This week’s major publishing story is that Amazon is taking over the world. (Uh, spoiler alert?) Its newest acquisition, Goodreads, has doubled its membership in just one year, from 10 million to 20 million users.
Also, a royal baby has been born and is being named Amazon George Alexander. You probably heard about that.
As an author and former publisher, I have a love-hate relationship with the behemoth known as Amazon. The way that breaks down is that I have about a dozen reasons to adore Amazon and two reasons to really hate it: it squeezes out my indy bookseller friends and makes it tough for small publishers to make a decent profit.
As a book (over)consumer and author, though, Amazon has been oh-so-good to me. And now it has provided me with a surprising little bit of free money.
Last fall I finally had an author website created. It looks great, thanks to the talented folks at Paraclete Media. When I gave them the links for my “books” page, I used an Amazon Associates code that I had created for Flunking Sainthood when it was first published the previous fall. I never really did much with this code except put it on the back of my promotional bookmarks, so I didn’t make the connection when, sometime after the website went live in 2012, I received an unexpected Amazon gift card via email.
I actually assumed this was a phishing scam and did nothing about it for several months, until a couple more such gift cards in bizarre amounts had arrived with surprising regularity. Who sends you an unsigned Amazon gift card but a phisher?
But it was legit, and this is how Amazon compensates me now. Given my book addiction, that’s kind of like drug dealers who pay their runners in more drugs, but I’m not complaining.
When I signed on to the program, I didn’t actually know much about it. (Can you tell?) I had not realized that I don’t just get a cut of the books of mine that I sell if someone clicks on Flunking Sainthood from my website and then orders that particular book. No, I get a little piece of everything that customer buys if they complete their purchase within 24 hours of clicking through from my site. Maybe they skip Flunking Sainthood but buy a Bible commentary, a blender, and a gift for the new royal Amazon baby. I get a wee commission on all of those items.
For me, this has not meant a ton of money. It’s more a go-out-to-dinner amount than it is a quit-your-day-job amount. But that’s money I didn’t count on, and it seems to grow a little each month as my website traffic increases. So I am pleased.
I’m also intrigued by the information the program gives me about who is reading my website and what else they like to read. Sometimes the books they’ve gone on to purchase are things I directly recommended in my blog posts (which are also run on my personal website; I don’t get an Amazon commission for this RNS blog). My readers have bought books by Brennan Manning, Henri Nouwen, Joanna Brooks, Terryl Givens and others, which delights me because I am introducing readers to authors I love and getting a kickback of about six percent.
And sometimes they just buy totally random things. Apparently, people who read my stuff like playing with Legos. I am inordinately pleased to know this.
So the next time you feel an Amazon shopping spree coming on, you might first go to my Books page and click on Flunking Sainthood. Your support helps me to keep doing what I do. Or better yet, find out if your favorite charity is part of the Amazon Associates program, so you help them continue doing what they do.