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Business Writing Copywriting 2017-08-02 00:00

Affiliate Income for Dummies (And Clever People)

Are you a writer? Do you want to supplement your income?

The first question you should ask yourself is: Am I currently recommending something to colleagues/fans/friends and not getting paid for it?

I’m talking about everything. Did you recently send a link to your cousin about a book you wanted them to check out? Did you get paid for it? No? Why not? This is where affiliate marketing can really open your eyes. Anyone can do it. It can be your entire business or just your McDonald's money.

Whatever your goals, the best thing about affiliate marketing is that it’s easy and accessible. We can all earn extra money from it.

  1. How do I begin as an affiliate?
  2. How do I choose my affiliate products?
  3. How much time do I need to spend on my affiliate marketing?
  4. Who will buy my affiliate products?
  5. How do I promote ProWritingAid on my site?
  6. Take Aways

How do I begin as an affiliate?

One of the first things I suggest you do is activate an Amazon Associates account. Once you have an account, you can make money every time you send someone to Amazon. Grandma asks you what to send the Grandkids for Xmas? Direct her to Amazon via your affiliate link and you'll make between 3-10% of anything she purchases within 24 hours. If she does her entire Xmas shop that day, then you could make hundreds of dollars. Best part is, it makes no difference to Grandma. She won’t know it’s an affiliate link, and it won’t affect her shopping experience in any way (including what she pays at checkout).

Once you have an Amazon Associates account (what I consider to be the entry point for affiliate marketing), you can start using it as part of your current marketing strategy. Have a mailing list? Send an email recommending 10 great products your subscribers would love. Provide an affiliate link for each product in the list. Have a website? Create an “evergreen” blog post about the best software/equipment in your industry. Provide an affiliate link for each product mentioned.

How do I choose my affiliate products?

The time to move beyond Amazon is, obviously, when you recommend products not available to purchase from the God of Shopping (Jeff Bezos). The key to thinking beyond Amazon is to consider the services and items you would happily recommend to a friend starting out in your industry, or a veteran colleague looking to improve their business. What would you tell them to buy? What would help them most?

Those are your affiliate products.

As an Indy author, I am deeply embedded in a culture of “helping thy neighbour”. Indy publishing pulled itself up by its bootstraps and challenged the existing establishment. It did this by galvanising a cohesive alliance between scorned authors and desperate newcomers. I was a part of that, and succeeded because of it, and so my desire to help other authors is strong. For this reason, I run a blog offering advice to Indy writers. One of the first things I ever recommended publicly was ProWritingAid. I was advocating for the program for no other reason than my pure love of it. How stupid was I?

When I started following Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income blog, it was a real eye opener. I realised I was doing ProWritingAid a favour. I was working for them for free! Luckily for me, they are an outfit happy to pay out the cheddar where the cheddar is due. They have one of the best affiliate programs out there. Not just in terms of healthy commission rates, but by way of support and relationships. They are happy to converse with their affiliates and are eager to help support them.

One example: I saw my conversions shoot up last year when PWA provided a link to a free ebook full of editing tips. If someone downloaded this ebook from my link, they went into ProWritingAid’s very own marketing funnel, where they followed up with an eventual sales pitch. Even though they did most of the work closing the sale, they still paid me commission for every one of my successful referrals. I didn’t even need to convince people to buy ProWritingAid! I just had to convince them to download a free ebook full of useful advice. How easy is that?

How much time do I need to spend on my affiliate marketing?

I don't want you to think that making a living from affiliate marketing comes without some work. In fact, I don’t make a living from affiliate marketing. What I do manage to do, though, is supplement my main income with between $300-$500 per month from affiliate commissions. What makes that figure impressive is that it’s all passive income. All of my affiliate marketing mechanisms are automatic. I put in a little work initially to set them up, but once they are live, I just let them do their thing. The only thing you need to do to make money from affiliate marketing is build a mailing list or generate web traffic (or both). What’s great about this is that you will probably already be doing this as part of your ordinary business operations. Even my local plumber collects email addresses these days.

Who will buy my affiliate products?

Let’s look at my specific business model as an example. I am a writer with two core audiences. I have readers (who come for the books). And I have writers (who come for the advice). I have two mailing lists and two websites dedicated to each audience. My “author” website is To get readers onto my mailing list, I offer 5 free ebooks to anyone who signs up (so far 20k people have). This strategy is often called a Bribe to Subscribe, and it is a proven way to build a fanbase/client list. For me, it tempts readers to give my stuff a go and possibly become fans, and rewards readers who have already enjoyed one of my books to forge a closer bond. Once on my list, I don’t think of my subscribers as “Iain Rob Wright fans", though, I think of them as “Readers”. Because of that, I know certain things will appeal to them, and I also know, as they have enjoyed my free books, I have their trust and gratitude. They will trust my recommendations.

So, I recommend to them.

The key to passive income is having a good marketing funnel, which consists of an entry point (my 5 free books offer) followed by an email sequence. When someone joins my list, they get their 5 free books as promised, but I then go on to email them another 20-odd times. I don’t spam or pester them. My emails go out to each subscriber automatically every 2 weeks or so, and are always filled with something of benefit. Some emails give away even more free content ("always be giving" is a good rule of thumb for a marketer), while others are simple recommendations of other books that I know my readers will likely enjoy (as an avid reader myself, I am qualified to make that assumption). When I list the books I enjoyed recently, I monetise the links to Amazon. In some emails, I advertise the Audible versions of my books, as well as a sign up link offer for a free Audible account (netting me $5 every time someone registers). All these emails are set up automatically in Mailchimp and go to every subscriber at the designated time without me having to do a thing. All I need to do is focus my efforts on one goal - getting people to see that entry point (5 free books offer). I don’t need to spread myself thin by trying to advertise a dozen things at once, I just focus on that one goal. All the offers I want put in front of readers will get done automatically once a subscriber passed through the designated point in the marketing funnel. I can add a hundred emails to go out over 5 years if I want to. It’s totally up to me. Importantly, if I have something I want to sell to readers, I don’t advertise it on Facebook or try to convince people directly; I just add it into my automatic email sequence and carry on directing people to the entry point. This way I know that none of my marketing efforts get ignored. Multiple emails go out to every single subscriber without fail.

How do I promote ProWritingAid on my site?

My answer is: The exact same way. I have a marketing funnel set up for my website A-Z of Self-Publishing where people who subscribe to the mailing list get a 3-video training course about improving their book sales (Bribe to Subscribe). Once a subscriber gets their 3 videos, other emails in the automatic sequence will start going out to them. One email is dedicated to ProWritingAid.

There is one key difference between how I market to my "readers" list and my "authors" list. Presentation. My readers obviously like to read, so I show them a book cover and provide a link to an Amazon product page. That is enough to close a sale on a $3.99 ebook. To sell ProWritingAid however (and other software programs such as Scrivener), I do something else. Video.

To effectively sell ProWritingAid, I direct people from my email to a video I uploaded to YouTube. It was recently re-uploaded, but prior to that it had about 3k views. The video is not a sales pitch, it is a tutorial. I let the product sell itself by allowing people to see me using it. To massively increase conversions, I also include a discount code. At no point do I tell anyone to buy the product. I simply show how awesome it is and then make purchase a no-brainer by providing a discount code. I get sales pretty much weekly at this point, and I will be knuckling down soon to focus even harder on getting my subscribers to buy the software. The key here is that I wholly endorse the program (and use it myself). If you don’t know or like the product, you will have a much harder time selling it. You may also piss off your mailing list if the product is no good.

Thus far, I have had no complaints about recommending ProWritingAid.

Take Aways

What you should do before becoming an affiliate marketer is list down all the programs and products you use and love. Then start googling for “affiliate programs” concerning them. This is what I did after browsing Pat Flynn’s blog. I spent a day googling “Scrivener affiliate” and “Bluehost affiliate”. Do it for every program you use. You’ll be surprised how many are willing to work with you.

And when I say that the ProWritingAid Affiliate scheme is one of the best available, I’m not lying. It's a great program too, which I'm using to edit this blog post right now.

Speaking of great affiliate programs, I am launching one soon for my A-Z of Self-Publishing online course. Commissions will be 40% of sale price and coupons will be available too. If you are interested in getting involved, get in touch via the website or go straight here.

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