Looking for a little extra cash? Affiliate programs may be the answer. Way back in the boom days of the Internet (1999) I wrote a snappy little book on the subject for McGraw-Hill, The Complete Guide to Associate and Affiliate Programs on the Net: Turning Clicks into Cash. The premise behind the book was simple: While we all run short on cash from time-to-time, affiliate programs present boundless opportunities to create alternate streams of income.

The Complete Guide to Associate and Affiliate Programs on the Net: Turning Clicks into Cash was the first book from a major publisher on the subject of affiliate marketing. The book created a minor flurry of excitement when it hit the bookstore shelves. (It was even slashdotted!) But by the nature of being from a major publishing house, the book suffered by not being updated with a second edition. While many of the players have changed, the basic truths of the book remain: if you’re smart about the way you go about things, you can earn a good bit of extra cash through affiliate programs.

I can say that from experience. I have earned tens of thousands of dollars through my affiliate marketing efforts. So how did I do it? I can point to one site in particular: over-the-counter.com. This funny little site was one of my most successful efforts. In the boom years, over-the-counter.com raked in a ton of affiliate referral fees first from PlanetRx.com (before it flamed out), and then from Drugstore.com. (I’ve since done a deal to turn the site into a full-fledged web store.)

So how did I get from zero to five figures a year? Let me share a little story from the introduction of The Complete Guide to Associate and Affiliate Programs on the Net

I was walking the kids to the bus stop one morning in the fall of 1998. As we strolled up the block, I noticed an unfamiliar minivan making its way down the street. I soon realized that it was a newspaper delivery truck. As the minivan drew closer, I could see that it was a top-of-the-line cruiser–a fully loaded thirty-thousand-something testament to Detroit’s commitment to family values. And the driver. The driver was a few years older than I, with a great deal less hair. My mind kicked into overdrive, spinning a tale.

I surmised that this poor fellow had fallen on tough times. For all one knows, he may have been buried in credit card debt or laid off from his cushy corporate job. Maybe he just had a kid or two to put through college (or orthodontics). In any case, he surely wasn’t making his mama proud (appreciative perhaps, but not proud). “That will never happen to me,” I thought to myself, as I watched the minivan roll to the end of the block. I tugged at my goatee and mused, “This geek daddy knows better.” As the school bus whisked away, I came up with the working title to this book: Working the Web Sure Beats Getting a Paper Route.

My son, who was six years old at the time, had an even better title for the book: Wake Up With Money!

It was easy to earn the big bucks in the boom days. Some affiliate programs were exceptionally generous–back when that silly venture capital and IPO money was flowing freely. PlanetRx, for instance, paid 15% of sales, in addition to a $10 bounty for each new customer. (As a result, there were many times when I made more from a transaction than did the merchant.) While these terms were outrageously good for the affiliate, it was clear that they couldn’t last.

And they didn’t.

While affiliate marketing has changed over the years, it’s still possible for the little guy to earn a nice little chunk of change.