As a New York Times bestselling author entrepreneur, I am always on the lookout for ways to improve how I serve my readership and grow my career.
For example, when little was being done to push my foreign rights, I took over doing it myself and sold my work into seven languages worldwide. When I found that I could represent myself better than most of the agents I’d worked with, I fired my agent and began negotiating on my own behalf. When it was clear that the Kindle was going to revolutionize bookselling, I jumped in with both feet, reinvigorating my backlist.
A few weeks ago, I put out a short article looking at some of the potential use cases I saw for adding literary NFTs and blockchain publishing to an author’s toolkit. At the time, I had just started my journey into web3 technology, and the article was more idle speculation on my part than anything else, but I was intrigued by the possibilities the technology provided and wanted to learn more.
I’ve spent the time since writing that article deep diving into the subject to satisfy my curiosity. I’ve spoken with many of the literary NFT companies out there today (Book, Readl, BookCoin, Soltype, PageDAO’s NFTMinter, Creatokia, and others) and, in several cases, I’ve sampled both their end products and their systems for producing them in the first place. (I’ll be doing an article on my favorite of these companies next!)
I’ve learned a lot in the process, and I’ve also come to the decision that blockchain tech is a game-changer for not just the publishing industry, but industries of all kinds. I also decided that I will be adding blockchain publishing, especially limited collectible digital editions of my books, into my own publishing endeavors as soon as possible.
Given that some might be curious about that decision, I’m going to use this article to cover ten reasons for it, both to let me fans know what’s coming and to help other authors who might be considering a similar move share in what I’ve learned (and maybe save them some time in the process.)
My reasons can be split into two camps – why doing would be good for my readers and why it would be good for my career. So, fan-oriented and business-oriented reasons, basically. Sometimes, one reason fits into both camps and those were, obviously, the ones that held the most weight in my decision-making process.
Before we dig into the particular rationale behind my decision, let’s pause for a second to bring everyone up to speed on just what we’re talking about here.
First up, what is a blockchain? A blockchain is a decentralized, digital ledger that stores data in “blocks” that are connected in a chronological “chain.” These blocks verify the data contained in them as it is added to the chain, ensuring the validity of the record. These records are then irreversible, ensuring both the security and accuracy of the data.
Why is a blockchain useful? Because it is public, secure, and largely unchangeable, making it highly accurate. It is also decentralized, meaning it is stored on multiple computers across many locations, making it far less vulnerable to attack, deletion, or destruction. Once it is on the blockchain, that information is pretty much permanent. It’s internal verification technology also makes it easier to detect fraud and prevent single users from making unverified changes to the record.
What is an NFT? NFT stands for non-fungible token, which means it is a digital asset that is absolutely unique. (A dollar bill would be fungible, as any one dollar can be substituted for another. The Mona Lisa, on the other hand, would be non-fungible, because it is one of a kind.) An NFT is a non-interchangeable unit of data stored on the blockchain. I personally dislike the term NFT, and tend to think of them as digital, collectible assets. And by asset I mean digital files like art, photographs, audio, and video. And of course, digital books.
A crypto wallet (hereafter, just wallet) is a piece of software or hardware that stores public and private encryption keys that allow you to access cryptocurrency. It also allows all of the functions noted above with regard to the blockchain and NFTs.
Okay, so how does this relate to publishing and to my personal writing output?
Let’s say I decide to produce 100 NFTs of book X. That would mean that I would have 100 numbered, unique editions of the book available for people to buy. Just like with a limited print run of a title, the scarcity and unique number of each book would give it a certain value in the eyes of collectors. Book #1 would therefore be more valuable than book #100, as it would be the very first in the series. But that’s just the first piece of the puzzle.
Reason #1 – Blockchain publishing allows my readers to actually own the book that they’ve purchased.
I’m a huge fan of e-books. I was an early adopter and about 85% of my reading these days is on a Kindle or other e-reader. But the fact of the matter is that I don’t actually own any of those hundreds of books I’ve bought in recent years via my Amazon Kindle. I’ve only purchased a license to read them; if Amazon decided to shut down the Kindle store tomorrow, I would lose all of the books I’ve “purchased.” Heck, they don’t even have to shut down the store, just close my account to accomplish the same end. I think that sucks and it is one of the reasons I sell e-books from my own website for those who actually want to own their copy.
I can hear you now – if I can just sell e-books from my website, what do I need NFT editions for? Buying directly from me allows my readers to own their copies, so doesn’t that solve the problem?
Yes and no. Which brings me to reason #2.
Reason #2 – Releasing books as digital collectibles on the blockchain helps limit digital theft of my product.
E-book piracy is rampant. It might not sound like a big problem to you, but I lose thousands of dollars a year to people copying and illegally distributing my e-books willy-nilly. If I’m creating a special, collectible edition of one of my titles, I don’t want that to happen.
The value of a collectible edition drops to nothing if a couple thousand new versions suddenly appear on the marketplace, right? That Babe Ruth rookie baseball card is valuable because there are only a select few of them left. If ten thousand of them suddenly flooded the market, that wouldn’t be the case.
A true, proper blockchain published title would be both encrypted and decentralized, stored in pieces on multiple computers, a process known as a decentralized encrypted asset, or DEA. The reader used to display the book pulls all of those pieces together, decrypts them, and presents them to you, the reader, in readable format. You don’t see any of that happening – you just click on the book you want to read and voila, it appears on your screen just like any other e-book. But the difference in protection toward the product is immense.\
Reason #3 – There is no one between me and my reader
Just as with self-published e-books, I don’t need a publisher to produce an NFT edition of my titles. That means there isn’t a middleman between me and my reader. That’s really important, because it allows me to foster a genuine community interested in my work AND the technology allows me to reach them in new and exciting ways (see Reason #5.)
Reason #4 – Blockchain technology allows me to offer extras directly to the reader as part of the product in a way I haven’t been able to before
When e-books first came out, many of us were excited about the possibility for what was known at the time as “enhanced” e-books. E-books that allowed an author to include images, audio, and video directly into the product. Unfortunately, these never really came to pass. At best, the e-book contained a link to a file stored somewhere else, which required upkeep and data storage by the author.
Blockchain publishing, especially with decentralized encrypted assets, lets me build those extra directly into the book itself, finally achieved that long-ago dream of enhanced books. Say I want to offer author commentary on important chapters in the book, much like a director will offer commentary as part of the extras on a DVD. Now I can do that, and I can do it as an audio or video file built directly into the book that can be accessed at the touch of a button.
Even better, possession of the NFT edition can act as an entry token to special private events, from dinner with the author whenever he comes to town to group discussions at a convention only available to NFT holders. The sky is literally the limit.
Reason #5 – Blockchain technology allows me to surprise my readers with those extras
“In-book” extras are awesome. I agree. But sometimes you want to be able to do something outside the book itself but at the same time provide the same level of protection, verification, and collectability.
Say I want to give away an extra, variant cover to those who hold a particular NFT edition of one of my books. Blockchain technology allows me to “airdrop” that cover directly into their secure wallet. They don’t have to download any files, sign up for another annoying newsletter, nor give me access to their email address.
Reason #6 – Accurate accounting of all books sold at any point in time
Blockchain records are all public based on wallet addresses. Wallets can be anonymous, and most are, but the fact that a transaction took place is not. Therefore, any sale can be immediately and accurately tracked. No more waiting months for publishers to produce royalty statements that an author really doesn’t have any way of verifying for accuracy short of a full audit of the publisher’s accounts.
Reason #7 – True accounting for collectability purposesAs I’ve noted already, transactions on the blockchain are public, secure, and in chronological order. That means that it is easy to verify when a particular edition was minted (recorded on the blockchain.)
Let say I produce 1000 copies of Book A. Six months later I decide to release another 1000 copies as a second edition. If the books aren’t specifically marked as first or second editions, a buyer can still determine which set the book in question came from by examining the information about the book’s release on the blockchain. There’s no way for a diligent buyer to be scammed about a particular editions collectability or value as a result.
Reason #8 – New readers in a different medium
Readers tend to have a preferred medium in which they like to buy books. Some like hardcovers. Some like paperbacks. Some prefer e-books. I have no doubt that as NFT books become more mainstream, there will be readers who prefer this medium as well. Being active in the space allows me to reach new readers who might become new fans.
Reason #9 – Improve my writing
There are a few companies out there that I could partner with if I preferred not to create the NFT editions myself. One of the benefits of working with such a company is the data that I could access as a result of doing so. Every word of a book can be numbered and tracked, making it easy to see how far readers get in the story, if they finish it entirely or stop somewhere before the end, if they get bogged down in a particular section, and the like. This data could then be used to analyze the text, determine what sections might be improved, and aid me in improving my work overall long-term.
Reason #10 – A new revenue stream
The final reason is pretty obvious, but it bears stating just the same. Producing NFT blockchain editions of my books gives me another revenue stream by which to support my writing efforts. And that, in turn, allows me to keep writing into the future, a win for all of us!
I see each and every one of these reasons as beneficial to my career. As beneficial to any author’s career, actually. So much so that I’m happy to chat with anyone who is interested in pursuing the concept of blockchain publishing as a way to expand their own writing endeavors. Just drop a comment below and I’ll do what I can to answer questions and point you in the right direction for learning more.
Next up, the company that I think is doing more than anyone else right now to grow and expand this space!
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