What Exactly Is Public Domain Content (Books) & How Can You Make Money with It?

blog cover image
20
13.4K followers
Updated

(Cover Photo: As A Woman Thinks partial book cover)

Hi everyone,

What Exactly Is Public Domain Content (Books) & How Can You Use It?

With Books referring to public domain content, one way this happens is when the Copyright to a book has expired.

Every country has different rules for this so you have to check them individually.

I'll use the USA as an example.

Currently,

In the United States, works published BEFORE January 1, 1929, are in the public domain. (Even if the author is miraculously still alive today). Its all inclusive.

So you can take any book or magazine published before Jan 1, 1929 and you are FREE to reprint this book. You still would use the title and author as is. You could include yourself as the editor if you like - Edited by John Smith, for example.

These exclusive rights are subject to a time and generally expire 70 years after the author's death or 95 years after publication.

How can you take a public domain work and be able to copyright it?

You could take a book and add your own illustrations to it.

You could take a book and add quite a bit of new content or change the existing content.

For example, I took a book from the 1600's written in very Old English where an "s" looked like an "f" and I converted the book to Modern English and copyrighted it. It was by a popular author and this book surprisingly never made it into Modern English. Good sales for me. :-)

I also took a public domain book by James Allen, As A Man Thinketh and converted it to Modern English as well and copyrighted it. As A Man Thinks

I took that even a step further and changed the book to, As A Woman Thinks changing all the language to feminine from masculine in Modern English. I outsourced the editing to a woman so it would be more realistic although I kept the copyrights to the book.

As A Woman Thinks

I also took the liberty of having my youngest daughter in the USA, Alexandra Jeane Waller, pose for the cover. :-)

You can also take photos and artwork from public domain content and use it however you like. There are some beautiful images available.

I love this one of St Joan of Arc from a magazine in the 1880's. She usually looks so homely in others that I have seen. Feel free to take this if you like it. I had years before sold t-shirts with that image on them.

So many of the 1,217 books that I have published are reprints.

https://my.wealthyaffiliate.com/melwaller/blog/79-146-and-counting-keep-moving-forward

I mentioned in my above post about a 3 page ebook that I have been selling since April 2009.

That was simply taken for a larger book. Can you say Copy and Paste?

A word of caution on public domain ebooks is that Amazon has a lot of rules in that regard and may not accept yours especially if they already have one available on Amazon.

Books are not a problem, but they may ask for proof that it is public domain content and you can provide them link(s) to whatever copyright law or even Wikipedia showing it is in the public domain and sometimes an image of the original book is needed showing when it was published and where.

My daughters in USA like me, like Star Trek. I reprinted H G Wells, War of the Worlds and included a dedication page to them and sent them each a book. It doesn't matter to me if the book ever sells since it served its purpose, but any sales would be a bonus. War of the Worlds would be a great book to include new illustrations throughout and then copyright it yourself.

What old books will sell?

There could be certain genre that are still of interest. Could be on Science, Religion, Philosophy, Historical etc.

Oh before I forget it. You could take an English Public domain work and translate it into your language and copyright it as well.

I did publish 1 public domain book written in Tagalog in the early 1900's by a popular Philippine writer. Just as valid today as back then.

I hope this helps and gives you many possible ideas. Many public domain books can be found online.

KDP Amazon is free to use for submitting your books/ebooks to sell on Amazon.

Sometimes, I am confident a title will do well, but I can't find the online proof Amazon is asking for about the book. Then I will publish it via Lightning Source, Inc. There are reasonable fees involved. I have about 3 dozen books there which will still show up on Amazon.

What do you think?

To Our Success!

Mel Waller

Login
Create Your Free Wealthy Affiliate Account Today!
icon
4-Steps to Success Class
icon
One Profit Ready Website
icon
Market Research & Analysis Tools
icon
Millionaire Mentorship
icon
Core “Business Start Up” Training

Recent Comments

34

COOL! Great Info, Mel. Thanks

JD

You are most welcome Jay!

Mel

:D

Keep it up, Mel. At this point I’m content writing my own content. But this public domain route is always an option. It’s good to see you doing well in this area!

Karin

Thanks Karin!

Mel

Thanks, Mel.
This is more information than I had about how to use the public-domain material.
I will admit that maybe it is that now I understand more of what you are sharing with us.

Have you become aware of any less popular genres?
How too's over fiction or history?

Thank you,
Sami

Hi Sami,

I'm often just guessing when I decide to publish a particular book.

But if the author/title are already known, there's a good chance its going to sell some copies.

At least being free, all we have invested is our time. When I find an author that does well I will search relentlessly for more of his work. Some well known people may have had not so well known articles published in magazines...etc in the early 1900's or 1800's.

Its like a treasure hunt to me to see what I can find and use.

Mel

I actually have that book, Mel! "As a Man thinketh" by James Allen. Now you've opened my eyes to the endless possibilities!

I'm adding this to my to-do list!

Appreciate the motivating post!
Isaiah 😁

You are most welcome Isaiah!

Mel

Keep doing what you do, Mel!

Jeff

Will do. Thanks Jeff!

Mel

I know that you will, Mel!

Jeff

See more comments

Login
Create Your Free Wealthy Affiliate Account Today!
icon
4-Steps to Success Class
icon
One Profit Ready Website
icon
Market Research & Analysis Tools
icon
Millionaire Mentorship
icon
Core “Business Start Up” Training