Balancing Spending on the Blog, Making Money, and All the Moral Dilemmas that Go Along With It

March 9, 2021 Let's Discuss 25

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about supporting local bookstores as much as possible. I’ve always supported local bookshops by attending author events and buying books at those, but they haven’t been happening in person recently and I haven’t attended a ton of online events. In the past, I’ve sent books for US giveaways through Amazon because it was the cheapest method, but during COVID I’ve tried to send via local booksellers or Bookshop.org (which supports local booksellers).

These decisions haven’t been simple, though. I’ve been blogging for eight years now, and it isn’t cheap. I spend money on hosting, and other various blogging things (like InLinkz), and I run multiple giveaways, most of which I fund myself. I’ve always felt that it was still good for authors if I was buying via Amazon, and it wasn’t as expensive for me. Amazon sales are still important for an author. Also, I’ve mentioned this before, but my husband works for Amazon Web Services, and they’ve been very good to us, so it’s a little harder for me to jump on the “Amazon is evil” train with the rest of the bookish world. (You can all feel free to throw banana peels now.) I do get where people are coming from when it comes to their markdown on books, though, which is why I’ve tried to cut way back on Amazon book purchases.

It costs a lot for me to support authors and publishers, but I obviously don’t want to give that up. So maybe being an affiliate is one answer?

But then there’s Bookshop. I recently became a Bookshop.com affiliate and added links to Bookshop on my pre-order page. I might also add them to my future reviews, but I haven’t done that yet. I was hoping this might be a way to make back a little bit of the money I spend on blogging. But I struggled with the decision to become an affiliate at all. Not because I don’t think that Bookshop.org is a great service but because I wondered if I was defeating the purpose by becoming an affiliate myself. Bookshop helps support local bookstores, which is especially important right now. If I’m an affiliate, the 10% commission goes to me, not to local bookstores. So am I defeating the purpose? At least I’m still supporting an organization that’s good for local bookstores, but is that good enough?

Oh, and then there’s buying books via Book Outlet, which I used to do a lot. But I think maybe those sales don’t really benefit the author at all because of the outlet nature of those sales? Does anyone know for sure?

You see the hoops I’ve been jumping through in my head—I can’t quite decide where to land!

As of right now, no one has purchased via my pre-order page, so I guess my moral dilemma there doesn’t really matter. LOL! And I do hope that someday I’ll be making money on my own published books and then the money I’ve spent on the blog won’t feel so significant.

But it’s a dilemma that lots of us face as bloggers. How do we make an impact and support authors and publishers without putting too huge of a dent in our own pocketbooks? And do we need to feel guilty for offsetting or minimizing the costs of blogging in whatever ways we can?

What do you think of all this? I want to know!

 

25 Responses to “Balancing Spending on the Blog, Making Money, and All the Moral Dilemmas that Go Along With It”

  1. Crystal

    These are good questions. Many of us can relate to the struggle since, while we get free books for review, we spend money in other areas. (And oftentimes later buy the books that we got for review.) At this time, I think it’s okay to get affiliate money since your blog advertises the product. I imagine also that the affiliate money comes from the bookseller’s earnings and not from revenue that goes to the publisher, and thus the author. But I haven’t worked for a bookseller. Maybe someone else can clarify this.

    • Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

      Yes, that’s definitely the way it works. I guess my moral quandary with Bookshop specifically is that the great thing about Bookshop is that they support local bookstores with a percentage of their proceeds. But in the case of an affiliate link, they’d be giving me a cut instead of giving it to local bookstores. So I kind of felt like I was undercutting them by becoming an affiliate.

      But, like I said, the good/bad news is it’s not like I’ve made any money from those affiliate links so far, so maybe the question is moot anyway.

  2. Afoma @ Reading Middle Grade

    I like to think that the work I do by putting books on readers’ and librarians’ radars helps the authors more than the 2 cents I get from affiliate marketing on Amazon will cost them. Plus, as an international blogger, Bookshop doesn’t even let me be an affiliate since I don’t have a social security number — and Amazon does. The times I wasted hours adding Indiebound links, no one bought from them. People only purchased via Amazon. So it might be “the devil” but many people use Kindles both in and out of the US. I think you’d just be passing up a means to recoup the funds you spent blogging. I say, get those coins!

    Afoma @ Reading Middle Grade recently posted: 21 Best Middle Grade Books Set in Europe
    • Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

      I don’t have a problem with people using Amazon affiliate links, honestly. Like I said, my husband actually works for Amazon, so it’s hard for me to get all mad at the company that pays for my kids’ college and our mortgage and such! And I agree that most people still seem to buy through Amazon, especially with Kindle books!

  3. Joyousreads

    Oh man. Don’t I wish we make money from blogging! But I think unless we’re the big fish in the influencer world, there’s just no way we can make money. I honestly don’t know anyone who has made any money of affiliate links. But I hope someday we don’t have to be a big name in the biz to gain some of the money we spend on our own.

    Great post, Nicole!

    • Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

      Yeah, I think that I probably won’t end up making any money on the affiliate links. I thought MAYBE since my pre-order campaigns get a decent amount of traffic, I might get a click-through or two there, but so far it hasn’t happened. I used to make like $5 a month on ads, but when something went wrong with it, I just stopped doing it instead of trying to get the issue fixed. I think my biggest moral dilemma is with using Amazon for giveaways—I’m not doing it right now, but I don’t know that I’ll never go back to it!

  4. Natalie Aguirre

    I think that those of us, including you, who promote books and authors are doing a great service to the authors and to readers. We spend a lot of time and some money on our passion. If you want or need to make decisions to cut down the costs some or to make a little money, that’s okay.

  5. ShootingStarsMag

    I’ve made money here and there from my blog, but it can be tough. I don’t see anything wrong with using affiliate links to try and make a buck or two. If you can make more than that, then awesome! Blogging takes so much time and effort and yes, MONEY, that I think it’s just fine to find ways to make some back – or minimize your costs. I try to shop independent bookstores when I can, or just anything but Amazon, but I still use it because it often IS the easiest option. It can be tough, but we’re doing our best.

    Lauren

    • Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

      Yeah, Amazon really gets me sometimes when the price is way lower AND I can get quick and easy Prime shipping. I got a $15 gift card from a local(ish) bookstore and ended up still paying only $3 less for the book than I would have if I’d gotten the book on Amazon (with no gift card) by the time I paid the higher price and the shipping costs. It’s hard to justify sometimes (especially when I’m doing it for giveaways)!

  6. Aj @ Read All The Things!

    Deciding to put ads and affiliate links on my blog was an agonizing decision. I didn’t want them to seem annoying or greedy, but blogging takes so much time! I want a way to support myself and the authors whose books I review. I’ve been thinking about becoming a Bookshop affiliate because supporting small businesses is an awesome idea, but I don’t know how well Bookshop.com is actually working. Are bloggers/authors/bookstores making enough money to be worth the time it takes to add links to posts? You’re the first person I’ve seen talk openly about their Bookshop affiliate links. I’m currently an Amazon and Book Depository affiliate. I make a few dollars a month from Amazon and nothing from Book Depository. I want to help small business, but I’m not sure if I’ll actually sell any books!

    • Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

      Well, I haven’t made anything from it yet. I’ll let you know if I do. I thought maybe since I specifically have the pre-order deals that people might place an order for a book with a pre-order through the link, but that hasn’t happened so far! I do like the idea of Bookshop supporting local bookstores, though, so I do feel good about supporting it generally.

      I used to be an Amazon affiliate, but when my husband started working there, I stopped because I wasn’t sure if there would be some conflict of interest or something and I didn’t feel like doing the research to figure it out. I’d only ever made a few dollars off of it. I also used to have an ad on my site that I made like $5 a month from, but eventually something weird happened with it and I just took it down instead of trying hard to get it fixed.

      I think my biggest moral dilemma is actually buying books from Amazon, which I’m not doing at this very moment but I might go back to at some point. It’s just really hard to justify spending more money on giveaways, but I really do want to keep local bookstores in business!

  7. Samantha

    I don’t think it’s wrong to get a little something in return for all you do, and like you said, you spend quite a bit of money to draw people to your blog. Seems fair to me.

  8. Pamela

    I think you should totally go for it! Blogging an expensive hobby when we’re not getting any monetary compensation. I think it’s only fair to want to see some return on all that hard work, in whatever way possible.

    Maybe you could try with the “buy me a coffee” feature. I’ve never tried it, but you could frame it around any contribution could help you fund the book giveaways. I think a lot of people would be ok chiming in to help out and give back a bit of the support you’ve been giving the community 🙂

  9. Mary

    I hear you, Nicole. These definitely are difficult decisions for book bloggers. I keep thinking something like “Work to change the things you can change. Accept the things you can’t change.” Amazon isn’t going anywhere, whether you do or don’t use an affiliate link or buy from them. Also, your hosting service isn’t going to stop billing you because you’re a nice person, or a teacher, or a contributor to the world’s general knowledge, or anything else. Having said all that, I think most people will feel that whatever decision you make is the right decision for you. Thank you for all you do in support of book bloggers.

  10. Lory @ Entering the Enchanted Castle

    I’m confused about Bookshop.org. I just looked it up and it says affiliates get a 10% commission, plus a matching 10% contribution goes to independent bookstores. Seems like a win/win situation?

    More to the point is whether anyone will actually purchase through those links on your site. when I started blogging I put a lot of effort into adding links to Powell’s Books (I love Powell’s!) but nobody used them so I stopped. A general ad widget might be more useful actually.

    I hope you find some way to generate income because you certainly deserve it for your time and considering the expenses you carry! I gave up on it because I wasn’t successful, but I don’t blame anyone for trying to make a little through affiliate links.

  11. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    Ah, I feel this struggle! I used to feel bad when I first started using affiliate links (or not BAD, but… conflicted, I guess) and ads. I no longer do. The amount of free labor we do is astounding, and I refuse to feel guilty for making a couple cents (which I rarely do, but if I did hah). As for Amazon, I feel like how many authors celebrate when they see the little orange best seller Amazon flag? Right, ALL of them. So if I buy a book from Amazon that DOES help the authors, and frankly, if I had to pay full price and shipping, I’d no longer be able to do giveaways ever. Also, think about it this way: When YOUR books are for sale, would you ever be like “well that jerk bought it from Amazon!”? Nope. You wouldn’t, you’d be super excited that it was bought. You do SO MUCH for authors and books. At your own time AND expense. Finding ways to recoup a little of that isn’t just deserved, it’s often necessary!

    Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight recently posted: Sometimes I Watch Shows (Part 7)
  12. Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

    I struggle with these questions too… the ethics of buying from Amazon vs. local bookstores, the ethics of buying used or remaindered books (Book Outlet’s books are remaindered, mostly; AbeBooks is a good source of used books); the ethics of using affiliate links at all (so far, I haven’t.) I appreciate that in your post, you raise the questions without dictating the answers, because what’s workable for one person may not be for another.

    Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard recently posted: Happy Pi Day! (Sunday Post – March 14, 2021)
  13. Jen

    These are such fabulous questions and I don’t know the answer to some of these – like do authors benefit from Book Outlet? I really don’t know but I would love to have the answer to that too. But blogging can be so expensive at times, so if an affiliate link helps out then why not give it a try. For buying books, I try and see if I can buy them directly from the author. I’m waiting to hear back Zapata, to get one of my co-bloggers a birthday present, since she has the ability to buy books from her directly. I think that may be more beneficial to them, but then again I’m not so sure. We need a cheat sheet for this lol!

  14. Lisa Mandina (Lisa Loves Literature)

    I totally get what you’re saying! Right now I really only spend money on the hosting of my blog, and then when I do giveaways. I haven’t signed up to be an affiliate or anything because I feel like it probably isn’t worth how much or little I’d make. So I’ll keep going the way I do! Great post!

  15. Marie @ drizzle & hurricane books

    This is such a great post and an interesting question! Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying this affiliate thing out, we spend a whole lot of time, energy and money on this and if you want to try to earn a little bit from it, too, there’s nothing wrong with it at all 🙂

  16. CurlyGeek

    This is a really helpful post for me, I’ve been weaning myself off Amazon (I’ve gone to Kobo and library books) and I’ve been thinking about whether becoming an affiliate for a non-Amazon website would be of any value. I don’t necessarily feel the need to monetize but I do want to support non-Amazon options. I’m looking at Bookshop.com. Thanks for sharing!

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