I’ve discovered that most of struggles in writing comes from love-hate relationships with services, systems, and programs run by others… relationships soured by misunderstanding. At least, that’s the norm—and usually it’s my fault. Not always, but more often than not. I recently floundered my way through the Amazon Associates program—got kicked out for a third time—and then realized two things. 1. How to fix the hiccups and 2. Indies really need to take advantage of this program. I’ll break it down.
As mentioned, I got kicked out of the program multiple times. The first one is no big deal—it’s an old account I had opened with them back when the program first started in the early 00s and I was doing occasional reviews on my early website (I’m talking about 12-14 years ago.) Obviously it lapsed into inactivity over a decade ago and I’d never made any money off it—plus the account terms and conditions had changed significantly. It really has no bearing on the topic accept to point out that it caused some confusion since all the old account info is still there and never goes away; Amazon archives it for tax purposes—even closed accounts. Watch out for that in case you’ve got an old account with them and make sure you’re logged into the right account.
Okay, so moving forward, here’s how I got kicked out the next couple times. I wanted to monetize my website (well, kind of.) I wanted to put up a dedicated book store on my Author’s Website where I carried my titles through an online cart-based system. There are a number of pay-for services, but I wanted something automated where I wouldn’t have to carry any stock and orders would be shipped and processed by Createspace, Amazon, etc. Nothing really fit my needs (I wanted to sell via Createspace since the commissions are waaaay higher than Amazon) that was free but the Astore system came close enough. (On my Createspace note: their “storefront” sucks. It’s atrocious. I’ve looked at it a million ways but there is no free alternative—they make it bad on purpose, knowing that authors will send shoppers to amazon instead. It’s that unappealing.) So I signed up for a new account, put in a few hours to build links, and put my Astore into my website. 3 months later my account is killed by Amazon citing inactivity—if you don’t make a sale they shut you down. The account cannot be reinstated. I was a little miffed that there was no warning, but I did know that there was a 3 month period going into it. My bad, though a warning really would’ve been nice—I mean, Amazon is a pretty big outfit, you’d think their fancy algorithms could find some time to say, “Dear Human, in a few days we will close your account unless you feed me those delicious internet hits.” Whatever. Account closure and a few hours lost.
Second verse, same as the first. I made a new account, this time I put more attention and effort into it (I even made sure to complete all of the IRS reporting info) and was a little excited because Christmas was coming, my book sales had been increasing, and I realized that I’d really been using the program wrong. I do Facebook ads pretty regularly and had never set my links to be affiliate ones (links I’d make money off of) from the ads. I went through and changed all my advert links after building them through my affiliate account. I was excited and wanted to check them and see the affiliate tracking program at work and so I used my own affiliate links to purchase a few books as Christmas gifts.
WORD TO THE WISE: Don’t do that. I was basically just testing it out, but those fancy Skynet Algorithms flagged me for account violations. Apparently they find accepting your money from a product from an ad that you paid to place on their behalf to be an egregious violation. (Truthfully I understand why they don’t want you to do that, but it shouldn’t be cause for immediate account cancellation! I’d spent hours and hours rebuilding links and advertisements!) In case you didn’t know, Amazon is very Third-Reich about you participating in their programs… but that’s probably because it’s run by the heartless tin-man and all its employees have had their souls removed by Cybermen in order to improve efficiency and absolute adherence to their rule of law. Especially Corey.
I was a little miffed at this point and went to the helpline/chat for associates where I met a Dalek named Corey who was useless to me. Their helpline was rubbish and Corey was downright rude (I saved the chatlog) and he dripped of condescension. He was a jerk and kept sending me to the TOS and even claimed to have read every TOS agreement he ever entered and in great detail—so he’s either a robot or a liar. Anyway, he told me that I listed my social network sites on my Associates application and when I got flagged for giving Amazon my money to see how the nuts and bolts of it worked their internet gremlins found that I didn’t have “enough” followers on social media to list it. I lost hours of work because I had a Facebook account… which is pretty much par for the course if you have a Facebook account.
Even though Corey was a real sphincter scarf about the whole thing and refused to tell me what arbitrary number of followers is required and he didn’t care that my social media account wasn’t the site I had listed as my website. So here’s the takeaway—DON’T LIST ANY SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNT ON YOUR AMAZON PROFILE UNLESS YOU’RE A CELEBRITY.
I pumped Corey for information, but he kept sending me the TOS. I was like, “Bro, I’m not a lawyer—just tell me if I’m better off with or without listing only my main author site.” He actually left the conversation and refused to talk to me anymore. So I don’t put much stock in the helpline.
I was a little gun-shy to try it again, but waded in slowly a few weeks ago. This time I entered only the bare minimum of information. I listed only my author website and built only one link for my most popular book—I only risked wasting time to alter one Facebook advertisement that way. In fact, I still haven’t updated my tax records (which you must do for every account with Amazon).
If you want to read a little guide on how to not meet Corey (the little things that get you booted from Amazon Associates) I found a nice article here: https://marketever.com/mistakes-get-banned-amazon-affiliate/
Low and behold, the program began to work. Sales started coming in and my account was approved. I also made some very surprising discoveries that make me glad I endured all those hours trapped in Amazon.purgatory/Corey.is-a_jerk …but more on that in Part 2.