If you’re an indie author, you know just how much time, hard work, and hustle it takes to sell your books. Most independently published authors don’t have an agent, nor do they have a marketing team and other resources at their disposal for task delegation. Everything falls on the author, including managing their own website.
Your website serves a critical purpose. It gives you an online presence, introduces you to potential fans, boosts your credibility, and provides a platform for you to share news with your followers.
It can also open up doors to generating some passive income, even if you aren’t using your website for direct sales. Here are three ways self-published authors can optimize their website to earn some extra money.
This article contains affiliate links. To learn more about how these links are used, read the affiliate disclosure.
1. Affiliate Links
Affiliate links are not the same as pay-per-click links. When you place a PPC ad or link on your site, you earn commission just for having a visitor click on that link (usually a few cents per click). With affiliate links, the visitor has to actually make a purchase on a third-party website after navigating to that site via your link, and then you earn a percentage of that sale.
The customer does not pay anything extra for using your affiliate link. Basically, the seller is giving you a little kickback as a thank-you for directing the customer to their website and facilitating the sale.
When I was a new author, affiliate links weren’t even on my radar as an option to supplement my income. But as my blog evolved to include content such as product and business reviews, book signing tips, advice for publishing and marketing, et cetera, I began to see an opportunity for a passive income stream just by adding some links into the blog posts I was already writing and posting anyway.
Amazon Affiliate Hack for Authors
Do you sell your books on Amazon? (If not… you should seriously consider it. Even if you don’t publish through KDP, Amazon is the premium platform to make your books available to readers.)
Did you know that you can earn a little extra money when people buy your book from Amazon using an affiliate link?
This is completely separate from Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). If you join Amazon’s affiliate program and create a link to your book’s listing, you’ll earn a small commission if someone clicks on your link and makes a purchase. And here’s the best part — they don’t even have to buy your book! If the customer used your affiliate to link to navigate to Amazon’s site, then made a purchase, you earn commission on all of the items they bought, not just the specific one you linked to.
Even if you are a KDP author selling directly through Amazon’s publishing platform, you can still take advantage of this hack and earn affiliate commission on top of your normal KDP royalties. I recommend adding an affiliate link to your Linktree, website, and other places where you’d normally share a link to the Amazon listing for your book.
(I will note that these are small commissions, but they do add up over time. And, since you earn on other products besides just your own book, the more clicks you get, the more opportunities you’ll have to grow this passive income stream.)
Share-A-Sale Affiliate Marketing Platform
Amazon isn’t the only way to earn commission on qualifying purchases after someone clicks on your link. And, to be honest, Amazon’s commission percentage is on the low end of the scale.
If your blog has enough website traffic, a targeted niche, and reasonable opportunities to promote other products besides your book, you can dive deeper into affiliate marketing by joining a larger platform such as Share-A-Sale.
When you join, you’ll be able to search a large database of affiliate programs to find companies that offer products suitable for your niche. Each company will have their own commission offers, usually 10%-25% or a fixed dollar amount per sale or lead. Then, you’ll apply individually (through Share-A-Sale’s dashboard) to each business that you’d like to partner with.
Within Share-A-Sale, you can see all of the companies who have accepted you into their program. You can also generate links to certain products and websites, utilize graphics and ads that have already been created for you, and check reports to see which links are getting clicks and how much you’ve earned. How many resources are available for you depends on each individual company operating under Share-A-Sale’s umbrella. Some of them offer a ton of graphics for their affiliate partners to use. Others just have one basic link to the website.
(There are other large affiliate platforms you can consider in lieu of or in addition to Share-A-Sale, including CJ Affiliate and Awin. Personally, I found Share-A-Sale the easiest to use, so that one is my default. I can also attest that Share-A-Sale is legitimate; I’ve never had any issues getting paid.)
When you’re incorporating affiliate links into your blog, it’s important to make sure they fit organically with your content don’t feel forced. Remember your target niche and audience demographic. Utilizing the right focus keywords and proper SEO will also make a huge difference. The more traffic you get (and it needs to be the RIGHT traffic), the higher the chances of getting clicks and commissions.
See Firsthand How My Websites Benefitted from Affiliate Marketing & SEO
I wasn’t leveraging affiliate links and keywords properly until 2020 when I joined Wealthy Affiliate and started learning about these passive income practices. Wealthy Affiliate has online training videos, courses that build upon the lessons, expert classes, and keyword research tools, plus you can even host your website through their platform. An advantage to this program over others is their community of over 1.4 million members. It’s easy to interact with other members if you need some guidance, or you can just work your way through the program on your own if you want.
Did it work? See for yourself!
Below, you can see the stats for this website, which I started in 2016 as a personal resume website with the primary goal of sharing my artwork, writing, and photography. When my first novel was published at the end of 2018, I started writing about my experiences as a new author, and that’s when I discovered that I’d tapped into a specific niche that was generating more traffic from search engines. Cue Wealthy Affiliate in 2020, and you can see the major jump once I started taking a more strategic approach to my blog. And now, in 2023, my website has seen some major growth!
Part of the Wealthy Affiliate training involves creating a website that targets a micro-niche optimized for effective affiliate marketing. I founded Green Witch Lunar Witch through Wealthy Affiliate with the intent of establishing a passive revenue stream while inspiring myself to continue exploring my own spiritual journey.
Unlike On The Cobblestone Road, GWLW was specifically designed to implement the lessons I’d learned in the training program and leverage affiliate marketing opportunities from the get-go using targeted keyword research. Look at the growth that happened once the site became established (and Google deemed it a trustworthy source of high-quality content):
It’s so rewarding to actually see the results right there on a graph! Both websites have benefitted from what I learned in the Wealthy Affiliate training program. And with more website traffic came more frequent payouts from affiliate revenue this year, so the system does work. It just takes time, commitment, and a willingness to learn.
2. Referral Links
In some cases, a company might not accept your affiliate application (or even offer an affiliate program at all). But there still might be opportunities to earn revenue using referral links instead!
As a workaround, I was able to utilize Acorns for referral rewards in lieu of an affiliate link. If you’re not already familiar with it, Acorns is a financial service that makes it easy to invest small amounts in the stock market. You can schedule recurring transactions from your bank account, link your credit card to have Acorns round each transaction up to the next dollar and invest that spare change, earn cash back from online purchases through companies that have partnered with Acorns, and receive rewards when people use your referral link (plus they get a bonus, too).
Acorns isn’t connected to every website, but it does offer plenty of opportunities to earn a little extra money that gets invested into your portfolio. For example, when I go to IngramSpark’s website, the Acorns Chrome Extension pops up to show me that I can use a referral link, which essentially acts just like an affiliate link except I’m earning a reward from an unrelated third party (Acorns) in the form of a portfolio investment instead of commission paid directly through the company itself.
Just like with affiliate programs, different companies have different referral programs that might be external (like the Acorns example dealing with a third party) or internal if the link is directly from the company. In some cases, you might not get cash back from a referral link, but you can still take advantage by earning discounts.
If, for example, you write a review on your blog for a company that you regularly use to order products, you might first want to check and see if they have a referral program. Many companies use a point system for referrals, so if people are clicking your referral link after reading your blog post, you can collect points and redeem a discount code for your next order that you were going to place anyway.
It might not be a direct income stream, but it could still translate into savings!
3. Google Ad Revenue
One of the easiest ways to monetize your website is by signing up for Google AdSense and allowing Google to place pay-per-click (PPC) ads on your site. If someone clicks on an ad, even if that doesn’t result in a purchase, you earn commission.
I was wary of putting ads on my website for a long time. I wanted this to be a place for my art, writing, and photography, not advertisements. But when I started getting into affiliate marketing, I decided to include this additional passive revenue stream… within reason.
Google AdSense does offer different levels of customization. You can let Google analyze your website and place optimized ads where it thinks they will perform best, but I didn’t want to give Google free rein to potentially spam my site or mess up the layout with ill-placed ads. Instead, I opted to keep control and insert the links myself to ensure that they serve as separators between sections.
You do also have the ability to tell Google what kinds of ads they’re allowed to use. If you don’t want certain types of products or services advertised on your site, you can exclude sensitive topics (examples: gambling, religion, get rich quick, etc.)
Again, these commissions aren’t going to come roaring in. They’ll be trickles that will slowly but surely increase over time as your traffic and engagement grow. But by creating small streams of passive income, you’re setting yourself up to make your site more profitable. At the very least, that revenue can help to offset the costs of maintaining your website.
If you’re an indie author who is already writing blog posts and sharing the Amazon link to your book listing, why not set up these extra revenue hacks to earn a little bit more on the side? Every little bit helps!
I'm an award-winning fantasy author, artist, and photographer from La Porte, Indiana. My poetry, short fiction, and memoir works have been featured in various anthologies and journals since 2005, and several of my poems are available in the Indiana Poetry Archives. The first three novels in my Chronicles of Avilésor: War of the Realms series have received awards from Literary Titan.
After some time working as a freelance writer, I was shocked by how many website articles are actually written by paid "ghost writers" but published under the byline of a different author. It was a jolt seeing my articles presented as if they were written by a high-profile CEO or an industry expert with decades of experience. I'll be honest; it felt slimy and dishonest. I had none of the credentials readers assumed the author of the article actually had. Ghost writing is a perfectly legal, astonishingly common practice, and now, AI has entered the playing field to further muddy the waters. It's hard to trust who (or what) actually wrote the content you'll read online these days.
That's not the case here at On The Cobblestone Road. I do not and never will pay a ghost writer, then slap my name on their work as if I'd written it. This website is 100% authentic. No outsourcing. No ghost writing. No AI-generated content. It's just me... as it should be.
If you would like to support my work, check out the Support The Creator page for more information. Thank you for finding my website! 🖤