In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway takes a look at the millionaire creators making money from digital art using block chain technology.
In the latest self-publishing news podcast, Howard and I talk about life after Audiblegate, and discuss how Findaway Voices offers a real alternative for indies. I also take Jeff Bezos' announcement that he is stepping down as Amazon's CEO as an opportunity to look back at his legacy, and how Amazon has changed all our lives in so many ways.
NFTs: What are they and what are the opportunities?
I want to devote a larger than usual portion of the news to one story this week.
You know by now I love technology, and the possibilities it brings. This week I want to take a close look at a technology that’s blown into the news in the past 10 days. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are things most people hadn’t heard of before this month, and suddenly they’re everywhere.
Artists making millions from NFTs
Briefly, NFTs are a way of proving unique ownership of a digital file. Often, as in the case of art or music, or books, a digital file can be endlessly reproduced. But NFTs are a way for one person to say “I have the source copy” – the first edition or special edition if you like.
NFTs hit the news the last couple of weeks after a number of high profile sales. At the end of February a video by digital artist Beeple sold for $6.6m. That’s more than twice as much as the $2.5m that’s the current highest bid for an NFT of the first ever tweet. And ten times more than the $580k Chris Torres fetched this week for the NFT for one of the most famous digital files ever made, the Nyan Cat video.
NFTs work using blockchain technology. Blockchain, of course, is probably a word that makes many people nervous. It’s already been through one cycle of being absolutely everywhere. I even spoke on a panel at London Book Fair about publishing on the blockchain. Having been everywhere, it almost went away. People realised that the technology, which uses a decentralised ledger system to ensure a continuity between transactions, wasn’t actually necessary for all the things being claimed.
Blockchain's second rise
At the same time, the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, which uses blockchain technology, plummeted after a bubble. But Bitcoin has risen again recently. In part this is down to high-profile backers like Elon Musk. And other uses for blockchain are starting to feel a little more secure as people work out what it is really useful for. Two of those uses have coincided to make NFTs a viable thing. Smart contracts allow payments to the original parties, such as creators and other rights holders, to be made on secondary as well as original sales. And blockchain is really good for ensuring the security of supply chains.
For writers, one obvious use is to create special first editions. And this great piece from Ian Leviness suggests wider uses. But we need to be careful. Blockchains like Ethereum, which underlies many of the current NFTs, require the original NFT to be “minted”. And that requires up front costs. These can mount up as this fascinating Twitter thread shows. That means you need to know your sale will be at a certain level for it to be worthwhile. Otherwise you can lose money.
And of course blockchain technology as a whole is controversial because of the massive environmental costs. Running the servers required by the likes of Ethereum and Bitcoin use more electricity than a not overly small nation. And it tends to be not overly clean electricity.
If you want to find out more about how to do it, here is a really good guide to what's involved.
Former Harper Collins head joins Inkitt
Inkitt is a publishing and services company that has a lot of support. In 2019 it raised $16m in funding. And it has just secured the services of former Harper Collins head Jane Friedman. (Not to be confused with the brilliant publishing consultant and Hot Sheet editor of the same name). But Inkitt also comes with a cautionary warning from ALLi's own Watchdog.
It’s interesting how often large investment and caution warnings go together.
Frankfurt is open for business
As the future starts to look brighter for the world emerging from Covid, book fairs and conferences start to work out what the future looks like for them. This week Frankfurt announced that its 2021 Autumn fair is open for in-person exhibitors to start booking. The event will be dispersed across five hubs, and will offer a fsacinating first look at what the future may hold.
Ebook Lending in Libraries Generates Significant Royalties
Some great new research in the US shows what we had known but didn't have figures for. Libraries lending ebooks generate royalties for authors on a substantial level. The research, just out, shows that royalties in the thousands are not unheard of.What opportunities do NFTs provide for indie writers and other top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy #publishingopenup Click To Tweet
Upcoming Conferences and Events
Help us fill this with great online events in the coming weeks and months.
Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) – Zoom meetings the 2nd Saturday of each month
Smolfair, 3-7 Mar
Chanticleer Conference, 21-25 Apr
Love Lambeth Ebook Open Day, 15 May
American Libraries Association Annual Conference, 23-29 Jun
Comic Con, 22-25 Jul
SelfPubCon 23-24th Oct
BTW, blockchain is one word. 🙂
Ha, yeah – I’ll go with that as industry standard – it’s one of those where some people think two words is “purist” – a bit like Texas Chain Saw Massacre
In 2019 I signed up for blockchain technology with Bookchain for my novel, “Einstein’s Compass a YA Time Traveler Adventure”. My novel was a featured bookchain book at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2019. Bookchain offers indie authors a unique way to control author rights and receive payment directly from Bookchain instead of going through a third party like Amazon or other online bookstores.
Einstein’s Compass on Bookchain: https://www.bookchain.ca/book/0xc4448282409b51db47dedd7725b863869fec507d/
Checkout the catalogue and the benefits of using blockchain for your writing projects.
From Bookchain website: https://www.bookchain.ca/about
Security. Traceability. Attribution. Distribution. In the publishing industry, these are the pillars of success.
Bookchain® allows authors and publishers to configure all of the above-mentioned elements for each of their digital publications, including reselling. The benefits are twofold: creators can protect their intellectual property against theft or piracy while rewriting the rules for ebook distribution and management, and readers can enjoy their ebooks using absolutely any device with a web browser.
With Bookchain, here’s what the future holds
Empowered writers and content creators who can protect their rights and decide how their work is shared with the world. Publishers that can easily manage the distribution, attribution, and traceability of an author’s work. A user-friendly blockchain solution that accepts the cash you already have in your wallet – no cryptocurrency needed.
Thanks, Grace – I was a speaker when Publica launched at London Book Fair and am definitely a tech believer – I’m not sure a lot of teh first iteration did things well but I absolutely agree that for traceability and logistics it’s a really good tool