Why Publish Public Domain book?
Just like other genres of voice over, when you are new to audio books, you need to build your street credit. The more titles you have under your built, the more experience you gain. It is hard, however, to book work without titles to your name. A great way to do this is to narrate books that are already in the “Public Domain.” That means that these books have been published more than 100 years ago and are free for anyone to work with. The other good news is that every January more books become part of the public domain! I had gone to Karen Commins’ site Narrator’s Roadmap, which can be found here https://www.narratorsroadmap.com/ and found a wealth of information. I have actually paid for access to her videos and am so thankful for that information. If you, like me, are new to audiobooks you may also find this site to be a blessing!
Find Content On Gutenberg
The easiest place to find public domain content is at https://gutenberg.org/. There you can search and download titles. I used this site myself to create a master spreadsheet of many titles I am interested in narrating. Then when I have downtime in between actual VO bookings, these are projects I can turn to to fill my audiobook goals. Keep this spreadsheet in a place you can easily access. You can have a lot of fun finding works in different genres. For instance, this week I recorded both a History title and a Poetry book.
Publishing on Kindle
You will want to upload your public domain book for kindle. In order to do this you need to do a few important things!! First, you need to create a separate and unique email address, different that the other address you use as a narrator on acx. Make sure that it is something that you can remember.
The other important step is that you need to make your version of the public domain book different than the existing versions in order to claim it on Kindle. For instance, for the books that I have done, I researched and wrote forewards that I found interesting. For the poetry book I just did, I wrote and article about why it is important for children to read poetry. Once you do this, merge the PDFs to create one version. Then, upload that version in a format that kindle takes, like epub. I use zamzar to do this. The link is in the list below.
Note, you will need to create your own cover art! I also create mine at this stage, prior to beginning the upload process. I like to make my cover art both on canva or on an app called word swag. I make it in a square shape and I tend to make two versions, one for the kindle and one for ACX. I love creating content for social media, so I actually find this step fun. You can be creative and really make this your own. Again, this is another way that differentiates your public domain version, so you might as well make it something that stands out to you. I very much enjoyed having a chance to create the two that I worked on this month.
Once you have completed these steps, as the rights holder you can go to https://kdp.amazon.com/ and publish your version of the public domain book on kindle. Once the book is live, which takes about 72 hours, you can then create the audio book.
Publishing Your Audio Book
Once Kindle has approved your ebook, you can go into ACX and upload the audio.
You still need to meet all of the ACX standards and have the audio divided properly (opening credits, closing credits, body to match table of contents, retail sample, etc….)
I have to say, having just completed my second project, I was elated to have finally figured it out. In a seven week period, I booked three titles on ACX and published two of my own. It honestly feels great!
To Make sure this is easy for you to follow, here is a breakdown of the steps that I took:
List of steps:
- Find public domain source to narrate using https://gutenberg.org/
- Download and save your version.
- Write a foreward or do something to make your version unique. Save that additional copy.
- Merge the two pieces of copy into one PDF.
- Save this as an “epub” file using https://www.zamzar.com/. You’ll need that format to upload.
- Create cover art. You can do this using canva or an app like Word Swag. You can save the file as a jpeg. Note that A CX has different file size requirements than kindle for this file and you can create one image and use something like preview if you are on a Mac to change the file size.
- Log in using your “Rights Holder” account. Publish your ebook at https://kdp.amazon.com/.
- Once the ebook is live, go to acx.com to upload the audio.
- Record your audio per ACX standards.
Lessons Learned Since Initial Blog Posting
Well, it turns out sometimes there are some snags in the road of public domain audio books! When choosing your book, if possible, try to also look for a book that has not been done or has not been done often. I was approached in March at the APAC conference by fellow voice actor, audiobook narrator, and industry friend Steve Corona and he shared with me that he had done a public domain book recently. Steve spent a good bit of time on this project, as these manuscripts can be quite long, and he was prevented from posting it as Audible said there were already too many titles like his in existence. Steve and I got together to discuss this and you can find our chat here.
Believe it or not, after Steve and I had this chat, I had the same experience! I recorded Mother Goose. I was super excited about my version, which bizarrely is still alive and well on Kindle, and just four days after going live on Audible, I received a message through ACX that they were taking it down! I was flabbergasted because they let it go live in the first place. I spent days working on this and it felt like such a loss. I have another project in limbo write now, that Kindle does not seem to want to let me upload, and I am not sure what will come of that.
So, you might be wondering what we can do? I have turned to Spoken Realms. I did learn about this on Narrator’s Roadmap as well. Now that I have more than a dozen titles under my belt, I felt more confident in reaching out to them. I am delighted to say I was accepted to their site and they have approved my first project which is in process now. Here are a few notes about getting started on Spoken Realms in case you, like me, decide to try that:
- I was advised to wait until I had done upwards of 6 or 7 books.
- Their recording specs are quite different than ACX, so I actually think that having a bit of experience will help you better meet the requirements of Spoken Realms.
- The project I submitted has no other versions at present on Audible. I have no idea if that impacted their decision to accept it or not, and I will let you know via blog what my experience is like going forward!