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How to Churn Out Quick Profits Using the Public Domain

Idea No. 1: Simple Books

Although all the books that are available in the public domain have run out of copyright protection, many of these books have not gone out of style. In fact, quite a few public domain books are equally significant in today’s times as they were when they were first published.

From the hundreds of thousands of books available from the public domain, only a small fraction of them have been revised and made available to the current lot of customers. The remainder of the absolutely amazing titles are literally longing to be discovered.

The following examples are contributed by people who already use the public domain:

The Complete Feline Book by Vera Smith (circa late 1800s)

Coming back to the Complete Feline Book by Vera Smith, which I told you about earlier; this book was perhaps one of the first books of its time in which the author tried to record, explain, and demonstrate the various different species of cats that existed in the late 1800s. This book has run out of copyright since ages.

A first edition copy of this book can cost in excess of fifteen hundred pounds (that is if you even knew where to find it and I surely won’t tell!). The information contained in this book is very relevant even today and there may be plenty of people who want to benefit from this information, but can never afford to buy the book themselves.

But people like me, who have been able to source a copy of this book, have recreated it and made it available to readers today.

A big American publishing house used this book and reprinted it in its entirety. They did change the title of the book so that others could not locate it, but the text and images in the book have been kept as is. Since the title has been changed, and the publishing house has altered the colour and type of font, they now have exclusive copyrights to their creation.

There is yet another company which has used the book but has converted it into an educational CD. And then there are others (me included) who have broken down the book and created several smaller books dedicated to just one species at a time.

Even though the book has been used by several people, there still remains a lot of potential to convert the book into a profitable public domain product. You will have to be really imaginative and put in some dedicated effort, but you can end up with a product that can earn you money forever.

Don’t be deterred by the seemingly exorbitant price tag on the book (if you can find it, that is). The book has such immense scope that your initial investment is sure to be returned several fold. Although the book is in the public domain, I have yet to come across it on the internet or as a free product.

And yes, the revised versions of the book are available. But since these have been changed from the original version, they are now copyrighted to their owners and hence you cannot use them. But can’t I simply take the words and the images from the revised versions? How will anyone know the difference?

Well, if the words and images included in the revised version are exactly the same as they appear in the original version, then no one might know the difference. However, if they are even the slightest bit different, and you copy them, you are sure to get caught. So it is best never to copy from a copyrighted work. And why would you even want to bother with that? There are plenty of other fish in the sea, so why worry about the one that got away?

So, the only way to go is to locate an original version of some product that excites you and then revise that to come up with a money making product.

And all original copies that do come on to the markets need not be expensive. In fact, you can get an original copy for very little money, sometimes even for free, and then make huge profits from them.

Books on the Supernatural and Magical Topics

One of the hottest subjects on the Internet, specifically on eBay, is that of the supernatural. And when talking about magic or the paranormal, can Houdini be very far behind? Even though practically everyone knows that Houdini was a great magician, not many people are aware of the fact that he was also a great author. Houdini has written several books on supernatural topics, which include books on magical tricks and illusion.

Some of the books written by Houdini are available in the public domain. As there is already an established market for magic related products and even specifically for items related to Houdini, any of his public domain books can make for a wonderful revised product.

Two Down, Millions Yet to Come

On just two topics, magic and cats, I was able to access several great products from the public domain. And how much time did it take me to think of these two topics? Not more than a few minutes. Now just think about what all you can achieve from the public domain, if you set your mind to it!!!

Yes, you can take the easy route and republish a public domain book as is. It won’t take you much time and you may also get good profits from it. However, remember that a whole lot of people are reading this book, and many more will have access to it in the coming months.

A lot of these people could also be planning to do the easy thing and republish a public domain book in its entirety, perhaps even settle for the few ideas that have been mentioned here. But if you want the public domain to really make you rich, you will take the time to locate an exclusive product; one that not too many people know about, and then use this product to create a revised book that practically no one will be able to copy.

An Awesome Resource for Public Domain Titles: eBay

Well, what can I say about eBay? Suffice it to say that in addition to being a great site for buying and selling practically any product on the face of the earth, it is also a great resource for public domain books. Here’s a look at what eBay has to offer in this regard.

There are many country specific websites of eBay, but since eBay.com is the largest eBay website, I have chosen to look here..

I logged on to www.ebay.com and clicked on ‘Books’. And since I was searching for old books, I clicked on ‘Antiquarian Books’. I noticed here that there was an option to select the year when the books were first published. And to give myself the best chance of finding books that were copyright free in America (pre 1923 rule) and in the UK (70 year rule), I decided to go with printing year 1800-1849.

Although I did not need to go that far back according to US copyright laws; in order to make sure that all books would have satisfied the UK 70 year rule as well, I went that far back.

Here are the categories that are included in the ‘Books’ section:

  • Accessory books
  • Antiquarian & Collectible
  • Audio books
  • Catalogues
  • Children’s Books
  • Fiction Books
  • Magazine Back Issues
  • Non-fiction Books
  • Educational Books
  • Wholesale Bulk Lots
  • Other Books

Within each category of books, there were various subcategories. The subcategories that were there under Antiquarian and Collectible are:

  • Americana (207)
  • Art & Photography (22)
  • Biography & Memoir (145)
  • Children’s (72)
  • Cooking, Food, Wine (3)
  • Exploration & Travel (320)
  • Fraternal, Social Organizations (4)
  • History (401)
  • Illustrated (96)
  • Law & Government (126)
  • Literature (576)
  • Military & War (37)
  • Natural History (46)
  • Philosophy (55)
  • Reference (126)
  • Religion & Spirituality (702)
  • Science & Medicine (133)
  • Sports (2)
  • Vintage Paperbacks (1)
  • Other (198)

Alongside each sub-category, the figures represent the number of items available in each sub-category.

Going one step further, I entered the keyword ‘magic’ into the advanced search box for ‘Antiquarian and Collectible’ books. The next example will illustrate my results.

Example Twelve: eBay Search Results for ‘Magic’ in Antiquarian Books

As you can see, my search returned only two books. But both these books are definitely in the public domain, are not that expensive (the first one being really cheap), and definitely have the scope to make a lot of money.

But you must be careful and check that the versions are original versions and are not simply re-printed copies with their original titles intact. Before copying or using the books, a complete investigation needs to be done to ensure that they are original copies.

After my search on magic, I decided to search another topic that I had mentioned earlier – ‘American Indians’. Go on to the next example to see the results.

Example Thirteen: eBay Search Results for American Indians in Antiquarian Books

Amazing, isn’t it? I have at my disposal 7 great books, all of which are available at ridiculously low prices. Specifically, the book about the rare old American Indian races excites me a lot as it seems to have potential for huge profits. But once again, I was careful to check that all these books were copies of the original version and not reprinted copies published at some later date.

Where to Find Physical Prints of Public Domain Books

By now you must have probably realized that it is best to get a physical copy of any book that you are interested in to determine whether or not it is actually in the public domain. And even if you know for sure that a particular book is in the public domain, you still need to get a physical version of the book, which you can copy from freely.

There are some wonderful sites on the Internet where you can source original physical copies of books from. Here’s a look at one such site, which is called Abebooks.

Abebooks www.abebooks.com is a website where you can search for books according to their titles and authors. If you want to get a physical copy of a book that you know about, you can search in this manner. But, if you are looking for various books on a particular topic, you then need to perform an advanced search. Next I’ll show you how you can do that.

Log on to www.abebooks.com and click on the advanced search link which is in the middle of the home page. You will then be directed to a page where you begin your search. You must enter the subject that you are searching books on, and it is also a good idea to specify the year of publication. I choose the keyword ‘Knitting’ and specified the year of publication to be between 1850 and 1920. The next example will show you my results.

Example Fourteen: Search Results for Knitting on Abebooks

1) Knitting (Price: US$ 4.99)
Bookseller: Pro Quo Books (Baltimore, MD, U.S.A.)
Shipping within U.S.A.: US$ 3.50
Book Description: Mason/Charter 1905, 1905. Book is in very good condition; soft cover. Moderate cover wear. Bookseller Inventory # 0981362AD101bal

2) Tatted Bookmarks (Price: US$ 7.17)
Bookseller: TheBookCom (Horsham, WSx, United Kingdom)
Shipping within United Kingdom: US$ 5.83
Book Description: 1900, 1900. BRAND NEW PAPERBACK. mm. Knitting & stitch craft. 8778470625. Bookseller Inventory # CC8778470625

3) Mary Fitch #9 – Bags: Crocheted and Tatted (Price: US$ 7.95)
Bookseller: Iva Rose Vintage Reproductions (New Bedford, MA, U.S.A.)
Shipping within U.S.A.: US$ 3.50
Book Description: F. W. Woolworth, Co. Inc, Boston, MA, 1917. Comb Binding. Book Condition: As New. Dust Jacket Condition: As New. 4to – over 9_” – 12″ tall. A stunning collection of Flapper era bags and purses. Collection even includes a very elegant laundry bag, bag pincushions, a knitting bag as well as some really beautiful opera bags. An extremely rare book to find today! 22pp. Reproduction. Bookseller Inventory # 000119

These are just three of the books that my search returned. In addition to these, there were several more books, but these three looked the most promising. Notice that the publishers are also mentioned. So, depending on where you live, you can pick a book accordingly so that you are not violating the copyright laws in your country.

This is just one of the many sites where you can source physical copies of books from. Other websites include:

Alter the Headings and Protect Your Products!

The last thing you need is to spend your time and energy to come up with a wonderfully revised public domain product and then have someone steal your idea from right under your nose. A great way to ensure that this does not happen is to simply alter the headings and titles of your books and other items.

Conjure up imaginative titles that truly reflect your product. Make use of figures and numbers if possible, generate an imaginary image of your item, and highlight the usefulness of your product. Utilize words that have a strong impact such as super, best, jackpot, finest, money, profitable etc.

Experts also suggest using words starting with the same letters, or using symbols in place of letters.


  • Wonderful World of Winning (words starting with W)
  • $uper $ecrets to $uccess (the dollar sign instead of S)
  • Know your Knitting

Idea No. 2: Reprinting Images from Old Books

Remember those old books that I came across during my search for American Indian titles? Well, when I saw those books, I was immediately reminded of a collection of old postcards that I have, which depict various images related to American Indian culture, history, and paintings. I sell reproductions of those postcards through eBay and they are quite in demand. In fact, sometimes there is quite competitive bidding for one of my listings, which made me think that if people want these postcards so badly, perhaps they would be willing to settle for a reprint.

So I made reprints of my original postcards and sold them as such. Mind you, I never try to mislead my customers and always mention if an item is an original product or a reprint. Now coming back to those American Indian theme books; some of those books had amazing pictures, all free of copyright and available for use.

A few of the photographs were so good that they were almost lifelike. Now these photos too are ideal for reprinting and converting into postcards. In fact, you can reprint the photos in any manner that you see fit – on T-shirts, as posters, as a framed print, and even on letter pads. Using your own imagination, you can come up with a long list of items to create with reprinted photos.

And if you are serious about using images from old books, then you can even do a Gutenberg search for Illustrated Books instead of textual books. An illustrated book is sure to give you hundreds of photos that you can use as profitable reprints.

Example Fifteen: An Illustrated Public Domain Book

A CHRISTMAS CAROL, Dickens’s tender and comic tale of the Cratchit family, Tiny Tim, and Ebenezer Scrooge, has been a favorite since it was written in 1843. Badly in need of money, Dickens produced A CHRISTMAS CAROL in six weeks; the first printing of 6,000 copies sold out instantly. In Dickens’s original version, Tiny Tim was Tiny Fred, and Scrooge said “Bah!” but not “Humbug!”

I found this great book by doing a search for illustrated books at alibris.com. Believe me when I say, this book has some breathtaking illustrations and photos which would make any product they were used on, a best seller.

Example Sixteen: More Wonderful Public Domain Images

Here is another example of a great public domain illustrated book. Although you can find all kinds of illustrated books in the public domain, with photos of geographical landmarks, great old buildings, animals etc; I prefer to use images such as the ones available in these books, because they are much more lifelike and have timeless universal appeal.

There are many people who are in the business of making postcards and other items by reprinting original public domain photos and illustrations. Both online and offline, you will see that this is a big business. Whether you sell your reproduction postcards on the Internet, or sell them at postcard exhibitions or fairs, they are sure to find a market anywhere.

However, if you are using reprinted versions of photos on your products, make sure that you sell them as such. Do not lead people to believe that they are the original thing, but a copy of the original. What I personally do is mention that the postcard (or any other item) is ‘Reprinted from a vintage photo, circa 1875’, or whatever date may apply. You can simply use the same description that I use, or create your own similar one.

Idea No. 3: Launching Your Personal Internet Membership Website

Example Seventeen: An Amazing Book for a Personal Internet Membership Website

An alibris.com search for magic books returned an amazing result. The book is titled, ‘Magic No Mystery: Conjuring Tricks’ by Cremer, W.H. This book was first published in England in 1876. This magic book contains some awesome magic writings, and also includes several magic tricks that can be performed with balls, cards, and dice.

Now if you were to think of starting your own Internet membership site, then this book could definitely be the foundation for it. The site would target wannabe magicians and people who want to learn how to perform magical tricks using different apparatus. It could even teach established magicians a thing or two!

You can create the membership site and charge people a one-time joining fee to become a member, as well as a continuous charge as a monthly membership fee. Your paid members will then be able to access a whole bunch of things such as content on magic, a member’s only forum, and various products.

All the different tricks mentioned in the book would definitely not be given to your members at once. You could choose to provide about 10-15 new tricks each month, so that your members keep coming back for more. In this manner, you could have your very own profitable membership site.

This is just one of the millions of books available in the public domain. Just thinking about the various possible titles, which could form the basis of a membership site, literally makes me see £££ signs everywhere!

Are Internet Membership Websites Really that Great an Idea?

The various options you have for using the public domain book ‘Magic No Mystery: Conjuring Tricks’ is to convert the book in its entirety into a digital CD, or an e-book, or a reprinted version, or lastly to form a membership site as explained above.

Now let’s take a look at the advantages of forming a membership site over the other book options:

  • The site has seemingly higher worth than any of the other options. With a membership site, your customers will think that there is a lot more information on offer than they would think a book to contain. If repackaged as a book or a CD, it will take your customers just a few minutes to access and perhaps a couple of days to read. On the other hand, an Internet membership site is perceived as huge, and it would take your members months to access and read all the information contained in the book. Even though they are getting exactly the same tricks from your book and the site, the value of becoming a member of the site will be perceived as much greater than buying the book version.
  • With a membership site, you will have members returning to your site regularly to download newer tricks and content. Thus, it becomes easier to promote newer products to your members, which is something you simply cannot do with a reprinted book.
  • Contrary to what most people believe, the site will be faster to create than the book format and will also start making you money immediately. With a book, you have to reformat the entire book and also transform it into a PDF version or a digital format, which could take several weeks.
  • But a membership site can be started with even a few pages of the book as you will not be offering the entire information at one go. Thus, you can convert the initial chapters and upload them on your membership site so as to attract members right away. You can then take your time to complete converting the remaining chapters of the book according to your monthly schedule. While you do that, your site will already be making you money.
  • By the way, I have mentioned that you could take several weeks to reformat and transform the book into the desired version. Although this can be done even in a few days (it depends on how quick and efficient you are); it can be a tedious and dull affair, not to mention very demanding. However, if you wish to start making money immediately, it certainly can be done.
  • A membership site will also have the scope to generate higher profits than a book version. Since books do not have high perceived worth, more so e-books, they will not command a very big price. But a membership site, with much the same information, may even be able to command membership fees that are several times the cost of the book.

Useful Advice:

You should endeavour to create Internet membership sites that are targeted to niche markets. Good examples of niche marketing would be targeting people such as magicians, sports people, musicians, artists, retailers, restaurant proprietors, etc. The basic idea is to target people who have specific interests, so that they can become part of your membership site and share their interests with like minded people.

You can even aim for those people who have made money from their special interests and thus don’t mind spending it to keep themselves updated about things related to their subject of interest. Stressing on the fact that they could treat the membership fees as a ‘tax deductible’ expense also helps to attract people to your membership site.

Idea No. 4: Sticking to a Niche Market

By now you probably know that the public domain is filled with millions of great books. The topics and subjects, which the books are available on, are also as wide and as diverse as the sheer number of books available. If ever there was a topic which a book was written on, you can find it in the public domain. Whether it is lifestyle books, history books, books on knitting, books on festivals and cultures, dog books, cat books, books on fishing, hunting, horse riding, boating, surfing, cooking etc; any topic that you can think of, there is a public domain book available on it.

With so many books waiting to be republished and so much money just waiting to be pocketed, where does one begin?

Since there are such a wide variety of subjects to choose from, you could end up choosing books on different topics. But this would mean that you have to cast your promotional web again and again; at one time searching for people who are interested in your cat books, at another time looking for those who are interested in magic, yet another time attracting people who are interested in American Indians, and once again………As you see, there can be no end to this.

Thus, it is wiser to stick to a particular niche market and then keep creating books and other public domain items that cater to your chosen niche, which could be anything from cooking, to hunting, to cat lovers, and even those in awe of geographical splendours.

So, if I was to list the advantages of sticking with a niche market, they would go something like this:

  • It is much simpler to attract buyers for niche subjects than it is for different unrelated topics.
  • Staying with a particular niche means you have the choice of creating your own website or an online store from where you can promote and sell various products related to your niche. By choosing an apt name for your website, you can also feature in the top search engine results and attract more traffic to your site.
  • A niche market provides the scope for continuous and repeat customers. You will not have to keep finding new customers to sell to as all your products will be related to a specific subject. So whenever you create a new item, you can simply mail all your earlier customers as well as all the people who made enquirers on your site and then just sit back and watch the sales multiplying.
  • You can also create a news publication centred on your niche topic. By providing new and updated information on your subject, you can create a loyal client base of people who keep coming back for more. And since you will be giving free information to your customers, they will be more likely to buy your products as and when you offer them.
  • If you have a niche website, you can source enormous public domain content, such as short articles, useful advice, tips and suggestions and feature these on your website. By adding useful content on your site, you can enhance the position of your website on search engine result pages; thus attracting more profits from Google adsense, affiliate programs, and various Pay-Per-Click options.
  • When you have a niche customer base, you will have more information about the interests, likes and dislikes of your clients than it is possible to have with an unrelated client base. This enables you to offer them items, in addition to books, that are in keeping with the same subject. You can also sell tangible goods and services to your clients. These goods and services can be created by you, or can be sourced from other people and sold to your ever growing customer base.
  • And lastly, with a niche website, you will be able to create a much larger customer base and mailing list than is possible with various smaller websites on different topics. As your list grows by the day, your competition will keep decreasing as very few people would want to compete with such a formidable opponent.

Idea No. 5: How to Get World Renowned Authors to Produce Your Top Sellers Absolutely Free of Cost

You are probably not aware that there are thousands of writers who give their books and short articles, all free of cost, to other people who want to republish them along with the name and contact information of the writer. This really does happen. In this way, the writer can get other people to advertise the writer’s business through web-links and other information contained in the books or articles.

For instance, a doctor of natural medicine may author a book or some articles about natural herbs or nutritional supplements and include his contact information in these articles. Thus, when these articles appear on other people’s websites, the customers may get in touch with the doctor for getting treatment or buying supplements.

In much the same way, any person who specializes in anything, can write articles, offer these to others as free of cost content, and enjoy the benefits.

But what do you gain from all this? Well, that’s exactly what I’m coming to next.

You can source an entire collection of small books or articles, either from one writer or many different authors. You should obviously select only those articles that are on the same topic or are of related topics. A combination of these small articles can then be compiled into a larger book or an educational CD.

Every subsequent chapter in your book is dedicated to a new article. At the end of each chapter, the ‘resource box’ is included, which gives the personal details of the writer of that particular article.

In this manner, your book will have that many chapters as the number of articles that you can source. The titles of the various articles can be used as the headings for your different chapters. You can now create a Table of Contents (TOC) which lists the different chapters of your book; alter the font size, the type and its colour; include an introductory passage to your book; add a title to the book; put down your name as the book’s editor; include your copyright notification and your book is ready for sale!

Now doesn’t that sound really easy to do? You can literally create as many original books in this manner as you want!

However, you need to be careful about one thing: There are a few writers who will give you their articles to use, but with certain stipulations attached. They may say that their articles can only be featured on sites and not as part of a book, or that they cannot be sold in any manner etc. Although there are very few writers who attach such conditions to their work, you should always read the terms of use set forth by the authors, or get in touch with them directly if you have to.

In my experience; if you get in touch with the writers directly, and ask them if they are okay with your plan, you will rarely ever be disappointed with their ans