Linking to Booksellers & Affiliate Programs 101

By Sarah Pinneo

In a perfect world, a reader finds your author website, memorizes your name and book title, grabs her keys and heads immediately to her local, independent bookstore to buy a copy.

That's how I wish it went down.

But in the modern era, your author website should have buy links on it--plural. Although it's tempting to just put a single link on your page, that's not your best option. On the off chance that a bookseller looks at your webpage before placing her order, do you really want to confront her with the all too familiar logo of an online-only vendor? Probably not.

So which links should you include?

Go ahead and get creative. Vermont author Deborah Lee Luskin arranged with the Newfane Country Store to ship signed copies. By taking this step, Luskin brought business to her community, offering something special--a signed copy--in the bargain.

Make it a Multiple Choice Test!
My new book isn't out yet, so I have pre-order links up on my website. I've included links to six vendors, including IndieBound. IndieBound is a collective for independent booksellers, meaning that buyers are asked for a zipcode and then directed to a nearby store's "buy" page for your book. Two of the vendors I've included are bookstores that have offered to hold events for Julia's Child. It's the right thing to do.

Affiliate Programs

The bigger online book vendors offer affiliate programs, which pay a small commission to the generator of a book sale. If you have affiliate links on your website, and someone clicks through to the vendor and makes a purchase, you get paid. A little.

Here's how it works: you "join" the seller's affiliate program by entering some basic information into a form. It will ask for a web URL and a business category. I never quite know what to put there, but "author" seems to work fine. When your "application" is accepted (and it will be) you can begin generating affiliate links. On the vendor's website, you will need to generate an affiliate link for each book you're linking to. That special link will contain an ID tag which identifies you as the referrer. When a sale is made, your account is credited a small commission, often 4% to 6%, depending on the program.

If you have any patience at all for fiddling around with web links, you should do this. You will not make much money, if any. A book sale would net you between $0.32 and $1.00. (You get paid when the commissions reach some threshold, such as $10) But there's also data. The affiliate vendors keep track of the number of times someone clicks through your site, and what they ultimately buy. If you have a lot of click-throughs which result in the sale of your competitor's book, you'll see it.

Last but not least, you'll have a window into the world of web vending. You'll learn to spot others' affiliate links, and better understand book marketing that you find on websites out there in the big world.


  1. Thanks! I never understood about affiliates. This was helpful.

  2. Maybe it's because I'm going through all this a couple of months behind you, but your posts are always so timely! Thanks, this was really helpful.

  3. It's a good thing we're friends. Because I'm gonna need to go over that affiliate stuff again, verrrry slowly. . .

  4. Thank you Donna, Petrea & Claire! And hang in there, Rosemary. We'll get there.

  5. You don't mention Smashwords. They also have an affliate program and the percentage is set by the author when they upload their book. And is changeable at any time.

  6. Hi I just found this post. Once I have been accepted by these affiliates is there a wordpress plugin you would recommend that shows up all of these options in one place? Many thanks.

  7. In a perfect world, a reader finds your author website, memorizes your name and book title, grabs her keys and heads immediately to her local, independent bookstore to buy a copy. best paying ​affiliate programs