At the London Book Fair 2018, ALLi will present a White Paper: Blockchain For Books: Towards an Author-Centered Payment Model. https://www.londonbookfair.co.
What is Self-Publishing 3.0 Anyway?
Self-Publishing 3.0 is direct sales from author to reader, true self-publishing.
It includes crowdsourced patronage, subscriptions, membership models and other forms of direct sales by authors to readers, without any intermediary except an online purchasing mechanism.
At the moment, this is only a small part of most self-publishers business model but the changes in publishing conditions, and consumer purchasing habits, look set to accelerate this trend.
This wasn’t possible before because the conditions weren’t in place. But self-Publishing 1.0 (desktop publishing and print-on-demand technology) and self-Publishing 2.0 (ebooks, ereaders and online bookstores) have led to a rise in confidence in authors and other creatives, and an increasing amount of direct engagement.
Increased author confidence is the most important outcome of digital publishing.
And now blockchain technology looks set to help authors capitalize on this trend.
Direct Sales/Subscription/Crowdsourced Patronage
Two key considerations for any business are diversity of income streams and information about customers. Building direct sales, subscriptions and patronage on their own websites not only allows authors a higher revenue, it allows them to learn more about their customers, creates a direct relationship through email, and strengthens the all-important author platform.
Few authors are making direct selling a central plank of their author-business.
- How many authors, for example, take their social media advertising to their own website for digital file download?
- How many of us take ourselves seriously as publishers and business owners, able to use services like Amazon, Apple, Kobo and IngramSpark to deliver sales, yes, but also recognizing that we are in competition with them for those sales?
- How many of us take time to educate their readers about what it means to the author to have a direct purchase?
- How many are set up for bulk special-sales outlets, crowdsourced subscription, or patronage?
Five centuries of conditioning and a mass consumer culture are not overturned in a decade, but the economic tide is turning in favor of the smaller, more personal outlet.
The rise in the maker movement, in personal branding, in mindful consumption, in mobile phone sales, are all favorable consumer trends for authors. We can not only benefit from them, with our influential community we can deepen and expand their societal impact.
This is the most important trend now emerging for authors and technological advances are bringing it closer.
Self-publishing 3.0 has already begun: some authors already successfully sell directly to readers through their own websites and some are already on a blockchain.
Blockchain For Books
Blockchain looks set not only to seamlessly allow direct payments but to allow income from sales to be effortlessly split at the point of transaction between the author and anyone else involved in the making of the book, including services and booksellers.
Authors need to understand what’s coming if we are to have a say in how blockchain, and self-publishing 3.0, develop over the coming years, and ensure that we optimize all opportunities for ourselves, for our readers, for the strengthening of the intellectual property (IP) laws that our income rests on, and for the fair and equitable management of data and information by society as a whole.
Three Vibrant Publishing Economies
We often think there are two ways for an author to get to market and reach readers: trade publishing or self-publishing, but actually there are now three vibrant economies operating in the business of books:
- trade publishing (author as right licenser): where a business licenses the author’s copyright, and invests time or money in providing some or all of the seven stages of the publishing process (editorial, design, production, distribution, marketing, promotion and rights licensing) on the author’s behalf.
- They take in the money generated by the book and eventually, at least six months later, pay over to the author less than 10% (often, once discounts are taken into account, as little as 3%) in royalty payments. Sometimes, the author may receive an advance on royalty payments.
- serviced self-publishing (author as service purchaser): an author hires a service to provides all of the publishing processes for an upfront fee.
- After the intitial investment has earned out, the book is in profit but marketing and promotion remain an ongoing cost.
- author publishing (author as creative director): The writer steps up to overseeing the making and selling of their book(s), hiring freelance publishing professionals to assist in the seven stages of publishing, and setting up an author businesses.
- This is the path to publication favored by those who have come to be called “indie authors” and who make up the majority of the membership of the Alliance of Independent Authors.
Challenges For Self-Publishing 2.0 Today
Supply Chain Based Challenges
- Although self-publishing 2.0 brought authors three steps closer to their readers, content is still mediated by large corporations. These days it is Silicone Valley based companies like Amazon, Apple, Google, rather than Manhattan and London based trade publishers. Commercially, authors remain vulnerable.
- Everyone else gets paid first. Editors and designers, formatters and retailers, marketeers and PR services, agents and rights buyers, trade-publishers and publishing services, all get paid before an author sees a penny.
- The vast majority of “indie” authors earn their income from a single distributor-retailer, Amazon.
Author Based Challenges
- Many self-publishers fail to create monetary value from their work because they are not good publishers, either on the production side (writing, editorial and design) or on the selling side (marketing, promotion and sales). Only a miniscule few are succeeding on the rights licensing side.
- Many authors crave attention more than money and overvalue their work emotionally while undervaluing it commercially.
- Self-publishing authors may find they are in business by default and many resist being in business at all (“I love writing but hate marketing.”)
- Authors have used their low-overhead competitive advantage to offer free and low-priced books, a short-term promotion strategy which risks devaluing our product.
- Authors sign contracts without reading them and freely hand over the personal data and intellectual property (IP) on which their businesses are built.
Copyright and Legal Challenges
- Piracy is rampant, rendering copyright law and digital rights management ineffectual.
- Publishing contracts are complex and often unintelligible,
Blockchain, with its smart contracts and wallets, ability to split payments at the point of transaction, establish ownership of IP and copyright, and record openly and infallibly terms of agreement, has the potential to revolutionize publishing again, for the second time in two decades.
(See Part 2 on Blockchain For Books for more detail)
The Promise of Self-Publishing 3.0: ALLi Campaign Launch: London Book Fair
As a non-profit authors’ association, our work is to advocate for financial models that maximize the value of the authors’ moral and monetary rights and intellectual property. We offer our support to any individual, organization, technology or movement who shares that vision.
Every business, from the smallest startup to multinational giants with centuries of transactions behind them, will have to engage with blockchain technology, including publishing.
Blockchain allows for the evolution of an author-centric business model where creative and commercial value is automatically recognized, registered and compensated and where the author’s smart wallet become the first point of payment for everyone, and the financial and informational node for their work.
ALLi’s Blockchain For Books Campaign aims to educate authors about the potential of this new technology for author-publishing and encourage the independent and empowered mindset needed to avail of its potential. On the service side, it aims to persuade services to adjust payment processes to account for fair transaction splits at the point of payment.
We contend that this is the logical application of copyright law, in a blockchain environment. If the creator is the owner of the IP, as copyright law insists, author smart wallets are the economic expression of the creator’s copyright.
ALLi aims to provide direction, governance, guidance and support in what author Sabine Priestly calls “this insanely brilliant time”. For that, we need your support. Contact us any time at [email protected]
1 EDUCATE YOURSELF: Learn All You Can About Blockchain and Direct Selling
Understand how the technology works, its potential applications within an author business, and how it interacts with existing financial and legal frameworks. Bridging gaps in your knowledge will make the world of blockchain, distributed ledgers and direct sales to readers seem much less daunting.
2 CONSIDER YOUR GOALS: What problem are you are trying to solve?
- How might blockchain/direct sales assist in solving problems in your author business? e.g. piracy, payment, reaching readers?
- What aspect of the technology provides the necessary edge or benefit?
3 RESEARCH: Research relevant competitors and opportunities
Get guidance on cryptocurrency and publishing options before making any decisions. Everybody’s heard about bitcoin, for example, but there are a lot of different cryptocurrencies and new publishing companies are opening all the time on various blockchains. Without knowledge of the many ways blockchain business can work, you are at the mercy of a company pushing its own interests.
4 RISKS AND BENEFITS: Assess risks and benefits long-term as well as short-term
Investment of your time, money or attention in blockchain technology may not yield immediate, or even short to medium term gains, but may have (as yet somewhat unknown) benefits stretching out into the future. Consider risks and benefits and assess whether distributed ledgers are the most appropriate vehicle for your goals.
Do you have enough information to decide?
What might you need to do now in order to set yourself up to be ready when the time comes to get involved?
4 READERS: Help to educate readers about blockchain, cryptocurrency and direct sales
Engage with readers about blockchain and crypto and distributed ledgers. They will be hearing about it and wondering what it all means for them. Help to educate them also about the benefits of buying direct from you and other authors. Invite conversations about how blockchain might work for them in their own lives. Invite their thoughts about what they’d need to do in order to plug into your offering.
5 PRODUCTS AND SERVICES: Don’t invest your money or IP in an ICO that doesn’t have a product or service
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission recommends that if a company decides to make an ICO (initial coin offering, a way to raise funds for a cryptocurrency venture), they should first have an actual product.
6 LEGAL: Know the difference between pseudo-anonymous and fully anonymous
Bitcoin is pseudo-anonymous. Users don’t know exactly your name attached to the IP address, but law enforcement agencies could figure it out if they needed to.
7 RESOURCES: Check resources such as the Blockchain Alliance
The organization a broad coalition of companies and organizations who have come together with the goal of making the blockchain ecosystem more secure and promoting “further development of this transformative technology”. It also helps law enforcement and regulatory agencies all over the world understand the blockchain ecosystem, essential to de-risking blockchain for authors and readers.
8 INDUSTRY: Support ALLi’s Blockchain For Books Campaign
We are stronger together. To fully realize the potential of blockchain for books and maximize the value that can be realized by individual authors, business processes will need to be adjusted and consensus achieved across the self-publishing and publishing industries, The more authors we can get behind this campaign, the better our chances for success in harmonizing publishing payment processes and correcting the long-institutionalized separation of authors from the business of books.