NFT is a word flying around the indie author community right now. But what does it mean, why should we care, and what's happening right now? In today's post, the AskALLi team welcomes and thanks Joanna Penn, ALLi's Enterprise Advisor, and partner member Laurence O'Bryan from BooksGoSocial, along with Creatokia and Bookvolts to discuss different approaches to what authors can do with NFTs. This is everything you need to know (for now) about NFTs for indie authors.
What is an NFT?
NFT stands for non-fungible token, which is a meaningless acronym for most people. And it's challenging to understand NFTs, because they take many forms and are traded in ways that are not widespread yet–using blockchain technology, in cryptocurrency, and are treated as assets, not retail items, by financial and government institutions.
NFTs for indie authors (and other publishers) are best understood as 1) a kind of special edition that includes some offshoot from your book, which is 2) traded as an asset, for cryptocurrency, 3) on a blockchain.
- A special edition — you can include any digital content (text, image, video, audio) on any aspect of your book (character, setting, bonus content, courses, research leftovers etc etc) in your NFT
- Traded as an asset — an NFT is not a retail digital item, sold once and that's that. Governments and financial institutions treat it as an asset, which means it can be re-sold, and is subject to capital gains tax (or will be, when the finance world gets on top of all things NFT!)
- Traded on a blockchain —
For more on blockchains and how they effect authors and books, see our ALLi member handbook, Authors and the Blockchain, and the discussion we had at the London Book Fair 2018 about blockchain for books.
You can also listen into Howard Lovy's podcast episode about Podcast on the Blockchain and Self-Publishing 3.0, which was recorded at the time of that launch.
If you are interested in fully understanding NFTs, we highly recommend Joanna's take (“creativity, community and cash”), which you can find here.
See also her book Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, and Virtual Worlds where she considers the coming technologies, and how technology is going to change the publishing business over the coming decade.
Joanna uses photographs from her research, together with lines from her books, to create her current line of NFTs.
LAURENCE O BRYAN of Books Go Social
What is an ebook NFT?
An ebook NFT is a digital token, a token for a digital original, which includes two things:
- The content of the ebook, a book you can read and enjoy, including any extra files that come with it, such as a video guide to the book or an interview with the author. These can all be downloaded and enjoyed after you buy the NFT.
- This is the part that is different from most other online content. Your ebook NFT includes a contract to allow you to resell the single copy of the ebook you purchased after you are finished reading and enjoying it.
That’s different, right?
Up to this point, we have mostly lived in a digital world where everything is rented or provided to us on a limited license.
Ebook NFTs change all that.
They give you the agreed (by the author) ownership of a single copy of the ebook and associated files. This does not give you the ownership of the copyright, just ownership of that single digital copy. As is the case when you buy a paperback or hardback special edition, you own that single book. You might even sell it later, and with NFTs you might even sell it in the future for more than you paid for it.
Limited ownership rights is a well-understood concept in the real world, which is finally reaching the digital world in the form of NFTs.
The contract, the key part of the NFT that allows you to prove you own it and then resell it, is stored on a blockchain, an online cloud service which distributes the contract code widely, in a way that it cannot be replicated, or lost.
The AskALLi Team Asked Laurence Three Questions
Q1. Are NFTs just another fad “thing”? Why should an indie author do one?
The market for NFTs is fluctuating with billions of dollars in transactions taking place, much of it for online art, so far.
There are elements of the NFT culture driving up prices for digital art and driving amazing creativity, but the overall market for NFTs is still in its infancy.
Other uses for NFTs include as a way to store contracts. I predict this use case will become commonplace in markets such as the property market and in a variety of legal contracts. It's such practical benefits of NFTs that will ensure they go beyond any short-term ups and downs in the art market.
The benefits for authors using NFTs include:
Higher revenue rates. Currently, Amazon and other platforms have a maximum 70% rate on commissions. Most trad publishers pay 25% royalties on net receipts for ebooks. BooksGoSocial offer 85% royalty rate to authors of ebook NFTs.
Higher pricing. Amazon’s 70% royalty rate stops at $9.99. Above or below that it’s 35%. That Amazon limit is unchanged in 10 years despite compound inflation of 23%, and rising, since 2010.
Bundling Options. The ability to bundle extra digital files, such as video, graphics, audio files and text with a book. Instead of a race to the bottom with free and 99c ebooks everywhere, authors of ebook NFTs compete with their creativity.
Resale revenue. Authors can get a percentage every time their NFT is resold. This concept is common to most NFTs. Set at 10% for BooksGoSocial NFT ebooks, this ensures that the author gets a micro-payment when a Special Edition ebook NFT is resold. Authors should benefit when what they created is resold. This alone could transform author earnings this century.
Q2. How can Indies create an enticing NFT that will attract their fans?
The focus, if you are considering this route, must be on combining great text with great visuals. That means creating something exceptional. It’s a real creative challenge, but one which encourages us as publishing authors to embrace the visual appeal aspect of our books.
Q3: How much time and effort does it take? And how do you actually create one?
You can ZIP your files together into one file and use OpenSea or Mintable to create an NFT. You could also use the WAX blockchain as we do at BooksGoSocial because it is carbon neutral and has low-cost fees and has a great track record. There are also other options.
You can do this on your own, but we recommend you combine together with others to create a community to make it easier to spread the word. The bigger the community the better its chances are. That’s what we’ve created at BooksGoSocial. See our first collection here.
We will be expanding our community in the future as more great authors join us.
The time involved and the effort needed depends on who will provide the key graphic/cover file and what extra content you want to add. This will depend on what your book is about.
I imagine a poetry book might include recordings of the author reciting the poems and an historical novel might explain your sources. These files can be time-consuming to create. If they can also be used in the general promotion of a book all the better.
BooksGoSocial can also create NFTs for you, but we run that option as a competition, which allows us to select the most likely to be successful ebooks to be turned into NFTs. Sign up for that here. No payment is required. We take 10% of the sales value for BooksGoSocial and 5% for PayPal and other fees.
Please be aware, this is not the booming art market for NFTs. This is the early stages in the development of an ebooks NFT market.
But it is real and it is happening.
At BooksGoSocial we have been selling special edition ebook NFTs since May this year (2021.) We have some interesting data on what’s selling below, as well as some news on what’s coming in the world of NFTs.
So, here’s our:
Top 3 BooksGoSocial NFT Ebook Sales Chart (end 2021)
We are showing you these NFTs to spark your own ideas about what you might like to include if you were to mint NFTs yourself. For up to date details and to invest in Books Go Social NFTs, go here.
# 10 Journey to Diamond Peak Special Edition NFT
What’s in this NFT?
- The 4 ebooks comprising the Diamond Peak Series: Lethal Inheritance, Stalking Shadows, Demon’s Grip, Eternal Destiny
- A never-before published section on the publishing story behind the story and the Tibetan Buddhist symbolism used in the story
- The five different versions of the cover artwork used between 2012 and 2016
- Original cover artwork created by the author for the first version of book one in the series, used for only 12 months. The model is the author’s daughter, who was sixteen at the time and is now twenty-seven and a skilled book cover artist whose talents far outweigh those of her mother
# 9 Call Sign White Lily Special Edition NFT
What’s in this NFT?
- The unabridged version of the worldwide best-selling ebook
- The Lily Litvyak Photo Album which contains more than 50 vintage photographs
- A high-quality story video, Dreams of Becoming Something
- This Rare Collectible NFT Package is not available at online or retail book stores
#8 He Who Pays The Piper Special Edition NFT
What’s in this NFT?
- The ebook
- A brand-new animated cover
- An eleven-minute video of the author ALEX BRECK talking candidly for the very first time about what drove him to write this, the first Ridge Walker adventure thriller of a series of 4 to date, back in 2012
#7 A Dangerous Emperor Box Set Special Edition NFT
What’s in this NFT?
- A complete three-ebook series in one ePub file
- A final 7,500 word chapter not available anywhere else
- A digital copy of an original watercolor painting of a gladiator helmet taken from a scene in book three
- A one-minute and twenty-seven second personal video by the author explaining how he came to write this trilogy, and showing some of his research materials
#6 Chameleon The Forest People Box Set Special Edition NFT
What’s in this NFT?
- Three ebooks delivered as one boxset file
- Audiobook for the entire series – 19 hours of listening
- Video Book Trailer for This Special Edition NFT
- Author Interview Never Before Published
- Inspirational Art Used in Writing the Books
#5 Quantum Messenger Special Edition NFT
What’s in this NFT?
- Dedicated and registered ISBN
- New cover designed by Caitlin Lynagh from a canvas painting. An animated version is also included
- An exclusive foreword explaining Caitlin’s decision to make the book an NFT
- Link and lyrics to the song Who Am I? written by main character, Apollo, recorded by electro-pop act OUR EYES included at the relevant point in the book
#4 The One-Eyed King Special Edition NFT
What’s in this NFT?
- This set gives you the entire 300,000+ word three-book series so you can journey through the Land of the Blind from its intriguing genesis to its epic climax
- An exclusive book cover of the protagonist's alter ego – the vigilante known as Red Shadow
- An exclusive film adaptation mission statement sourced from the novel's creative treatment
#3 Lore of Arcana Special Edition NFT
- The entire 536,019-word four-book series is included in one ePub file
- A Dragon icon especially commissioned for the cover/interior
- A digital original illustration of the Maze sacred site (Sacred Sites PDF). Not available anywhere else
- A 35-minute audio file by the narrator of Arcana’s audiobooks containing an overview/excerpts
- Author’s note PDF explaining how she came to write this series: the proverbial lightbulb moment!
#2 Epic: Conor Kostick's full LitRPG/GameLit Universe Special Edition NFT
- The entire 400k+ word collection is included as 5 eBooks
- The audiobooks of Epic, Saga, and Eternal Voyager
- A digital copy of the full, hardback, wraparound covers of Epic, Sagaand Edda along with a copy of their eBook covers
- A unique 23min recording of Conor Kostick talking about his gaming past and, for the first time ever, of how he conceives the Epic universe and where Eternal Voyager and The Dragon’s Revenge fit in to the Epic–Saga–Edda trilogy
#1 Verannie Moss And The New Hideout Special Edition NFT
- The Verannie Moss and the New Hideout NFT includes the eBook and a PDF of the paperback edition
- The theme tune used on the Verannie Moss website
- Never-before-seen signed original artwork by Illustrator Paul Fey
What Have We Learned While Selling These Ebook NFTs?
- Packaging is critical. The visual aspect of an NFT is what provides a big part of the appeal. It also underpins the value of each NFT. Each of the above top selling NFTs features a unique visual identity. The highest NFT sales go to ebooks with truly engaging and interesting visuals.
- Having a community helps. Each of the top selling NFTs was supported by a community on our site and from each of the contributing authors. There would have been few sales without the help of this community.
- We are at the beginning of this journey. Sales have been picking up as the months go by as interest in and understanding of NFTs grows. The trajectory is encouraging.
So, What’s Next for NFTts?
The world of NFTs is evolving fast.
Twitter is planning a way to let people use the visual part of their NFTs as their profile pic. Read about that here. The new NFT profile pic will include a blue verification tag and could lead to a sales channel through Twitter as well as proof of how long you own an NFT and who you sold it to.
TikTok has launched an NFT collection. Details here.
Facebook is also on the verge of getting involved. More here.
All of this means NFTs are definitely not going away. The benefits for ebook buyers and authors, resale rights for single copies and traceable sales and ownership rights, are far too appealing.
At BooksGoSocial we are planning further NFT drops and an expansion into multiple NFT marketplaces in 2022.
Our journey is one of education and market development. This post, for instance, describes how readers will benefit from NFTs. There will be more educational developments too.
If you want to get involved and have ideas for NFTs in the book world email: [email protected]
Here’s some other ideas for book related NFTs:
- An NFT invitation to a book launch, including the ebook, special imagery and a video from the author.
- Your entire collection of files ZIPP’d and put on the blockchain as an NFT to preserve your legacy.
- An embossed print edition included with a high value NFT.
What can you come up with for an NFT? Your imagination is the limit.
AskALLi Speaks to Creatokia and BookVolts about NFTs
After having worked as a Business Broker, an Online Marketeer as well as in Investor Relations, Eric Bartoletti founded his own consulting company with a focus on Start Ups and international expansion. Since August 2018 he's served as Head of Business Development for Bookwire, developing the future of digital publishing together with his team, currently focussing on audiobook production, direct-to-customer solutions and the NFT platform, “Creatokia”. Find out more about Creatokia on their website here: www.creatokia.com, contact Eric here: [email protected]
Q1: Are NFTs just another fad “thing”? Why should an indie author do one?
NFTs allow authors to create completely new kinds of products in the digital sphere. What has been a special edition of a print book, maybe with different cover artworks, additional content and exclusive access to a private event, is now transferred to a fully digital environment. NFTs enable authors to sell limited editions to their biggest fans, promote special content to exclusive communities or link access to a private online space to their NFTs.
NFTs are a great tool for authors to get closer contact and more interaction with their fans. It's also an opportunity to offer something unique to your fans and stay in full control of your content. And the best thing is: NFTs are tradable! This is revolutionary for digital goods and allows authors to not only make money with the initial sale of their content, but participate in every single trade and the increase in value in the future.
The most successful NFT projects let the community be part of the evolution of a product, handing out voting rights with every NFT, giving the possibility to create something exclusive together, to the community as well as the author. It brings back independence, a close connection to fans and a new way of creating, distributing and working with content.
Q2: How can Indies create an enticing NFT that will attract their fans?
When they do their first drops, authors should think about their biggest fans. What would 5 to 10 people of their fan community be willing to pay a thousand bucks for? Is there additional content to my last successful book that has not been published, yet? Do I have behind-the-scenes material my fans could be interested in? Would I include a 30 minute 1:1 Zoom call? Besides that, artwork is one of the most important aspects in the NFT scene. Use the possibilities of digital and create some unique GIFs, for example. Make your package look outstanding and astonishing. Once you have that, start by selling a limited number of NFTs for a high price. Use your release to promote it among your fans. Tell them you are doing NFTs now and educate them on what that actually is and how it works. And if all 5 NFTs are sold, tell your fans next time you are going to sell more. This way you can build a long-term NFT strategy.
Q3: How much time and effort does it take? And how do you actually create one?
Once you know what kind of product you would like to sell, you have to find the right platform for you to actually create the corresponding NFT, link your assets (text files, audio files, artwork etc.) to it and make your drop (first release of an NFT).
Things you should pay attention to are they way the platform presents your content (most of your fans most probably have no experience with NFTs, but they know how publishing products are presented online), if the platform has a good security and legal setup, and how user-friendly the platform is.
You need to make it is easy for your fans to buy your NFTs, so they can enjoy your new releases, help you promote them and get excited about your next one. Our platform “Creatokia” is made by people from the publishing industry especially for authors, publishers and creatives in general. We paid a lot of attention to a smooth user-flow for sellers as well as buyers, making NFT publishing as easy as possible. If you have questions, please feel free to get in touch.
Q1. Are NFTs just another fad “thing”?
Absolutely not. Whilst the art boom may make people think of NFTs as a fad, it’s the potential of the underlying technology that’s important. That technology being the blockchain.
We are moving into a new digital age called “web3.0”. What this essentially means is that future digital products and applications will be built on the blockchain technology. This will have far reaching consequences and revolutionise many industries. It’s like the dotcom revolution of the 1990s that paved the way for the likes of Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple. As we saw with the dotcom era – the importance of these technical innovations often become clear once the initial hype dies down.
NFTs are essentially digital assets that are “stored” on the blockchain. It’s one of the first applications of how the blockchain can be used in a commercial way.
NFTs have been hugely popular in the creative industries because at their core, they offer creators more control over the work they produce, and open up more possibilities for the creator to profit from the work they produce.
Also, when NFTs are resold, the creator can receive royalties on any future sale (typically 5%-10%). This isn’t the case for physical creations, such as books, paintings or CDs.
Until now, the majority of NFT projects have been in the art space, but this is changing fast. We have seen musicians benefit from blockchain technology, and the gaming, legal and property industries are investing heavily in blockchain and NFT projects. And, as we’ve seen with BookVolts, the technology now exists to publish books on the blockchain.
This space is moving fast, and will continue to do so as bigger brands commit and bring more legitimacy to this space: Visa, Facebook and eBay to name a few.
The possibilities of the blockchain will become clearer as the technology matures, and the creators who are early to this market will be the first to benefit.
Why should an indie author do one?
We’ve seen artists, musicians and celebrities benefit from NFT technology. Now that it’s possible to create an NFT book – why shouldn’t an author give it a go?
The NFT book format is perfect for indie authors – a fundamental principle of NFTs is that it creates more proximity between the creator and the collector. Creators interact and sell directly with their fans, without the need for a middleman or gatekeeper. It will be more difficult (but not impossible) for publishing houses to adopt this model without giving up some element of control.
An NFT book also creates an opportunity for authors to push the concept of “what is a digital book?” Authors can be creative and explore new media – for example, you can embed different types of content within an NFT book, from video interviews with the author, to interactive maps and even links to one-on-one zoom calls with the authors. We’ve also seen some of BookVolts’ first authors ask their fans directly what they would like to have included in NFT books and build this new format directly with their fans.
Finally, what we’ve seen is that the first and the most creative projects to have been published on the blockchain generally tend to be the most valuable. We are convinced that creators who are early to this space and aren’t afraid to experiment on the blockchain will be the ones who benefit most in the long run.
Q2. How can Indies create an enticing NFT that will attract their fans
Honestly, our answer would be to work with your fans to define what they want from an NFT book. The NFT market is still in its infancy and there are no rules about what should and shouldn’t be done. You should be prepared to be creative, try new things, and view this as a new medium where you can experiment and give your fans something which they can’t get with “traditional” formats.
We encourage authors to think of NFT books as “Digital First Editions”. Authors should remove the concept of an NFT from their mind and think of this as a limited digital release of your book.
To give you a bit of insight into what we’ve seen so far with BookVolts – authors need to think about how an NFT book fits within the overall launch strategy of their book. BookVolts works on a case-by-case basis with authors to define what type of NFT book to create.
For example, certain authors may want to publish just one NFT of their book – so that the NFT becomes a collectible item. This works well for previously released and well loved “classics”, and it won’t cannibalise existing paperback or ebook sales on other platforms.
Or, to take a completely different view, we have had authors express an interest in creating an NFT-only publication of their work (meaning the book will never be published “physically” or sold on ebook platforms). In this case they create thousands of NFTs of their book, and only the NFT holder will ever be able to read their book.
But of course, most authors will end up somewhere in between. They will create a limited amount of Digital First Editions (say 100 or 1000), to be sold at pre-release (typically 1 to 3 months before release of other formats) and packed with extra features such as maps, hidden chapters, author notes, character glossaries or even dictionaries of fantasy languages for the most creative.
The final thing to mention is the book cover. We strongly encourage authors to collaborate with talented digital artists to create their covers. These covers don’t have to be static images – you can experiment with videos, 3-D designs and GIFs. The most successful projects won’t be NFT books that simply recycle the “traditional” book artwork. A large part of what we do at BookVolts is to develop collaborations between authors and crypto artists to create artwork that stands out in the NFT space.
Q3. How do you do one? How much time / effort does it take? What programs / resources are out there?
Until very recently it was almost impossible to publish a book on the blockchain. This is because there is a very big difference between an art NFT (which is usually bought to be “owned” and collected) and a book NFT (which is also bought to be “accessed” and read). Prior to our development, the technology did not exist that allowed only the NFT holder to access and read the book.
This is where BookVolts comes in. We have developed a way for authors to publish their work on the blockchain and limit the access to that work – so only the NFT holders can access the content.
The blockchain technology is advancing fast and the reader experience will evolve as the technology improves. Currently, NFT book content can be accessed through a web app, but we have a new ecosystem launching across various devices in early 2022.
One of BookVolts’ primary aims is to help authors navigate the world of blockchain and NFTs, and this is why we work with authors on a case-by-case basis. We work individually with each author to define what strategy they should take for their NFT book launch, work with fans to suggest what extra content authors should include and introduce authors to crypto artists who work in the same genre. BookVolts also takes care of the entire minting process to publish the book on the blockchain and ensure the underlying file is secure. We would encourage any author with an interest to get in touch to discuss their personal project.