June 8, 2017

Rejected from Amazon Associates program. Need therapy.

Hey fellow indie hackers!

I've had a crazy week. Last weekend I posted a side project on here looking for feedback from indie hackers before launching. [0] But someone saw the link and sent it to Tyler Cowen. Then, for the first time in my indie hacker life, one of my projects got significant traffic when Tyler tweeted and blogged about it. [1][2]

Of course I leapt into action, responding to the huge number of messages I got, implementing feature requests, and making plans for the future. Finally I'm an actual entrepreneur, with a small business and users!

Then today, I received a rejection email from Amazon, which I was not expecting. It read in part

We rejected your application due to one or more of the following reasons.

  • Lack of content which is original to your site and beneficial to your visitors
  • Pages that are mainly empty when advertisement content is removed

Not sure what I'm looking for by writing this. Maybe it will help someone else in the future to read what happened to me. I'm pretty discouraged right now.

[0] https://www.indiehackers.com/forum/post/-KljmTs1xVnGB1CuEeV-

[1] https://twitter.com/tylercowen/status/871270309416009728

[2] http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/06/browse-every-book-hyperlink-ever-posted-marginal-revolution.html


  1. 11

    kjk is right.

    No successful business model can ever be wholly or mainly reliant on the success, whims or caprices of another business.

    Being an entrepreneur means you control your business environment.

    At one end of the scale, that means making sure your webhosting is robust, duplicated and redundant such that, if one supplier goes down, you can switch to a second supplier within minutes.

    At the other end of the scale, that means application sign-ins are not reliant on Facebook accounts, Twitter accounts or accounts with the latest flavour of social media. Provide your own log-in mechanisms to your own products so that the success or failure of third parties or changes in what they are prepared to share or capricious whims do not derail you.

    I had a look at Marginal Revolution. It is not a business. It is essentially a link farm. You are not selling a service to your own customers, you are merely offering a jump-off point so that you can potentially earn an affiliate commission.

    So how could you have made this website better? For a start, you could have offered critical analyses of the books you display. You could have acted as a guide to help people cut through the mass of information out there. That would have kept Amazon happy because that would have been you explaining strengths and weaknesses of various products.

    Quite frankly, though, the returns on that much effort would have been pitiful. Don't do that!

    If you want to be a real entrepreneur, find something that clients are willing to pay you for solving for them. Better still, find something that business clients rather than consumers will pay for. Each business client is worth more to you than each consumer most of the time.

    You need to do one or more of these things:

    a. make something possible that was not possible before.

    b. make something easier that is difficult now.

    c. make something faster than it is now.

    d, make something sustainably cheaper than it is now.

    Whatever that "something" is must have value to your customer, whether commercial or consumer.

    Amazon has just done you a big favour. Do not be dispirited but enthused. NOW is the time to scratch your head, work out what you can build and chase your own dreams. Jeff Bezos is never going to make you rich but maybe you might.

    1. 4

      Amazon has just done you a big favour. Do not be dispirited but enthused. NOW is the time to scratch your head, work out what you can build and chase your own dreams. Jeff Bezos is never going to make you rich but maybe you might.

      You're right... I could have spent months and years trying to make a few $100, when instead I learned this lesson in <1 month and know what to avoid from now on.

      Thanks for writing.

    2. 2

      very helpful, Thank you!

  2. 7

    If you have lots of traffic, you can put AdSense ads.

    That being said, maybe some perspective will help.

    You built something. In the process you've learnt new skills. This is good.

    But I think you had unrealistic expectations about how much money this project could make. Even if Amazon accepted you as an affiliate, you would make very little money. I know that even a little money is better than no money, but you didn't loose millions of dollars, you "lost" tens of dollars.

    You've learned a lesson about business models: it's better if your ability to make money can't possibly be blocked by a third party that has its own agenda.

    You're relatively rare individual in that you can program, you can make new things.

    Make more new things. If you make enough of them, eventually one will be successful.

    1. 3

      Thank you! Yes, I agree, I can

      • change how i make money from the current site


      • build new sites

      Either way, or both ways, I'm in good shape.

  3. 5

    I know you don't need me to tell you that Amazon affiliate links weren't going to make you a whole lotta money — both kjk and thomas have made that clear — but I'll echo them anyway.

    I've had plenty of Amazon affiliate links across hundreds of highly trafficked interviews on Indie Hackers, and I usually only made about $100/month from them. To make matters worse, Amazon recently lowered the fees they pay to affiliates. So you can rest assured that you aren't missing out on some big payday.

    Furthermore, you've done a few really great things in a very short period of time:

    • Built something useful enough that lots of people derived some value from it, including Tyler Cowen himself.

    • Learned a lesson about having a business model that can stand on its own and can't simply be shut off by AppAmaGooFaceSoft (as patio11 calls them).

    • Learned a lesson about entering a market where the sales you make are substantial enough to pay the bills.

    It takes many people years of hard work and hundreds of thousands of dollars invested to learn those last two lessons, and you just got a crash course in a week or two!

    If you internalize those lessons, you'll be far more likely to build something successful in the future.

    And assuming people really do look like your book site and it provides lasting value (or you can improve it to the point where it does), it's not a bad thing to have running on the side. Content sites can generate lots of traffic and serve as a distribution channel for other projects of yours in the future.

    1. 1

      "AppAmaGooFaceSoft" has just become my favourite word!

  4. 2

    Amazon does this to all new accounts that look thin when they first generate revenue. Just add a blog to your site and write quality content. You'll pass eventually. Their bar for quality content has gone up over the years.

    1. 1

      Thank you for this information! I just might do this, would only take a few hours.