that once you sign up to the Waterstones affiliate programme, you don’t need to convert the links every time you use them on your site. They will be automatically converted for you.
If you are not part of the programme yet, but the advertiser is part of AWIN, then clicking through that link will automatically send a request to the advertiser on your behalf. Once you are accepting, you can start earning commission through that link.
Commission rate: 4% on all book sales.
Minimum payment threshold: £25 on AWIN.
Whilst WHSmith may not be your first choice for book buying on the internet, there are lots of other products available from their site that may be of interest to your readers. Experiences, magazine subscriptions, CDs, DVDs and more. If these are things that you write about too then perhaps the WHSmith programme is appropriate for you.
Commission rate: 5% on books. Up to 10% on other products.
Minimum payment threshold: £25 on AWIN.
I am a huge fan of Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross road so if you’d like to support this independent bookshop online too then you may consider using their affiliate links. They boast a competitive commission rate compared to most other book sellers but this is balanced against the fact that their books are often pricier and therefore less attractive to customers.
Commission rate: 7% on all sales.
Minimum payment threshold: £25 on AWIN.
You can sign up to Book Depository’s affiliate scheme directly with them or via AWIN. In this case, I would recommend going with the latter since then you can use affiliate links from several different advertisers in order to meet the minimum threshold. Book Depository is a good option is you know you have lots of international readers. Their biggest selling point is free international delivery making them the second most popular place to buy books on the internet after Amazon.
Commission rate: 5% on all sales via AWIN or TBD.
Minimum payment threshold: £25 on AWIN or on TBD.
Please see the Amazon UK tab for more information on the Amazon Associates programme. The two function in a similar way but of course this one is directed at Amazon US sales.
Commission rate: 4.5% on physical books. Up to 10% on other products.
Minimum payment threshold: $10
Barnes and Noble
Barnes and Noble use a third party affiliate website, similar to AWIN, called CJ affiliate. This is available in the UK too. The commission rate on Barnes & Noble seems particularly low therefore it wouldn’t be my favourite for generating commission from US sales.
Commission rate: 2%
Minimum payment threshold: $50
How much can I expect to make from affiliate marketing?
How much you earn will largely depend on how much traffic you get to your book blog and how many of your readers you are able to convert into customers. This is why it is of the utmost importance that you first focus on creating a high quality blog before you bother faffing with affiliate links. As you can see from the programmes mentioned above, the average rate of commission per sale is 5%. Given that books usually cost around £5-£10, this means you’re looking at a return of 25-50p per book sold. Literally pennies!
The biggest problem for book bloggers will be reaching the minimum payment threshold for these affiliate programmes. In most cases this threshold is £25, which means you’d have to convince 100 people to each buy a book. No mean feat that’s for sure! This is why I’d encourage you to stick to one affiliate programme and really concentrate your efforts there as this means you will be more likely to reach the minimum payment threshold. If you join every single one of the above programmes, you may find your earnings scattered in many different places, never reaching the threshold in any of them.
Those figures may seem a little discouraging but, as previously mentioned, this is passive income so if you can earn a little something from doing nothing then it’s worth a little effort. If you have decent levels of traffic and engaged readers then you may well be able to generate a fair bit of affiliate income each month.
Disclosure of affiliate links
It is very important you disclose the use of affiliate links to your readers. This is a requirement under rule 2.1 of the CAP Code (can you tell I’m going to be a lawyer?). Affiliate links must be obviously identifiable, which will likely be the case with banner ads, but is less likely with deep links. If you are going to integrate deep links into your reviews then you could add a disclosure statement at the beginning and end of your posts or asterix the links in question.
I highly recommend reading up on the disclosure of affiliate links on the ASA website before integrating them into your website as the above paragraph does not constitute legal advice. Read all about it here.
Can I use affiliate marketing for other products?
Of course! There are affiliate programmes for just about every product. If you’re a book blogger then I assume you will be mainly looking for book sellers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository etc. However, you may well be eligible for some other programmes too. If you promote book merchandise on your website (funko pops, memorabilia etc.) then you should consider joining the programmes for those sellers too. These might include Etsy, Redbubble, Society6, EMP and more.
What if they don’t buy the product immediately?
The positive (but sometimes negative) thing is that each seller will usually have a specified cookie window in which a sale that is made can be attributed to you. What this means is that if someone clicks through your link, but chooses not buy at that time, and then returns to the same site and makes a purchase later, you should still receive commission. For some websites this cookie window could be 30 days, but for some, like Amazon (grr), it is as little as 24 hours.
The other good thing is that they don’t necessarily have to buy the product you recommended. For example, if you click through from my review of Into the Water by Paula Hawkins to the Amazon page for Into the Water* but then decide that you’d rather start with The Girl on the Train* so you purchase that instead, I’ll still receive commission. Clicking through to a seller from your site usually means that any sale from that site will be attributed to you (if within the cookie window) yay!
What if they click through another affiliate link in the meantime?
Unfortunately if your reader clicks on your affiliate link, but then clicks on someone else’s affiliate link to the same website before making a purchase, the commission will be attributed to the second blogger and therefore you won’t get any commission. It sucks.
How long does it take to get paid?
To be frank, usually eons. Some advertisers are better than others but on sites like AWIN I have heard some bloggers complain that advertisers take weeks, or longer, to actually process the payment. On sites like Amazon, you should be paid via bank deposit as soon as you reach the payment threshold. There’s no saying how long it will take to get paid but most websites will indicate their time frames on their websites.
It’s worth pointing out that affiliate marketing is not a way to get rich quick. Especially for book bloggers, since books are typically very cheap. Whilst sponsored posts may be paid within one month, you could be waiting several for your affiliate commission to reach the minimum threshold amount if your site is quite small.
SO. At almost 3000 words, I think that’s about everything I have to say on affiliate marketing for book bloggers. If you have any other questions or feel that there’s more to be added, please drop me a comment or send me an email. If you have stories to share about your experience with affiliate marketing in the world of book blogging then please do leave a comment below for others to see too!