The merchant’s cost for advertising a particular product is limited (largely) to the percentage paid to an affiliate, and the merchant only has to pay when a purchase is actually made. This is much better than banner advertising, where the merchant pays whether or not any purchase occurs. In fact, the amount paid to an affiliate for a purchase through an affiliate link is probably only 10% to 20% of the cost of that sale through banner advertising (which charges in cost per 1000 banner views, CPM).
The phrase, "Affiliates are an extended sales force for your business", which is often used to explain affiliate marketing, is not completely accurate. The primary difference between the two is that affiliate marketers provide little if any influence on a possible prospect in the conversion process once that prospect is directed to the advertiser's website. The sales team of the advertiser, however, does have the control and influence up to the point where the prospect either a) signs the contract, or b) completes the purchase.
Know when to wait. Some affiliate programs require a certain level of traffic, subscribers, etc. If that’s the case, I say it’s better to wait to apply for that program instead of applying and hoping for the best. You risk being labelled the person who can’t follow guidelines and you might also risk not be allowed into the program when you do meet the qualifications.
Ahmad, Great post and great information. I have some more specific questions for you relating to my personal company and how affiliate programs can tie into it. Is there a chance we could talk sometime soon? I think you may have the answers to several of my questions on whether affiliate marketing is what I am looking for or not. And if it’s not what I am looking for I think you can direct me in the direction I need to go.

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Merchants receiving a large percentage of their revenue from the affiliate channel can become reliant on their affiliate partners. This can lead to affiliate marketers leveraging their important status to receive higher commissions and better deals with their advertisers. Whether it’s CPA, CPL, or CPC commission structures, there are a lot of high paying affiliate programs and affiliate marketers are in the driver’s seat.
The fit must be right between you and the merchant who is going to benefit from your promotional efforts, or it simply won’t work. The easiest way to begin with affiliate marketing is to select an affiliate network. Many affiliate networks exist, some which are tied to well-known companies like Amazon, Google, and Apple, while others specialize in specific types of products and services.
ClickBank allows you to join for free, and the approval process is virtually automatic, so it’s a great choice for people entering the affiliated game for the first time. ClickBank has a ton of information, including FAQs, walk-throughs, and videos available, so the barrier to entry is quite low. There’s also a (paid) program called ClickBank University with courses and assistance from experienced marketers.
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Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If you only promote one merchant’s products, you are stuck with their commissions, their landing pages, and ultimately, their conversion rates. It is important to work with many different merchants in your niche and promote a wide range of products. This affiliate marketing strategy will diversify the amount of commissions you make and create a steadier revenue stream for your website. 
Developing and monetizing microsites can also garner a serious amount of sales. These sites are advertised within a partner site or on the sponsored listings of a search engine. They are distinct and separate from the organization’s main site. By offering more focused, relevant content to a specific audience, microsites lead to increased conversions due to their simple and straightforward call to action.
“My beef with VigLink is that just because you’re accepted into VigLink does not mean you’re automatically accepted to promote all merchants affiliate with VigLink. You still need to apply individually to many merchants. This in my mind defeats the purpose and the main benefit of this type of affiliate service. Fortunately Skimlinks operates differently; once accepted into Skimlinks you can promote any merchant without further red tape.”
Affiliate marketing has grown quickly since its inception. The e-commerce website, viewed as a marketing toy in the early days of the Internet, became an integrated part of the overall business plan and in some cases grew to a bigger business than the existing offline business. According to one report, the total sales amount generated through affiliate networks in 2006 was £2.16 billion in the United Kingdom alone. The estimates were £1.35 billion in sales in 2005.[15] MarketingSherpa's research team estimated that, in 2006, affiliates worldwide earned US$6.5 billion in bounty and commissions from a variety of sources in retail, personal finance, gaming and gambling, travel, telecom, education, publishing, and forms of lead generation other than contextual advertising programs.[16]
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