Affiliate Marketing for Book Lovers: Friend or Foe?

I’m a book junkie. I admit it: I’m drawn to buy books of all types, shapes, and sizes, and have my excuses lined up for why I should buy each one.


I should buy…

  • …books at conferences, because I’m supporting the speakers, and because I can get signed copies.
  • …books for ongoing research, because the library makes me return them too quickly.
  • …books that are written beautifully, because I will return to them again and again.
  • …books that aren’t written beautifully but are nonetheless successful, because I will analyze what makes them work.
  • …zombie books, because I need to follow the latest trends in literature.
  • …new releases, because I need to keep abreast of current publications–and those are hard to check out of the library.
  • …nonfiction picture books, because I write nonfiction and need to study other authors’ techniques.
  • …bestsellers, because I need to figure out what makes them work.
  • …writing books, because they help me grow as a writer.
  • …self-help books, because they help me grow as a person.
  • …marketing books, because I should be doing more marketing.
  • …books on crochet, because they have the best crochet patterns and inspiration.
  • …other nonfiction books, because I’m interested in the topics and might write about them someday.

The arrival of the Kindle and Amazon’s "Click-to-Buy" program has been a problem for my bank account.

But the other day, I read something very, very interesting and extraordinarily tempting to a book junkie such as myself: Can you make money blogging without selling your soul?

Like most of you, I don’t blog to make money. I started blogging because writers “ought to” have a blog, build a platform, and all that jazz; I kept at it because I love connecting with other writers, love the conversations that arise, and love knowing that sometimes, I’m able to help others out there. I combined my blog with my website because it gives me a place to share writing samples with people who might want to hire me, but the blog—well, that’s all about community, and I wouldn’t want to subject my community to random ads and annoying pop-ups and such.

But Jeff Goins’ post (above) made me realize that I often recommend books I find helpful, just as many other bloggers recommend books they have enjoyed. And I often purchase books based on others’ recommendations. As a member of Amazon’s affiliate marketing program, Goins receives some small compensation whenever a reader clicks to Amazon to purchase a book he recommended.

I have to say, I find the idea attractive.* I’m going to recommend books anyway; some of you are going to purchase them anyway. The ethical question that arises, of course, is whether I—or other bloggers—might recommend something because I get a kick-back. Can readers still trust such recommendations? I would like to think the answer is yes. Sure, there’s an incentive for bloggers to try to pitch more products to earn more money, but I think readers can tell whether a blog exists solely to bring in a buck or whether is has a genuine mission.

What do you think? Would you consider joining Amazon’s affiliate program to link to the books you recommend? Why or why not?

*Ironically, after all that, I won’t be participating in Amazon’s program: it seems that certain states are ineligible. My reading recommendations will remain as opinionated and biased as ever, but not by the hope of profit from Amazon :)

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  1. says

    Those area about the best reasons for buying books I’ve ever found. May I steal a few of them? I’ve been very good lately, checking out tons of books from my library instead of purchasing them. I was a member of the Amazon affiliate program for awhile but found the hassle of it wasn’t worth it, because I never made much money from it. I do have what I hope is a small and tasteful ad from the BlogHer network on my site, which I announced with some trepidation a couple months ago, but my readers haven’t minded at all. I get to veto ads, and so far they’ve all been in alignment with my values. I think my readers know by now that I would never recommend something just for the sake of making a buck and I bet yours do, too.

  2. says

    Oops, re: first sentence of previous comment, it should read “those are.” My fingers were flying a bit too fast!

  3. Cheryl Reif says

    Hi Charlotte,–you can definitely steal my justifica…I mean, reasons, for book-buying :). Good to know that the affiliate program wasn’t worth it–my guess is that it wouldn’t be worth it to me, either, then, since I don’t recommend a million titles. I like that you get to veto ads, too–I didn’t realize that was possible. Thanks for the great info!

  4. Ellan Bethia Otero says

    I agree with Charlotte. Yours is the best list of reason I’ve seen. And I agree with you on all of them (with minor changes).

    However, you forgot some:
    …art books because they are so damn beautiful, and a painting might inspire a story.
    …ditto photography books.
    …travel books because sometimes you just can’t travel to that location.
    …history books because the past presents priceless stories.

    Concerning the Amazon Affiliate program: I don’t (yet) have a blog up and running, so I haven’t had to make that decision. Yes, I am an affiliate, but as a history blogger (to be), I am not sure that the history books I read and refer to would create much traffic on the affiliate link. Bottom line? If it’s a hassle, as Charlotte says, I won’t bother.

    • Cheryl Reif says

      Oh, you’re so right! My shelves are filled with travel and history books that I was getting tired of checking out from the library–so I finally bought my own copies. Art and photography are wonderful inspirations, too!

  5. says

    Who needs windows when books give such grand vistas to other worlds?

    Cheryl, I love that pic. In fact, I aspire to be like that one day.
    How easy is it to buy ebooks now? Oh my gosh, it’s so easy to hit that ‘buy with one click’ button and it’s all done, the book is on the ipad.

    Here’s to a wonderful 2012 full of fabulous reads.

    • Cheryl Reif says

      Hi Ebony, glad to hear I’m not the only one with an itchy e-book trigger finger! Wishing you many wonderful reads in 2012 as well!

  6. says

    Oh, I love buying books! I love borrowing books. I love being surrounded by books. I like stacking ’em, fanning ’em, touching ’em, smelling them! I can soooo relate to this. :)

    • Cheryl Reif says

      Yes, my bookshelves tend to be the one area of my house that I don’t de-clutter. I hate getting rid of books! I have this hope to fill my walls with bookshelves someday :)