There are a bunch of ways to get rich on the internet, but sadly book blogging isn’t typically one of them. Once upon a time, if your blog brought in serious traffic (as in, hundreds of thousands of unique visitors per month), you could generate a decent income from advertising. However, those days are long gone. Now if you want to make good money from your blog, your best bet is to use it as a platform for selling goods and services.
Most book bloggers don’t want to do that. We view our blogs as a hobby rather than a business. BUT, given the eleventy-billion hours we spend maintaining our blogs, some of us aren’t opposed to making a little cash on the side.
One of the most popular ways to do so is through affiliate marketing. When I first started Lectito, I read posts from a bunch of bloggers claiming that affiliate marketing was a quick ‘n’ easy way to see your blog raking in hundreds of dollars each month. But none of these blogs were book blogs (our niche typically doesn’t attract the high traffic of, say, fashion or photography blogs), and, honestly, their stories seemed too good to be true.
I’ve included affiliate links on Lectito since day dot, and today I thought I’d share what’s worked and what hasn’t and whether or not it’s worth the effort.
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is similar to traditional online advertising, in that you include links and/banners for products on your site. When one of your readers follows an affiliate link and makes a purchase, you receive a small commission from the advertiser (usually a percentage of the sale).
However, unlike Google AdSense or WordAds, you get to choose which brands you partner with and what specific products you link to. For example, many book bloggers (myself included) incorporate affiliate links for a title when they review a book. If someone chooses to purchase that title after reading the review, the blogger gets a small percentage of that sale. It also means bloggers have complete control over the products they endorse, which takes some of the smarminess out of advertising. For example, here on Lectito, I only include affiliate links for products I use and love.
When using affiliate links, the blogger also has control over where these links appear and how they look. Brands that offer affiliate partnerships typically provide a range of banners and titles for affiliates to use and contact affiliates when they have new creative to promote special offers, events and sales. However, you can also include simple text links on your site and EDMs and direct links in your social media posts.
On Lectito, I currently partner with Grammarly, Booktopia, Book Depository, Amazon and JORD Wood Watches. I include Booktopia, Book Depository, Amazon and Grammarly text links at the bottom of my reviews:
Thanks to Grammarly for picking up X critical issues and X advanced issues in my draft of this review. If, like me, you have trouble with typos, do give Grammarly a go!
Each brand has their own way of running their affiliate program. Their commission rates, payment methods, application process, etc. vary, and you’ll need to apply to partner with each brand individually.
Depending on where you live, you may also be legally required to declare that you incorporate affiliate links on your site. I figure this is the polite thing to do anyway, and I have a page outlining my use of affiliate links, which I link to on my About page and in the footer of each post.
Affiliate links don’t expire, and in theory, the affiliate links you include in your posts should, over time, generate a passive income stream.
Can book bloggers make serious money from affiliate links?
In theory? Sure. But actually, probably not. Think about it: how often after reading a fellow blogger’s book review do you immediately purchase that title? Not all that often, right? Even if you love their review, you’re probably going to read several reviews before making a purchase, or else you’ll keep the title in mind for the next time you’re at the library or bookshop.
In reality, the percentage of people who are likely to click an affiliate link after reading a book review is pretty low. I put it around 1–3%. But let’s be generous and say 5%. Of that 5%, not all of them will make a purchase. In fact, in my experience, most don’t. For me, it hovers around 30–40%. Then take into account that, on average, you’re likely to fetch a commission of 4–6% of your reader’s total purchase, i.e. less than a dollar per book. It doesn’t take a maths genius to deduce that to make good money from affiliate marketing, you need a lot of engaged readers. Like, a lot a lot.
What’s your best strategy for success?
Given most book blogs aren’t attracting hundreds of thousands of readers each month, your best bet for making a go of affiliate marketing is to be assertive. Those affiliate links to online bookstores you include with your reviews? Half your readers will skim right over them. And most of us have long since stopped noticing sidebar ads.
I have far better luck when I incorporate affiliate links into the body of a post. For example, if I’m writing about editing tips, I’ll mention that I use Grammarly and include a link like this one so that readers can try it out for themselves. However, you don’t want to be too spammy about this, which is why I think it helps to focus on products that you know and use and think will be of value to your readers.
I also get much higher click-throughs from links included in my e-news, as opposed to those here on Lectito. Which makes sense. Readers who have joined Lectito‘s mailing list like Lectito enough to give me their email so that I can contact them directly, which implies a higher level of engagement and trust than I’m likely to get from a reader who’s stumbled upon Lectito through Google.
Should you bother with affiliate links on your site?
If affiliate marketing on your book blog is your strategy to get rich quick, you, my friend, are in for a rude awakening. In my early days of blogging, I once received a cheque from Amazon for something like 42 cents. Not even kidding. (I still have it somewhere, and when I’m back in Perth next week, I’ll find it and post a pic.) Since then, both Lectito and my readership have grown, and I’ve built up a reasonable archive of posts that contain affiliate links. A year and a bit after starting Lectito, I’m making about $20 a month from affiliate marketing, and that’s mostly because a few of the links have higher commissions attached. I know:
And how much you make can fluctuate wildly. I still have months where I might only make a few dollars, if that. You also need to factor in that many brands only pay affiliates once you’ve earned a certain amount, say $25. On the plus side, it takes next to no effort to include affiliate links, and if you’re really strategic about it and have reasonable traffic, you could potentially make a decent amount, certainly more than me.
So, is affiliate marketing worth it? It’s up to you. Think about your current traffic, the rate at which your traffic is growing and also how much you’d want to be earning for it to be worth your while.
Some bloggers are uncomfortable with the idea of including advertising on their site, especially if that advertising doesn’t bring a significant return, and affiliate marketing isn’t for them. However, even if you’re comfortable with including advertising on your site, for the vast majority of book bloggers, affiliate marketing is never going to be a large, reliable source of revenue. As in, the chances of being able to quit your day job and live off your earnings are slim to none. However, if you have the attitude that you might receive the occasional small bonus in your bank account, then go for it! Your earnings might even get you a lil’ somethin’ special next time you visit the bookshop.
Do you use affiliate marketing on your book blog? Do you find it worthwhile? Do you have any advice for fellow book bloggers who are thinking of including affiliate links on their sites?
P.S. If you’re an author, Jin Wang of Jin and Co. has a great post on Using Affiliate Marketing and Booktopia to Sell Your Books.
Thanks to Grammarly for picking up two critical issues and twenty-six advanced issues in my draft of this review. If, like me, you have trouble with typos, do give Grammarly a go!
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