Amazon.com has made headlines in several states by firing its online affiliates to avoid having to collect and remit sales tax. However, this move to circumvent sales tax equity legislation offers indie booksellers an opportunity to market their affiliate programs to those recently fired affiliates, who are searching for alternatives.
To date, Amazon has fired its affiliates in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, North Carolina, and Rhode Island.
“For any bookseller in states where sales tax fairness laws have been signed into law, Amazon.com’s actions have, frankly, provided a significant opportunity to market indie bookstore affiliate programs and to broaden the store’s reach,” said ABA CEO Oren Teicher. “Now is the time to let online affiliates in these states know that there are bookstores that are more than willing to work with them and to also comply with state sales and use tax law.”
A good example of an affiliate is when a local author’s website promotes a book and provides an affiliate link (provided by the bookstore) to the store’s website, where the interested consumer can choose to buy it. If a book is sold through the store site, the author earns a commission.
The IndieCommerce Affiliate Program allows booksellers to offer the same sort of arrangement to anyone with a website of their own. Once a bookseller has accepted someone as an affiliate, the affiliate will set up a specific link on their site that will drive traffic to the bookstore’s site. The nature of the link allows IndieCommerce to track customers who follow the link, and if a sale results, IndieCommerce will calculate how much the affiliate has earned (in the end, the store is responsible for paying the affiliates directly).
For a sale to be “eligible,” the customer must follow the affiliate link to the bookstore site and place her order before leaving the site. In other words, the customer cannot arrive at a store site via an affiliate link, leave, and then come back again. They must place the order during the original visit to the store website.
Booksellers can — and should — promote their affiliate program on their website, in their store newsletter, via e-mail, on their Facebook page, and in-store, at the cash wrap and other locations.
For example, in the wake of Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing sales tax fairness into law in California, Casey Coonerty Protti, owner of Bookshop Santa Cruz, posted an open letter on the store’s website, which noted:
“[I]n response to the signing, Amazon announced that it was firing its affiliates in California. We understand that many members of our community use affiliate programs to promote books and raise money for their businesses, organizations, schools or causes, so we want to offer our affiliate program to you. By becoming a Bookshop Santa Cruz affiliate, when a visitor from your website shops at www.bookshopsantacruz.com, you earn a 5% commission on each purchase. Sign up today at www.bookshopsantacruz.com/affiliate and in the next few weeks we will provide detailed instructions on how to link to Bookshop Santa Cruz to earn the most money for your business or organization. Learn more about our affiliate program.“
Last week, Coonerty Protti told BTW that soon after Gov. Brown signed the law, she sent out an e-mail applauding the budget and directing people to its affiliate program: “Overnight, we got at least a dozen positive replies, many from affiliates who were fired from Amazon but still like the outcome (one said, ‘fair is fair, they should have to pay’),” she said. “We also got at least 10 new affiliate applications as well as an article in our local online paper. We plan to greatly increase our marketing around our affiliate program and to develop new tools to make working with us as an affiliate even easier.”
Margie Scott Tucker, co-owner and director of marketing for California’s Books Inc., told BTW that, to date, the IndieBound affiliate program has provided the store with “some very good traffic and referrals into the site,” although the program has not yet resulted in sales. She noted, however, that Amazon.com’s decision to fire its California affiliates offered new opportunities and that Books Inc. would be actively promoting the program.
Booksellers looking to set up an affiliate program should first contact IndieCommerce staff, who will need to enable the feature on the store site. Full details about setting up an affiliate program are available on IndieCommerce.com.