The world of indie fiction writing exists within a chaotic world of publishing. As it stands, writers/creators stand with one foot inside the antique practices built up from traditional publishing of the 19th and 20th centuries and the other foot inside the monopolistic practices used by companies built on platforms of ad-based revenue streams (i.e., the current Internet). Both approaches force indie writer/creator revenue streams to be much less than their market value. That is the reality of any approach with many middlemen in selling a product.
The largest Trade Book Publishers like Penguin Random House and Hachette, use a production model from the late 1800s. This model uses a crystal ball approach which give the author an advance against royalties based upon publisher’s view of future revenue. This model of business essentially freezes out new authors with little or no market presence (kind of a chick vs. egg approach). Worse, new authors seldom get their foot in the door without an agent in tow who will siphon off part of any royalties. The gatekeeping in this model is difficult to overcome, leaving writers to determine whether to write and market on their own or to keep banging on the door, trying to enter.
Those who take the direct marketing approach for their work face different but still difficult barriers and reduced revenue. Forced by market to use companies like Apple or Amazon to become their publishers, the indie authors find themselves in direct competition against established names and marketing dollars used by the trade book publishers on those platforms. This situation leaves indie writers carving out unique niches for their work or to establish themselves on other platforms (such as Patreon, Indiegogo, or Wattpad).
A NEW WRITER/CREATOR MODEL IN BLOCKCHAIN
With the increasing acceptance of Bitcoin as a cryptocurrency along with blockchain technology as an increasing underlying architecture, a new model of personal control over our data, assets, and identities is at hand. As such, the blockchain model will become the future of indie writers. Please note, I’m not saying it is a possibility, BLOCKCHAIN is the future. (For full disclosure, I’ve added my comic books to Cryptocomics.com which is just getting started as a platform)
I realize that is a somewhat bold statement considering the obstacles I’ve outlined. However, a quick look at the recent phenomena of Non-fungible Tokens (NFT) shows I really believe it is the near future for the writer/creator.
WHAT IS A NFT?
Many good articles are out on the Internet about NFTs so I’m not going to go into depth about the technology but merely outline benefits and drawbacks for a author/creator, and why it’s the future (Consider that Facebook and Twitter are investing time and energy into this world).
An NFT is a digital asset that represents real-world objects like art, music, in-game items and videos. Non-fungible’ simply means the content cannot be exchanged. (Look at the difference between a movie ticket and a plane ticket. You can easily give your fungible movie ticket to a friend, but a plane ticket is non-fungible as it's registered to you.)
NFTs are really about the ownership of the work (though the writer can still retain the copyright and reproduction rights, just like with physical copy).
NFTs have a feature that enable that will pay the creator a percentage every time the NFT is sold or changes hands.
An NFT uses much of the same encrypted coding and architecture as many cryptocurrencies. The burst of digital art collecting and purchasing are proof of the underlying capability of the model.
NFTs create digital scarcity since they also generally one of a kind, or at least one of a very limited run, and each have unique identifying codes. When an NFT is minted, the item becomes a file which lives on the blockchain permanently. Once this happens, the file can’t be deleted or edited. While copies of the work can be made and sold, they'll always be less valuable than the original. (Can you say first edition?)
Currently, NFTs can be create and sold on various marketplaces. (I’ve linked the following list from Influencer Marketing Hub which contains additional information).
The marketplace is undefined and unregulated. NFTs are often minted with no proof of identity and the need for verification. This means that copycats and pirates can make their own NFTs from a creator’s original work. This problem must change before widespread acceptance.
NFTs can work like any other speculative asset which leads to boom and bust cycles. Additionally, the top marketplaces currently focus upon digital art as their focus.
For comic creators, the size limits for creating NFT on some marketplaces make it impossible to mint a full-size comic pdf (I’ve tried).
The fees on some marketplaces are more than the value of an individual book or comic which hampers the creator’s options.
The underlying platforms are often designed for those with some understanding of blockchain/crypto and use of “wallets” is not widespread enough among the general population (yet).
Not much recent attention or startups within the industry. A quick Internet search will find a burst of activity in 2018 but not much since then.
While the downsides of current Non-fungible Tokens appear to eliminate near term adoption of NFTs, the upsides are large enough to allow creators to consider moving toward this model. For indie writers to push into this future, we must adapt by organizing and collaborating with like-minded technical people and entrepreneurs. If you have ideas or wish to help, comment on my substack below. I’ll publish more information and ideas on a regular basis.