I added an ebook hotel guide to our Pacific Coast Highway site in March 2010, as an experiment, and it sold just under 1000 copies in its first year. No ‘real’ publisher could afford to put something that only sold 1000 copies, but if your website has built up decent traffic, you can do it. The ebook was only short and sold for $4.99, but almost all of that income comes directly to you. Not long after I did the ebook, Amazon launched CreateSpace in the USA, which allows you to publish your own printed books using Print on Demand. They then allowed you to upload your own books to the Kindle, and other publishers followed suit. So the experimental little ebook went onto Kindle, into print, onto the Nook, into the Apple Store, and sells several copies a day from those various sources, on top of the ebook sales direct from our website. I recently updated and expanded it for a 2011 edition, which is already selling better than the 2010 edition.
So even if someone has never heard of or visited our website, but goes to Amazon and searches for something about the Pacific Coast Highway, they’ll find our book alongside Lonely Planet and the rest.
Affiliate income is where your website receives a commission for income generated by a click on your site. The amounts paid vary enormously, but they can generate another healthy income stream. The way they work is simple. You apply to join an affiliate scheme, such as Amazon, and then the link you put into the page which takes the visitor to Amazon also includes your personal affiliate code. This ensures that if the visitor then buys the book, you get a percentage. A book may not earn you much, but if someone books a round-the-world flight or an expensive hotel room for two weeks in New York, it is money well worth having. There are many companies operating affiliate schemes, which enable you to put ads or links on your site from numerous big names like BA, Air France, Expedia, or TripAdvisor.
For me, affiliate income doesn’t work yet. The perceived wisdom is that you need to have something in the region of 100,000 PVs a month before you notice anything significant, and we’re not quite there yet. I do have some affiliate accounts but the income has been minimal. However, other people do report success on much fewer PVs than that. One colleague recently made £350 from one affiliate flight sale, and David Whitley, who publishes both www.AustraliaFlightBargains.com and www.Bestflightsales.com, does make money this way.
When I first added some book reviews with an affiliate link to the book’s Amazon page, I earned nothing for months. I almost gave up bothering. But eventually the income did start to come in, and almost every day now I earn a little something from Amazon. What’s important is that you get a commission on everything that someone buys in the Amazon session generated by the click from your site. So if they decide to buy a netbook and a netbook case for their trip, along with a guidebook, then you get a commission on everything. And that did happen to us recently. I’ve also earned commissions because people have bought things like cat litter, Yorkshire Gold Tea, 365 Sex Positions, a box of 100 screws (not connected with the previous purchase), The Modern New Testament, Michael Jackson CDs and re-usable ice cubes. Unfortunately you don’t know who bought what, so there’s no chance to add another income stream - blackmail.
I don’t chase adverts for our websites, but that’s because it’s not something I want - or have time - to do. But it is another way to bring in income. Elsewhere on Travelblather Chris Caplow, who publishes www.andalucia.com, says that private advertising sales are far more valuable to him than AdSense. Even so, I was approached by a whale-watching company who wanted to advertise on the PCH site, so while it only amounts to $400 a year, that’s not bad for something that only took me about 30 minutes to implement.
So there you have just some of the ways you can make money from a travel content website. I haven’t even touched on some of the other important factors for me. One is the independence it gives you from editors and publishers. I haven’t pitched a story idea to a newspaper or magazine for ages - at least a year, probably longer. Another is that the whole adventure is great fun. I love building website pages, writing my own stories, and watching the income grow. Not long ago Tom Brosnahan told me that he was now a very happy man, as he got to do the two things he enjoyed most in life, alongside travelling - building websites and spending time with his family.
What’s not to like?Mike Gerrard has written guidebooks for publishers including National Geographic, the AA, Dorling Kindersley, Michelin, Insight and Thomas Cook. His print work has appeared in the Times, The Express, Wanderlust, Men’s Health. a collection of his travel writing, Snakes Alive, was recently published by Blue Sky Books (i.e. himself).