When I finished my book about Christopher Columbus I self-published it through Smashwords and Amazon’s Kindle Store. Well, I’m certainly not getting rich off it like Amanda Hocking or Joe Konrath who are selling thousands of books each month (Hocking sells 100,000+ a month.). But there are a few souls who have bought what I have to offer.
It’s a rare author, either traditionally published or self-published, that makes much money with only one book on sale. Hocking, for example, has 11 available at Amazon and Konrath, who used to be traditionally published but now only self-publishes, has 43!
So, it was obvious that I needed to get more on my list. But how to go about it? The Columbus book took nearly a year to write. Closing in on my 69th birthday I don’t have a lot of years ahead of me to build up much of a list at one book a year. So there had to be another way.
If you look at Amazon’s offerings you’ll see that there are a lot of Public Domain books that people are selling with themselves as the “Publisher.” Most of these books are free, but others have prices ranging from 99¢ to $1.99 and up. Some people are slapping their own “forward” to one of these books and offering it to the public.
What are Public Domain books? As Wikipedia says, “Works are in the public domain if they are not covered by intellectual property (copyright) rights at all, if the intellectual property rights have expired, and/or if the intellectual property rights are forfeited. In other words anyone can do anything they want with a public domain book including selling it if they can find anyone willing to pay for something they can get absolutely free.
One of the biggest sources for books in the public domain is The Gutenberg Project. There are literally thousands of books available here. All of Mark Twain, William Shakespeare, for example and you can download them to your computer or even onto a Kindle if you own one.
Rummaging through Gutenberg I found a ton of wonderful books that would have captivated me when I was a young reader. Great, gripping stories of adventure with one glaring problem. The use of the language a century ago wouldn’t be something a young reader in the 21st century would be willing to wade through. A lot of the books were written by English authors for British readers so the spelling isn’t something a kid in the USA would be thrilled with. Spellings like harbour, colour, neighbour, etc. And simply the way things are phrased. For example: “I don’t believe you just did that,” expostulated Jack.
I labored (not laboured) through a book titled From Powder Boy to Admiral written by W.H.G. Kingston. A great story about three youngsters in the late 1700s who sign on to a Royal Navy frigate and go through some great adventures. Battles at sea, shipwrecks, being captured by the enemy and escaping. All the things that young readers can get behind, but certainly not written with the lasting literary style of a Robert Louis Stevenson.
But I liked the underlying story and decided to edit the book for the modern, young adult reader of today. I went through and changed the awkward, to us, spellings and rewrote almost every paragraph to make it seem like a more modern book. It was also very long at over 112,000 words. I decided to break it in half. Book I follows young William (Henry) Rayner from the time he signs on to the HMS Foxhound until he is made a midshipman. The second volume, which I’m currently working on will take him from midshipman to command.
It took me over a month to edit and rewrite the first volume. I went through it so many times that I got really sick of seeing the same story over and over, but that’s really no different than if you’re writing and editing something you’ve done yourself. It’s just that I didn’t have to create the characters, plot, etc. Just bring the century and a half old story into the modern world.
I priced it at 99¢. It was uploaded to Smashwords Wednesday morning before I went down to David for a weekly meeting with other gringos to practice our Spanish and then to the International Feria (fair). When I got home late that afternoon I’d already sold one copy! (At 99¢ and taking out the PayPal commission I made a whopping 35¢ in royalties. Since then three other people have bought it so I’m up to $1.40. Like I said earlier, I’m not getting rich.)
It’s currently available at Smashwords and should show up at Amazon and Barnes & Noble soon.