As we learned on Friday, Amazon is making some dramatic changes to their affiliate program, with respect to the way free Kindle books impact the rest of an affiliate’s earnings.
Essentially the change is this:
An Amazon affiliate will lose their entire monthly commission if (1) their affiliate link is responsible for more than 20,000 free Kindle downloads, and (2) their affiliate link is responsible for fewer than 5,000 paid Kindle downloads.
So the big question that everyone is asking is this: why is Amazon hurting authors in their attempt to fix their broken affiliate program?
I thought Amazon wanted us in the KDP Select program.
I thought Amazon wanted us to give away free books.
But at the same time, I can understand that the affiliate program is broken.
When a free-book promo website sends a customer to downloads a free thriller for their Kindle, does the affiliate deserve to earn a commission on the thousand dollar lawn mower the person buys later that afternoon?
If Amazon is using authors as a blunt instrument to fix the leaks in their affiliate program, that’s a shame. There are so many other ways they could have plugged the holes.
First of all, I think it makes sense to partition the affiliate program into a few broad categories. A universal affiliate program, with one set of rules blanketing the entire Amazon catalogue, doesn’t make sense in a store that sells pretty much everything.
If the problem is really an affiliate problem, then Amazon should have created a new affiliate program just for digital goods: Kindle devices, Kindle books, MP3 downloads, and streaming movies. To sweeten the pot, they could have changed the 24-hour cookie into a 30-day cookie, so that affiliate are incentivized to maximize consumption over a longer trend rather than just grabbing a day’s worth of purchase activity.
The whole purpose of an affiliate program is to reward lead-generation. But realistically, lead-gen in a store as big as Amazon’s doesn’t generally cross product-category boundaries. If I someday buy a lawn mower online, Pixel Of Ink is almost certainly not responsible for leading me into that purchase.
It’s pretty obvious.
But Amazon chose a different route, and I think it speaks volumes for their actual intentions. I really don’t think this is a blunt instrument to punish misbehaving affiliates, and I actually think they do have our best interests as authors in mind. I think this is just the next step in the evolution of the Kindle platform…
Clearly Amazon still values free book promotions, or else they would make big changes to the KDP Select program. My instinct tells me that Amazon doesn’t like having so much control over their platform wielded by a bunch of bit-players. Don’t you think Amazon could build its own version of EReader News Today?
So that’s my prediction. Amazon doesn’t want to kill the freebie promo machine… they want to bring it back under their own control. I expect to hear an announcement of new promotional vehicles within the next two months.