Please Sir, I Want Some More ... Public Domain Material
Charles Dickens is said to be the world's most prolific novelist, yet most of his works are relatively unknown to the general public, especially those he wrote under the pen name Boz. His most popular titles, Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, have been retold countless times in books, scripts, theatre plays and movies, and are all now in the public domain. These works have been so popular that they have been re-published by so many different publishers that they have never been out of print. As a business owner looking to add new products to your inventory, whether that be online or offline, you can’t go past public domain material. At a cost of ‘nearly free,’ you would be mad to give it a miss. As with the above example, some stories are timeless classics, classics that will sell year after year, in many different formats and versions.
This may be exactly the right type of product for your business. There are so many public domain works out there that you essentially will never run out of material to publish. And you will most likely find many manuscripts that will complement your existing products. A good rule of thumb to follow is to check that the original manuscript was published before 1923 in the United States of America (other countries may have different copyright laws so you may need to check this with a copyright lawyer). You should always get a certificate of copyright clearance for each public domain document you are going to publish.
This may save you many legal hassles later if anyone tries to dispute your right to re-publish the work. Public domain books and other materials can be found in many places, with the most likely being second-hand book stores. Some people enjoy this process the most; discovering that hidden gem amongst the thousands of tattered old Mills and Boon romance novels. Though, with the advent of the Internet this process is becoming increasingly more accessible to everyone. There are now many web sites that publish public domain material that can be freely accessed, and even some membership sites that actually find the material for you. If you make substantial changes to the material, that is, make enough changes that make the new version unrecognisable from the original, you may even claim the new copyright with yourself as the author. As Dickens made popular the serialised novel, so too can you be publishing serial after serial of public domain material.
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