Hi, there 👋

Welcome to this special edition of my weekly Reedsy newsletter! What makes it special? Well, it’s one of the only newsletters you’ll receive today that won’t pester you about Valentine’s Day ❤️😉

Instead, we’ll be talking book sales! Much better, right? More specifically, we’ll be picking up last week’s discussion on the topic of “conversion,” i.e. the act of converting a casual browser into a paying customer. If you signed up to Reedsy since last week (welcome!), you’ll find a link to that earlier newsletter here: Conversion Part I.

Breaking and entering into Amazon’s data bank

The main issue I have — as a marketer — with Amazon is the lack of data and transparency. You’re supposed to market your books and bring customers to Amazon, but Amazon won’t tell you:

  • Where your paying readers are coming from (referrer data); nor
  • Which percentage of readers clicking on your book actually end up buying it (conversion data).

In other words, it won’t tell you how you’re actually doing. This turns the subtle science of digital marketing into, well, guesswork. As I mentioned last week, conversion is one of the most important things in marketing (especially on Amazon), so not knowing your Amazon book page conversion rate is beyond frustrating.  
So it’s no wonder that a work-around was quickly found to access some of Amazon’s priceless data. This trick relies on Amazon’s Affiliate program, and it has one big pro and one big con.

  • Pro: on top of giving you access to Amazon's data, it can make you a small stream of additional money;
  • Con: in most cases, it’s technically a violation of Amazon’s terms of service.

How does it work? 

It’s simple. You simply register for Amazon Associates, Amazon’s affiliate program. It’s free and you can sign in through an existing Amazon account.

Once accepted, you’ll be able to generate special URLs for any Amazon item (like an ebook). When Amazon customers then purchase an item through that URL, Amazon tracks it, reports it to you, and pays you a small referral fee.

For example, let’s say that you’re trying to estimate the conversion of Book 1 in your series. Your first step will be to generate an affiliate link for your book. To do this, go to the “Product Linking” section of your affiliate dashboard and search for your title, or ASIN.

Then, click on the little arrow next to “Get link” and grab the shortened link.

Use that link in your Facebook ads or Bookbub self-serve ads (just select the “Custom link” option when setting up your BB ad), and get a good amount of clicks on it. After a few days, check the “Reports” section in your Amazon affiliate dashboard.

Ta-da! You’ll be able to view the conversion performance of all of your links.

“But isn’t this strictly forbidden by Amazon?”

Yes and no. You’re more than welcome (actually encouraged) by Amazon to set up an Amazon Associates account, generate affiliate links to your books, and promote your books using those links.

According to Amazon’s Terms of Use, however, you shouldn’t run advertisements with those links.

So if you take that affiliate link and post it on your Facebook page? You’re fine ✅

If you “boost” that post (i.e. turn it into an ad)? You’re technically breaching Amazon’s ToU ❌

Now, what happens if you do use affiliate codes in ads and get caught? First of all, that’s never happened to me (nor anyone I know of). In the few cases I’ve heard of that happening, the author had their Amazon Associates account closed. The only thing they lost was their affiliate income and data — there was no impact on ranks, reviews, or anything really important.

I imagine that if Amazon catches you repeatedly setting up more Associates accounts, they might take stronger measures through KDP. But I’ve never heard of that happening to anyone.

All this to say: it’s relatively safe to 1. use affiliate links in ads, and 2. use this system to monitor conversion data. Instead of running affiliate links constantly, I would test them for a few weeks to estimate conversion, and then keep running ads without the affiliate link.

Pro tip: If you want to see whether your Facebook ads and Bookbub ads convert differently, just set up two Amazon Associates accounts (two different email addresses) and use a different affiliate code on Facebook and Bookbub.

And you can do this for other retailers as well!

A few months ago, Apple rolled out their iTunes Affiliate Program. You can register for it here and get accepted pretty quickly (it took me one day).

Kobo also has an affiliate program. You can sign up here to it. 

They all work the same way: you create affiliate links to your books and use those to promote your books. So far, I haven’t seen any indication on Apple’s or Kobo’s ToUs forbidding you to drive affiliate traffic through ads. But if you're worried about that, feel free to ask them directly.

So you know your homework for this week: set up your affiliate accounts, and use those links when advertising your books to find out how well your book pages are converting. 

Next week, we’ll talk about how to analyze that data.

Until then, happy Valentine’s day!


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