Project Gutenberg for Indies

Project Gutenberg SPPYou may have heard of Project Gutenberg, the effort by the World Public Library Association to provide public-domain books online for free. What you may not know is that Project Gutenberg has a separate program for indie publishing.

It’s called the Project Gutenberg Self-Publishing Press. Since its inception in July 2012, the project has grown to include some 3,500 titles, all available for free viewing on their site. As a site member (which supposedly costs $8.95 a year, but I joined without hitting a paywall, so I’m not sure about that – maybe they’ll email me an invoice), you can save a title to your bookshelf or a reading list, save a copy to Google Drive or Dropbox, or email the file to yourself for reading offline.

As you might expect, you can find a little bit of everything here. I spotted a book on Hawaiian mythology that I paid money for in paperback (yes, I’m kicking myself), as well as the first book in a series of novels called the Chronicles of Enhanced Males (Part I is entitled Living Enlarged) and an obvious Harry Potter knock-off called Harry Plotter and the Chamber of Serpents (with 61 reviews!). I also saw a fair number of books in foreign languages.

The site has a social component, too. Once you’ve joined, you can upload a photo and bio, both of which will be visible to other patrons. In my quick perusal of the site, I noticed you could give books a star rating, but I didn’t see a way to look at other users’ ratings, nor did I see any sort of discussion board or messaging platform that would allow you to interact with others. I’m sure there must be a way – I just didn’t see how to do it.

Your dashboard shows not only your bookshelf and reading list, but also any books of your own that you’ve published to the site. Clicking the “Get Published” button on the right-hand side will take you to a submission form where you can start that process.

But first, there are a few things to keep in mind. Project Gutenberg has specific formatting rules for manuscripts, which you can find here. They claim a 48-hour turnaround on submissions.

Second, there’s no Meatgrinder. While books on the main site are available in epub and Kindle formats, the only format supported on the self-publishing side is pdf – which means you need to upload your book in pdf. Your paper size options are limited to US letter size (8.5”x11”) or European A4 or A5. (They will also take audiobooks, but they have to be in MP3 format.)

The big question, I think, is why you would want to go to the trouble of putting your book on the site in the first place. Granted, Project Gutenberg is more or less a world-wide library – but the 50,000-volume-strong main collection is separate from the indie publishing side, so it’s not like someone searching in the main collection will run across your book. On the other hand, the site does appear to get some traffic, and if you’re interested in getting readers to see your work, they’re more likely to run across it at Project Gutenberg than in the much larger collection on Amazon. Of course, unlike at Amazon or other eBook retailers, you won’t get paid for any downloads of your work from Project Gutenberg. But you don’t get paid for library borrows, either (at least not in the US). And on the other hand, you get bragging rights for having a book at Project Gutenberg. That’s kind of a cool thing.

Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

10 thoughts on “Project Gutenberg for Indies”

  1. I go there to look up classic books before Amazon. This might be a good way to promote permenant freebies. Very interesting – thank you Lynne

    1. I’m thinking it wouldn’t, since Project Gutenberg isn’t an Amazon competitor. I did wonder about its effect on KDP Select, though. If you have your book in Select, you could probably safely publish a percentage of your book at Project Gutenberg (20%? I forget what the limit is), but I suspect they might have a problem if you uploaded the whole book.

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