As a writer who trained as a lawyer and currently works as a product manager, I have a unique perspective on the interaction of smart contracts with a distributed blockchain in order to transact works of art, often unified by a narrative. That’s before we get to the myriad of potential use cases across our social, political, digital and physical lives. NFTs will revolutionise so many aspects of the world, and I am passionate about blockchain technology generally, but as a writer I am extremely excited about the potential of this new space for storytelling and storytellers.
We have seen NFTs revolutionise the practises of visual artists, the same can happen for writers. Here are the three reasons why the Blockchain* and NFTs will change writing and publishing forever:
- The Blockchain is a new storytelling platform
- NFTs offer a new business model for writers
- NFTs enable writers to connect with their readers
(*I use ‘capital B’ Blockchain to refer to the technology whilst acknowledging that there are numerous blockchains.)
The Blockchain is a storytelling platform
When I first started writing, I used a pen and paper. I transitioned to typing words via a keyboard and now, quite often I use a digital pen on a digital screen. The common thread through all of these mediums is giving permanent form to ephemeral ideas. This is exactly how I see the blockchain.
A blockchain is a distributed database. It is a way of storing information that is extremely reliable.Our ephemeral ideas are given permanent, digital form on the Blockchain. When I talk about the Blockchain as a storytelling platform, this is what I am calling out: its ability to record ideas forever. As a writer, this is an irresistible concept.
NFTs are currently the mainstream ‘language of the Blockchain’. More specifically, profile picture (PFP) NFTs are how most of us currently communicate ideas on the blockchain. Like the strokes of cavemen on ancient walls – PFPs depict us – humans, our experiences and emotions as well as our ideas. Even where they depict humanoid animals, PFPs reach for very fundamental human urges, from the frustration of boredom to the pursuit of beauty.
NFTs enable a new business model for writers
As a writer and entrepreneur, I have always found the mainstream publishing industry perplexing. The current mainstream models are reliant on celebrity authors and major hits with little focus on writer development, community building and individual financial sustainability. Outside mainstream publishing the only other viable sources of income have been indie publishing and academia. Writers have been in dire need of new options. Now they have the Blockchain.
The Blockchain enables creators of all kinds to take control of their monetisation models and innovate new ones. As we have seen with 1 of 1 artworks like Sam Spratt’s Birth of Luci, a writer could choose to create a single publication of their work and sell it as an NFT to the highest bidder. This creates a much deeper bond between the collector/supporter and the writer. Alternatively, a writer can create a PFP collection, like the Robots from Huxley Saga, bringing their cast of characters to life and enabling a stadium-filling number of people to invest in their craft and join their community. In addition to initial sales of a literary NFT, the transparency and traceability of blockchain transactions means that writers will also be able to explore attaching royalties to their NFTs and earn a portion every time the NFT is sold in the future.
This is only the beginning. Blockchain technology will birth a plethora of business models that we have not even thought of yet. In a way, this new technology offers writers and other artists the best of all worlds. Their work can be widely distributed and freely accessible. At the same time, they can offer their readers/supporters an opportunity to own a part of the worlds that they have created. This marriage of accessibility and ownership is the new world of Web3 that is offered by Blockchain technology.
NFTs enable writers to connect with their readers
One of my core beliefs as a writer is that whilst I write what I like, I don’t write for myself. Writing for me is an act of service to readers. However, traditional publishing creates a chasm between a writer and their readers. This has somewhat been breached by book conventions and social media platforms, but as in most creative industries, numerous gatekeepers sit between writers and their readers. NFTs offer an alternative.
A writer can sell an NFT directly to a collector. How this differs from indie publishing is that the NFT is a platform – other things can be built on top of it. For example, an NFT can be utilised as an access token, where holding it gives you access to digital and physical experiences. An NFT can be used to bestow rights, such as the ability to create author-sanctioned fanfiction. Beyond connection, NFTs enable writers to empower their readers. The collector has ownership over the NFT and can sell it on. To put it another way, the transition from Web2 to Web3 sees a fundamental change in the relationship between writers and their readers; in Web2 readers could connect to writers as followers, in Web3 readers can connect with writers as owners.
By connecting directly with their readers via an NFT project, a writer can establish an unmediated, ongoing relationship. This verifiable and valuable connection between a creator and their supporters is truly the first chapter of the story that will play out over the coming years. In the future we will likely see entry points at venues where scanning your NFT will gain you access to an event such as a bookclub. A future literary platform will enable chapters or entire works of fiction to be air dropped to the tablets of holders of a particular NFT. Much of the technology that will enable this is still being built, but NFTs are the tiny key that will unlock an incredible future.
Taking my storytelling to the Blockchain
I can see this vision of the future of storytelling so clearly that I felt compelled to take my storytelling to the Blockchain. Later this year, I will be releasing my first literature inspired NFT project. I am expanding the world of my short story The Library into an NFT collection. I don’t want to spoil it if you have not read the story, but the idea behind the short story is so perfectly in sync with Web 3 and the metaverse that I knew it was meant to be.
The Librarians is a 10,000 piece NFT collection featuring characters from my story, amazing outwork as well as some amazing benefits that I am putting together for people who hold my NFTs over the coming months.
My NFT collection is partly a business model experiment. I spent 2021 writing short stories and making them available for free on my website. The blockchain is empowering me to allow people all over the world to read my work for free whilst simultaneously enabling me to conduct a value exchange with people who want to more deeply connect with my work and support my craft. I also want to share the learnings from this experiment with other writers and creators, to support future innovation on the Blockchain. This is definitely going to be a fascinating and exciting journey – I invite you to come along for the ride:
You can keep up with the journey of creating The Librarians NFT project on Twitter.