What is AAR? It’s not a business–we don’t make any money and no one gets paid. It truly is a labor of love for all of us. (I do give the staff gift certificates at the end of the year to say thanks for all their hard work. The rest of the money we earn goes to keeping the site online.) The closest thing we are is a daily newspaper. We cover romance and women’s fiction, publishing multiple pieces of content each day. We have a publisher and an editor and a group of writers.
And, by most measures, we had a very successful year. In 2019, our users were up 20%–790,000–and those users had almost 1.3 million sessions. Our readers commented over 7500 times. Via our click throughs, we sold 23 thousand books through Amazon alone. We published almost 800 book reviews and countless blogs. We worked hard.
And, like newspapers and blog sites (HEA USA, the Romance Reader, and others) everywhere, we are in danger of going dark.
AAR supports itself one of two ways. We sell ads – this makes up about 30% of our revenue these days- and we make money as an Amazon affiliate. Amazon used to give affiliates 9% of sales–three years ago that number dropped to 4% or less. It’s my bet that, within the year, Amazon will cut that number further. Barnes and Noble and Kobo have both basically stopped paying affiliate funds and, given that Amazon doesn’t really need affiliate sales to make the big bucks, I suspect they too will follow suit.
What happens to AAR at that point?
I don’t know. I’ve believed for some time that the only way we can stay on line is on a subscription/donation basis but it’s unclear to me our readers have any appetite for that. There are, perhaps, other ways to make money–podcasts, Patreon, GoFundMe–but those all require a time commitment that I just don’t have–I barely have enough time to keep up with the work of the site as it is.
It’s a conundrum. We’ve been around a long time–since October of 1996–and I hope that continues. In the meantime, please consider linking to Amazon through our site every time you purchase something there. (Here’s the link.) Share the link with friends and family. (They have to log on to Amazon via our site.) Consider signing up for a monthly donation. If all our readers were to donate $10 a month, that would make a huge difference. (Here’s the link: Donate to AAR.)
I am considering some sort of monthly offer where all who donated that month would be entered in a draw for a box of books. If we had regular benefactors, we’d create a thank you page and acknowledge your generosity. Anything you can do or any ideas you have, I’d be more grateful to hear them.
Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day.
I have written to find out about advertising, 2 or 3 times, and haven’t heard back from anyone. I have written two romances and would like to know how to be involved in your website. I write under Cece deLuc and am on Amazon.
I have emailed you!
I can’t thank everyone enough for their help last month.
If you donated to AAR last month, please consider making a regular monthly donation.
I am continuing to think about many of your suggestions and do so appreciate all the support you’ve given AAR.
You could try to crowd-source volunteers to work on the Patreon or other sorts of platforms if you think they’re too much work.
Thanks for the suggestion!
One of the things I like about Patreon and being a Patreon supporter (for various creative endeavors) is the access I get to special episodes/content/archives. There is a podcast I subscribe to that has hundreds of archived episodes that are only accessible to supporters. The 100 most recent are free, anything older is behind a paywall that is pretty affordable at $10/month. Maybe there is a way to put older AAR reviews behind a low paywall so that frequent/new visitors will still find valuable content for free but more intensive users can donate to access? Maybe older reviews don’t have that sort of appeal, but if you can see AAR traffic you might find a type of content that would be tempting to subscribers.
For what it’s worth, I use this site extensively for my work at an independent bookstore. I object to Amazon for ethical reasons, so I am glad that a Paypal donation is possible.
That’s a good idea although taking on Patreon seems like a lot of work. I’ll look into it.
Everytime Wiki hits me up for a donation I’m able to give from my Amazon account. There have been other instances where I’ve done that too with charitable orgs. If AAR could do that it would make it so easy for (me anyway) to donate quarterly.
I think I’ll do something like post a monthly/quarterly reminder at the top of the page. I’ve been SO encouraged by the response to this and it’s my hope that we can maintain support!
Want to try looking into Redbubble or sites like that?
You list the design and Redbubble allows the icon to be printed on things like stickers, pillows or shirts.
Otherwise, I’m into Washi tape and I came across the company’s instagram. You can get samples and it may be less competitive than Redbubble.
We are currently trying that with Zazzle.
Here’s our storefront: https://www.zazzle.com/store/all_about_romance
Oh, rad. Excuse me while I make a Zazzle account.
I have the “I’m just here for the joy” shirt, coffee mug, and phone case. They’re all good quality. And I’ve given the “Made with Love” baby shirt to several parents who’ve loved it!
Sorry, cannot get the PayPal Link to work; tried several times. Would you post a PayPal link on your site. Making it easy might motivate other readers to give as well. Maybe have a reason for the Link: Support keeping our site online; we do this for free type statement.
I really enjoy reading reviews. Thanks so much for keeping this going.
I have done that. There’s a link on the top left now. Thanks!
Can I suggest using affiliate links for Amazon outside the US, It drives me nuts always having to search for titles on Amazon.co.uk, and would also like you to have the money for as long as it lasts. I know you have an international audience so I cannot be the only one.
They are supposed to link to whatever nation you’re in when you click on them. I’ll look into why they are not. Thanks!
The Canadian links work – I’m always directed to the amazon.ca site when I click on the amazon link. But sometimes, especially for an older book, it links to a different book (and by older, I mean early 2010s).
I’m in the UK as well, and have just clicked a few links in reviews, and they take me to Amazon.co.uk. BUT – it’s not consistent.
The links in our review of So Close take me to the page for the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07ZZKZ9B6/ref=as_li_ss_tl?slotNum=4&crid=1WW3NPHW5PD68&keywords=so+close+serena+bell&sprefix=so+close%2Cdigital-text%2C255&language=en_US&s=digital-text&sr=1-1&linkCode=g12&linkId=41ebe75f77e7ddd04b6fc5f7073162d2&imprToken=3bdBJETPy4VC8tsLWJ1Xmg&tag=allaboutrom0c-21
The links in our review of Behind Every Lie take me to a search result page – https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Behind+Every+Lie&i=digital-text&imprToken=.q2QQxvkxDRQnTMKYeHjiA&linkCode=g13&linkId=aaa082e3da0f18e778807bb66cd65f5d&tag=allaboutrom0c-21&ref=as_li_ss_tl
And the links in our review of No Bad Deed take me nowhere useful at all! https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=No+Bad+Deed%3A+A+Novel&i=digital-text&imprToken=.0MbriEJHhtT8k-yPvCtyw&linkCode=g13&linkId=96ae590af95e519952f924b2f0c569d0&tag=allaboutrom0c-21&ref=as_li_ss_tl
That last one may be becuase there are separate US and UK editions, maybe? And the ISBNs are different? (Just a guess.)
The link in the homepage side bar does take me to Amazon.com though.
Whatever I click, I land on amazon.com
your storefront, the specific books (just clicked on a few recent reviewed at random)
I buy in amazon.de
if I go to the address bar and change .com to .de I usually end up with the right book, but no clue whether you still get your share.
Going back to the link you sent at some point, and starting from scratch is usually too much hassle, as I always first take a free sample, and then go back to buy. Add-on question: If I got the sample from your link, and buy later on my kindle, or on the site, do you profit?
If you managed to make all that easy, I would happily go through you.
It is just currently such a number of small steps that each occasionally do not work.
So I end up donating,
If it ever gets easy, I will happily do both – buy through you, and donate.
You have to buy at the time you click-through. So, downloading the free sample and then buying wouldn’t do it. I’m am looking into why Amazon isn’t working for international sites. It is supposed to!
Can you try it again? I put in some code that is supposed to fix it. Thanks!
have set up a monthly donation via Paypal
This site is one I love; I got on the internet in 1996/7, and I think I’ve been coming here since then. I can’t imagine not being able to come here and find new authors, find out what people think of what’s going on in the world of romance writing
To all the wonderful reviewers, thank you. To Dabney, thank you, thank you thank you.
Friends- I remember when another great site vanished (Television without Pity, if anyone remembers it). That loss of community is horrendous, and it would be devastating is AAR vanished.
Whatever we can do, lets do it
God I loved TWOP. The recaps of BtVS,/i> and Battlestar Galactica were just extraordinary and enriched my understanding of those shows–two of my very very favorites–immeasurably.
Dabney, Dina: My people!
I remember when TWOP was Mighty Big TV. And, wow, yeah, I spent w-a-y too much time reading BtVS posts on MBTV/TWOP.
I still recall the way Sep described good Angel as always looking as though he’d just walked into a tree.
They tried to fix it by bringing the forums back on another server, but it’s definitely not the same.
I am also having a problem with the PayPal link. All about romance is definitely my daily go to and has been my source of wonderful reading for the last 15 years. It will be my pleasure to make a donation to thank you for your wonderful work.. I will keep trying the PayPal link.
I have put a new link up on the top of the left side bar. See if that works.
Here’s the link: https://paypal.me/AARisAllAboutRomance?locale.x=en_US
The PayPal link isn’t working for me. May I suggest that you create a PayPal.me link and share that? That may be easier for people to use.
Jumping on the bandwagon of people who donated via PayPal (under my real name) and who also want to thank you Dabney for keeping this site going.
AAR is really a treasure to me as it’s one of the last sites with thoughtful reviews and commentary without a lot of extra, “trendy” stuff like Goodreads etc. which seems flooded with “OMG YESSSSSSSS” reviews and flashing pictures of movie and TV stars some readers think look like the heroes and heroines of the novels.
I hope saying that doesn’t seem too snarky but I think romances are worthy of serious review and reflection. I think the authors who write them are talented with important things to say and that romance readers are intelligent and well read. It’s a pleasure to come to a site where the creators and the commenters celebrate that and help spread the word about everyone and everything to do with this genre. I look forward to the comments under the reviews as much as the reviews themselves. I appreciate the openness and inclusivity here and how Dabney encourages everyone to have their say, as long as it’s in a respectful manner. There are no “mean girl” cliques and I have seen over the years how even people who have been critical of aspects of the site have been treated with respect and had their opinions considered.
In regards to revenue, is it possible to link things besides books to Amazon to increase revenue? It could be related things like Kindles, or even lists of contributors “favorite” or “recommended” things that command a higher price and would bring in more revenue if people clicked on it? iPad and kindle covers, electronic deals, reading lights etc. are just a few things that came to mind. I notice that on YouTube creators link every single item mentioned in their videos in the box below to help generate revenue.
I have linked other things and will continue to do so. But anyone who buys a Kindle THROUGH our link still gives us the credit.
I usually do a few blogs a year that sell other stuff–the last one was in December. I’ll think about doing more.
Thanks for clarifying that. I have clicked around Amazon and bought more stuff after buying a book through the link here and hoped that it went towards AAR. It’s nice to know it does,
I also wanted to say I did receive your lovely thank you letter after the PayPal went through. I know some people had said they didn’t automatically receive one but mine worked fine.
I know posting additional things linked to buy through AAR is extra work for you beyond the books on sale.
Two fundraising ideas I thought might be possible-
1.)Ask authors to donate a signed book or arc or something of a similar nature. It’s not a lot to ask them for and if you get enough different, popular authors it could be a really amazing “jackpot” kind of prize. AAR could sell lottery tickets for a drawing. Or put batches of them up as auctions.
2.) Have a page where people can donate a digital “brick” or “book” or something they can name.
I am reluctant to ask authors for help. One, we are determined to review books impartially and asking favors from authors compromises that. Two, that’s a lot of work for me for what I think would be a small return.
I like idea two. I’ll think about it. What we need most are repeating donations/income, so one offs are a little less appealing.
Building on Chrisreader’s idea #2, what if you had a monthly donation circle as in $X of monthly donations is an “AAR Platinum Member,” $X is an “AAR Gold Member,” etc. I have seen a lot of nonprofits and institutes use a similar model. Perhaps one of the perks of being a Platinum Member is a free book ad on AAR for X amount of time plus company logo, Gold Members get free book ad with link but no logo, etc. I’m just throwing ideas at the wall here. What do you think?
The donate PayPal link doesn’t work
I had a problem with the PayPal link at first too. When I tried the second time it went through but it was very touchy. It kept trying to go to “add a new payment method” for me and I had to keep hitting the back button before I could get it to go but it did eventually go.
I have put a new link up on the top of the left side bar. See if that works.
Here’s the link: https://paypal.me/AARisAllAboutRomance?locale.x=en_US
My Kindle book budget is fairly small (and that is the ONLY product I buy via Amazon if at all possible), but I only buy through AAR when I do buy. And I’ve been donating monthly via PayPal for a year or more because I use the site regularly. I figure the small monthly donation is a fraction of what I’d spend taking a chance on recommendations from any other source – online or “print”. So, thank you to the staff/volunteers at AAR. I want the site to continue for a long time.
Question, Dabney. You said above that visitors are up 20% to 790,000 in 2019. But what does that mean? Individual readers? visits? And – if you are willing to share the information – how many “regular” readers (visit 1+ per week?) does AAR have? 1+ per month? 2-3 times per year?
We have just under 200,000 regular visitors–people we can see visit several times a month. Many visit every day.
You should consider setting up a Ko-fi.com account for AAR and have link for it on your page. A lot of artist, bloggers, fanfic writers have Ko-fi accounts. People can donate anywhere from $3 & more.
From Ko-fi’s website:
The Friendly way to Fund Your Passions
Ko-fi’s a friendly way to ask fans to support your work for the price of a coffee. Coffee’s just a metaphor (You don’t have to buy actual coffee!).
I have seen that–I’m curious what is different about it from PayPal.
I think people just think of it for smaller transactions (like, for the price of a coffee you can send money to this creater )
Yes, exactly. Please are more inclined to support if the minimum is just the price of a coffee.
This is exactly right – You can pledge as little as a few dollars a throw.
First, thank you and your dedicated workforce for all the hours of enjoyment you’ve given to your readers. Second, thank you for letting us know how we can help you keep this community alive. Many thanks and best wishes.
The Amazon storefront is only on .com so I’ve made a donation instead. Thank you for all you do.
I have talked about sites like AAR when I talk about the immense amount of unpaid labour that is taken for granted. People love all the great information and perspective that can be found online without considering the human and practical costs behind it.
I don’t have any answers. Just sharing this as an acknowledgement that this stuff is hard.
I try not to buy books from Amazon as I want to support my local booksellers and in turn support local jobs. As a dinosaur, I don’t have a PayPal account. However, I visit AAR almost every day and have come to rely on your reviews to point me to books and authors I may never have heard of otherwise. It is important that you continue as a free resource to others who may also be searching for unbiased content (I may not agree with a reviewer but I trust that the opinions are honest). Is there a way I could send a check to cover a year’s donation rather than have it go through PayPay monthly?
Yes, I’d like to know this, too.
Yes. You could set up a monthly billpay to AAR. If you are interested, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll send you the address. AAR has its own bank account and I deposit checks there.
It also seems that Amazon is getting stingier and stingier, so a direct contribution is more effective as all of the money goes to AAR. If I do buy a book via Amazon, however, I will make sure to go through you.
If you don’t mind my asking, out of those 23,000+ sold books on Amazon (congratulations, by the way!), what are the divisions in subcategories? I mean, I assume AAR customers largely purchase romance novels through you after reading reviews, but is there a perceivable breakdown in subcategories? For example, are you selling more paranormal romance or HR? I appreciate you want to remain neutral and offer reviews for a wide variety of romance novels, but if a subgenre is selling more than others, might it be to your benefit to target some of your reviews in that area for a while to encourage increased revenue? Just a thought…
We do certainly skew toward HR. BUT I let my reviewers review what they want to because they do it for free. So there are no assigned books here at AAR.
Thanks for the clarification and for answering my question. That’s good your reviewers get to choose which books to review. It would be awful to have assigned reading, especially if you didn’t like a particular subgenre!
As a related follow-up question, does HR account for most of the book sales through Amazon? I would think this would be the case since your reviews skew in that direction, but you never know. I have a suspicion that HR is probably one of the most popular subgenres of romance across the board, not just among AAR readers and Amazon affiliate customers.
It’s my sense–which is worth just that–that HR is the romance genre readers still pay for. Contemp sells but at very very low prices. Fantasy romance sells at reasonable prices too but our readers are slightly less drawn to that.
Thanks. I was wondering about the breakdown by subgenres.
I think a big part of the appeal of HR and fantasy is being whisked away to another world that is so far removed from the reader’s experience, it provides a nice escape from daily life. Contemporary to me is often “meh” if only because I’d rather be reading about the thrilling adventures of a sea captain in Medieval Europe or an intergalactic jack-of-all-trades scavenger than ordinary people working behind a desk dealing with boring everyday problems. There are exceptions, of course, but by and large, I can see why other readers are also drawn to the more fantastic than mundane.
I also recently started a monthly $10 donation, because TBH I read this site EVERY DAY.
I get recs for new authors; reminders about upcoming books from authors I like; interesting discussion topics and news; and thoughtful, in-depth book reviews supplemented by reader comments and observations (including my own sometimes :-) )
There is no other site out there – and I’ve looked at LOTS of sites! – that matches AAR, in terms of the content I want, in the way *I* want it.
(Not saying other sites are bad, but they do not match AAR in terms of what I’m looking for. Sometimes it’s a matter of my tastes simply not aligning with those of a site’s reviewers. And sometimes it’s a matter of a site being a little too snarky, a little too judgmental (enough that I hesitate to even post a comment), or overly SJW-oriented for me. YMMV. )
I realize that without this site, I would not learn about authors/books I might like or about books I might want to avoid. Since I read a lot, It’s worth it to me to scrape up the monthly donation to AAR so that I can continue getting the info I need to help in my book-buying decisions.
I like the idea of a monthly or quarterly drawing for, well, whatever book(s) you have on hand. And whoever made a donation during the month/quarter would be entered for a chance to win.
I am on this site numerous times everyday, and would hate for it to be closed down. I have arranged for a monthly donation of USD$10 to be taken from my PayPal account. I hope this little bit helps.
just done some :-)
Nicely stated, Lieselotte. @Dabney – I try to remember to buy via the AAR link and you have reassured us in the past that the link works for the UK so I hope you receive any small benefit this way. I have also, like Lieselotte, made a small donation recently but I now realise this is not nearly enough to support your work. I would be devastated if AAR could not continue. I have been visiting and posting here for 20+ years and it’s part of my daily routine to check what’s going on. It’s how, living in the UK, I learned about writers from the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, etc. when 20 years ago, pre-internet, pre online book selling, etc., you didn’t see many of these writers in bricks & mortar bookshops in the UK no matter how hard I looked. Your site is how I found Mary Balogh, Carla Kelly, Jo Beverley, Anne Gracie, Barbara Metzger, Edith Layton, Stephanie Laurens and many more too numerous to recite here.
Like Lieselotte, I would not like to see a mandatory subscription come into play as that might exclude those who could not afford it – or, indeed, those who would simply prefer not to get involved on a financial basis. I would, however, be willing to support the site with a monthly donation. AAR is worth it to me and so I will set this up as soon as I can. I wish you, Dabney, and the team, every success in overcoming the problems you are facing. I would hate to see AAR disappear. The recent furore over the RWA, for example, does show that AAR has a voice that is heard very clearly in our area of mutual interest.
One other brief comment, is there any way that those whose books are reviewed (probably with a B or higher grade!!!) be encouraged into a little thank you to AAR with a small donation – especially those who you review with every new book?
We don’t ever want anyone to think we “buy” reviews so we’d never ask authors for financial support. Many many other sites are more cheerleaders for authors–and that’s fine–but that’s not our role. We strive to be completely neutral.
Point taken and I should have thought it through more carefully. Of course what you say is very much a part of AAR’s ethos. PayPal monthly donation set up. Best wishes, Dabney.
Thank you for sharing – I want you to thrive, and lessen your worries as I may!
I care a lot, you are my go-to-resource for new ideas about books types, reviews, and a good debate – I am happy you exist and will support you if I can.
I will react very practically:
As your links do not automatically move on to amazon.de, I need to do a manual thing every time, I am never sure it really works, and so I tend to be careless with that.
I am willing to go the donation route, myself, and giving monthly 5-10$ on a recurring basis would work for me.
I would prefer to leave AAR as a free site, and donate, rather than subscribe. I care that new people can access and enjoy it easily, or those who cannot afford to pay. Paywalls are a pity, because they might keep people out who I want to share with.
A tiny comment:
I gave you a PayPal donation of € 30 in December, because I read and heard what you are now saying once more.
The donation was under my official name, and never got a response from your side. An automatic “thank you” mail would have been encouraging, and reassuring. I am more relaxed about donating where such an acknowledgment happens.
This way – I do trust PayPal, so I do not really believe it did not arrive where it should -this way, a tiny niggle of worry remains.
Sorry, I did not cover this:
I do not need more acknowledgment – though having some Tombola or other prizes drawn occasionally is nice. But I want you to use the money to do what you do so well, not spend it on something extraneous like lotteries or stuff.
I usually send EVERYONE a thank you note who does anything for AAR. I don’t know how I missed you. I feel terrible.
Also, your note makes me think I need an automatic thank you from PayPal to donors and I will work on that.
Again, I apologize.
I sent $10 a month and it was acknowledged once in December. I don’t want any reward but some verification you actually got the donation would be reassuring. Automatically so as not to create more work for you. I’m a pretty big Amazon shopper and going through your source actually makes it easier
I do see your every month ones. I’ll start letting you know each time one comes in. You are a goddess. Thank you.
What I failed to do was say Thank You to you and all your staff. I am frankly so sad that you are not all royally compensated. A labor of love is still labor. You all are truly appreciated.
The link is on the bottom of the left hand sidebar if you need it. You have to start there and buy in one visit for us to get the credit. Amazon doesn’t make it easy!