Public Domain $ Made And Lessons Learned

31 replies
So I have been playing with Amazon Kindle for awhile and selling a few books here and there and decided to test public domain content to see if people were really buying this stuff. I researched and researched and finally found a book that looked like it could fit the Kindle demo-graphic audience.

While downloading this totally legal content I felt a little guilt in back of my mind but continued any way , knowing that this is totally legal according to USA laws. I remember asking myself "people really buy this stuff for their kindle ?" To my surprise, the answer was yes they do. July 3rd I had my first public domain sale.

Lessons:

You can rank in Google for multiple keywords that pertain to the public domain content, all on the behalf of Amazon authority and SEO.

Choosing a cover that stands out works....I tested and tweaked and the winner definitely stood out from all the other covers that were on the page.

Believe it or not people love convenience and they will pay for it. Even if the content is already on the internet, they may not have it on the kindle and you will get residuals for creating this comfort by reformatting the downloaded ebook.

Your first or small successes are your biggest ones because you can improve upon it and make it better each time with what you learned from trial and error.

Most content you publish on Kindle won`t be something you are into. I found this out the hard way. I kept publishing stuff that I liked and quickly saw no sales, because my audience of my hobbies don`t have kindles so it defeats the point.

If you are considering publishing public domain content DO IT...IT`S EASY
#domain #learned #lessons #made #public
  • Profile picture of the author JSThompson
    That is a cool idea, what site did you use to find your public domain books?
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    • Profile picture of the author kelseydeshaz
      Originally Posted by JSThompson View Post

      That is a cool idea, what site did you use to find your public domain books?
      This idea has been around for years, just took some action to satisfy the curiosity of the method. I used world cat to find the niches and books dated before 1923 and Guten Berg to download the book. Make sure you take out Guten Berg content in the begining and at the end. please research more on the rules for public domain... wouldn`t want anyone getting in trouble.
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      • Profile picture of the author Tim Franklin
        Originally Posted by kelseydeshaz View Post

        This idea has been around for years, just took some action to satisfy the curiosity of the method. I used world cat to find the niches and books dated before 1923 and Guten Berg to download the book. Make sure you take out Guten Berg content in the begining and at the end. please research more on the rules for public domain... wouldn`t want anyone getting in trouble.
        Interesting but when you remove the notice is that not in "itself" a violation?

        (granted a small one, but the terms of use clearly state that the notice must remain in tact) I am not passing judgement, just wondering how you get around that restriction, because in the notice, it does state a few restrictions that would tend to be "troublesome" if there were any question about the "labor" aspect of the work.

        Still good job with developing a product,
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        • Profile picture of the author OrangeBull
          Originally Posted by Tim Franklin View Post

          Interesting but when you remove the notice is that not in "itself" a violation?

          (granted a small one, but the terms of use clearly state that the notice must remain in tact) I am not passing judgement, just wondering how you get around that restriction, because in the notice, it does state a few restrictions that would tend to be "troublesome" if there were any question about the "labor" aspect of the work.

          Still good job with developing a product,
          If the original text is public domain, it is not a violation of the copyright law to copy the original public domain text. The gutenberg filler is subject to copyright, and they can restrict your right to republish their portion of the work, but not copying their new original copyrighted work doesn't violate the copyright law! In fact, that is quite the opposite.

          They can't restrict your right to do what you please with the original public domain text. Just like George Romero can't restrict your right to do what you may with the original unedited release prints of "Night of the Living Dead." That entered the public domain because the distributor forgot to put a copyright notice on the release prints in 1968! Talk about a costly mistake. Whether or not its translation to the "new medium" of video constitutes a copyrightable permutation of a public domain work remains a gray area in the law, but it is probably not if there isn't something transformative. That is like saying a new font used for Shakespheare would make "Romeo and Juliet" copyrightable, despite the fact that it was written BEFORE COPYRIGHT LAW EXISTED! Where it might be a gray area in terms of film is that a video might be "pan and scan" which is somewhat transformative, or it may be "letterboxed" which again, may or may not be transformative; however, the preserved aspect ratio of 1:33:1 from an old movie like Edgar G. Ulmer's "Detour" from the 1940s which I believe entered the public domain for failure to file a copyright renewal -I'm not certain of that- wouldn't appear very transformative when scanned from film onto video.

          All of that is a long way of saying issues surrounding the public domain aren't cut and dry, but nobody can stop you from not copying their work! Copyright law doesn't give the copyright holder a right to preclude you from not copying their work, only a right to preclude you from copying their work, but putting a foreward onto Shakespheare's original text or new footnotes onto "The Bible's" original text doesn't create a copyright in the original text, just the new parts surrounding the old public domain part. I could buy a copy of Napoleon Hill's "Think and Grow Rich" that contained the original 1937 edition that fell out of copyright for failure to renew, and even if it had a new forward and new afterword, the part sandwhiched in between, if unrevised remains entirely within the public domain. It is only the expression that is new that is not public domain.

          The more important question surrounding the Kindle is: How do you get around the fact that Kindle isn't paying royalties for works that are primarily made from the public domain?

          I understand you are adding royalty-free images, but is that all? It would seem to me that the primary portion would remain public domain!
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          • Profile picture of the author kelseydeshaz
            Originally Posted by OrangeBull View Post

            If the original text is public domain, it is not a violation of the copyright law to copy the original public domain text. The gutenberg filler is subject to copyright, and they can restrict your right to republish their portion of the work, but not copying their new original copyrighted work doesn't violate the copyright law! In fact, that is quite the opposite.

            They can't restrict your right to do what you please with the original public domain text. Just like George Romero can't restrict your right to do what you may with the original unedited release prints of "Night of the Living Dead." That entered the public domain because the distributor forgot to put a copyright notice on the release prints in 1968! Talk about a costly mistake. Whether or not its translation to the "new medium" of video constitutes a copyrightable permutation of a public domain work remains a gray area in the law, but it is probably not if there isn't something transformative. That is like saying a new font used for Shakespheare would make "Romeo and Juliet" copyrightable, despite the fact that it was written BEFORE COPYRIGHT LAW EXISTED! Where it might be a gray area in terms of film is that a video might be "pan and scan" which is somewhat transformative, or it may be "letterboxed" which again, may or may not be transformative; however, the preserved aspect ratio of 1:33:1 from an old movie like Edgar G. Ulmer's "Detour" from the 1940s which I believe entered the public domain for failure to file a copyright renewal -I'm not certain of that- wouldn't appear very transformative when scanned from film onto video.

            All of that is a long way of saying issues surrounding the public domain aren't cut and dry, but nobody can stop you from not copying their work! Copyright law doesn't give the copyright holder a right to preclude you from not copying their work, only a right to preclude you from copying their work, but putting a foreward onto Shakespheare's original text or new footnotes onto "The Bible's" original text doesn't create a copyright in the original text, just the new parts surrounding the old public domain part. I could buy a copy of Napoleon Hill's "Think and Grow Rich" that contained the original 1937 edition that fell out of copyright for failure to renew, and even if it had a new forward and new afterword, the part sandwhiched in between, if unrevised remains entirely within the public domain. It is only the expression that is new that is not public domain.

            The more important question surrounding the Kindle is: How do you get around the fact that Kindle isn't paying royalties for works that are primarily made from the public domain?

            I understand you are adding royalty-free images, but is that all? It would seem to me that the primary portion would remain public domain!
            Thanks for clearing alot of the rights up... They are paying the 35% Royalties for PBD... and yes all that is required is 10 or more images to make the content acceptable by Amazon.
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    • Profile picture of the author kelseydeshaz
      Originally Posted by richgrad View Post

      One question... for the ISBN number do you use the original one or do you get a new one?
      ISBN is optional so I didn`t use it... just select this is a public domain work.
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    • Profile picture of the author CDarklock
      Originally Posted by richgrad View Post

      One question... for the ISBN number do you use the original one or do you get a new one?
      You get a new one. New publication = new ISBN.
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      • Profile picture of the author numbermoja
        Great post Kelsey. I really didn't know much about public domain content and that you can repackage them and sell them on kindle.

        This is an informative post and I think most of us should share our results so that the community can learn from our trials and errors.

        I was looking into creating some kindle books, but this is really encouraging to see that you can use public domain stuff.

        Thanks Kelsey keep us informed on your progress.
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        • Profile picture of the author kelseydeshaz
          Originally Posted by numbermoja View Post

          Great post Kelsey. I really didn't know much about public domain content and that you can repackage them and sell them on kindle.

          This is an informative post and I think most of us should share our results so that the community can learn from our trials and errors.

          I was looking into creating some kindle books, but this is really encouraging to see that you can use public domain stuff.

          Thanks Kelsey keep us informed on your progress.
          Thanks Tony
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      • Profile picture of the author kelseydeshaz
        Originally Posted by CDarklock View Post

        You get a new one. New publication = new ISBN.
        When I went to publish on KDP it was optional so I just left it blank.
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  • Profile picture of the author PhilG
    Thank you for the great post.

    I was wondering what you would consider the Amazon "Kindle demo-graphic audience" to be? And how you came to determine that?

    Thanks
    Phil G
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    • Profile picture of the author kelseydeshaz
      Originally Posted by PhilG View Post

      Thank you for the great post.

      I was wondering what you would consider the Amazon "Kindle demo-graphic audience" to be? And how you came to determine that?

      Thanks
      Phil G
      Typed in Kindle demo-graphics in Google and discovered that the majority of readers are mid age females, and this proved itself to be true according to what type of stuff was selling in my archive. Also Rumors from other marketers.
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  • Profile picture of the author Spyder77
    Informative post. Bonus points for the discussing the "rightness" of doing something perfectly legal but still feels a bit taboo. I've been missing out on the Kindle wave. You're absolutely correct that in taking something from the public domain, and providing value in it by converting it to the format that people will by it in, that there is nothing really "wrong" about it. You provide the value added service to deliver the final product the customer wants and is willing to pay money to get. Outcome: both parties benefit.

    As long as the added value is there in doing it properly, which I'm reading into it that you have, its an acceptable business strategy. Kudos to you for realizing that and capitalizing on it.

    Originally Posted by kelseydeshaz View Post

    So I have been playing with Amazon Kindle for awhile and selling a few books here and there and decided to test public domain content to see if people were really buying this stuff. I researched and researched and finally found a book that looked like it could fit the Kindle demo-graphic audience.

    While downloading this totally legal content I felt a little guilt in back of my mind but continued any way , knowing that this is totally legal according to USA laws. I remember asking myself "people really buy this stuff for their kindle ?" To my surprise, the answer was yes they do. July 3rd I had my first public domain sale.

    Lessons:

    You can rank in Google for multiple keywords that pertain to the public domain content, all on the behalf of Amazon authority and SEO.

    Choosing a cover that stands out works....I tested and tweaked and the winner definitely stood out from all the other covers that were on the page.

    Believe it or not people love convenience and they will pay for it. Even if the content is already on the internet, they may not have it on the kindle and you will get residuals for creating this comfort by reformatting the downloaded ebook.

    Your first or small successes are your biggest ones because you can improve upon it and make it better each time with what you learned from trial and error.

    Most content you publish on Kindle won`t be something you are into. I found this out the hard way. I kept publishing stuff that I liked and quickly saw no sales, because my audience of my hobbies don`t have kindles so it defeats the point.

    If you are considering publishing public domain content DO IT...IT`S EASY
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    • Profile picture of the author kelseydeshaz
      Originally Posted by Spyder77 View Post

      Informative post. Bonus points for the discussing the "rightness" of doing something perfectly legal but still feels a bit taboo. I've been missing out on the Kindle wave. You're absolutely correct that in taking something from the public domain, and providing value in it by converting it to the format that people will by it in, that there is nothing really "wrong" about it. You provide the value added service to deliver the final product the customer wants and is willing to pay money to get. Outcome: both parties benefit.

      As long as the added value is there in doing it properly, which I'm reading into it that you have, its an acceptable business strategy. Kudos to you for realizing that and capitalizing on it.

      Thanks alot for the comment Spyder77...you rock
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  • Profile picture of the author cryst
    cool idea..dude...!!!
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  • Profile picture of the author ladywriter
    Public domain is pretty much the best thing ever.

    And about feeling guilty---ask yourself if major publishers feel guilty for publishing Shakespeare and Dickens books in major bookstores. They don't. After I realized what public domain materials were and went to the bookstore for the first time, I literally stood with my mouth open at all the p.d. that was being sold. For full price!!

    All you have to do is provide additional value.

    What I'm curious about is how you explained yourself to Kindle Did you say you were selling a p.d. book? I think they are being harder on p.d. books now?

    ah--on edit: I see you did say it was a p.d book, ok
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    • Profile picture of the author kelseydeshaz
      Originally Posted by kstark View Post

      Public domain is pretty much the best thing ever.

      And about feeling guilty---ask yourself if major publishers feel guilty for publishing Shakespeare and Dickens books in major bookstores. They don't. After I realized what public domain materials were and went to the bookstore for the first time, I literally stood with my mouth open at all the p.d. that was being sold. For full price!!

      All you have to do is provide additional value.

      What I'm curious about is how you explained yourself to Kindle Did you say you were selling a p.d. book? I think they are being harder on p.d. books now?

      ah--on edit: I see you did say it was a p.d book, ok
      yep you are totally right about not feeling guilty... wanted to convey the ok-ness for people who may run into that feeling.

      As for squeezing through the Kindle gates for PBD just add some royalty free images to the content , about 10-15 to make it your copy right.
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  • Profile picture of the author earningmoney
    Originally Posted by kelseydeshaz View Post

    So I have been playing with Amazon Kindle for awhile and selling a few books here and there and decided to test public domain content to see if people were really buying this stuff. I researched and researched and finally found a book that looked like it could fit the Kindle demo-graphic audience.

    While downloading this totally legal content I felt a little guilt in back of my mind but continued any way , knowing that this is totally legal according to USA laws. I remember asking myself "people really buy this stuff for their kindle ?" To my surprise, the answer was yes they do. July 3rd I had my first public domain sale.

    Lessons:

    You can rank in Google for multiple keywords that pertain to the public domain content, all on the behalf of Amazon authority and SEO.

    Choosing a cover that stands out works....I tested and tweaked and the winner definitely stood out from all the other covers that were on the page.

    Believe it or not people love convenience and they will pay for it. Even if the content is already on the internet, they may not have it on the kindle and you will get residuals for creating this comfort by reformatting the downloaded ebook.

    Your first or small successes are your biggest ones because you can improve upon it and make it better each time with what you learned from trial and error.

    Most content you publish on Kindle won`t be something you are into. I found this out the hard way. I kept publishing stuff that I liked and quickly saw no sales, because my audience of my hobbies don`t have kindles so it defeats the point.

    If you are considering publishing public domain content DO IT...IT`S EASY
    congratulation for your success. you are right people pay for convenience. can you specify what is this - Kindle demo-graphic audience.

    i do not understand this term.
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    • Profile picture of the author kelseydeshaz
      Originally Posted by earningmoney View Post

      congratulation for your success. you are right people pay for convenience. can you specify what is this - Kindle demo-graphic audience.

      i do not understand this term.
      Kindle Demo-graphics = Kindle Users... the type people who use Kindle the most.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jamie Charles
    Very Cool, this should give the nudge to anyone thinking about publishing on kindle.

    Great work!
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  • Profile picture of the author GuruGazette
    I have several Kindle books that are derivatives of Public Domain materials and a few that aren't changed at all other than formatting. Amazon still allows you to publish PD content but you have to add value of some kind. Adding images or annotations does the trick.

    As for ISBN numbers, you can't reuse them. Amazon doesn't require your books to have an ISBN for Kindle formats though.
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  • Profile picture of the author cage73
    Kindle has made it tougher to publish public domain works and although my online business is built around using PD I am glad Kindle changed the rules when it comes to PD.

    Its not very difficult to get a public domain book published on Kindle as long as you differentiate your version. I've published several PD books on Kindle by adding my own unique content in one way or another. One thing to keep in mind though, is it really worth your time and effort to differentiate a PD work if there are already a dozen different versions already for sale on Kindle? Choose your PD works wisely, meaning do your research before jumping into this type of project.
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  • Profile picture of the author jt808
    Thanks for the great post. I was just thinking about the convenience factor the other day, when I paid almost double for a dozen eggs, because I didn't want to drive further to get the cheaper eggs.
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    • Profile picture of the author kelseydeshaz
      Originally Posted by jt808 View Post

      Thanks for the great post. I was just thinking about the convenience factor the other day, when I paid almost double for a dozen eggs, because I didn't want to drive further to get the cheaper eggs.
      No Prob... HaHaHa I know that feeling.
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    • Profile picture of the author Serenity090
      Originally Posted by jt808 View Post

      Thanks for the great post. I was just thinking about the convenience factor the other day, when I paid almost double for a dozen eggs, because I didn't want to drive further to get the cheaper eggs.
      Well Said...It has hidden marketing message...
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      • Profile picture of the author Josh C Guy
        Public domain is for real. Although I haven't got rich off it I have sold a few things from using public domain materials. Even a few cd's on Ebay. It can be done! I even made a tutorial on how to find and create your own products to sell on ebay! The value included a starter pack of public domain finds and screen capture step by step tutorial. I'll have to try kindle and re-tweek some of the proven content from the Public Domain.
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        • Profile picture of the author kelseydeshaz
          Originally Posted by Josh C Guy View Post

          Public domain is for real. Although I haven't got rich off it I have sold a few things from using public domain materials. Even a few cd's on Ebay. It can be done! I even made a tutorial on how to find and create your own products to sell on ebay! The value included a starter pack of public domain finds and screen capture step by step tutorial. I'll have to try kindle and re-tweek some of the proven content from the Public Domain.
          Nice... I wish I could be in the USA, to get the physical books, thats where the big bucks are at.
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  • Profile picture of the author KentuckyJeff
    Thanks for the post. I have been looking into the PD stuff for a long while now. I think it's time I get something together.
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  • Profile picture of the author WebPen
    I've been thinking of turning this into another income stream for me.

    I kinda think I'd feel guilty, but then again selling PD stuff is just being a smart marketer! It's a lot more ethical then selling someone a piece of garbage.
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  • Kindle is a great platform to use to make an passive income! People will buy anything with the right marketing! Remember, just because you know that it's p.d. content the end reader doesn't know that! See what's selling and if you can find a p.d on that topic you have a winner.
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