It's hard to improve on what Jill said so I won't try. But I'll address a couple of other points you raised.
Quite frankly, I don't even know what your comment about having a strong relationship with your affiliate program manager means really. Most affiliate marketing I've seen is done by signing up to be an affiliate for a company or product. Very few of these companies or organizations have people you can personally connect with. Maybe I'm missing something.
Every affiliate program I ever signed up for had a manager who answered questions, helped resolve technical issues, and made sure affiliates were being paid. The big guns I know tell me that they have very close relationships with their managers. That is how they get better contracts than what you see on the typical affiliate registration page.
You have to understand that companies which are selling real products and services through affiliate channels are going to favor big traffic movers who can bring in a lot of conversions. Anyone who wants to play in the highly competitive affiliate verticals needs to have a real plan for creating high-value traffic in sufficient volumes to show up on a decision-maker's radar.
I think just the fact that you say you know several people who are making all this money in affiliate marketing, yet can't or don't name one, is weird. ...
I didn't say I couldn't name them. But what would the names mean to you? There are tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people who have signed up with affiliate programs. As far back as 1998 or so Amazon was claiming to have 250,000 "associates" (affiliates).
On the other hand, when someone opens up to you in a private conversation and says, "I made $50,000 last month," the last thing you want to do is violate their confidence. Some of these people are or have been my clients. I'm not going to put those business relationships at risk just so I can claim bragging rights in a forum discussion.
There ARE real people who make a lot of money as affiliates. They probably amount to a fraction of 1% of the people who are trying to make money as affiliates.
ON EDIT: And these folks apparently do not feel compelled to share their success in the open on their personal Websites. That being the case, I will respect their privacy.
Edited by Michael Martinez, 02 April 2013 - 12:45 AM.