Reading and writing have always played a huge role in my life. That's what got me into college without any formal education. I was “homeschooled” in a home that really didn’t do much schooling. But I could – and did – learn by reading, and one skill I acquired completely by accident was the ability to write. I didn’t know what an adjective or a dangling participle were – but I’d read so many good books that I just wrote in a way that looked natural to me, and it worked.
And it was through writing that I got involved in NFTs. I’d been hearing about them for a while at that point, but it didn't really seem like something I would be into. In my social media, I didn’t use PFPs – my avatar had always been my own face.
In my mind, the word "NFT" was synonymous with PFP projects like Bored Apes and CryptoPunks. I knew people were making a lot of money off them, but it wasn’t an art form that appealed to me, and when it came to investing, I wasn’t really a speculator.
But one day, something occurred to me:
"Wait a minute, I'm hearing people like Tim Ferriss talk about these things as artworks, and writing is a form of art. So maybe I should be thinking about how my art form translates to this new media."
I got into the NFT-space at a really interesting time – early in 2022. The first NFT that I ever bought was the Creatoken, which was this little thing that would give me the right at some future date to publish an NFT book with a big German publishing company. But at the time, they didn’t have anything except an idea. I’d just purchased a possibility - but it would be one that paid off when I became the first author to self-publish with Creatokia.
The next thing I bought was a $PAGE DAO membership token – which gave me access to their tool, which created NFT books whose pages flipped in an on-screen window. My third acquisition was one of only 829 copies of Neil Strauss's Survive All Apocalypses, which was one of the first big books by a New York Times bestselling author to be published on the blockchain.
* * *
Fast forward to 2023 – the market for NFTs had collapsed along with the price of Ethereum, but I’d had a great year. I’d published NFT books with nearly all of the big, corporate publishers – and several of the smaller ones. I’d self-published, started a Web3 journal of Arts and Poetry, and had been invited to New York to speak at one of the biggest NFT conventions in the world.
I saw my name in lights on Times Square, and hosted a pop-up poetry reading that was livestreamed around the world. I read NFT poetry and literature on-stage in bars in Amsterdam and at Australia’s Blue Mountains Writers Festival.
In the course of my first year in literary NFTs, I learned a lot – made a bit of money, and looked back on some lost opportunities to have cashed out of some projects much earlier than I did. I experimented with several AI tools – literary, art, and voice – and worked with some amazing human artists, writers, and voice actors.
Then, I got slammed.
I have a book slated for publication with a traditional publishing house in 2024 – and I’ve discovered that working in that space is a very different, very time-consuming process. It’s been a great experience, but I can’t wait to be able to shift my focus back to Web3 publishing – and there's one word that sums up the reason:
This is one of the most powerful aspects of literary NFTs – they create a technical solution for multiple writers and artists to participate in a project and get paid instantly and proportionally every time a copy of the project is sold. Those projects can be books, magazines, graphic novels, poetry collections – any sort of literature that you can imagine. And the “secondary” royalty structure allows those same collaborators to earn a share every time the project is re-sold.
My first collaboration was simple – I had a friend who was a really great artist. I had a story that I needed cover art for. In the traditional world, a publisher would try and pay the lowest fixed rate. Thomas Taylor – the fellow who created the cover for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone didn’t get a lot of money for his artwork – a flat fee which he described as “pretty poorly paid” and he never received a penny in royalties, because that's just the way traditional publishing works.
But in Web3 I could tell my friend, "I'll split this 50-50. I write the short story; you do the art, and we'll see what happens." The stories sold a few copies. We both made a little money, and I loved the process. I did it again – another great friend, another beautiful cover, another short story, and a few more sales.
Then I said, "Okay, can we take this further?" I found that you could do profit-shares for even larger groups of people, so I created a journal – Arts and Poetry – which featured 20 poets and artists from around the world in each volume. Kenya, Venezuela, Brazil – these are places where a few dollars worth of cryptocurrency means lot more than it does in America. And every collaborator receives an equal share instantly whenever someone buys a copy.
There are other great aspects of Literary NFTs that set them apart from and above other publishing models – and I look forward to discussing those in a future essay. There are also a lot of opportunities in this medium – which some people confuse with obstacles, but again, that’s an essay for another time.
My closing thought is that collaborations have been what has kept me active in the Web3 writing community through a period when I’ve put aside a lot of things to focus on my book deadlines.
It is the reason that I’m writing this essay now – instead of working on revisions for my book – because I’m in a collaboration with the members of my T2 “Friends Who Write” group. Since the only way we can succeed is together, I’m more motivated to put my thoughts on electronic paper and release them out into the world than I would be if I were going it alone.
What do you think?
If you had a pick a "superpower" for Web3 writing, what would it be?