The Pros and Cons of Selling a Self-Published Ebook on Clickbank

As a self-published author of almost 100 ebooks, I’m constantly amazed at the number of outlets there are to sell and make money. One of those outlets is Clickbank. But, mention to some indie authors the possibility of selling there, and you’ll likely receive one of three reactions, ie:

Horror: “I would never put my book up for sale there. It’s a place for junk. I don’t want my book associated with the crap found there.”

Surprise: “Hmmm, self-published authors can sell their books there? I never knew that. I always thought that places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble were the places to be if you self-publish.”

Curiosity: “I wonder what sales would be like? It is a big marketplace. Maybe I should give it a whirl.”

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Here’s the site’s affiliate disclosure policy for full details.

What Is Clickbank?

In case you don’t know, Clickbank is an affiliate marketing network that hosts digital products like ebooks, software and membership sites for sale. Creators of products lists their products for sale, and affiliates come, search the marketplace and select products to promote.

In turn, vendors (product creators) pay them a set commission, which is clearly stated on the site.

There are thousands of products for sale in many niches. It’s one of the easiest ways to start selling (and promoting) e-products online.

Now that you know what it is, let’s turn our attention back to self-publishing in general first, and then we’ll discuss specific pros and cons of selling on Clickbank to round out this post.

Self-Publishing, Traditional Publishing & Elitism

Unfortunately, we still live in a very elitist age when it comes to self-publishing.

Although the industry is maturing and self-published authors get a bit more respect than they did a few years ago, being an indie published author still doesn’t hold the gravitas of being a traditionally published author.

I’ve even fallen into this mental trap. I’ve self-published close to 100 ebooks – fiction and non-fiction. I’ve had one title that was traditionally published (a book on how to start a freelance career).

I felt more “authorly” when I signed my contract. A few days ago, I got my quarterly royalty statement, and it hit me all over again that, “Yeah, someone thought enough of me to pay me to write a book.”

To my surprise, during some surfing one day, I ran across my author profile on Simon & Schuster’s site (apparently they bought my publisher).

Being traditionally published is a big boost to the ego; there’s no denying it. And it gives you “legitimacy” as an author like nothing else ever could. But after I spend three seconds with my authorly nose in the air, I come back down to earth with the little people because the truth is, I prefer self-publishing – and one of the main reasons is I’m in complete control.

Following are a few more reasons I like it so much.

4 Things I Absolutely Love about Being a Self-Published Author

1. Write What I Want

I’ve been writing how-to, non-fiction books since 2002. In 2013, I started writing romance. I even penned a crime novella with my sister. I’ve always been a free spirit. My mind roams all the time. I love being able to channel that freedom into my work as a writer.

2. Earn as Much as I Want

I’ve earned almost $4,000 – in one month – on Amazon. From Barnes & Noble – about $500. Google Play – around $100. The now defunct, All Romance Ebooks, roughly $150. Sometimes from Lulu – $30-$75. From Draft2Digital – $10 to $50.

FYI, you can see almost two years worth of sales figures in the ebook I published on how to make money writing romance.

And this doesn’t include sales from this site, which is where most of my non-fiction ebook sales come from – and those are, of course, priced higher than my romance novellas, which sell for between 99 cents and $3.99. The bottom line is, you control how much money you make – in the sense that you can set your prices as you see fit.

I had no idea what my publisher was going to charge for the book I wrote for them on freelancing. But when I upload a new title to my site or another distribution outlet, I can charge what I want – and I can change prices as often as I want.

There’s a freedom in that.

3. No Deadlines

When I got my traditional book deal, of course, there was an editorial calendar that I had to adhere to – which was pretty brutal. I wrote the book in about 5 weeks – roughly 70,000 words. And then of course there were edits to be made.

One good thing about working with a traditional publisher is they have staff to handle the bulk of that kind of that – editing, proofreading and copy editing. Thank goodness, cuz those are not my strongest suits.

As a self-published author though, the only timetable I have to adhere to is my own. This year, one of my writing goals is to publish four fiction books. I hope to squeeze out six, but four is what’s officially on the calendar. Whether I make my goal or not, there’ll be no backlash or financial penalty to pay.

4. Worldwide Distribution

Yesterday, following is what my inbox looked like.

As you can see, two of these sales are from my site, and two are from Clickbank (which we’ll be discussing in just a bit below). I also had sales on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play and Draft2Digital – which distributes ebooks you upload there to a ton of other outlets.

There’s never been a better time to be a self-published author because there are so many distribution outlets – and more are popping up every day. The beauty of this is, once a book is written – especially fiction, which you don’t have to update – you can earn from it forever.

As you can see, there are a lot of benefits to being a self-published author. While I’ll always consider traditional publishing deals that come my way, I’ll always self-publish. There are just too many advantages not to.

And one of those major advantages is deciding where to publish – which brings me to Clickbank.

Selling Your Self-Published Book on Clickbank: Pros and Cons

I’ve been selling my ebook on SEO writing on Clickbank since around 2011 (I don’t remember when I first uploaded it). Following is the good, bad and the ugly about selling there from my perspective.

Pro: Worldwide Marketplace

Following are some quick stats about the site.

  • Is a top 100 online retailer
  • Has 200 million customers in 190 countries
  • Has 10,000 digital product vendors (sellers)
  • Has 100,000 active affiliates.

Con: Listing Fee

To list a product for sale costs $49.95 as of this writing. Clickbank calls this an “activation fee.”

You can list more than one product for that fee though. They should be related; otherwise it’ll be confusing for buyers. I only have one ebook there and am thinking about adding others as the sales from that one are very consistent.

Pro: Easy to Get Affiliates

Clickbank makes it crazy easy for affiliates to promote your product. All they have to do is create an account (it’s free for affiliates), click a link which makes their affiliate link, and copy the link code onto their website. That’s it.

You could ostensibly have hundreds of affiliates for your ebook very quickly. But don’t get too excited. Most of them won’t sell even one copy. The drawback to Clickbank making it so easy for affiliates to promote products is that many of them sign up to be your affiliate, but never put in the marketing effort it takes to make sales.

The bulk of my sales comes from one affiliate – who has a site that is in the editorial niche, which is of course relevant to my ebook. Since she signed up, it’s rare that she goes a week without making 2-3 sales.

Pro & Con: The Money

You can earn a lot of money with Clickbank, or hardly anything at all. One week, I had an affiliate go crazy and sell $1,200 worth of my book. Of course, half of that came to me (I give affiliates 50% of all sales).

Most weeks though, the only sales I receive are from my one “super affiliate” (what I call her). I earn between $100 and $300 per month on Clickbank. A few other affiliate sales straggle in, but again, most of my ebook sales on the site come from just one affiliate.

Pro: You Decide Affiliate Commissions

As in, you decide how much you pay affiliates who promote your ebook. Most vendors pay affiliates 50% to 75% in commissions. If you go lower than 50% (depending on what your price for your product is), and it’ll be hard to attract affiliates.

Pro: Timely Payouts

You determine when and how you want Clickbank to pay you. You can opt for monthly payouts, bi-monthly, or weekly. I get paid weekly (every Wednesday). Payments come directly to my bank account. And in all the years I’ve been selling on the site, Clickbank has never missed a payout.

Also, I can see on Wednesday what my payout for the next week is going to be. The way they calculate sales, they build in time for refunds to come through. So they know from one week to the next (or month) what your earnings are going to be.

I love this from a budgeting standpoint.

Con: Refunds

You have a lot of people who buy from Clickbank with the intent to return. Clickbank gives customers 60 days – no questions asked – to return a product for a full refund. I abhor this policy, because you have many who take advantage of it.

Over the last year or so though, my refund rate has dropped significantly. In the last year, I’ve only had maybe two or three; the first few years, the return rate was much higher.

Tip: I never dispute a return or contact the customer to ask why they’re

Pro: Customer Service

I’ve only had to contact Customer Service a few times since I’ve been selling on the site. Someone always gets back to you within a couple of days. On the site, they say 24 hours. It’s taken a bit longer than that the couple of times I was in contact with them (about 30 to 36 hours).

But my problem always got solved, so the extra few hours of wait was no big deal for me.

Con: No Free Sites

Per their listing terms, “You cannot sell a product through ClickBank using a web page hosted on free sites.”

To be honest, I like this policy because it keeps a lot more of the junk products off the site. If you’re not willing to spend the few dollars per month it costs to get your own domain name and web hosting, it makes me question how serious you are about your business and how good your product is. So even though this is listed as a con, it’s actually a good thing in my opinion.

Pro: No Back-end Paperwork

As a vendor, you never have to worry about paying affiliates, issuing 1099s, dealing with refunds, or any of that back-end administrative stuff that comes with running an affiliate program.

As I talked about in this post (see #3), there’s a lot that goes into operating one. I used to have one via e-Junkie, but I closed it down in 2014 because it just got to be too time-consuming. I’ve never regretted it.

Pro: Web Visibility

Even though a lot of affiliates will sign up and not promote your ebook, they’ll still have it listed on their website. That’s more web visibility for you. My book pops up all over the place. Just type in the name of the ebook as it’s listed on the site, ie, “How To Make Money Writing Easy, 350-500 Word Web Articles,” to see what I mean.

It’s everywhere. Now, if only those affiliates would only make some sales! 🙂

Note: The ebook is named that way on Clickbank because you can’t have a dollar amount in a book title. That’s against their listing rules – at least that’s what I was told when I uploaded my title. Not sure if that’s changed.

Con: Lots of Junk

There’s a lot of junk on Clickbank. That’s just the truth. I liken looking for products to promote on there to going to a thrift shop. You have to spend some time looking through all the junk to find the hidden gems.

And, there are plenty of them, like this Pinterest ebook about how to drive 10,000 to 100,000+ organic monthly visitors to your blog – in just 30 minutes a day. These are reputable sellers, with a proven strategy, who it’s easy to find out more about them online. All of these are things I look for in affiliate products I promote.

Con: Ugly Affiliate Links

See the link to the Pinterest ebook above? Isn’t it about the ugliest link you’ve ever seen. All of Clickbank’s affiliate links look like this. Man oh man I wish they’d do something about this. They’re so ugly, it could cause people NOT to click on them.

You can use a WordPress plugin like Pretty Link to change them; something I need to get around to doing for my blogs, especially as I’m getting deeper into affiliate marketing.

Pro: Easy to List

The site is not super technical. It’s pretty easy to upload your product there and start selling. Once you list it, they have to approve it, so they’ll look at your pitch page and your download page to ensure that everything is kosher.

If I remember correctly, this takes about a week. Once you’re up and going, the only thing you have to do is re-upload your ebook every time you update it. Other than this, it’s very hands-off.

I look forward to Wednesdays because I know I’ll have a payout from Clickbank coming. Not bad for an ebook I wrote back in 2008.

How to Become an Affiliate for Digital Products on Clickbank

These directions can be applied to any product you want to promote on Clickbank. Like I said, the one affiliate I have sells between 1 and 3 copies per week of my ebook. If you want to become an affiliate for it, all you have to do is:

(i) Open a Clickbank Account: Again, as an affiliate, it’s free.

(ii) Find the Book in the Marketplace. Click here, type “freelance writing” into the search box, and it should pop up on the first page of results. See?

(iii) Click the red “Promote” tab to create your “hoplink”.

(iv) Paste that code into your website.

(v) Start promoting: One of the best ways to promote a product is to interview the product creator. That’s what Caitlin from ProofreadAnywhere.com, my super affiliate, did.

So if you decide to promote the ebook, send me your questions and I’ll get them back to you within 3-5 biz days, ok?

Questions about Promoting Your Ebook on Clickbank?

If I didn’t answer a question you have about selling your self-published book on Clickbank, hit me up in the comments section below, or email me, and I’ll get back to you.

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