Amazon, affiliate program, goodbye!

To my surprise and chagrin, I see that Amazon cancelled my participation in the Amazon Affiliate program (which I started a month ago). The email announcing the cancellation did not mention the reason, but after reading the terms, I see something:

z) You will not display on your Site, or otherwise use, any Program Content to advertise or promote any products that are offered on any site that is not an Amazon Site (e.g., products offered by other retailers). You will not display on your Site or otherwise use any data, images, text, or other information or content you may obtain from us that relates to Excluded Products.

It might be obvious that I have affiliate ads for Smashwords ebooks. I totally get that a company can insist on exclusivity (and in fact I have written extensively about how a litblogger can run ads and affiliate programs ethically).

Amazon has really crossed a line here. Do they really think literary bloggers are going to agree to exclusive arrangements on ebook ads?

So to summarize: a multibillion dollar company with a near monopoly on ebook sales has demanded exclusivity for advertising on a personal blog of an impoverished writer linking to ebook pages of an store whose direct sales volume is probably less than 1 or 2 percent of Amazon’s.

Aside from the fact that Amazon has more sales volume, I believe that Smashwords’ affiliate program is better, fairer and far more profitable to third party websites than Amazon’s own. By default, Smashwords gives a 11% payout on direct ebook sales while for Amazon, it’s 4% or less. If they choose, authors can choose to increase the affiliate payouts to a higher percent, something I have chosen to make SW authors aware of.

As Smashwords CEO/flamethrower Mark Coker said in his end-of-year blogpost:

The entire publishing community is now living in fear.

Large traditional publishers are worried about making their next quarter’s numbers, and are terrified Amazon will take away their preorder buttons if they so much as look at Amazon cross eyed.  Indies are terrified of Amazon’s next price-matching email or KU nastygram, which reminds them that repeated offenses could lead to cancellation of their publishing privileges.  Indies are terrified of seeing their legit reviews disappearing without explanation or recourse. Or, like the NY Times bestseller who contacted me this morning, why should an author fear being kicked out of KU because Amazon might notice that a pirated version of her book was just listed for sale at another major retailer?

What kind of life is this, living in fear that your business partner who’s supposed to have your back is browbeating you, and threatening to drop the axe on you at any moment?

All too often, succumbing to Amazon’s offers of quick fixes like KDP Select can feel safer, but this decision can also lead to long term pain, bondage and servitude.

Exclusivity is a form of censorship.  It says you can express yourself here, but not there.

Algorithms that give preference to exclusive books are a form of censorship too.  This struggle for free expression predates Amazon, and will continue long after Amazon is gone. ….

The good news is that Amazon’s practices can’t last.  They’re unsustainable for the creators of books.  Like all forms of oppression, the people will eventually rise up and take back their independence.

As I mentioned previously, even though I have always been uncomfortable with Amazon’s tactics, first and foremost I want to provide good information for consumers. I will continue to provide links to Amazon exclusive deals and ebooks from their imprints (Little A, Amazon Crossing), but generally I will prefer to link to the author’s personal website than the Amazon page. Also, I will continue running links and ads to Smashwords and other ebook stores. FYI, my next Robert’s Roundup will be on Tuesday March 5 ( 2 days after the annual Smashwords Read-an-Book week has started). I’ll be reporting on the great things I’ve found from that sale.



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