If you want to know exactly how to sell public domain books on Kindle (Amazon KDP), you are in the right place! You've probably seen classical books from your childhood appear on Pinterest or Tik Tok with new, modernized and attractive covers...
Upon first glance, it may seem like these books have been pirated - but as I am sure you are aware now, these are simply republished due to being made available in the public domain.
I'm going to share my best tips on how you can do the same, and make a small fortune publishing public domain books on Kindle. The best part is, the costs are very minimal!
I must add, this post is focussed solely on publishing the works on Kindle. But if you need to, you can learn more about actually rewriting public domain books and building your own publishing company off the back of this (or off the backs of classical authors!)
Choose a Book from Public Domain
Most of the digital classical books are scanned copies of printed works that you can find on different websites such as https://dp.la, https://librivox.org/, https://www.gutenberg.org.
These works are available for free to the public, but not in an easy format for digital reading.
As soon as you choose a book, you have to:
- Format the manuscript
- Create an attractive book cover
- Provide the metadata for the sales page.
Upon searching through a lot of these books, I realized that most of the works in the public domain are scanned with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) that uses software to convert scanned images to text form.
So, if you are going to use them, you have to proofread the text and spot typographical errors, misspelled words, and incorrect punctuation marks. You also need to do a little editing to make sense of a sentence and make it easier to read.
I looked through some books on the websites that have multiple formats and are ready for download. Other works can be copy-pasted in a Word document file, for you to make the differentiated and formatted version for publishing.
Prepare the metadata of seven keywords, descriptions, and two Book Industry Standards and Communication (BISAC) categories.
A little tip I’ve picked up when choosing a book is to do a bit of research that sparks the interest of the readers. Any extra promotion means goods sales for your book choice:
- Find out if there are plans for a movie to be made from one of the classic literary books.
- Check the list of TV series that have a story based on a book.
- Check literary discussions on social media feeds that mention a book or an author.
- Browse through the bestsellers from bookstores or newspaper listings.
- Go to the website Project Gutenberg and see the most downloaded titles.
Publishing Public Domain Books on KDP Legally
Look through the Amazon KDP guidelines page in the Kindle Direct Publishing for public domain content. Kindle can turn down your book version if it’s in the Kindle listing or the same as the original version that is free to the public.
Your work must have a unique and differentiated version of the book by adding at least one of these three components:
When you translate the content into another language, it becomes a unique piece and like bought by the same nationality. Google Translate will not work as grammatical structure, expressions, and intonations are incorrect.
Remember to credit the translator in the contributor field, or use Anonymous if it is an old work without a name.
When you annotate, you include literary critiques, biographies, historical context, and even study guides. Some publishers will offer workbooks and discussion questions with the answers after a chapter in the book.
Some write a short paragraph at the beginning of the book as their annotation.
Illustrations are powerful visuals that add value to any ebook. If you want to add this feature, you need a minimum of ten illustrations related to the story.
That goes to say the choices have to be period-correct, similar art execution, and relevant to the book title.
Caveat on Differentiation
Amazon will consider selling the public domain book with the three unique differentiation. It does not consider the following changes to qualify as a differentiated version from the original work.
- Format Improvements
- Rank in Sales
- Linked Table of Contents
- Available Internet Content
How To Sell Public Domain Books in Kindle: Steps
As soon as you are ready to sell your formatted ebook, you’ll need to register with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and use the tools to help you sell, market, and manage your books.
Register in Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
- Create an Amazon Account that you will use for KDP sales.
- Using the same Amazon username and password, sign in to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).
- Create your KDP account with your name, email address, and password.
- Fill in the KDP information sheet (author/publisher information, getting paid, tax information, and bank details)
Set Up your Name in Author Central
Create your author’s page in Amazon’s Author Central, where your titles are organized in one place.
You have a space for your headshot, biography, blog posts, and connect with the book shoppers on Amazon.
Log into KDP Dashboard
Once you've set up your KDP registration, log into your KDP dashboard to fill in the book price, manage and track your sales, and offer print-on-demand paperbacks that you sell in the Amazon Marketplace.
Create your Book Listing on Amazon KDP
In your KDP dashboard, go to the Bookshelf and click Kindle eBook. Fill up the three-screen process to set up the book details:
1. Book Details must be Filled Out
- Book Title and Short Subtitle with top keywords and phrases
- Categories of the Book
- Use the seven Keywords or key phrases for readers to find your ebook in Amazon search
- Book description of characters and storyline using the keywords
- Series and Edition Numbers if you are publishing a series
- Contributors are names of your editors, translators, collaborators included in the book credits.
2. Kindle eBook Public Domain Content
- Ebook file using .mobi file or .epub that KDP will convert upon upload
- Cover Artwork using the specifications .jpg or .tiff file using 2,560 px tall by 1,600 px wide. You can also use the free Canva ebook templates.
3. Pricing of Public Domain eBook
- Indicate your book price starting from $.99 to $4.99.
- State your royalty preference from 35% on book prices below $2.99, while above that price is 70%.
- List your books in Amazon marketplaces or enroll in KDP Select Program.
4. Market Your eBook on Amazon
After you click the publish button, you’ll need to market your book on Amazon, social media, and other outlets. I recommend you enroll your title in the KDP Select and benefit from the sales program that has Kindle Unlimited, Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, and Kindle Select Promotions.
You can also use Amazon’s book advertising programs using keyword-driven ads. This is billed to you when a reader uses the pay-per-click (PPC) model.
Another tip that helps sell your book version is to offer a free downloadable audio version of the book. LibriVox has a vast selection that is free. But when package this with your eBook, it is an added value that buyers appreciate.
Selling public domain books is not rocket science, but it’s also not a walk in the park. Your meticulous work on digital formatting, proofreading, annotating, and illustrations make up your product.
Selling your work on Kindle allows you to earn slowly but surely, using concise metadata and a good description.
Once you get that hang of it, the process is easy to handle.