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I am the father of four beautiful daughters. Our decision to homeschool means we are a one-income family. Therefore, I'm always on the lookout for income-earning opportunities which:
You often hear the term "passive income." Dan Miller uses the phrase "SWISS Dollars" -- Sales While I Sleep Soundly.
In the past few months, I've started devoting a few hours each week to formatting public domain titles and making them available in the Amazon Kindle Store. I literally wake up each day to new sales and earnings without additional work. It's not "retire to an island" money, but it's certainly "this is making a difference in our budget" money.
This blog post is my first attempt to share what I'm doing. I'll provide a basic outline of the process, a few of the benefits and drawbacks, and a couple examples of the work I've done and income I'm earning.
Yes, it is legal. Copyright laws can be a bit confusing, and they vary from country to country. But here are the basic guidelines:
Amazon's system for allowing individuals to publish works for the Kindle Store is called Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP (http://kdp.amazon.com). In addition to allowing authors to publish their own works, KDP also allows and encourages the publishing of public domain works.
There are two royalty models for the Kindle Store. Authors can earn either 35% or 70% of a book's sale price, based on a few factors. However, public domain works only qualify for the 35% model. The seller can price a public domain book anywhere from $.99 to $200 and will earn 35% of each sale.
There are a few restrictions. For example, if a free version of a title already exists in Amazon's Kindle Store, you can't create a paid version without adding some type of differentiating value. You could add an author biography, annotations, an introduction with further research about the author or book, or original illustrations from the work.
Now, a quick outline of the process.
Selecting a book - There are tens of thousands of books in the public domain. There are a lot to choose from, but many already have Kindle versions. Much of the "art" of this process is in selecting books that have a "demand." I've focused on books that I've personally enjoyed or that I have a real interest in. See my examples below.
Finding a source - There are dozens of sites on the Internet that feature the complete texts of public domain books. Typically, a quick Google search of a book's title along with the words "full text" will show you if there's a text available. One of the best sources is Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org).
Formatting the book - I review the book, checking for any major formatting errors. I also make sure each chapter heading is properly marked as a heading. I then use free tools to generate a linked table of contents.
Creating a cover - This may be my favorite part. In the Kindle store, you need a single image to serve as the front cover of your book. I'm a "rookie" graphic designer by professional standards but still love creating a cover. I create a cover that is eye-catching, following some simple rules for helping the cover succeed on Amazon.
Converting to Kindle formatting - Amazon provides a free tool called the Kindle Generator that converts the formatted text, table of contents, and cover into a completed book file (Amazon uses the .mobi file format).
Post to Amazon - Finally, I post the work to Amazon, complete with the book's cover image, author information, a well-written description, search keywords, and pricing information. Amazon typically makes the book available for sale with 24-48 hours.
I greatly enjoy this type of work and have found many benefits. It allows me to discover new books and authors that I wouldn't have previously known about. I also love the marketing and design practice it provides. The entire process helps me to think about the type of books people are looking for and how best to present and market them in the Kindle Store.
I have written and published one book of my own and plan to write more in the future. I see this "hobby" as helping to sharpen my skills.
There are of course some potential drawbacks. The process can be a bit technical, although with a little practice, a person without much technical expertise can be producing Kindle versions. Also, the income isn't guaranteed. It's providing good income right now, but changes by competing books or new Amazon policies could change things in a hurry.
Finally, a little information about the income I've been able to generate. As I stated, I've been doing this as a hobby in my spare time for the past 2-3 months. I currently have just 6 public domain titles in the Kindle Store, although a couple of those are collections which include more than one book.
In the past month, I've had a couple of weeks where my "passive" income from the sales of those 6 books has exceeded $100. I currently have plans for a few more books in the coming weeks. I have the goal of getting my income from public domain books to the level that it can pay our mortgage within the next couple of months. Once again, for a family with four young children, this makes a big difference for us!
Finally, I'm including links to two book collections I've done, so you can get an idea of my work. Each of these collections is available for just 99 cents.
(I've also made an accompanying website for this collection at annebooks.com)
If you happen to check out the books or even purchase one, "likes" and reviews are GREATLY appreciated.
Further questions about the process? Please let me know in the comments. If there are others interested in learning more, I'd be happy to do additional follow-up posts that go into the process in greater detail.
Thanks so much for your time!