I’ve been writing books, games, scripts, articles and anything that I think is worth a read since I was 10 years old. It all started with a story about a ghost that I thought I saw on a school trip. It won my home city’s prestigious Lord Mayor’s award for literature. For reference, my city produced some of the world’s greatest writers: Lord Byron, D.H Lawrence, Alan Sillitoe to name but three. Also LOL that I mentioned them in comparison to a kid’s story about ghosts.
From 1983 to 2023 I’ve been pretty prolific and wrote my first published novel in 2013 (my current book comes out this September); but I’ve always been dogged by traditional publishing. It takes tiiiiiiiime. It’s true that after my first couple of published books, I started self-publishing but that’s because I’m greedy and I didn’t want to hand 30% (or more in some cases) of what I’d worked hard to produce over to people I had never even met.
I’m not on this planet for long, none of us are. So when I wrote Prince of Tokyo in 2016, I decided to make it available as an NFT too, so that folks who don’t want the constraints of Kindle or Barnes and Noble could also feel free to read books in non-traditional ways.
Forward, not Fore-Word
Blockchain technology is important to the future of writing, anything. Here’s why: it operates as a decentralised digital ledger system that records and verifies transactions across a network of computers. Each block in the chain contains transactions and a cryptographic link to the previous block, ensuring secure and transparent data storage. This technology's key features include decentralisation, decision making processes for the block itself, immutability (or the inflexibility of the block as part of something bigger), and cryptography (which is the security and the smart part of the contract, and the contract itself).
Beyond cryptocurrencies, blockchain has really good use cases in supply chain management, offering transparency and traceability for products. It also revolutionises digital identity verification, enhancing security by allowing individuals to control their own digital identities (I’ll fight with you about this another day). In sectors like healthcare, real estate, and voting systems, blockchain ensures secure data sharing, tamper-proof records, and efficient processes. Additionally, it improves intellectual property management, energy trading, and cross-border payments
But that’s not the end of what Blockchain can do, I would say that financial transactions are just the beginning, because Blockchain offers benefits such as increased transparency, reduced fraud, and enhanced efficiency. It empowers users by giving them control over their data, while eliminating intermediaries—isn’t that great? As blockchain technology continues to evolve and find new applications, it has the potential to reshape industries by providing secure, decentralised, and trusted solutions to various challenges.
One such application is the book publishing industry.
In a world where everything is protracted, dry, and boring; our heroine is trapped in an endless cycle of trying to get published. Alone, and more drunk than Ernest Hemingway in charge of a tank, she started to read about a magical world of something called web3 publishing and with her new powers is able to vanquish the ageing publishing beast. The end. Wow, what a run-off for a jump off eh? But the truth is never far away from fiction. Publishing anything is looooong. In fact, traditional publishing often involves lengthy processes, from manuscript submission to final book release. This extended timeline can lead to frustration for authors like me eager to see their work in print and may not align with the fast-paced nature of modern readers' demands.
New and emerging authors often face hurdles in gaining entry into traditional publishing. Established publishers tend to lean towards established authors or those with literary connections, leaving many talented writers struggling to have their voices heard. Some of the best stories are always the ones you discover rather than the ones that are heavily rotated. I always like to think about the marketing process for book publishing to be a little like eating fast food: it’s in your face constantly, the branding and the fomo, and it makes you hungry but 20 mins after you eat or in this case read the book you have either forgotten what you read or you are hungry again.
Traditional publishers act as gatekeepers, deciding which manuscripts to accept based on their subjective preferences. This can result in the rejection of quality works that may not fit current market trends or the publisher's vision making for a really difficult vertical to work in. And there are a million other reasons why traditional publishing methods might not fit with your desires as an author or reader from distribution to sustainability.
Accepting the Challenge
I know, I know if you are reading this, you’re thinking *how did she go from Act I of the dramatic structure to the Hero’s Journey?* it’s a skill, dear reader! In all honesty, accepting the challenge of not only writing, but writing about accepting the challenge in your book is even more of a bête noire if you have to try and get an agent, then a publisher, then do the marketing and then release a book. When I started the process of writing professionally, NFTs and even Blockchain was a such a far off concept (for a lot of people I appreciate it still is!) but it would have been and is the best medium to publish that the 21st Century has. I’d always hoped that something like this might come along to disrupt the industry but I didn’t think it would be disrupted with such complete and utter ease! Incorporating blockchain technology into book publishing can lead to a more transparent, efficient, and secure ecosystem. Authors like me might enjoy fairer compensation, readers can access diverse literary works, and the publishing industry can adapt to the evolving digital landscape while preserving the essence of literature. It’s a Gutenberg moment, surely?
Some web3 publishing platforms you may not have heard of:
Because no one wants to read a book about web3 on a web3 platform amirite?
Blockchain's transparent and decentralised nature can bring a clearer vision to the publishing ecosystem. Authors, publishers, and readers can access an immutable record of every stage of a book's journey—from creation to distribution. This transparency ensures accountability, reduces the possibility of fraudulent claims, and enhances trust between all stakeholders.
Adding speed doesn’t necessarily mean the left hand knows what the right hand is doing, but blockchain kind of does: it does its own checks and balances. This immutability in blockchain ensures that once information about a book, its authorship, or its ownership is recorded, it cannot be altered or deleted without consensus from the network. This feature guarantees the preservation of authentic and accurate records, preventing unauthorised changes or disputes over intellectual property rights. And trust me, as someone whose first foray into publishing received an email from Amazon Kindle themselves apologising for a data breach where my precious book was pirated a million times onto a gazillion file sharing platforms, IP is important. It’s your brand, your DNA, your fingerprint, it’s your soul and if that gets pirated by people who are never going to pay for a view into your art; you are either Dan Brown or Croesus.
I am not Dan Brown
I’m not Croesus either, so I think it’s realistic to understand that in book publishing more than anything else (maybe not as a service provider for a museum) the time to money is long, and in some cases not at all. Don’t build your career on making money from books unless you are really sure you will be Dan Brown or some actor/singer/dancer-turned-writer because their acting work has dried up since they were in the public eye. Those idiots make money too. When I was nominated for Prince of Tokyo, I was up against a very famous singer in an award thing for up-and-coming writers who needed more exposure, yes, really. She’d sold millions of records, made loads of money and I was so surprised that I lost to her.
What I’m saying is that blockchain will not change your earning potential. But what it will do is secure your authorship, it might agree your contracts with publishers, protect your IP, and wait for it: make your book globally accessible.
Blockchain-powered platforms can enable authors to publish their works to a global audience without the need for traditional gatekeepers. I find anything traditional to be a bit boring. If readers from around the world can access and purchase books, surely it promotes cultural diversity and inclusion—as a writer that means much more than the thirty cents you will make on a dollar after you have marketed the life out of your writing.
Though I’m not Dan Brown, I find myself embroiled in a weird Holy Grail-style web3 conspiracy where artists, writers and creatives are fighting over the tiniest pieces of market share. These things haven’t changed since web2 and that sucks. I couldn’t look away from why some art does really well (such as Beeple) and is completely devoid of substance, whereas other art is really well planned and executed (such as JAC’s The Core).
When I was thinking about how to approach the writing of my own book about the future of the metaverse through the evolution of video games, I realised that I needed to get my skates on to avoid some other evolving currents: nomenclature, trends, and whilst I took care of that, I reached out to an amazing NFT artist based in South Korea (where else?) to design my book covers. I say covers because these will be in very specific collection drops for the first edition. I asked YEON to help me create the substantive aesthetic for a traditional business model I’ve simply disrupted for this book’s launch.
I learned so much from writing Prince of Tokyo and publishing it later as an NFT. Here are some takeaways:
Use your smart contract. You can’t pack everything in there but you can cover your arse with the fundamental details about your book, thus protecting you from the Hooded Claw/the old guy from the amusement park/Darth Vader.
People eat with their eyes. With some obvious exceptions we are driven by aesthetic. It drives FOMO. Meme guy and his girlfriend know this only too well. Don’t write a book to release it with a crap NFT visual. No one will want to see it (or you). Get help. I used YEON for my new book but there are a million amazing artists out there waiting for you.
Use the force. Using NFTs as pre-order proof of ownership is a great way to price your book, set the constraints of the launch, and, dare I say it, it’s the perfect marketing tool. You don’t need to be Terry Crews to flex a bicep and make it rain. It’s called creating a sales funnel.
Get real. More importantly, be realistic. You will not be Beeple. But you might do really well from folks who are a) massive fans of YEON (in my case) or b) are prepared to pay for the quality of the book’s content. There will always be print, and that’s totally ok. You don’t have to go nuts on the whole NFT thing, think of NFT being something to enhance your sale, a sweetener. You will sell the epub or mobi files, as well as the fancy bamboo pulp 10 colour dust cover (ok I’m taking it a bit far). Price your book within benchmarks if it’s more comfortable - remember that you will gas this bad boy too so keep something back, something good (thanks Goldfrapp)
The End, because that’s how books end.