This week authors J. Thorn and Crys Cain talk about Web3 technology and NFTs, and how authors can set themselves up for success to use this tech in the book world.
Crys: Welcome to the TASM podcast. I’m Crys Cain with my co-host J Thorn.
J: Hey Crys. What’s going on?
Crys: Oh, I am settling into the flow of things, I think. It’s good.
J: It doesn’t sound very convincing.
Crys: I think the kid has officially been in school as of a month today, today or tomorrow. And so things are starting to feel like a routine and a system. And we’re figuring out where all the pieces of life go and I’m having more energy for work because I’m not constantly struggling to figure out random things that aren’t even necessarily related to work.
J: Yeah, it’s going to take a while. Be patient with yourself.
Crys: I just want everything to be in order. How about you?
J: Yeah, things are good. I feel like a bit of a walking contradiction because I’m deeply involved in The Carbon Almanac project and that’s been amazing. And at the same time, what some people would view as somewhat ecologically destructive, web3 technologies, all at the same time.
Crys: Yeah we could have a whole talk on like the ecological issues and things around web 3.0, but that is a completely different podcast.
J: It is. And they’re not unique either. I always find it interesting that a lot of the objections raised for Web3, specifically, people overlook web 2’s impact, which is bad too.
Crys: My response to it is it’s not the individual’s fault, it’s the corporations. And the corporations need to fix how they handle things, and governments. It’s not something to put on individual’s shoulders.
J: If you use your iPhone and you’re complaining about Web3, you’re in a glass house.
Crys: Yes. So this week, because we spent last week doing our kind of yearly celebration that we have made it through a full year and missed our kind of emerging tech episode, we’re going to do that this week.
And I wanted to start off with this question that’ll cover a few topics that we wanted to get into, but that’s: what can authors be doing right now, other than reading books about what all this is and getting possibly even more confused than they were at the start, what could they do this month, in the next 30 days, that could help them get their feet in the water and set them up for success when there’s more availability for them to actually use this tech in the book world?
J: Yeah, it’s a good leading question. And my response is not going to be strictly to Web3. In fact, what I’m going to mention, I think, is something authors should be doing anyways. I think Web3is going to make it a whole lot easier and more lucrative and exciting, but it’s not strictly Web3 stuff.
So here’s what I would say. You should be thinking about your brand, your platform, your content, whatever that happens to be, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, or books or something else, and you should be thinking in two very general buckets of: do I want to be creating collectibles for my audience or do I want to be creating access through utilities?
Crys: Do you want to explain the difference?
J: Yeah. So again, and what’s cool about this is I think Web3 will make this lot easier, but you don’t even need to do Web3 to do it. As we’re recording this, Brandon Sanderson’s Kickstarter for his four hit novels is in excess of $17 million. Now, Sanderson is an outlier and I don’t want people to think that they can just throw up a Kickstarter project and rake in $17 million, but that’s a collectible, right?
So these are things that you can’t buy. These could be things like special edition books, outtakes, drafts, photographs, sky’s the limit. Like things that are related to your books or your product, but not exactly that product, things that super fans would love to collect. And there’s examples of this everywhere, from the comic book industry, collectible cards, sports memorabilia, collectibles are just something tried and true. People love them, they want them.
So thinking about what type of collectibles, whether those are digital or physical, that’s sort of one category of this thing we’re talking about. And then the other is access. And these are not mutually exclusive, like you could create something that bridges these, but let’s keep it simple for now.
Access would be if you’re creating some type of experience for your fan, it could be a virtual event, it could be an in-person event, it could be like a book club would be a great example, right? If you have a great audience and they love what you’re doing and you, as the author, host a book club, that’s sort of an access type utility.
So I think just starting to think about brainstorming, coming up with ideas about what you could create in either one of those two categories, is really going to set you up so that when the tech is right, when the timing is right, you’ll already conceptually know what you want to accomplish, and then finding the tools is going to be a whole lot easier.
Crys: Yeah. What about authors whose argument would be, well, I don’t want to do anything other than write and published books?
J: I would say that collectables would fall into that category. I think you could create collectibles in a way that doesn’t demand more of your time. In fact, you could hire people to do that. Let’s say you’re a thriller author and all you want to do is go to a cabin in the woods and write your book. You could take all of your materials for your novel, that would include your drafts, your outlines, your notes, whatever you create, photographs, research, you could give that to somebody and you could say, can you find me five really interesting things in here that readers of this book would love to have? And people can help you do that.
So I don’t think just because you’re creating collectibles, doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be more public facing or that you have to do things beyond what you’re already doing. I think there are ways that you can accomplish that.
Crys: It’s really interesting because I’m not a collector. And I know that one of the ways that you’ve gotten yourself into this brain space is that you’ve put yourself as a purchaser of things that you’re a fan of and learning how to be in the collector headspace.
I don’t know if you were collected before, I know that you run pretty minimalist, but there’s a few things that can snag you. There’s probably a few things that can snag me as well. But I’m personally having a hard time wrapping my head around like building so much. Yes, I’m pro collectibles because I know that people like them, but at building so much emphasis on collectibles.
And access for me is another thing, like my time is limited, my energy is limited. And so I’m constantly struggling with how all this is going to play out. And I know that there’s avenues that haven’t even been invented yet of how these things are gonna work that’ll come up, but this is why I’m asking these questions.
J: Yeah. I think it’s a good question to ask. And I think too, the older I get, I realize that I have these periods of my life where I’m more into things and less into things. And I’m not as dogmatic about myself as I used to be.
I used to say, now I’m only into this, and I only like this. When I was a teenager, I loved collecting baseball cards. Like I’m not even a sports guy, but like when I was a pre-teen, I collected baseball cards. As a teenager, I collected cassettes and CDs.
And then I had 20 years of my life. I didn’t collect anything. In fact, I got rid of stuff. And I’m still in that phase now because I am minimalist, I don’t like the physical clutter, I don’t like the responsibility of material items. Like you eventually have to manage them or repair them. I don’t want any part of that.
And that’s why I think I’m really drawn to this sort of more digital collectible because it doesn’t create clutter, it’s easily stored. I get the same kicks out of it. We’ll talk a little bit about the Mark Manson drop of book coin that happened recently. And I didn’t realize I enjoyed it until I started doing it.
And that was another thing, I purchased this NFT and it was fun. And there are a few people in the community, like I think JP and Christine both bought one. And so we’re comparing them, we’re talking about them, we’re looking at them on the marketplace, and just doing that with other people, just that, for me, it was fun. And I never would’ve thought oh, I’m going to be the type of person who’s going to collect NFTs. And I’m probably not. But just the experience of collecting two of those was fun. And there’s a whole community of people who are collecting those who are in a discord server together who are having those same kinds of interactions.
So I think sometimes too, like we don’t even necessarily know what our experience is going to be until we’re in the experience.
Crys: Okay. So let’s talk about the Mark Manson thing, because this is another thing that I’m like confused about. I get like how collectibles come out of fiction work, but this is The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson, collectibles, NFT collectibles.
So how does that work out for a non-fiction book?
J: Yeah. Yeah, this is fascinating. I got to give it to the book coin guys, because I think this was a pretty creative angle. And I don’t know if this was Mark’s idea or their idea, or they came to this idea together, but what they did is, Mark went through the book and he pulled out 1,111 quotes. They are varying lengths. Some of them are one word, some of them are a paragraph, and those each became their own unique NFT. So if I hold a particular quote, no one else has an NFT, but there is a collection of 1111 of these. And so there’s some scarcity involved. In the whole entire world, there’s only a thousand or so people that own these or less, because some people own multiple NFTs.
And what I think is historical about this particular drop is that that was a New York Times number one bestseller. And that’s like the first number one New York Times bestseller that’s been fractionalized in that way on the blockchain. So I think for historical purposes, I think it’s going to be a project that people will remember for a long time, which is one of the reasons why I was pretty bullish on it.
But I think for that type of book, and I recognize some people call it broey and it’s definitely got a male energy to it, I recognize that, but I’m a dude, so I don’t worry about it. But like that sort of approach, especially for a big idea book where there are a lot of quotables that you can pull out of it, that’s a really unique idea. And now, people don’t own the copyright to his book, but they can put their quote on a t-shirt or within the community that people have them. So it’s a collectible.
And then each NFT gives people access to the Zero Fucks Club, which is a club within the club where Mark will show up once a month and have a Q and A session with the Zero Fucks members. It also gives people six months free access to the Subtle Art School. So he’s got all these online courses. So in Mark’s case, it’s not only a collectible, but it’s a utility NFT.
And for people who are fans, especially super fans, they can’t get enough. Like I’m not a super fan. I love the book. He’s a great writer. But there are people in there who are like hardcore. And just think about like if your favorite author gave you the opportunity to hop on Zoom once a month and talk, wouldn’t you jump at that?
So it’s been really interesting. It hasn’t completely played out yet. There was some tech issues, there were some unfortunate, real-world issues, like the invasion of Ukraine that happened on the day it minted. And NFTs across the board, I think the NFT bubble’s about to burst, and you have a lot of projects that are going to become worthless because they were just built on the hype of crypto punks or board apes. And so a lot of those copycat projects are gonna go to zero real soon. So I think across the board, the values of NFTs are down, but that particular project was really intriguing to me. And I think it’s worth keeping an eye on.
Crys: You used the word fractionalization and I wanted to clarify if you meant just like taking pieces of the book, or you meant fractionalization in the sense that people will get an earning of the royalties.
J: In this case, it’s the first one. It’s taking the entire one piece of work and fractionalizing that into 1100 pieces. Now the other one that you’re talking about is like something on Royal IO, what musicians are doing, where you can purchase a fractionalized percentage of royalties. So whenever that artist earns say Spotify royalties, if you own an NFT, you’re entitled to a certain percentage of those royalties. And that’s a different kind of fractionalization.
Crys: Yeah, I think next month, unless something big comes up in the next month that’s like super cool that we want to talk about, I want to talk about the process of buying an NFT. Because there’s a lot of lingo and where there are these drops, it’s not just that you go to an online store and buy the NFT. There are online stores where you can buy NFTs, but that’s not necessarily like the ones that are super interesting all the time.
J: So what happens is like you have the initial minting, and what that means is you’re going to mint directly through a website that’s created by the owner. And there’s usually some sort of exclusivity involved, like you have to be added to the white list to be able to mint on that day. And you become like the original owner. But almost immediately after that, people who bought them, speculators, people who don’t really care about whatever it is, they just want to make a profit, they will turn around and list those on something like OpenSea. And that’s called a secondary market.
So if you’re not in the initial minting, you can immediately go to OpenSea or any number of these marketplaces, and you can purchase an NFT, and it’s just as good as any other that was purchased on the mint day. But it might be more, like it might cost you more. Like if a project mints at 0.5 eth, someone might immediately list it on OpenSea for one eth because they’re trying to make a profit on it, but not always.
Crys: Interesting. Definitely not necessarily the time to buy right now if you’re worried that it might crash, unless it’s something you really are excited about and just excited about that thing.
J: Yeah. It falls along the lines of this not being investment advice. I was talking to Christine about it and we both said, this is like casino money for us. Like this is money that we’re willing just to burn. And if the value drops to zero, like we don’t care. It’s like going and playing blackjack for a night and leaving your money in the casino.
But that being said, generally in investing, buying low is a good strategy, right? When people panic, when the market drops, if you buy and you’re in it for the long-term and it eventually rebounds, then that’s where you’re going to see more value.
So right now, if you want to grab a Subtle Art NFT, they’re below the floor price, like they’re below what they listed at originally, and they’re a bit of a bargain. Now the risk is they might continue to drop and be worth nothing. I don’t think that’s going to be the case, but it’s certainly possible.
Crys: Yeah, always possible.
Okay. Yeah, I spent a lot of time today just re digging into a lot of the publishing options and going back over your episode with Joanna Penn, which is now live, and we’ll link that to this episode. I’d linked it to the last episode once it came out. But we’re going to add it here too. I’m making myself a note so I don’t forget.
And I’ve just been digging in and refreshing my brain because I’ve just had to ignore it for a while. Like I did a deep dive on cryptocurrency about a year ago, but then I’ve just been observing NFTs from the outside and am now trying to get another grasp on it.
J: Yeah. And there’s another place people should keep an eye on, it’s Readl. And I forget what the domain name is, but it’s R E A D L dot something. It might be IO, I’m not sure. But Readl is another one who I’m talking with some of the folks there, and that I think has the potential to be like the first Indie KDP of Web3.
So if you’re thinking about just, I just want an NFT version of my book, that’s all I want. I don’t want anything else, just give me another platform to sell my book. I think Readl is going to be the place for that.
Crys: Okay. Yeah. Cause I was looking at Book Chain because I remember they were one of the first ones that Joanna interviewed. And I went through the whole process to list one of my books and then I got really frustrated at the end where there’s like a $39 charge to list your book cause it’s using Ethereum. And there’s technological reasons why that’s expensive and they’re trying to fix that, but that’s just not feasible for most people right now to pay $40 to list their book, after they’ve spent all the rest of the book, when they can list it publicly a million other places.
J: No, it’s like as bad as like paying Ingram Spark $25 every time you upload a file for paperback.
Crys: All right, friends. Thanks so much for sticking with us through this. Everything I read about this is this going to be important to us in the future. It’s going to be a lot smoother than it sounds as you’re hearing about this. Like the change from what we’ve been doing to what we will be doing will be in steps, small steps. So it’s not like you’re going to have to jump into the deep end. But those who are able to jump in early on and understand things deeply will have a head start.
If you would like to join this conversation in real time, we’d love for you to pop over and check out what The Author Success Mastermind is all about.