Tuesday, November 8, 2016

What is the Library of Congress and Public Domain Content and Pseudonyms Yes or No?

Couple of good questions that came in today to the Facebook How to Publish Your Book group.

Public Domain Content
Thank you for adding me into the book publishing group. I heard you mention in an online (YouTube) video that information gathered from the Library of Congress is royalty free? It wasn't explained in the video, so I wanted to know how this works.

Pseudonyms and Pen Names
Also, I've notice that you have numerous titles on Amazon under your name. I have heard people say they've opted to use pseudonyms once they've published numerous titles to keep people interested. What's your take on this? I am published and have a lot of book ideas. I would gladly exhaust the plethora of titles on CreateSpace under my one wonderful name, because I love it just that much, but I'd like your thoughts. Looking forward to hearing back from you. Thanks much!

Thank you Vele for connecting and for your question.

Question 1: Public Domain Content
So what I was probably talking about with the Library of Congress is actually about public domain content. The LOC as mountains of it. It has Books, prints, photos, drawings, films, audio, it just goes on and on. It also has all the books you see in book stores and libraries. The Library of Congress's mission is to be the research library for the US Congress and be the Nation's library. So they have a gigantic wealth of content and much of it is in the public domain and we can publish it and use it to create products.  The key date for public domain content is 1923. Pretty much anything created before that date is in the public domain and can use to create books or products after that it is most likely under copyright. For me to be safe I usually stay below 1900. You always have to check but that date is the key one.

Library of Congress Web Site. LOC.gov

As citizens of the USA we also have access to pretty much anything created by the Federal Government. For the Federal Government it is really any content that they release, it is all in the public domain. You can republish reports from the Commerce Department for example, or the Presidents speeches or photos from the National Parks or maybe health information from the Department of Agriculture. You just have to check to see that it was actually created by a Federal employee. A great place to start is USA.gov. You also have to check the copyright rules of the Agency where you get the content. Each Agency has that information on their website, sometimes you have to dig.

This idea that content created by the US Government is in the public domain is unique to this country. It isn't always that way in other countries. I have created quite a few products based on US Government content. 

The key here is to not do a direct copy but to create a derivative work. Something better. Amazon is not a fan of public domain content and will often reject it because so much has been done with it. But they are fine with you creating a derivative work. Take a Shakespeare and create an illustrated work. Do your research, learn about public domain content, and start exploring the Library of Congress.


Question 2: Pseudonyms and Pen Names, Yes or No
This question comes up a lot. My view is that you use your real name for all your work. Now I completely understand that there are situations where that isn't practical for safety or privacy reasons. But in general I am in favor of using your name.

Now sometimes I will get the question, "if you are writing in different markets or subject aren't you creating confusion with your readers? Aren't you suppose to be creating an identity?" Are you a fiction writer or the person writing about auto repair? Well yes you are but what I have found is that readers don't really care. They just want solutions to their questions and don't care who wrote the book. Now once you get a name in a certain area you can bring readers back for the next book and that is cool. But for that one person that complains because you wrote an auto repair manual instead of your romance novel, well to bad.

I also found that we as writers have lots of interests and there isn't any reason to not write about them. We need to keep our own interests going, I don't always want to write on topic A, I might want to write about topic B or C. Also you just don't know which books are going to take off and be successful. I am a big fan of spreading your ideas around. You will be surprised what book succeed. Generally not the one you worked the hardest on.

"Google wants clear paths of who we are and what we do."
But one of the biggest reasons is that we live in a social media world. Marketing our books falls mostly on us and if you have all these different identities floating around it just becomes much more difficult. Google wants clear paths of who we are and what we do. It is to hard to have different identities and keep it all straight. It becomes a big mess. Keeping one Facebook identity is hard enough, keeping several is a real pain. I understand about the privacy issues and safety but if you can keep your name it will be just lot easier to market and promote your work.

Author: Bruce Jones
Bruce is the international bestselling author of over 40 books. His latest book is Book Marketing Checklist for Self-Publishers. Bruce also runs the Facebook group How to Publish Your Book with over 1,300 members.

1 comment:

  1. How do you create a pen name and still receive revenue to your account? Or do you need to create a new account under your pen name?