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Best fairytales/short stories that can be freely illustrated and then sold?

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I have heard that after a certain amount of time, a story becomes a part of the public domain, so that I can have creative liberty to use the content for my own purposes. At this stage, I am interested in illustrating children's novels, and to develop my ability as an illustrator, I was interested in starting with a short story that has already been made, as apposed to one which I must write first.
If however, I illustrate a story and my illustration is done in an excellent way, I would love to be able to sell it. What are my options as far as selling, and what would be a list of stories in which this could be done? Thank you for your help!
#1 - January 14, 2017, 10:18 PM


Check out this list https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fairy_tales

Thanks Alan, this is very helpful. Will everyone of these be potentially something that I could make a profit from? When I am starting out, is it wrong to think in those terms? You responded to another post I had made in another part of this website, and so you know I am just beginning this endeavor of writing children's novels, but I still think monetarily, and would like to know whether I can make a profit in some way. Thanks for your help!
#3 - January 15, 2017, 12:12 AM

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Welcome to the boards Overground55!

Hmm. well I'm not really the person to answer this so I may be way off. But my thinking is that if a story is in the public domain, it's free to use. As for illustrating them for a portfolio, I think that's a great idea. As for selling them, that I have no idea. Publishers usually choose illustrators based on their portfolio's and acquire them for certain works. Although, the possibility of you doing an excellent, different take on a public domain story and selling your artwork with that story could totally happen, it's more likely they will fall in love with your qualifications and hire you for a different work. Make sense?

As for thinking in terms of making a profit being wrong. Absolutely not. While we are all authors first because we love writing, and illustrators first because they love illustrating ( I am not an illustrator), we all need and want to make a profit from our work. It's all part of the whole process. :)

Best of luck! I hope this helps.
#4 - January 15, 2017, 06:59 AM
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Rainy Day Picnic-Read Your Story '18
The Sparrow and The Trees- Arbordale '15

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I agree with SChriscoe. Your challenge will be to bring a new and exciting twist to a fairy tale.  Disney does this in their films. Doing fairy tales will require you to do research and be innovative. It's a good place to start.  My suggestion is that you start with Cinderella.  Stay true to the story, but make it unique. Compare the original Cinderella to the Disney film to see what I mean.

Good luck.
#5 - January 15, 2017, 08:26 AM
« Last Edit: January 15, 2017, 08:29 AM by alan-jordan »

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I think you are asking several different unrelated questions.

1. Can I use a public domain story as inspiration for an illustration for my portfolio to show to prospective publishers? Yes. This is often done to show how one would illustrate a story that is common and well known.

2. Can I use a public domain story to illustrate a book and then sell the result? In this case, selling the result to a publisher would be an uphill battle. Publishers want something new and fresh. Some recent revisited fairy tales take an old classic and rewrite the idea in a completely new and different way. One that comes to mind is "Little Red Gliding Hood" by Tara Lazar. This is called a fractured fairy tale.

3. Can I use a public domain story as inspiration and take the resultant illustration to sell as a print or original painting? Yes. Illustrators do this all the time. However, keep in mind that an illustration that is appropriate in a book format with room for text, etc., might not translate into a piece a buyer would be interested in purchasing to frame and hang on a wall.

All the above answers are only for public domain stories, utilizing your original creations and character interpretations. Anything that is based on an iconic character (such as the Disney Princesses) or one that is recognizable as a tribute to some other artist's style/work cannot be used. Some properties are open to fan art, but other companies will slap you silly. Tread carefully and never sell something that you based off of another artist's work.
#6 - January 15, 2017, 11:03 AM
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Animal Totem Mandala 2016
The Story Circle 2016 (PiƱata)
Color and Conjure 2017 (Llewellyn)

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