How to Profit from Writing Reviews

There's a simple way to earn money or credit for your reviews even if you're not paid to do it: affiliate marketing.

affiliate-marketing-7147115_960_720.png

Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

Affiliate Marketing​

Affiliate marketing is a form of performance-based marketing in which the affiliate (in this case, the reviewer) earns rewards for sending customers to a business. The concept predates the Internet, patented by by William J. Tobin, the founder of PC Flowers & Gifts. Launched on the Prodigy Network in 1989, PC Flowers & Gifts remained on the service until 1996. By 1993, affiliate-generated sales exceeded $6 million per year.

Perhaps the best known affiliate program is Amazon's, which launched in July 1996. I was one of the early adopters, among the first hundred who became an Amazon "associate." We even launched our own web page for that purpose. Most major tabletop gaming platforms now have an affiliate program that is similar to Amazon's.
Affiliate marketing is regulated by law in some countries. You could in theory create an affiliate marketing scheme in which you do not review anything and simply provide links, but the more common model is to review a product and then link to purchase it. This informs the potential customer as well as act s as a form of marketing to let the customer know about the review, which in turn leads to potential sales.

The downside of this model is that your review may be negative; if that's the case, affiliate programs are often still worth the effort because many affiliate programs reward ANY sale on their site tracked back to your affiliate identification. In that case, linking to the site is always preferable to not linking at all.

Getting "Paid"​

Most affiliate marketing programs pay in credit on the site itself, thereby encouraging fans of a platform (like Amazon or DriveThruRPG) to be both a marketer for the company as well as a customer. Some of these can be cashed out later (often at a reduced rate) into cash, but it's more lucrative to simply reinvest whatever you make back into the platform.

Affiliate marketing is so ubiquitous that many readers take it for granted, but you still need to declare that you're being potentially compensated if they click through to purchase the product. As mentioned in a previous article, in the U.S. getting some kind of compensation in exchange for a link on a review is considered an endorsement, and that means you need to declare in the review your affiliation.

Publisher or Affiliate?​

Affiliate programs are extra revenue on top of any other traffic generated from a platform, so they're especially lucrative for gamers generating content on one of those platforms. Or to put it another way, if you're already on a platform, you can make money by both selling the product and the affiliate link to that product.

Similarly, most platforms (including EN World) allow affiliate links in their articles as an extra incentive to write for them. Affiliate marketing is about reach, so the more value of an affiliate link goes up considerably the wider the reach of the platform you publish on.

How Much Will You Make?​

Each program provides a different rate of return.
  • Amazon, for example, varies by product category. Most tabletop gaming products are physical books (4.5%) or dice and other accessories which are classified as toys (3%). All other products net a 4% rate. It's worth noting that there isn't a specific category for digital books (specifically, Kindle products) so Amazon may not be the place to push your digital product. That said, any link to Amazon is a potential buy; customers might visit Amazon and purchase something else in one of the many affiliate categories. I've been an Amazon Associate for decades, interrupted only because state law added taxes to transactions and Amazon cancelled the program for several years before I could sign up again after the tax rates were negotiated.
  • Noble Knight, one of the largest resellers of role-playing game-related products, has its own affiliate program that nets 6% in cash or 10% in trade. I've been a member of the Noble Knight community for years and it can be quite lucrative. If you're publishing a print-related RPG product, the affiliate program is an opportunity to make money off the resale market. That said, Noble Knight sells brand new products as well so if you have a RPG book in print, their affiliate program is your best bet.
  • DriveThruRPG's affiliate program is the go-to place for digital products with a 5% rate. As one of the most popular RPG sites for purchasing product, there are quite a few rules in when and where you can use affiliate links, so be sure to read the rules closely. You can convert store credit to dollars with a $1 processing fee, so if you're looking to just make money off the affiliate program this is worth considering.
  • Fantasy Grounds recently announced their own affiliate program, with a 5% rate on sales you generate and a 1% rate on all other sales.
That's a lot of options to choose from, but the good news is none of these relationships are exclusionary so consider signing up for all of them and using the affiliate program that makes the most sense for the product you're writing about.

Your Turn: There are surely many other programs run by major RPG publishers, too many for me to list here. What'd I miss?
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

eyeheartawk

#1 Enworld Jerk™
Here's my problem with any and all reviews which contain affiliate links: The reviewer is incentivized to write a positive review.

I mean, what generates more click-throughs, a review which heaps praise upon a game and then you give them a link to check it out or a very negative review with a link in it?
 

Mercador

Explorer
I had a videogame review site for 12 years; the rule was: you get the product that you review. So, that way, the review could be positive or negative, it doesn't matters. It helped us to make it a credible source for that long. If you are paid for a review, it couldn't be negative and that, in my book, is not a review, it's an advertisement on an article form.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
Here's my problem with any and all reviews which contain affiliate links: The reviewer is incentivized to write a positive review.

I mean, what generates more click-throughs, a review which heaps praise upon a game and then you give them a link to check it out or a very negative review with a link in it?

I had a videogame review site for 12 years; the rule was: you get the product that you review. So, that way, the review could be positive or negative, it doesn't matters. It helped us to make it a credible source for that long. If you are paid for a review, it couldn't be negative and that, in my book, is not a review, it's an advertisement on an article form.

I think you're both spot-on.

It's pretty much the crux of our era: information mixed with entertainment mixed with advertising, to the point where it's a challenge to sort the true from the fake.
 

GreyLord

Legend
So do you need your own website for this to work, or how does the affiliate program work?

I know when I read Yahoo articles, there must a be a ton of affiliate reviewers there that seem to write a lot of "articles" on Amazon items.
 

talien

Community Supporter
Here's my problem with any and all reviews which contain affiliate links: The reviewer is incentivized to write a positive review.

I mean, what generates more click-throughs, a review which heaps praise upon a game and then you give them a link to check it out or a very negative review with a link in it?
This is accurate. This is also why the U.S. government requires reviewers to declare that they're using affiliate links, so that the reader can decide for themselves if the review is biased.

There is no such thing as an unbiased review. Reviewers can strive for BALANCE, but that's not unbiased. It's up to the reader to determine if their biases align with the reviewer. Declaring affiliations help them make that determination.

I regularly lambast products that I review on Amazon, including those I get for "free" (I still pay taxes on them) as review copies. I still include affiliate links, because if a reader clicks through ANY product and buys it, I get something for it. So even a bad review is an opportunity to click through to Amazon and buy something else.

Also, sometimes my bad review may actually incentivize someone to buy the product. If I do my job right, the reader has the resources to make that decision, and it may not align with my perspective (which is totally fine and why I give them the product link). Also, sometimes the product changes for the better after I review it, and it's useful to see what's changed in comparison to what I originally reviewed.

All that said, I've noticed over the years that folks who get free product (which is different from affiliate links, but related) will often be positively inclined toward said product. But since Amazon expects declarations of free product (usually through the Amazon Vine program, which automatically posts a tag identifying it as such), the reader can make their own determination about the level of bias affecting the review.
 

talien

Community Supporter
So do you need your own website for this to work, or how does the affiliate program work?

I know when I read Yahoo articles, there must a be a ton of affiliate reviewers there that seem to write a lot of "articles" on Amazon items.
You just need a place to publish the link. It doesn't have to be your web site, although some programs ask for where you will publish your affiliate links just to be sure it's not something that is harmful to their brand. You can use the links on Facebook or other social media, for example, without having your own web site.
 

eyeheartawk

#1 Enworld Jerk™
This is accurate. This is also why the U.S. government requires reviewers to declare that they're using affiliate links, so that the reader can decide for themselves if the review is biased.

There is no such thing as an unbiased review. Reviewers can strive for BALANCE, but that's not unbiased. It's up to the reader to determine if their biases align with the reviewer. Declaring affiliations help them make that determination.

I regularly lambast products that I review on Amazon, including those I get for "free" (I still pay taxes on them) as review copies. I still include affiliate links, because if a reader clicks through ANY product and buys it, I get something for it. So even a bad review is an opportunity to click through to Amazon and buy something else.

Also, sometimes my bad review may actually incentivize someone to buy the product. If I do my job right, the reader has the resources to make that decision, and it may not align with my perspective (which is totally fine and why I give them the product link). Also, sometimes the product changes for the better after I review it, and it's useful to see what's changed in comparison to what I originally reviewed.

All that said, I've noticed over the years that folks who get free product (which is different from affiliate links, but related) will often be positively inclined toward said product. But since Amazon expects declarations of free product (usually through the Amazon Vine program, which automatically posts a tag identifying it as such), the reader can make their own determination about the level of bias affecting the review.
Sure.

Nobody is saying it's dishonest.

It's just that, how is it improving the review? What does it add?

In my view, it only detracts. It's fundamentally compromising.

Just because it's an economic necessity doesn't make it good.
 

talien

Community Supporter
Sure.

Nobody is saying it's dishonest.

It's just that, how is it improving the review? What does it add?

In my view, it only detracts. It's fundamentally compromising.

Just because it's an economic necessity doesn't make it good.
To answer that question directly:
  • More pictures. Most reviews don't include that many pictures, and I usually include one or two at most.
  • Other reviewers. Good to see on the page itself what other folks think. I'm not going to curate those reviews, so you can get a second opinion.
  • More details on the product itself. A lot of times, things like dimensions (is the product ten inches or nine inches long?) aren't something I include because it's not something I care about, but for someone determining if the product is right for them, then yes.

To take this a step further, I try to link to other sources in everything I do, not just reviews. That's the beauty of the Internet, you can link to other sources. We could all use more linking in our news (rather than the current trend, which is to not link at all) than less to allow readers a more informed opinion. EN World has always been inclusive in this regard, but not all sites are.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Affiliate marketing is regulated by law in some countries. You could in theory create an affiliate marketing scheme in which you do not review anything and simply provide links, but the more common model is to review a product and then link to purchase it. This informs the potential customer as well as act s as a form of marketing to let the customer know about the review, which in turn leads to potential sales.
Cool! I did not know this. I always wondered why people mentioned the affiliate links in their reviews. Now I know
 

Related Articles

Visit Our Sponsor

Latest threads

Dungeon Delver's Guide

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top