Smashwords Affiliate Marketing Program Documentation

Learn How the Affiliate System Works


August 29, 2023: Our affiliate marketing program will soon go on hiatus as we prioritize development resources into projects that will enable our authors and publishers to reach more readers. We are no longer accepting new affiliate marketers. We will post updates here when we have additional news to share about the program.


This documentation is divided into two sections:


  1. For Affiliate Marketers - How to earn commissions by promoting Smashwords books

  2. For Authors and Publishers - How affiliate marketers can promote your books


1. For Affiliate Marketers


Basic program overview:

  • Earn generous commissions of 11% to 80.5% of the net sales price
  • Easy to participate
  • You receive commissions on all purchases within a 48 hour period
  • Your customers have hundreds of thousands of ebooks to choose from


Who's Eligible to Enroll?
Anyone over age 18 is eligible. The program is ideal for:

  • bloggers
  • authors
  • publishers
  • website operators
  • online communities
  • book enthusiasts
  • online specialty bookstores
  • professional affiliate marketers


How to Enroll

To enroll as a Smashwords Affiliate, go to your Account page and click the “Affiliate System Management” link where you will need to review and agree with the Smashwords Affiliate Marketing Program Terms of Service.

How to Create Affiliate Links

There are three ways to create affiliate links.

Option 1: Browse the book selector to view participating books and access cut-and-pasteable affiliate links for your blog or website.

Option 2: As an affiliate, you simply append the text, "?ref=yourScreenName" at the end of any web address (web addresses are also called URLs). To locate your screen name, click to your My Smashwords page, and look in the web browser address bar. You'll see an address where the last characters after "...view/" are your user name. ""

Once you locate your screen name, you can append it to links to the Smashwords home page, any author or publisher page, any book page, and any category or sub-category of books. You can even link to free books (while there's obviously no commission on a free book, by offering links to free books you'll drive traffic to Smashwords, and if the visitors purchase books while browsing Smashwords, you earn the commission).

To find the initial hyperlink, just go to the Smashwords home page, navigate to the link you want to promote, append your ?ref=yourScreenName code, and then that's the link you'll use.:


Example 1. Link to the Smashwords home page

Example 2. Link to Publisher page for Smashwords publisher, Excessica:

Example 3. Link to Book page for the Smashwords Book Marketing Guide (even though this is a free book, it's one of our most popular books and if some clicks to this book, then purchases another book, the affiliate gets credit)

Example 4. Link to Literary best-sellers under 25,000 words

Example 5. Link to Fiction books

Option 3: When you visit the Smashwords website while logged into your affiliate account, you'll see links at the bottom of such pages, which you may copy and paste onto your own website, blog, etc.


The Cookie Clock

When anyone clicks on that URL, which you'll add to your blog, website and other online promotional locations, Smashwords instantly recognizes that that customer came from you. Smashwords deposits what's called a "Cookie" into the user's browser, which helps the site give you credit for their purchases. The cookie expires after 48 hours. The cookie's clock resets if the user clicks on your link again, or disappears if the user clicks on another affiliate's link before the 48 hour period is completed.


How Earnings are Calculated

As an affiliate, you receive a minimum of 11% of the net proceeds from the sale of participating books. "Net proceeds" = (the book's selling price minus the PayPal processing fee)*.11.


Authors and publishers can choose to "juice," or increase, the commission rate for affiliates by sharing a portion of their earnings with affiliates. Authors and publishers do this to encourage affiliates to aggressively promote and link to their books. If an author decides to hand over their entire earnings to affiliates, then the affiliate can earn up to 70.5%. Some authors and publishers will do this to increase their readership. Smashwords is creating tools to help affiliates identify books that offer the best affiliate bonuses.

Conversely, Smashwords authors and publishers may opt-out of the affiliate program on a book-by-book basis.

The Monthly Commitment

At Smashwords, we appreciate the time and investment affiliates make to promote our books. Therefore, we've built protections into the affiliate system so that affiliates aren't vulnerable to accidental or deliberate "bait and switches." For example, when an author or publisher publishes a book for the first time at Smashwords, they're automatically enrolled in the affiliate program. They are given a 30 day grace period in which they can opt-out at any time. After the grace period expires, they are only allowed to opt out effective the first day of every new month. Therefore, as an affiliate, you should monitor the titles you're promoting, and you should visit the Affiliate Management page on the first of each month to identify the month's participating titles as well as special "juicing" offers. Once an author/publisher juices their title, they are not allowed to reduce the rate until the first of the next month. This allows the affiliates to have some measure of certainty about the affiliate rates for the month.

However, it's still possible for a promoted title to disappear out of the system. For example, an author could decide to unpublish their books from Smashwords. This is rare, but it does happen. It's smart to check your links periodically.


Tracking Affiliate Click-Throughs and Earnings

Affiliate earnings are listed in your Sales & Payment history, available via the link on your Dashboard. (The bonuses will be listed as “Referral bonus for Book Title by Author”.)

Affiliates are paid on the same schedule as we pay authors and publishers.

You may also see how well your affiliate links to Smashwords are working by clicking the “View Affiliate Hit Report” on your Account page.

What Books Are Eligible?

All books that are not opted out of the affiliate system are eligible for promotion. In most instances, it still makes sense to link to opted-out books because once readers land at Smashwords, they're likely to browse other books that can still earn you an affiliate bonus.

To sign up as an affiliate marketer, first read the Smashwords Affiliate Marketing Program Terms of Service. Next, visit the Affiliate Marketing Program Signup Page.


2. For Authors and Publishers

Background on the Smashwords Affiliate Marketing Program

In early 2009, we surveyed all Smashwords authors and publishers about the proposed Smashwords affiliate program as we were building it. Member feedback was tremendous.

1. 100% answered they were pleased to learn Smashwords was building an affiliate program.

2. 99% answered they felt the proposed 70.5%/11%/18.5% author/affiliate/Smashwords split of net revenues was fair. A couple of our authors even suggested Smashwords should take a larger cut. Thanks!

3. 90% answered they would like the personal freedom to offer affiliates an even greater incentive to promote their books by offering more of their margin to affiliates. This is why we offer "juicing."

4. 76% answered they thought program enrollment should be automatic and mandatory. Several authors wrote they felt it was important that all authors participate to ensure maximum simplicity and appeal for the affiliates. A minority of authors felt there should be an opt-out, so authors who don't want to participate are not forced to participate.

As you can see, we listened closely to our authors and publishers because the affiliate system reflects most of their wishes. On question #4, we sided with the minority who thought we should offer an opt-out. One author put it best when he said words to the effect of, "One of the most wonderful benefits of Smashwords is that you put the authors in control over their own destinies. To not allow an opt-out would run counter to who you are, and would run counter to the free will and openness that is so much a part of Internet culture." We agreed.

What's an Affiliate Program?

In a nutshell, an affiliate program motivates third party marketers (fellow authors, bloggers, online communities, specialty online bookstores, professional affiliate marketers) to promote your Smashwords books. If they drive a buyer to your book, they earn an 11% fee. If you want to read a more detailed explanation of how *other* affiliate programs work, read this overview at Wikipedia:

What can an affiliate program do for authors and publishers? Consider it a method of expanding your digital shelf space at no cost to you other than the reduced earnings rate you receive on affiliate sales.

Amazon's affiliate program has been tremendously successful for print authors and publishers alike for the past ten years. However, in early 2009, they decided to *exclude* Kindle ebooks from their program, much to the dismay of affiliates, authors and publishers.

Please tell all of your author friends they have an alternative at Smashwords - not to mention our earnings shares rates are about twice what Amazon offers on the Kindle!

Automatic Enrollment

When you publish a book at Smashwords, it is automatically enrolled in the Smashwords Affiliate Marketing Program. You can opt-out instantly at any time within the first 30 days of publishing your book. Thereafter, you can opt out effective on the first day of the next month. However, we strongly discourage authors from opting out, because it disincentivizes the affiliate from linking to your book. We think affiliates create tremendous publicity value for Smashwords authors and publishers at very little cost.

Revenue Split for Affiliate Sales, Reporting

Affiliates earn 11% of the net price for any sales they generate, and the author or publisher earns 70.5%. The cut for Smashwords is 18.5%. For non-affiliate sales that originate at, the author receives 85% of the net sales and Smashwords receives 15%. Affiliates only earn fees when they're responsible for delivering a book customer that purchases a participating book.

Your Sales and Payments Report, available from your Dashboard, will include a breakdown of who received what part of the total price of your book. (“Smashwords' cut”, “Transaction Fee”, and “Affiliate Referral.”)


Authors and publishers can encourage affiliates to help spread the word about their books by "juicing" the commission received by the affiliate. You do this by sharing a portion of your earnings with affiliates. You can juice the affiliate's commission all the way up to 81.5% by giving them all your earnings on a given title. Why would you do this? Because it offers the affiliate strong incentive to promote your book. The amount you juice, or whether or not you juice, is completely in your control.

Become an Affiliate Marketer, Too!

Authors and publishers are invited to join the affiliate program. To register, visit the Affiliate System Management Page and click the button at the right.

Link to your own books with your affiliate referral code, and when someone buys another book along with, or instead of, yours, you'll earn a cut! (Remember, you don't need to link directly to a book or an author or publisher to earn a bonus for the sale. The visitor just needs to add it to their shopping cart at the Smashwords website within 48 hours of clicking your link.)

You can also access the Affiliate Management System within your Account page or Dashboard.