Ah, books. Those things that you may have read in high school and now use as an easy way to look smart when wine and cheese are on the plate or to spruce up the background for your Zoom calls. If you are like a lot of people, you probably do not read too many books, so it’s hard to see how or why they would apply to affiliate marketing. And you may ask why reading books could be a good time investment, what with the industry evolving so fast — surely more dynamic mediums like podcasts, blogs, or online videos are a more effective route to staying on top of things?
Yes, that much is true. Books don’t evolve, except maybe a new edition every couple of years for some of them. Dynamic content is better for staying informed about the latest & greatest tactical innovations and platform updates, but the plethora of information out there makes this like drinking through a firehose. There’s more information out there than ever before, but that means there’s also more bad information out there than ever before.
It’s a double-edged sword. Books that are a few to several years old won’t be up to date with every nuance, but by their very nature of being around for a while a natural selection process has a chance to set in; bad content doesn’t keep selling, while good ideas have timeless value.
The same thing happens in music. Is music from the 70s that much better than music today? Or is it that after fifty years, the only music still being played from that era is the cream of the crop?
So think about books as a fantastic channel for knowledge that by their very nature already sift some of the good ideas from the bad.
Still not convinced? If there’s one thing that seems to unite successful people, it’s reading. And not just reading tabloids or the latest fiction phenomenon, but reading intently to grow their knowledge. Warren Buffett famously reads 500 pages a day, Bill Gates carries around thirty pounds of books in a tote bag wherever he goes (Spartan founder Joe De Sena should consider a big book bag instead of his kettlebell), Elon Musk learned how to build rockets by devouring books, and Oprah Winfrey calls books her “personal path to freedom.”
One Thought for Reading Effectively
I don’t remember where I first heard this, but I love this heuristic for determining if a new book is worth your time: 100 pages minus your age.
Read 100 pages minus your age before deciding whether to keep going or shelve the book for something more worthwhile. It strikes the perfect balance between investing enough time into a book to actually know if it’s valuable, while cheekily acknowledging that, darn it, you only have so much time on this earth.
Also, Tim Ferriss has a lot of other great advice for reading effectively and actually following through on what you’ve learned, but that’s a whole other rabbit hole.
Best Books to Learn Affiliate Marketing
I learned some structured decision making in graduate school, so let’s (lightly) apply it here. All we want is a bit of analytical rigour behind these recommendations, but not so much that we drown in numbers — we’re a no-b.s., data-driven company, but we keep things fun.
Structured decision making is just the process of assigning points to things you want to analyze & compare based on characteristics you think are important. You can use it for comparing big things like possible business decisions, or which restaurant to eat at. Or books!
Here’s my quick & dirty rubric:
- First up, crowdsourcing. I searched “best books to learn affiliate marketing” and clicked on the first 10 articles. I went through each article and gave one point each time a book was mentioned in one of the lists. So if a particular book made six of the ten “best of” articles, it got six points. There was more variability in these ten lists than I anticipated: 27 books made the spreadsheet, but to keep the focus on only the best I narrowed it to the six books that received at least five points apiece.
- Next, check for valuable content. For those six, I looked up their Amazon review rating and accompanying number of reviews. After all, sample size matters — a great review score holds more weight if it’s the result of 10,000 ratings rather than 10. Then I assigned a score to each on a scale from 1-5, five being the best and one the worst, based on each book’s combination of overall review score and number of reviews.
- Lastly, a popularity contest. I pulled each book’s rank in Amazon’s Books category and assigned each a score on that same 1-5 scale based on how popular each is. When looking at these numbers in the table below, remember, that a lower rank is better.
So without further ado, the results!
All of these six will teach you about affiliate marketing; that much is implied and not worth repeating for each. What I’d like to highlight is a specific angle or strength each book brings to the table. Hopefully that, together with this ranking, will give you a good place to start.
Total score: 18
The runaway champion of our leaderboard! From Nothing focuses on effective internet marketing in general, not only on affiliate marketing. He writes with a succinct, to-the-point style and uses his own experiences, successes, and failures as a serial digital entrepreneur as proof points along the way. If you like learning through personal stories, this might be a good place to start.
#2 (tie) Affiliate Marketing: Launch a Six Figure Business with Clickbank Products, Affiliate Links, Amazon Affiliate Program and Internet Marketing (Online Business) by Noah Gray
Total score: 13
Noah Gray has done a good job creating a comprehensive how-to resource aimed at beginners. This book also emphasizes branding perhaps a bit more than the others.
Total score: 13
Lots of people describe this book — in a good way — as a manual. What they’re getting at is it does an exceptional job of explaining the intricacies of affiliate marketing for program managers, or anyone interested in the terminology, players, and strategies involved in affiliate marketing.
Mr. Prussakov is often cited as an influential thought leader in affiliate marketing.
Total score: 12
Where Performance Partnerships shines is in how it offers perspective on both affiliate marketing’s past and future. Like Mr. Prussakov above, Mr. Glazer is often cited as an industry thought leader, and he shares valuable perspectives on how the affiliate marketing industry works, how it should work, and the importance of building strong relationships.
Total score: 11
All of the books on this are suitable for beginners in affiliate marketing, but this one is perhaps even more so. It requires absolutely no prior knowledge in the field and aims to give a beginner a solid foundational knowledge of affiliate marketing.
Total score: 9
Bruce Brown’s affiliate marketing overview is primarily aimed at program managers on the seller side, not content creators looking for more information about becoming affiliates.
It’s good for beginners, but intermediate to pro marketers will likely find the content lacks enough detail to make it valuable for them.
Tying It All Together
There ya have it, a shortlist of the best books to start learning affiliate marketing or continue your journey in the field. I hope you found this quasi-rigorous breakdown useful and can pull some solid insights out of these books. Or, at the very least, a book or two to try the 100 pages minus my age approach on.
If you’re looking for more, there are many videos and courses online where you can work on your affiliate marketing knowledge. There’s also our excellent blog (but hey we’re biased) that covers a range of affiliate topics, including interviews with industry, and thought leaders.
About the Author
Hey, I’m Nate Bender. I’m a born-and-raised Montanan passionate about mountain running and bringing more data into environmental work. When I’m not running ultramarathons, I’m pursuing dual master’s degrees at the University of Montana in Resource Conservation (exp ’22) and Business Analytics (exp ’23). In my spare time, I run the marketing and data analytics for a climate action nonprofit called Footprints Running. And for my graduate work, I’ve written about the intersection of data with several topics: climate refugees’ data rights, energy efficiency in the built environment, and mobilizing collective climate activism, among others. While I’m not as deeply versed in affiliate marketing like the pros at Geniuslink, this background gives me a good holistic view of how they leverage data and technology to help their clients be more efficient and profitable in a shifting online landscape. I also viscerally hate clickbait articles, getting up early, and tomatoes. So there’s that.