This post is the first in our new "Publisher Stories" series and was written by eBay Partner Network Publisher, Bill Cox. We want to send a big thank you to Bill for sharing his story with us.
I've been an affiliate publisher for almost seven years, and a work-from-home web designer for over 15 years. Although I got off to a slow start doing affiliate marketing, I've managed to create a successful business that has grown to become my primary day-to-day job. My wife has always been my lead programmer and I'm very fortunate to be able to spend a lot of time with my family. With our affiliate strategies finally paying off we've decided to become “snow birds” and build a home in Florida to live during the winter months. Affiliate Marketing has given us the freedom to develop our own electronic sites, products and services thus giving us the freedom to not be tied down to any one place.
We've decided to keep our home in Ohio because of the ties to a miniature golf course I own in the small rural town in which I live. We took this leap into mini-golf five years ago, in part because I wanted a reason to get out of the house after all those years working from home, but also because our community didn't have many fun things for families to do. I viewed it as an opportunity to get more involved in my community, to get to know my neighbors and provide a place for people to throw parties or host fundraising events and the like. That effort, along with the fact that I also owned four other businesses and employed about 25 people, earned me a Business Person of the Year Award from the local Chamber of Commerce. Being recognized as a successful business owner by my peers was one of the proudest moments in my professional career.
The big break I didn't know I was looking for came in the form of meeting my future wife in the summer of 1994 and marrying her 6 months later in Las Vegas (yes, Elvis gave the bride away). She was a software engineer for a large motor manufacturer and had a lot of business experience.
I had continued to buy comic books over the years and after a while I had complete runs on the books I enjoyed most. While at a comic convention in Chicago in 2002 I bought the last book I needed and found that I still had some cash in my pocket. As fate would have it, I stumbled upon a comic art dealer and bought a few pieces of original art – I was immediately hooked as a collector. Here I was, getting to live vicariously through these artists - something I had always envisioned myself doing while growing up.
A piece from Bill’s Original Art Collection
It was at this point that I decided that building a site for comic art collectors was my best way to meet people in the space. This was also the first time I started looking at this as a potential business opportunity.
Over the winter of 2004 I built ComicArtFans.com (CAF) with my wife and closest friend, and it quickly became popular. Today, we have more than 70,000 registered users and more than 500k unique visitors a month, delivering upwards of 300,000 pageviews each day.
My break with the eBay Partner Network came about entirely by accident. After Hurricane Katrina happened in August 2005 there were several artists that were pulling their resources together to raise funds for relief efforts to aid the victims of the hurricane, and I wanted CAF to assist as best we could by promoting the auctions. I had seen lists of eBay auctions on other sites and discovered that these Editor Kits (EKs) were part of the eBay affiliate program. So I created a few EKs to place on CAF's homepage and was relieved that it was so easy to list the auctions that way. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered the next month that having this EK on CAF's homepage for a couple weeks generated over $600.
Bill Cox with Stan Lee
The best advice I can give anyone entering EPN today - or affiliate marketing in general - is to focus first on what you know and build a site and content around that. CAF is incredibly successful and I attribute that to the fact that I love comic art collecting and am very involved in the hobby. I've dabbled with creating other collectibles related sites using similar ideas but nothing has really stuck or had the same success as CAF. You just cannot throw sites out there and expect them to be successful. Do what you love and the rest will fall into place!