NFT Ideas for Your Author Business
Unless you’ve spent no time online for the last two years, you’ve probably at least heard of the metaverse and encountered the concept of NFTs. You might not know exactly what these words mean, nor understand what all the fuss is about, but you’ll at least be aware that they exist. Don’t worry if you still can’t imagine how they fit into the future of publishing, though. That’s normal. The metaverse and NFTs seem alien to most of us at this early stage, but they’re actually easy to explain.
GeekWire defines the metaverse as “a 3D, immersive, fully-realized digital world, where humans can live a digital second life.” It’s essentially the digital world in Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, only users can experience it via virtual reality headsets and augmented reality technology built into smartphones, like Pokémon Go. As for NFTs – or “Non-Fungible Tokens” – Science Focus identifies them as “unique and non-replaceable” digital items anyone can buy and trade using blockchain technology. Fungible means indistinguishable – like coke cans or five-dollar bills, which you can trade and no owner loses value. NFTs, on the other hand, are unique, like an original painting.
You might have seen bright pictures that sold for thousands of dollars referred to as NFTs, but they’re not just pictures. As creators, authors can create all manner of NFTs, using marketplaces like SuperRare or aggregators like OpenSea to “mint” from digital source files. Buyers can own these authenticated NFTs in the metaverse. They don’t work like ordinary files users can copy infinitely; creating each new NFT requires an individual minting cost, similar to the production of physical items. However, tied to blockchain technology, NFTs come with many benefits that don’t exist for fungible file types, like proof of ownership, tracking capabilities and second-hand resale royalties.
These qualities are what inspire experts to claim they’re revolutionizing the creator economy. NFTs are an entirely new section of products with different rules to the digital and physical ones we know. Mint the right ones and you can build a sustainable business in the metaverse. The question, of course, is which NFTs will be in demand in coming years? While nobody can accurately predict which way the NFT market and technology will develop, we can speculate on ideas that are already possible, or clearly emerging, to give you some ideas.
Digital art, which has grabbed headlines for the past two years, should be our first port of call for its popularity. You might have read the stories; pictures selling for millions, GIFs creating bidding wars, 3D Marvel character renders rocketing higher in value every hour after they’re first sold. These are the sorts of NFTs the average internet user recognises right now. They’re files that, ordinarily, could be copied a million times and shared to the far corners of the web. And while that still can happen, think of the fungible copies as art prints. Only the NFT owner will have the original painting.
As authors, we can mint whole ranges of limited-edition digital artworks, including ebooks, accompanying music, concept art, book covers and behind-the-scenes video content. In theory, we can even raise an industry from the dead; consider the VHS, DVD and Blu-ray model that worked before streaming services like Netflix crushed them. It’s only a matter of time until more seven-figure indie authors branch into creating their own feature films. And when that happens, they can sell special-edition digital movies directly from their websites and use blockchain technology to capitalise on resale royalties. Yes, many users will still want to stream their content, but this option is there for die-hard fans who want to replicate the feeling of owning a movie collection curated by them, but in a digital space.
Documents and Proof
NFTs operate and are run on the blockchain, a digital ledger that records the transactions made in cryptocurrency and maintained across several computers that are linked in a peer-to-peer network. Computer scientists that develop it claim it’s incorruptible because so many peers need to agree to approve changes. This is the dry, operational background that describes what is essentially the metaverse’s version of the legal and banking systems. What it means for authors, though, is that by using it, any of us can lock the proof of ownership into our NFTs or make an NFT that represents proof of ownership itself.
For instance, we could create and sell authentic NFT event tickets, or POAPs – or Proof of Attendance Protocols – which are NFTs that prove an individual has done an activity or visited a place. That means we could potentially organise book-themed NFT scavenger hunt races in the metaverse. Or we could create a system in which readers can have their cake and eat it, blending real-world and metaverse merch. A whisky company proved this possible in 2021 when they sold rare Glenfiddich whiskies for $18,000 a pop along with NFT proof of purchases buyers could keep for display even if they drank their real whisky. Using similar logic, you could sign physical paperbacks for collectors to keep in mint condition but offer signed NFT versions they can flaunt in the metaverse.
Land and Property
According to their website, Decentraland is a “virtual destination for digital assets”. Inside that destination, users can buy and sell digital land, estates, paraphernalia, avatar wearables and other goods “backed by the Ethereum blockchain.” You might not think of land as a topic that overlaps author businesses. However, it could be in the future. For instance, in the real world only a handful of authors have theme park rides and experiences like escape rooms based on their intellectual property. That’s because most don’t have the audience to justify it. Their smaller readerships, spread across the globe, would never travel in great enough numbers to cover land and staffing costs.
The metaverse, however, changes things. As an author, you could purchase digital land, populate it with your own IP-themed experiences and have paying readers attend it without having to forego traditional travel costs and inconveniences. A Wired article claims that the cheapest plots of land in Decentraland typically sold for around “4,000 mana”, or $15,000, in December 2021. Admittedly, this still isn’t cheap, but it’s much cheaper than commercial real estate in most first-world countries. Plus, given its digital advantages, there’s nothing stopping a diaspora of authors working in the same genre from pooling resources to buy a piece of Decentraland and host collective events. Some companies are even developing fractional share ownership of NFTs and giving loans to buyers, using their NFTs as collateral like banks do with houses, to make big NFT purchases affordable.
Slices of History
If you could sell the origins of the universe, what do you think someone would pay for it? In a way, the internet answered that question in 2021 when Sir Tim Berners-Lee actioned off an NFT of the original 9,555 lines of source code he wrote to create the World Wide Web. In case you’re curious, it sold for $5.4 million. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey achieved a similar, albeit smaller, feat when he auctioned an NFT of the first ever tweet, later donating the money it generated to charity. And NBA Top Shot has been selling historical moments in sporting history, including a LeBron James slam dunk, for up to $210,000 apiece.
It might sound ridiculous, but anyone can sell a slice of history in NFT form. Of course, unless you hit mega stardom, the moments that make up your life as an author will pale in comparison to major historical moments. The signing of the Declaration of Independence will always dwarf the instant you wrote an idea on a napkin that evolved into a bestselling novel. And a picture of the tears you cried when you murdered your favourite character will never compare to D-Day. However, your writing highlights will hold some value for specific readers. Document enough of yours and you will almost certainly have snapshots you can monetize.
Tastes and Smells
Let’s be clear; this last NFT idea is speculative because the technology we need to make it feasible is yet to emerge. Trends suggest, though, it will one day be possible to create NFT versions of tastes and smells. Home cooks have already discussed creating NFT versions of secret family recipes and selling them to the highest bidder, and technology is catching up to digitise such meals. Look Labs, a German company, for example, has already created the world’s first digital fragrance, immortalizing the molecular wavelengths of a scent in digital artwork. And companies like Elon Musk’s Neuralink are working on connecting our brains to digital networks – not for this purpose, but the technology could be used that way in the future.
It might all sound like the makings of a dystopian nightmare, and we’re still far away from being able to buy and experience a digital taste or smell but, combine the technologies and companies could one day make this happen. Running with the concept, romance authors could commission original aftershave scents for their male love interests and sell the molecular wavelength NFT to readers. Then a chip in those readers’ brains could stimulate their senses so they smell that scent while they’re reading a passage that contains the guy for a more immersive experience. Similarly, a fantasy author could commission a chef to mint an original pie flavour as an NFT they serve in their wizard-themed tavern in Decentraland and have readers really taste the food.
We don’t fully understand the scope of the metaverse and NFTs yet. Right now, their development depends on cultural interest and technological breakthroughs, but some of these ideas should help you dip your toes into the digital waters of OpenSea. Making NFTs a substantial income stream for most authors is probably a long way off. Keep an open mind, however, and they could revolutionise the book industry for us authors and the readers we serve.
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