What I Learned in 2010: CreateSpace, Amazon, Linkshare
The year 2010 has been a learning year for me. I didn't earn that much, but I learned a lot. Much of it had to do with how to make the most of my resources. I don't have a lot of common sense, so many of the things I learned this year may be things that most people have known all along. However, just in case some of my readers are in a similar developmental stage along the path of life, I will share what I learned with you.
An Amazon Capsule that Displays the Two Books that I Published in 2010
Amazon Capsules Are A Great Way To Promote Your Books
When I first joined Hubpages, I was told to avoid being "overly promotional". I was not at all sure at first what this meant. Would it be overly promotional to talk about Project Bow? Would it be overly promotional to write about myself? Would it be overly promotional to link to my Homepage? Were we supposed to pretend to be completely disinterested article writers who didn't have any kind of special axe to grind?
The reason I did not understand this "overly promotional" rule was primarily because I did not understand that people actually used Hubpages to make money, and that every link to an outside selling site had a certain value to the seller, a value that detracted from HP's earnings from the affiliate programs allowed on HP.
Very, very slowly, over a period of about two and a half years, I started to earn miniscule amounts of money from my HP account. The first payouts were from Adsense. Then, this December, I made my first Amazon payout.
One of the things I learned this year is how to write a hub aimed at Amazon income. The answer is fairly simple: describe, praise and display the product you hope to sell. Why didn't I think of this before? Because I'm a writer, not a salesperson. I thought the ads were just some kind of annoying marginalia that both the writer and the reader would have to tolerate in order to be allowed to read and write for free. They were like the commercials on broadcast TV, something everybody ignores.
But not everybody ignores the commercials on TV. That was just my family! Most people actually watch the commercials, and some people even prefer the commercials to the show!
There are readers out there that are surfing the web with money in their pocket, wanting to buy something, but not sure exactly what. Can you sell them anything? No. They know more or less what they want to buy, and how much they have to spend, but they need help picking out the exact version, make and model of the product they want to get. A good Amazon selling hub will display several versions of the same product more or less, and will compare and contrast them, so that the reader feels that he has a choice, but not so much choice as to be completely overwhelmed. The reader wants to delegate part of the product research to you, but he wants to make the ultimate decision.
So what about me? What do I want? Do I want to take my writing skills now and to devote them exclusively to writing sales hubs? No, not really. While I have found, quite surprisingly, that I can have lots of fun writing the occasional sales hub, I don't see a career change coming on. I'm not going to devote my life to writing sales pitches for other people's products.
As a writer, what I want, among other things, is to publish my books, get my plays produced, sell my poems and short stories. But that's where Amazon can be of immense help.
Amazon runs CreateSpace. You can publish your books as Print-On-Demand softcover editions, get them listed on Amazon, and then include the capsules in your hubs. You can sell your books as an Amazon associate and as an author both! And the best thing of all, it's not a link, so it's not "overly promotional." As long as HP get their cut, they're happy.
Another thing that I learned is that our friends here on HP can help us with this process, if they feel that our goals are worthwhile and our product is a good one. Here are two hubs written by fellow hubbers JustmeSuzanne and Kind Regards that include or feature one of my books:
I am very grateful for the help and support of these hubbers in featuring my product in their hubs. Because they considered Project Bow a worthwhile cause, they devoted their time, energy and talents to promoting it.
Which brings us to the issue of "consciousness raising hubs" versus money making hubs.
You Can't Sell People What They Do Not Wish to Buy
Someone brought up the question of consciousness raising hubs in the Forums recently. She suggested that if hers is not a hub aimed at making money, then she should be allowed to post links to it in the Forums.
I don't think that the distinction between "consciousness raising hubs" and "sales hubs" is a valid one, any more than I consider a public service announcement as being more "respectable" than a commercial for a product. One may tell you "Don't drink Coke" while the other shouts "Drink Coke!" Somebody is paying for each of them, and you can be sure that that somebody wants something!
If the product you are pitching is one you don't feel good about, then you should be pitching something else. Even if you don't carry any ads on your hubs, you're selling something: your point of view, your philosophy, your ideas. And as much as you might like it to be otherwise, people will buy what they want to buy, not what somebody else wants them to buy.
As much as I am proud of every cent I have made so far off my books, I can tell you straight off that I made a great deal more selling products made by somebody else. Why? Because the people vote with their pocket book, and the people buy what they want to buy.
Do I write consciousness raising hubs? I feel that I do. But that doesn't mean I don't make a few cents off them as well. And that's nothing to be ashamed of. It's how things work.
The Debt Collector
The year 2010 saw my collaboration with fellow hubber Daniel Carter come to fruition in the form of a video of a song from our musical, The Debt Collector. Here is a hub about that:
The piano accompaniment is by my good friend Anita Hammond, who has been very supportive of Project Bow as well, and the vocalist is fellow hubber Hot Dorkage.
Censorship and the Antidote to Censorship: Alternative Sponsors
The year 2010 was one that saw me grappling with the issue of censorship. On Hubpages it was a very silly thing. I had published a hub called "The Secret to Making Money on Hubpages." It didn't actually give away any secrets. It was all about how to input your PIN in your Google account in order to get paid. But the Google robots decided for some reason that I had violated TOS, and I was advised that I would be better off un-publishing that hub, which is what I ended up doing.
I then re-published the same hub on Weebly, but without Google ads on my page, and without HP sponsorship, this hub that had gotten such marvelous traffic became dead to readers. It was buried away in the search rankings, never to resurface again. That's when I realized that the ads are getting us traffic, and that the search engines that most people use are not exactly objective in the way they rank things. Here is a hub that I wrote immediately after realizing this:
It became clear to me that if we want to be free to write whatever we want, then we cannot be dependent on a single publisher, website or even on a single affiliate program. We need advertisers not just because they pay us, but also because they influence the search engine rankings of the sites that feature their products. Because the same article that got lots of traffic on HP got no traffic on Weebly, I realized I would need to find alternative sponsors for articles that Google does not approve of. I started asking around about alternative affiliate programs, but for a good long while I couldn't find anything I liked. That is until about a week ago, when I learned something new from a Forum posting by fellow hubber Bill Manning. He was using an affiliate program called Linkshare. I joined, and I now have some links to that program on several of my hubs. For example, check out the link to Asian TV and movie provider TaiSeng in my hub on Learning Mandarin though Song.
I'm not leaving Hubpages any time soon. I'm happy here. But it's good to know that there are alternatives, and that even if we stay on HP, we are not necessarily completely dependent on the affiliates that they offer us. We are allowed two promotional links per hub, and here is the one I am putting in this hub:
If you would like to join the Linkshare affiliate program, just click on the link above. They give you lots of different choices of products and sponsors, and you get to pick and choose which of them appeal to you. The sponsors have to each approve of you separately, so there is a good fit between the products you normally sell and the products they have to offer.
It's good to have a choice. There can be no freedom of the press for those who don't own a press, and under search engine protocols of today, you cannot have readers unless you also have sponsors.
Is that right? Should it be this way? Is that even a valid question? At the moment, this is the way things are. So it's good to have a choice of more than one sponsor, and more than one stable of sponsors.
Looking Forward to 2011
In 2010 I learned a lot. I learned more than I earned. In 2011, I hope to reap the rewards of all this learning. I plan to publish seven more books with CreateSpace. I plan to produce more song videos from The Debt Collector. I plan to move forward with Project Bow and to recruit graduate students to help me with my research. And meanwhile, I expect that by the end of 2011, my earnings from the various affiliate programs will have improved.
Here's to 2011! Happy New Year!
(c) 2010 Aya Katz
My Second Promotional Link: Project Bow astore
The Project Bow Amazon Store -- where you can buy books recommended by Project Bow.