Do You Have Dirty Links?

All our links need to work. Especially buy links. What if the link to your new release prevents your ARC readers from leaving reviews on Amazon? What if the link prevents all your readers from leaving reviews on Amazon, even verified purchase reviews? Or worse, Amazon shuts down your account because you’re violating their rules.

It happens more often than you may think, and many times the violation stems from a dirty link — the link you used in your marketing. That’s how important it is to clean your links. Trad-pub authors, don’t think this subject doesn’t apply to you. It does. In fact, that’s where I learned about dirty links, from my very first publisher.

What is a dirty link?

Your new book baby goes live on Amazon. If you search for the title on Amazon rather than go through your KDP dashboard, you’ll get a link that looks like this:

That is a dirty link. It even looks ugly, right?

I want to draw your attention to this half of the link:


Everything after “ref” is filled with information for Amazon, information that can bite you in the butt. This tells Amazon who searched for the book. If the author conducted the search, then everyone who uses that link must be friends or family of said author.

Though you and I know that’s a ridiculous statement, Amazon disagrees.

If you have a connection to a reader, even if it’s on social media, Amazon presumes they’ll rate your book favorably. Doesn’t matter if you have 1M friends or followers. If someone buys your book from that dirty link, you are friends and/or family in Amazon’s eyes. Period. Hence why it’s also never a good idea to link your Goodreads (Amazon owned) to your Facebook.

As you probably know, Amazon doesn’t allow friends and/or family to review your book. If they do, Amazon can delete it from your book’s page. If you continue to violate this rule, Amazon can shut down your account.

So, the first thing you should do is delete everything from “ref” forward, leaving you with this:

Looks better, right? That link is now clean, but we can shorten it even more. The title and author are also irrelevant as far as the link is concerned. Let’s delete both.

If you’re working with limited space, you also don’t need “www.” You’ll end up with this:

Now that’s a spotless link! A far cry from the original, right? And with no added information for Amazon to track.

While we’re on the subject of links…

Most profile sections on social media only allow you to include one link. Wouldn’t it be great if you could house all your books, website, blog, newsletter sign-up, etc. under one link rather than choosing which one to include? You can!

The creative minds behind LinkTree solved the one-link problem.

Did I mention it’s free? When you sign up, they’ll ask you to customize your link with your name. Don’t use your book title or a clever alias. That defeats the purpose. You could use your pen name if that’s the only name you write under. Or create a new link for additional pen names.

Personally, I only want one link, but you do you.

Here’s how mine looks:

You can customize the links inside, with headings, color, button style, thumbnail images, etc.

Of course, you can upgrade for statistical data and other bells and whistles, like affiliate marketing. Though the free account does accept affiliate links for books without the upgrade.

Are you using affiliate links?

 If you’re unfamiliar with affiliate marketing, here’s what Amazon says about its program:

Amazon’s affiliate program, also known as Amazon Associates, is an affiliate marketing program that allows users to monetize their websites, blogs, or social media. Amazon affiliate users simply place links to Amazon products on their site, and when a customer makes a purchase via one of their links, the user receives a commission.

Every time we pay for a promo spot, you can bet the book site is including their affiliate ID in your link. Which is fine. It’s their site.

Quick funny story…

When my debut released, I thought a certain book site was the cat’s meow for sending me a universal book link to use in all future marketing. So nice, right? Yes and no. What I discovered later was they included their affiliate ID in the universal link. So, for well over a year, I gave away commissions that I could’ve earned. Kudos to them. They got me good. Now, the only links I use are the ones I create. If anyone’s gonna earn commissions from my marketing efforts, it’s me.

Do you use affiliate links? Do you clean your links? Have you ever had reviews removed by Amazon? Has a book site ever created a universal link for you? 😉 

This entry was posted in #writers, #writerslife, #WritingCommunity, A Writer's Life, Writing and tagged , , , , , by Sue Coletta. Bookmark the permalink.

About Sue Coletta

Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer and an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Feedspot and named her Murder Blog as “Best 100 Crime Blogs on the Net.” She also blogs at the Kill Zone (Writer's Digest "101 Best Websites for Writers") and Writers Helping Writers. Sue lives with her husband in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Her backlist includes psychological thrillers, the Mayhem Series (books 1-3) and Grafton County Series, and true crime/narrative nonfiction. Now, she exclusively writes eco-thrillers, Mayhem Series (books 4-7 and continuing). Sue's appeared on the Emmy award-winning true crime series, Storm of Suspicion, and three episodes of A Time to Kill on Investigation Discovery. Learn more about Sue and her books at

52 thoughts on “Do You Have Dirty Links?

  1. I’m trying to figure out what the best link is to put when I only get one chance. What is the best universal link?

    If I can’t get a clean one without the affiliate stuff, is there a paid universal link that is guaranteed not to junk it up? The one I’d use for a QR code, or for the back of my new business cards.

    Favorites? I generally write the one for the books – prideschildren dot com – but even that one might not be the best if something happens to word press blogs (not free any more – I can’t have them interspersing ads that is bigger than my content and photos).

    I need an IT department.

  2. Yes, I clean my links. Yes, I’ve gotten reviews taken down (33 that I’m aware of under one of my pen names). Sigh. But probably some of those were taken down because authors are readers, too. If we read someone else’s book who also read ours, it looks like we exchanged reviews. Eh, that’s my guess anyway.

    • That’s it exactly, Vera. Hence why I never do review swaps. If I read an author’s book and they’ve also happened to read mine, I do so months afterward to remove any appearance of review swapping.

    • I was gobsmacked when another author asked me for a review right after she had agreed to review one of my two books – and quickly dropped her AND the idea. Doesn’t everyone know that’s a disaster in the making?

      Review swaps have ALWAYS been on the Zon’s prohibited list.

      I won’t go near this author again.

      • A similar thing happened to me. This author, whom I didn’t know, contacted me to say how much he loved Wings of Mayhem. Contacted me again after he reviewed it. Then proceeded to tell me I owed him the same in return. When I refused, he changed his 5-star rating to one, totally trashing my novel. Within that same week, other authors left 1 star reviews. Obviously, they were friends of this maniac. My only saving grace were random readers who left enough 5-starred reviews to balance out the destruction caused by this jerk.

  3. I’ve always cleaned my links, simply for the ‘ugliness’ factor, although I’m also aware of the hidden information. When I can only use one link, I use UBLs from Books2Read. For the channels where I have affiliate links, B2R includes them so if someone uses that link to go to one of the included stores, I will get the credit.

    • I also use Books2Read, Terry. Glad you mentioned it. I didn’t realize they’d automatically include your affiliate ID, though. Thanks for the info!

  4. Thank you so much. I’ve always wondered how to make the Amazon links shorter.

  5. Great post, Sue. There’s a lot here to digest. I will be doing some studying.

    I don’t use affiliate links. I haven’t been cleaning my links, but will start. I have had Amazon reviews refused. Don’t know if I’ve had any removed. I don’t think I’ve had a book site create a universal link for me.

    Do you know how Draft2Digital handles these issues if you sell your books through them?

    Thanks, Sue. Wonderful and timely subject!

    • Thanks, Steve. Glad you found it helpful.

      D2D uses Books2Read, so you can create links through them. Just be sure to input a clean link or Amazon’s tracking will ride along with the B2R link.

  6. Sue, thanks for a great nuts and bolts explanation. After Terry’s recent post on Books2Read UBLs, I changed all the links on my website. I’ll check out Linktree.

    No, I don’t use affiliate links. I’m already confused enough!

    It’s taken months for my latest book Deep Fake Double Down to show at the top of a Google search even though it’s the only book with that title. Could a dirty link have caused that?

    Two stories about Z’a review policy:

    Years ago, Z refused to accept a review from a reader in another state whom I didn’t know and had never met. The reason? We were supposedly associated b/c she was the daughter of a woman in my zumba class who had recommended my book to her. She protested to Z but never got anywhere.

    On the other end of the spectrum: an acquaintance always buys a Kindle copy of their books to check for quality issues. At the end of each book, a message comes up asking them to please review the book. So they did, figuring Z would never accept it. They used their normal email and did nothing to conceal their identity. Well, Z accepted it and the author’s review of their own book went up. Happened again with another book, and another, and another.

    So much for oversight of biased reviews.

    TKZers, Sue is having problems getting on the site to answer comments. She’ll respond when she can.

    • Thanks for the notice to TKZers, Debbie! I brought up the site in a different browser, and it let me in. Trying not breathe or it might kick me out again. LOL

      To answer your question regarding Deep Fake Double Down, yes, a dirty link could be responsible. If you get stuck cleaning your links, send them to me and I’ll fix them.

      Crazy stories! No one can predict Z’s algorithm. I wonder if they allowed the review because the author went through the link at the back of the book. Ipso facto, they must’ve read it. I’m guessing that could be why, but who knows? A friend of a friend is absolutely ridiculous. *sigh*

  7. Good information, Sue. I’ve always cleaned the links to my books. I usually just delete from “ref” to the end. I started using LinkTree as a one stop shop for all my books and links when I wanted to link things in Instagram. LinkTree works really well.

    I don’t have any affiliate links.

      • Jim, I like LinkTree because I can have each book or other url in the link list. If I post about one of my books on Instagram, the user can go to my profile and they’ll see the list of all the books. They can click on whichever book they’re interested in and it takes them right to the Amazon page.

        If I only supply my web url, it’s an extra click. And then the user has to look through the website to get to the link for the book they want to buy. (I’ve been told to make sure the reader/buyer gets to the product in the fewest clicks possible.)

      • Jim, with LinkTree you can house ALL your links under one link, not just your website. In one click, readers can view prices, availability, and all formats. You can do the same with landing pages on your website, but unless you want to sell direct to consumers, readers will need to keep clicking to get to the book page on Amazon, etc. Each click allows them time to rethink their purchase.

    • Instagram and TikTok became the driving forces for me, Kay. Now, I used my LinkTree for all social media. It’s so easy and convenient. Plus, having the prices shown to reader is the perfect way to showcase your perma-free first in series. I get more downloads from my LinkTree than anywhere else.

      • I just posted to Instagram if anyone is interested in seeing how this works. You can search on my name, and you’ll see my latest post about The Watch Series. (I’m not trying to sell books; just give an example of how linktree works.)
        The post includes the statement “link in profile.” I understand that’s the only way you can provide a link in Instagram. If you click on my picture above the post, it takes you to my profile page where you can clink on the LinkTree link, then you’ll see the list of books. (It’s easier than it sounds. 🙂 )

  8. Great post, Sue. For Amazon links, always end after the Amazon ASIN number and forward slash. For most other links, delete everything from the question mark forward.

  9. Great information, Sue.

    Not a techie, so I’ll have to digest this over some time.

    I’ve been an Amazon Affiliate before, but no one was buying anything I promoted, so they fired me. Oh well. 🙂

    I don’t know if I’ve ever had a review deleted or removed.

    I’ll have to check out Link Tree. Thanks, Sue!

    • My pleasure, Deb!

      Your Affiliate ID might still be active. When I first created my account, Amazon didn’t like the credit card I was using (I use an “online only” card with a low credit limit in case of shady sites), so I didn’t use my affiliate ID much. A year later, Amazon got more comfortable with my online only card, so I started adding my affiliate ID to my books. My point is, my ID remained active after a solid year of no use.

    • You don’t have to be a techie, Deb. Just delete everything after the question mark (including the ?) and you’ll be fine. For Amazon links, after the part that looks like this: /dp/B09WZXW3QW with or without a following /.

  10. Excellent post, Sue! I’ve always deleted from ref to the end on my amazon links, but now I’ll make them even cleaner! And I see I need to look into Link Tree! Thanks!

  11. Handy post, Sue! Lots of helpful info here. I don’t use affiliate links. However, I do regularly clean my links.

    Years ago a couple of my ARC readers who were also friends of mine on social media had their reviews blocked on my first published novel by Amazon. I’d been warned that that could happen, so it wasn’t a big shock.

    We’ve been dealing with wildfire smoke here the past few days, so no star time for me. Hope the skies are clearer for you. Have an awesome week!

    • Sadly, Dale, no stars for me, either. Too much smoke today coming from Canadian wildfires. It’s better than the rain we’ve been getting for umpteen weeks, but it still results in a starless, moonless sky. 🙁

      Thank you! Hope you also have an amazing week, my friend!

  12. Sue, I have nothing to say other than you get the prize for best headline this year on TKZ.

  13. By the way, you also don’t have to leave the name of your book or your own name in your Amazon link when you pass it along. For example, after you delete everything beyond the ASIN, if your link still looks like this

    You can also delete “/Intimations-Shapes-Things-Poetry-Stanbrough-ebook” thereby shortening your link to

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