Last month, out of the blue, Amazon notified me that I had broken their affiliate program terms of service and, therefore, they had closed my affiliate account. The reason they gave me was that either I, friends, family, or business associates/colleagues had used my affiliate links to purchase items and that was against the terms of service. I was to take down all links to their site immediately.
My affiliate account was about 19 years old.
- In the last 12 months, I bought 3 things at Amazon other than the “free” books I got through Prime First Reads. None of those things were in any of the affiliate reports I had viewed over the course of the year.
- I don’t share my sites with family or friends. No one even knows what sites I run, making it virtually impossible that they clicked a link and bought something through one of my websites. I don’t share my author pen names, which also used affiliate links to link to my books. I don’t share with business colleagues or associates because I have none. I’m an author, and I don’t interact with other authors under my author names. I reserve that for readers.
- I had just had a nice little surge of sales/commissions earned on an older site I have that doesn’t usually earn that much in one month. It was about $123 as of the last report I had downloaded for January.
- That surge had caught my attention, because I actually sent a screenshot to my kids over it, saying hey, isn’t that neat. (I don’t guess it was so neat, because I’m pretty sure some algorithm triggered the closing of my affiliate account because of that neat little surge in sales/commissions.)
I will always feel like Amazon did a slipshod review, if any, and closed my account because it was a small earner and they didn’t want to pay out the $123 for that month. (I used to earn more, but in 2012, I stopped building out my websites and set them to slowly fade away. However, I had a few little sites that still earned consistent, if tiny, amounts of money and usually earned $10–20 a month from Amazon’s affiliate program.)
Not gonna lie. I was already feeling ambivalent about Amazon for a variety of reasons. This was the straw that finally convinced me to dump my Prime account. I’d been losing money on it the last couple of years anyway. I use YouTube for Music. I watch TV on Netflix and a host of other services and barely watched TV on Prime any more. As I said earlier, I didn’t buy much at all from Amazon in the last year so the savings on two-day shipping was nowhere near enough to cover the annual fee. I had been a member of Prime since day one. They’d built up a lot of goodwill with me in the early years, and I was still hanging on. I will never be a Prime member again. Just will not happen, because I will not forget that Amazon cannot be trusted. :-)
This incident also made me open a Patreon account and start really looking at ways to diversify my author business.
I mean, I’m not crazy enough to stop selling my books on Amazon/KDP, but it was a jolt to my system for sure. I know I didn’t break TOS for the affiliate program, but even after an appeal and a second “review,” I was told my account would stay closed.
It made me wonder about all those stories I hear about authors and their KDP accounts being closed for no reason, and all the people who swear that those authors must have secretly been doing something wrong but just wouldn’t admit it.
Now I’m wondering how many of those people are just Amazon apologists who don’t know what they’re talking about.
I will always believe this was fraud on Amazon’s part, to keep the piddling amount of money I had earned for the two and a half months that were outstanding when they closed my account and told me they wouldn’t be paying me any commissions.
I did the math. If Amazon is closing out old affiliate accounts, or small earners, or anyone they can find a reason to get rid of, if those accounts were owed about what I was owed, just 666 accounts need to be closed each month for someone inside the affiliate department to claim they’ve saved (stolen) $100,000 for the company every month.
So, yeah, I think Amazon is stealing from people, and probably not giving it a second thought.
In the future, the only way I will use Amazon is if it clearly benefits me. No more free rides for a program that stopped benefiting me years ago. I got lucky in a way, because my Prime account was due for renewal less than two weeks after my affiliate account was closed. I canceled it.
It’s been a month now. I don’t regret it even a little.
In the meantime, I stripped every Amazon link I had out of every site I have except for my author sites. There, I de-emphasized the Amazon links and made the other store links more prominent. If it doesn’t benefit me directly, I’m not promoting them anywhere. Ever again.
I did it all as quickly as I could, not because they told me to, but because the idea of letting them have even one more day of free promo through my websites rankled. I mean, why would I want to send them free traffic after being treated like that?
Addendum: In a hilarious twist, they didn’t close my UK or CA affiliate accounts. After getting a bunch of annoying emails from them, I had to go in and close those accounts myself. As if I’m going to be crazy enough to promote them and have my commissions stolen there too. Eye-roll.