Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Smashwords Launches Ebook Affiliate Program

Smashwords formally launched an affiliate program today that offers independent web marketers generous 11 percent commissions simply for linking to Smashwords books, publisher pages and author pages.

With big box and independent bookstores in decline, authors and publishers need to replace physical shelf space with digital shelf space. The Smashwords Affiliate Marketing Program makes it possible for ebook stores to appear virtually anywhere on the web - on blogs, author web sites and special-interest communities.

Affiliate programs are nothing new to bookselling. Amazon has had enormous success with its own Amazon Associates program, which, according to some old reports I've seen on the web, has close to one million participating affiliates and drives close to 40 percent of Amazon's sales (if any readers know sources of exact numbers, post them here so I can reference). Despite the success of their affiliate program, Amazon earlier this year removed Kindle ebooks from the program, which means Amazon Affiliates no longer earn commissions on ebook sales.

Read our press release for more information. Jason Kincaid of TechCrunch also has a brief story out today.


Jose said...

Please. Let me know more about this affiliated program about e-books. Thanks
J Belo

F1 Market Solutions said...

The affiliate system has been what's missing, and it looks like you've got a great model here. I look forward to participating, and thank you. Best luck!

bowerbird said...

does the 11% come out of your 15%?
or does it come from the author's 85%?

because if you're making this
big announcement that takes
a cut out of the author's share,
that's not really all that fair, is it?

it's not your money to be giving away.

because now the author that "opts out"
will look like a real scrooge, won't they?

i understand that, with your 15% cut,
you don't have much room to maneuver.

but that's a route you choose yourself...


Henry said...

Think this should be set up so it's not just direct link sales, but for the general e-store - the way Amazon works, so if someone buys a different item, you still get a commission.

Also, check the links in your press release.

Otherwise, a great development and congrats on putting it together!

Mark Coker said...

@jose For the complete documentation on the system, log into your Smashwords account, click on the "Account" link, then click on the Affiliate System Management link, and then on that page you find links to the Terms of Service and the Affiliate Documentation.

@F1 Thanks!

@Bowerbird - it comes out of the author's percentage. As we mention in the documentation at https://www.smashwords.com/about/smashwords_affiliate_documentation this service offering was designed in careful consultation with Smashwords authors and publishers. We surveyed all our publishers a couple months back and asked them to provide input on the proposed program. We asked: 1. Are you pleased SW is launching an affiliate program? 2. Do you think the proposed revenue split of 70.5/11/18.5 is fair? 3.Would you like the personal freedom to give more of your royalty to affiliates as added promotional incentive to them? 4. Should enrollment be automatic and mandatory?

This is how they voted...

1. 100% answered they were pleased to learn Smashwords was building an affiliate program.

2. 99% answered they felt the proposed 70.5%/11%/18.5% author/affiliate/Smashwords split of net revenues was fair. A couple of our authors even suggested Smashwords should take a larger cut. Thanks!

3. 90% answered they would like the personal freedom to offer affiliates an even greater incentive to promote their books by offering more of their margin to affiliates. This is why we offer "juicing."

4. 76% answered they thought program enrollment should be automatic and mandatory. Several of authors wrote they felt it was important that all authors participate to ensure maximum simplicity and appeal for the affiliates. A minority of authors felt there should be an opt-out, so authors who don't want to participate are not forced to participate.

Based on the feedback, we implemented 1-3 as stated, and for #4 we made enrollment automatic but NOT mandatory. Publishers can opt-out if they choose.

As to whether or not we think the cuts are fair, of course we do (!!), otherwise we wouldn't have done them as such. I agree, it's not our money to give away, which is why authors and publishers are in complete control over how they participate in the program, and if they participate at all.

If an author opts out, that's their choice and I won't criticize them for it. The whole idea behind Smashwords is that the creator of the content should have control over it.

@Henry The system is set up so affiliates can link to any page on the site and they'll get commissions on any purchases on any page. I can foresee many affiliates linking to the home page, or to our free books (which are popular, and will drive traffic which may convert to eligible commissions).

Thanks for the catch! The broken link to the documentation is corrected.


Thanks all for your comments.

Henry said...

Cool! Apologies for not reading the terms more closely. I've added a 125 button in the upper right of Self-Publishing Review.

bowerbird said...

well, your survey indicates that authors
seem to have been adequately informed,
and consulted about the affiliate program.

perhaps, in view of the fact that it is their
money which is supporting the program,
your headline should have instead said:
"smashwords authors launch e-book
affiliate program", but you might consider
that to be a relatively small quibble...

i'll be curious to see if there will be any
other "upgrades" to the service that you
decide to fund out of the author's cut...

and the point at which authors rebel...

(for the record, i have always felt that
a 50-50 split, producer/seller, is fair,
so i am most assuredly not criticizing
the arrangement as it exists here...)


Mark Coker said...

Hi Bowerbird,

If we ever do make other promotional offers, we'll always do our best to offer an opt out so that the decision lies entirely with the author/publisher. And we'll also try to do everything with sensitivity so that authors who choose not to participate are not put at significant disadvantage.

The only other situation I foresee down the line is when Smashwords books are listed in other online ebook stores, and because of the retailer cut, the proceeds to the author would be a lot lower than the current 70.5-85% range for sales at Smashwords.com. But even when we do that, we plan to give authors the ability to opt out of a given retailer if they're not satisfied with the margin.

redreilly said...

Good idea, this smashword. I have a self published novel on a CD that I would like to publish on your ebook. Please send me info how I might do this.

Lindsay B said...

I did a write up on the Smashwords Affiliate Program with an eye toward teaching bloggers how to make a few extra bucks promoting the ebooks.

@bowerbird Really? That's a book you wouldn't haven't sold at all, so why be bitter about giving the affiliate a cut? The smart authors are the ones giving the affiliates a high enough cut to make promoting their ebooks enticing. ;)

Ariath said...

I have been a Smashwords affiliate since April 2011. I have devoted an entire page to its ebooks. There is a list of over 50 hand picked titles on my website with links to each one as examples, plus links to all the categories and genres. From this webpage alone, I've racked up nearly 700 hits; I've included a link on my FaceBook wall; my sent emails all go out with a signature link at the bottom; links accompany all my DeviantArt pieces. With all that exposure, only one(1) book has sold since April. I'm starting to think that it might not be worth all the work I do to keep the information up-to-date, and it does require work. I realize it's probably not easy to push unknown authors, but 1 sale in 5 months...geez! Maybe Smashwords just doesn't sell very well.