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NFTs for Authors And Publishing with John Fox

Why are NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) so exciting for authors and the publishing industry? How will they generate more streams of revenue for creators? What are some ways that authors could use them? All this and more in today's interview. I also mention Bloomberg's article on how NFTs shift power to artists in the intro.

Thanks to my patrons at Patreon.com/thecreativepenn who support these extra futurist episodes.

John Fox is an award-winning short story writer and author of I Will Shout Your Name, a collection of his stories. He's also a developmental editor, creator of writing courses, and a blogger. 

You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below.

Show Notes

  • What are NFTs and how do they work?
  • How authors might benefit from selling NFTs
  • Questions to ask when you’re thinking about creating an NFT
  • Ideas for NFTs from authors
  • Addressing concerns about the environmental impact of NFTs
  • Exhibiting caution around publishing contracts and their blanket ownership of future formats of a book
  • Marketing strategies for authors as the world and technology changes

You can find John Fox at thejohnfox.com and on Twitter @bookfox. John has some great courses for authors and if you'd like to support the show, check them out through my link: TheCreativePenn.com/bookfox

Transcript of interview with John Fox

Joanna: John Fox is an award-winning short story writer and author of I Will Shout Your Name, a collection of his stories. He's also a developmental editor, course creator, and blogger. Welcome, John.

John: Thanks for having me.

Joanna: I'm excited to talk to you today.

Before we get into the topic of the show, the technological side, I did want to ask you a bit more about you and your writing journey so people know where you're coming from.

John: I got a couple of graduate degrees in creative writing from New York University, and then an MFA from USC. Way back in 2006, I started blogging. So I've been blogging for 15 years now at Bookfox.

About five or six years ago, I decided to monetize the blog and start selling courses, start doing editing, start to become more of a resource for writers out there, because they may need help, a lot of people need help.

I get emails all the time saying like, ‘How do I self-publish?' Or, ‘How do I find an editor?' Or ‘How do I do this or that?' So I just wanted to help the writing community through Bookfox.

Joanna: It's a goldmine. I spent quite a long time on your site. So we'll definitely direct people there a bit later.

I was interested because you're a literary writer yourself, you mentioned you have an MFA, you write short stories, and you focus a lot on the craft on your blog. So the writing craft is paramount, I think. You recently wrote an article on NFTs that got my attention. And that's what we're going to talk about today.

Why did you decide to write about NFTs and what are they?

John: I look at Bookfox as a pretty wide range of stuff. Yes, I focus mostly on craft issues for writers. But in a broader sense, I want to talk about anything that helps writers or helps them market their book, helps them write their book, helps them edit their book.

NFTs are going to help writers. They are going to change the landscape for how writers sell books and how writers monetize their books.

So I just feel like I want to get ahead of that and give writers a heads-up like, ‘Hey, this is coming, watch out.'

Joanna: Let's define it then. So what are NFTs?

John: NFTs are basically digital ownership of a digital file. And that doesn't mean the digital file can't be shared widely. If you used to collect baseball cards when you were a kid, that was a physical object.

But nowadays, a lot of people live online. They value online things or digital things almost more than physical objects. It's this really strange, like generational divide.

NFTs are a way to sell digital objects. And you can prove using blockchain technology that you own that object, you own number one of five of them, or you own number five of five of them. You own a specific digital object and it's proven forever that you own that object.

Joanna: And we should say it stands for Non-Fungible Token and it's one of a kind. I was using the term digital scarcity last year, and it's funny, because you just said the value of digital and it's almost a generational thing.

But think about it, both you and I have websites. They don't exist in the physical world, except for some bytes on a server somewhere, and yet, they are the things that drive our businesses.

For people listening, a lot of indie authors make the vast majority of their income from ebook sales. Again, they don't physically exist, and yet they drive value. So I want people listening, who are sort of confused, why does this have value?

Why do all of these digital things have value?

John: That's a great point. I do think younger people in general tend to feel like digital things are more valuable than older people. I feel like older people when they collect books, they want a real first edition. Because that supposedly is what have value.

But I feel like younger people, they would almost prefer a digital-first edition, because then they can share it more widely, and then they can brag about it online, and it's easier to sell. Somehow the digital version is actually more real than the physical version.

Joanna: Another trend is what they're now calling the Metaverse, which is a Neal Stephenson term which encompasses augmented reality and virtual reality.

And especially with the pandemic there are these platforms that are being built now more where you might go to work within an online platform, there are musicians doing stuff in gaming platforms like Roblox.

I almost feel like this is the beginning of people…well, it's not the beginning, it's been going on for years with Second Life and things like that. But people buying digital art and objects like digital books to put in their virtual physical spaces. That doesn't make sense, in their virtual spaces, in these virtual Metaverses. I know that might be going a bit far. What do you think about that?

John: I totally agree that's the trend. And even if you look at the video game market, that is a gigantic market which dwarfs the movie industry and so many other industries. And in that universe, people are buying digital objects all the time, right?

For $100 they'll buy some sort of sword that allows their character to have more power, or they'll buy some sort of amulet. And to them, these things are real because they help them in the digital world.

NFTs are an upscale version of that, you're buying artwork instead of buying a sword for a video game, but the principle is the same. You're buying this digital object, which has value to you. So therefore it has value in the real world, has value in real money.

Joanna: I agree with you. I think gamers will be finding this completely understandable, like this is completely, ‘Yeah, okay, I get that, of course, I'm going to pay for a sword in my virtual world.' That's just how it is. I'm not a gamer, and so it definitely took a bit for me to get my head around this.

Let's talk more about the specific benefits of NFTs and the wider blockchain technology for authors.

This is not a gimmick, is it?

John: I think a lot of people are going to use it as a gimmick, but I think that fundamentally, it's not a gimmick. I think anytime new technology gets developed, people are trying to figure out how to use it, and so, yes, there's a lot of silly things that get created and sold.

There's people trying to sell their tweets, just, I don't know, I don't get that. I mean, you really got to have value, maybe if you were like the very first one to ever tweet.

Joanna: Yeah. Jack Dorsey's was fine, but everyone else is no.

John: Exactly right. Everybody else's is like, ‘No, that does not have intrinsic value.' But I feel like this is the way that technology works.

When you first adapt to technology, people are trying to figure out how to use it. And eventually, we're going to get past all this gimmicky stuff and get down to, ‘Okay, no, this really does have value, this really does change the landscape for writers.'

Joanna: What are the benefits of NFTs?

John: I think there's two main benefits, one benefit right now and one benefit for the future. The benefit right now is that it opens up all kinds of possibilities for additional sales channels. So you can sell say, 10 different versions of your book, rather than just hardcover and softback.

You can sell images of the cover. You can sell related artwork to your book. So instead of just being able to sell a book, you can sell the digital-first copy, you can sell the video of the first time you read it. You can sell so many things surrounding the book, that, you can do right now.

In the future, a secondary benefit is NFTs allow us to monetize the secondhand book market.

So right now, you sell a book and you never earn money on it again. That book could be sold 15 more times, go through used bookstores, be sold at Swap Meets, be given to another friend and you never see another penny of that money.

But the technology of NFTs allows us to…every time a book gets sold every time a digital file of a book gets sold, the original writer could get 10%, or 20%, or 30% of that sale. And so you would continue to monetize every single time that your book gets sold.

I think that's revolutionary, but the platform for that and the technology for that doesn't exist yet. Amazon doesn't have that capability. There's no platform that allows us to do that yet, but in the future I do think that that's going to really change the way writers earn money.

Joanna: This is in the smart contracts based on blockchain technology and of course NFTs are put onto a blockchain and sold with blockchain technology. So this idea of this monetizing the secondhand market, I agree with you, I think it's incredible and opens up so much possibility.

And again, if people are wondering, why? Well, look at the second-hand economy of say a Leather-bound limited first edition of a Dickens or whatever. These change hands, were huge amounts of money, and that's I think what we're looking at.

As you said, it's another format. I have a mass-market ebooks and then I also have maybe 10 NFT versions, each of which is original and can do other things with.

It expands the monetization of the core product.

John: That's exactly right. And your other books, you can make them special by doing something different with the cover on each of the 10 special versions, slight little tweaks so that someone feels like they're getting something unique.

Or you could even do something where you would sell a version of your book with an additional chapter in the back or multiple different endings, like you can create all sorts of variation for your hardcore fans and give them a product which is different than the mass-market product that you're giving to everybody else.

Joanna: I think this mention of fans is really important, and because the people who are doing very well with NFTs, it's very much a direct to fan experience, a direct to consumer experience where musicians are creating things for those fans, and it's the fans who are buying them.

And I presume, like secondhand bookstores, we're going to get a layer of people who start acting as brokers of these types of things.

At the moment, it very much seems to foster fan interaction, in creating these limited things that only a certain group of people will absolutely love.

John: I think that's the right model for how to go about creating an NFT.

If you're thinking, ‘I'd like to create an NFT' what you do is ask yourself, what would my fans really want. What sort of product would they like and want to buy and want to own from me? That will get you going in the right direction, because if you don't ask yourself that question, you're going to end up creating the gimmicky stuff.

Like just trying to get somebody maybe who doesn't even know you buy something about your book, because they hope, I don't know, it'll be valuable in the future. But that's not the right direction.

Ask yourself, what does my fan want? That's going to get you to create stuff that's actually valuable.

Joanna: Let's talk about some of the other things that people are doing. You mentioned maybe art associated with the book, and I see some potential collaborations with visual artists, maybe musicians.

If you are going to work with an artist to create a map for your fantasy novel, maybe you could go together into creating an NFT for a limited edition of that art which you've potentially sort of paid-for, commissioned.

Something to say upfront as well is if you're going to do visual stuff, make sure your contract includes this type of thing.

John: Yes. If you're with a traditional publishing house you have to be wary of whether you're breaking your contract by creating NFTs.

We'll let the IP lawyer sort that stuff out, but you're right that that's a thorny minefield.

I do think there's all sorts of cool stuff you can make. I saw on Mintable someone had written a 64,000-word novel, and they combined all the texts into a single image. So it's just super, super, super small writing, and they're selling that image. So they made their book into artwork, which I thought was really cool, and not a lot of extra work. He is just creating an image from the text itself.

Joanna: Did they sell just one version of that, or did they have, say, a limited run?

John: I'm forgetting. I don't know. I see a lot of people doing that limited run, will do, you know, 5 of them, or 10 of them, so that way, it's just not selling a one-and-done thing.

Joanna: This is something I'm thinking of because I talk about writing with AI on this show, and the tools are actually now available, like properly available to do this. And I'm thinking about writing a short story with an AI tool. So it'll be my first AI co-written or whatever you want to call it, short story.

And then I would also maybe make a video of how I made that with AI. And I was thinking, well, that could be, I could sell that as an NFT, the story with the video on how I did it, which would appeal to a certain group of people.

Then I was wondering would I only have 1 version of that or would I say sell 10 copies of that? What do you think?

John: The Wu-Tang Clan is selling 36 copies of their upcoming book, and that's it. So they're creating digital scarcity by saying, ‘There are only 36 digital copies of this that people can own.'

So I think it's actually a great idea to create digital scarcity and create something and say, ‘Hey, there's only 10 of these,' or, ‘there's only 50 of these.' And then once you sell all those, then you can sell the plain version with a different cover, or change it in some way. But it's interesting to talk about writing with AI. Have you seen Sudowrite?

Joanna: Yes. That's what I'm using. I have an interview coming with Amit Gupta, the founder of Sudowrite.

John: I joined Sudowrite too, and I've been checking it out. And then there's also an LA Time or LA Review of Books, someone wrote a story using Sudowrite. I think they said 17% of it was written with Sudowrite.

Joanna: Yes, exactly. So they are actually publishing these pieces now. I think that's what's empowered me to actually start using it, is, it's clearly moving into the acceptable realm in the same way that this technology is.

I feel in 2020 when I started to talk about this, a lot of…well, I've been talking about writing with AI for longer, but really feels like this year things have started to click over into much more mainstream things.

We should mention that, we just saw last week, Publishing Perspectives reported that Bookwire announced a blockchain platform and an NFT marketplace for the publishing industry, and Bookwire are a German-based technological company for publishers. I think they're based in Frankfurt.

I suspect they will launch this at Frankfurt Book Fair, which means by the end of the year, by November 2021, there should be a platform that is publishing specific.

John: It's crazy how fast it's going. eBay just announced, they're also going to allow people to sell NFTs.

Joanna: But that makes so much sense in a way because eBay specializes in secondhand sales.

John: Exactly. The technology is perfect for it.

Joanna: I never thought of eBay as a digital platform…obviously, it's digital. But I kinda think of it as selling physical goods. So, that very much changing their brand with that idea.

John: I think so, but I think it's the right move, because they're seeing this is like a huge additional market, like just as big as the physical objects market.

Joanna: Yes. And this is what we're seeing, people listening, when big companies start doing this, it becomes a bit more interesting, I think. And let's be honest, I feel sometimes I'm a little bit ahead of the literary industry, as of course, you are in this case.

We are way behind the art industry and the music industry in this, right? They've been doing this for a while.

John: Yes, absolutely. That's why NFTs blew up first with artwork. It's really easy to sell digital artwork and people are used to being like, of course, like, now I can own this digital artwork and actually prove it, not just see it, not just like see a copy of it, but actually prove that I own this artwork.

If you Google NFTs on Instagram or something, it is all original artwork, books are not quite into the mainstream part of it, but I think they will be in the future.

Joanna: I agree with you.

Let's just think of some other things that people could do. I do a lot of handwritten notes and research when I'm researching my book. And I was thinking, well, maybe I could include images of my handwritten notes, like a different one within each limited edition version.

That would be a way of separating out the specific limited edition. So that's one idea.

The other thing might be the link to real events. I think one of the musicians was doing this. Radiohead, I think, were doing an NFT for their music, but also you've got a ticket for the event as part of the NFT.

Gary Vaynerchuk is also doing NFTs, selling these digital collectible cards with a token to one of his events.

What are some of these other things that we can do or which ones are you particularly interested in?

John: I think it's a wonderful idea to pair up digital files with something in the physical universe, or some sort of meeting, or something like that. If you're a midlist author, it could be, oh, buy this special NFT and then you can have a 30-minute consult with me about your book or just talk to me about my book, something like that.

Or, you could even mail them a physical object to go along with the digital object, like a special signed copy of the book and that's like a bonus for owning the digital special version.

You can do some sort of exclusive video file of the first time you read the book. I see a lot of people who they have multiple versions of their covers, their cover art that they didn't end up using. Their artist gave them three different versions and they chose one of them. You could sell those other versions as like limited edition cover art. There are so many possibilities.

Joanna: It's funny. And this is where we are now as in, you and I have been looking at this for not that long, really. And we're coming up with all these ideas, and people listening, I think the other great thing about the author community is everyone's very creative in lots of other ways.

Someone listening might already be a cartoonist, for example, and then that might be an obvious pairing to your book, might be some hand-drawn stuff. We haven't even scratched the surface of what's possible. People will come up with a lot more things over time.

One interesting thing that I just discovered before this, and obviously, I shot you an email, so we only just found out this guy called Aaron Haber, who is the non-fungible fictionist, where essentially he's using the NFT as Crowdfunding in that the writing begins when the NFT is purchased, and not before.

I was like, really? I thought you had to create it, and then do an NFT. What do you think about this, doing it in advance?

John: My question is, what about what he's doing can't be done with, say, PayPal or a Crowdfunding source? What specifically about it requires an NFT?

I could ask somebody like, ‘Okay, pay me $100 on PayPal, and then I will write you an original short story.' Is it just the fact the NFT allows him to own that digital short story after you write it? Is that the advantage of it?

Joanna: Well, and again, resell it, be part of the resale market. And I see this guy as almost…we don't know where this stuff is going to go. So it's almost a risk.

For example, with me talking about a short story that I might write, it's a bit of a risk if I say it's only available as an NFT, I won't publish it elsewhere. Because, obviously, that cuts out a whole market that I won't be able to reach in exchange for the risk, and potentially the reward of having it on a platform where I could get downstream revenue and all of that type of thing.

So I would just see him taking a risk on this, plus, it's interesting creatively. He says, ‘The work is meant to encapsulate one writer's creative moment in time and space, writer retains all IP rights to characters or writing for future use outside the NFT space.'

There are no edits or revisions, the piece is the piece. So it feels like almost a creative challenge.

John: I think he says, like, ‘Look, if I'm having a bad day, this could turn out really badly. I make no promises in terms of quality,' which I think is awesome, because you really are buying a slice of his creative energy at a certain point in time. And that can be hit or miss, as you know, writers well know.

Joanna: It's very interesting. Obviously, we're very enthusiastic about this. People know, I'm a techno-optimist, and I'm always just getting very excited about it.

What are some of the dangers or issues or negative sides of NFTs?

John: The main danger is just making sure you don't take advantage of the trend to, I don't know, create junk or create gimmicky stuff. You have to really make sure, is this something my fans actually want? Is this something that actually has value, and is cool and people will like.

I think another danger, a lot of people talk about how NFTs are like a bubble, they're a fad, this is going to go away in a year or so. I really don't think so. I think, yes, there's a lot of volatility. These NFTs are going to soar, they're going to plunge, they're going to soar again, they're going to plunge again.

But I think with blockchain technology, what we've seen is, yes, there's a soar and a plunge but then it goes back up again, like there's continued effort and insight and value to this. So the volatility of NFTs don't bother me because I feel like long term, these are going to help writers in a lot of different ways, these are going to last.

Joanna: One of the other issues that people bring up is this environmental issue. Can you address that?

John: I think that's an important concern, but I don't see it as a problem because the technology is changing so quickly. For instance, Ethereum uses 10 times less energy than Bitcoin. And then when you go to a new coin, like something like Dogecoin, or XRP, or something, those are 600 times more efficient than Ethereum.

eBay, the way that they're doing their new blockchain offerings, the NFTs, they're going to use a system called WAX. WAX is 125,000 times more energy-efficient than Ethereum.

The technology is changing so quickly, yes, old-school cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, yes, it's very inefficient. But guess what, we have all of these new versions which are by scale of magnitude so much more energy efficient. And it's because the technology is just changing.

I don't think as a long-term issue, energy is going to be a problem. We already have the technology to be extremely energy efficient with all those cryptocurrencies and NFTs, and it's going to change really quickly.

Joanna: That's exactly what I said about six weeks ago, I was like, I really can't see that this isn't going to go away.

And we're looking at OpenSea, which is one of the places where you can create NFTs. They have this thing called lazy minting, where essentially, you can upload your stuff, but the NFT is only minted to the blockchain which means you only do something, you only take some action when they are bought or sent to another wallet.

I was thinking, this is very much like the millions of books which are loaded up to Amazon, but may never get bought, so there is never a digital transaction. And to me this kind of lazy minting actually makes it even greener because millions of people could create the NFTs but nothing will be impacted until they're actually transacted.

John: It's smart and they're continually changing and adapting, even since I first wrote my article they've abolished the gas fees, that it takes money to actually mint stuff and they've said, ‘No, you don't have to pay that anymore.' Stuff is changing so quickly.

OpenSea is really a leader in the field, and if people don't know how to create NFTs, you would start by going to OpenSea, creating an Ethereum wallet, and I created a store in less than 10 minutes. It wasn't very hard at all. And you can start selling copies of your book or digital files, or something.

Joanna: We'll put obviously, all the links will be in the show notes. Because, again, it's like other language, whenever anyone comes into self-publishing, there's all this language we use and I feel like this space is a whole ‘nother language that people have to learn. Even blockchain and NFT, and minting and gas fees, and these are all other things.

As with self-publishing, as with writing, once you learn what these words mean, you are empowered and that's kind of our goal, isn't it?

John: Yes. And if you go to OpenSea, they walk you through the process; you don't have to have any knowledge beforehand of how to buy Bitcoin, or Ethereum, or anything like that.

They make it very easy, click here. All right, now do this, now do this. So, they really are working at getting people to understand it and make it easy on anybody who joins to sell NFTs. So, seriously, try it out. Even the most horrific technophobe out there will find this pretty simple to set up.

Joanna: But as we said, don't just go on there and chuck something up, you do have to have a think about it.

I think that's another thing, if you don't have an audience, it's just like putting up a Kickstarter or putting up a book, no one's going to know about it. We're still in an early space for books, but there's also not the rabid audience for books like there is for music and art.

What are some of the other platforms that people might want to go and have a look at to just see what's going on?

John: Oh, goodness, every time I Google this, I feel like there's another few. I was just looking up on platforms the other day, and there's like 10, and like, 7 of them I haven't even heard of. And who knows how many of those are going to survive as well. OpenSea is the one I would recommend people check out. The others, I'm not even sure. Which ones have you tried out?

Joanna: Just before this, I was looking at Nifty Gateway, which I think is one of the older ones. Also SuperRare, I think is interesting.

And there's also a difference between the ones that have closed environments where only established NFT creators can do their drops, as they're called. It's worth going and having a look.

One of the things you said there about, we don't even know which ones will last. This is interesting. Let's say we do an NFT on OpenSea, for example, and I think that is on Ethereum, isn't it?

John: Yeah.

Joanna: It's on Ethereum. Okay, but it's through the OpenSea platform.

If OpenSea ceases to exist in the future, will the person who bought the NFT be able to resell it through another platform because it's on Ethereum?

John: It gets a little dicey there with the technology. If OpenSea say collapsed or any platform collapsed, I think the link they would click on to see the record of their digital file, I don't think that link would work, but it would still be recorded in the blockchain.

So you would have to find a way to find where it was on the blockchain, maybe using a different platform or something, and yes, you could resell that elsewhere.

But the technology is still in its infancy, it's a little dicey still, but it won't be erased if that company goes under, it's in the blockchain and it'll last forever…well, as long as the blockchain exists.

Joanna: It will be a bit like you can go to the Wayback Machine and I can find what my website looked like in December 2008. And my website does not look like that anymore, but Wayback Machine saves versions of things over time, so yeah, you can.

And we've seen lots of things of people tweeting something a decade ago, and now it comes back to haunt them. So you can't delete this stuff, even with current things.

One of the big things that I am concerned about with publishing contracts is a clause which is being used in a lot of contracts right now, which is ‘all formats existing now and to be created for the life of copyright'.

Many authors listening, if you've signed a traditional publishing contract that may well have been in your contract and that means you cannot do an NFT.

In terms of my definition, this would be a newly created format. What do you think?

John: Yes, that gets thorny. I think in the future agents will be negotiating NFT actual clauses in the contracts with publishers going forward, because that's now a thing. But you're right, a big blanket statement like that, all formats existing now, and in the future. Oh, man, that gives a lot of power to publishers.

Joanna: That's a normal clause now.

John: I know. And publishers are smart to put it in. They saw technology is evolving so quickly, we've got to cover ourselves. I understand why it's in there, it's definitely not for the writers, but if you create something new, like say you created a series of playing cards based on your book, I wonder whether that would be covered under that clause, because that's not really a format of the book.

Joanna: Some contracts will cover the world of the story, for example, the characters. So basically, what we're saying here everyone, is be very, very careful what you sign because even six months ago this might not have come up.

I have been talking about this clause in publishing contracts for a while, but I didn't expect this to come up. I didn't actually expect another format to appear so quickly, and who knows what we're going to be doing once we do have more developed Metaverse things.

I don't even know where that's going to go right now. But I would imagine that there will be different formats that will exist within a Metaverse, within a virtual reality setting, for example.

I wanted to ask you about even NFTs, do you think we'll keep calling them NFTs? I almost feel like this term is just so bad.

Will we just be calling them digital collectibles?

John: I think NFTs is a terrible term. It's such like a fancy pants like techno name. Yes, we're going to figure out something more colloquial to call it once it goes more mainstream. I don't know what that is, but yeah, NFTs is ugly.

We'll end up calling it digital something, but I think in the future once we start calling it something more common, Amazon's going to incorporate NFT. So when you upload your book to Amazon, if you're self-publishing or something, creating an NFT could be as easy as pushing a few buttons and being like, yes, I want to sell a limited edition of this version of my book cover, sell 10 of them, or 50 of them.

I do think there's going to be incorporation by the mainstream players sooner rather than later. If eBay is already jumping into it, Amazon's going to be maybe a couple years behind, but it's not going to take that long.

Joanna: Let's be clear, if you go to Amazon AWS, you can use AWS to build a blockchain, your own blockchain. Amazon's already got the technology, it's just in terms of Amazon KDP is what we're talking about, when would it be incorporated?

I talked obviously, on my last show about blockchain in terms of how it could help stop plagiarism, and piracy, and will actually help us, help authors with Intellectual Property Management. I would really hope that's coming.

What you think about the wider cryptocurrency situation?

Because obviously, you talked about old-school crypto being things like Bitcoin, and Ethereum is getting older as well now. And then what we're also seeing is countries now looking at doing digital currencies.

China is obviously ahead. The UK is looking at Britcoin, which I really like. I'm like, oh, that is just perfect. And we've got a much younger Chancellor, who is looking at this. At the EU, we're talking about doing it in the next few years.

Obviously, the U.S. is looking at things. Do you think that what we're going to be seeing maybe by 2025, is that people will just be interacting with these digital limited editions with a digital version of their own currency, as opposed to Ether or Bitcoin?

John: That is a fantastic question. Gosh, I'm just not sure.

Joanna: I didn't prepare you for that one. It's just something I was thinking about.

John: It's something I actually have been thinking about, so I'm glad you asked it. It's hard to tell where it's going to go. I think if all of these countries create their own national version of digital currency, that's going to take a bite out of Bitcoin, or Ethereum, and all these decentralized ones.

Will it kill them? I don't think so, because there are so many advantages to a digital currency that can't be manipulated. We're seeing this huge soar up in Bitcoin or whatnot because all of the countries are minting their own money, right? They're driving up inflation. They're creating out of nothing 25% more money in their economy.

So people turn to Bitcoin because they want something that can't be manipulated. Bitcoin has a limited amount of Bitcoins that will ever be minted, I think it's 21 million. There's never some country going to be able to come in and be like, well, guess what, now there's going to be 35 million Bitcoins. There's never going to be that type of inflation with Bitcoin.

So it gives you an option where you can have money that's not manipulated by a country, and that's the value that country-based money can never rival. Plus, it gives you the option like, say you're in a type of country where there's political instability, there's government instability, if your money is tied to their currency you're in some deep doo-doo, if that country suddenly decides you're an enemy of the state.

So all these decentralized currencies that no specific country controls, gives you a lot of power to go anywhere, to trade with anyone on the same currency that can't be controlled by a certain country.

Joanna: It's funny that you say it can't be manipulated. We've seen Dogecoin go up and down on a tweet from Elon Musk. So I actually think it is being manipulated by a group of let's call them tech-bros who are able to change things a lot more.

I don't see it as any more stable than the way country currencies change and there's some really interesting books on money. I think what is very clear, we don't have time to go into the effects of crypto and what's happening with it, but what is clear is in the next decade, we're going to see a lot more currencies built on blockchain, whether they're country or whatever specific and the trust in the token of that U.S. dollar or the token of Britcoin or whatever, the trust is going to be the thing that makes a difference.

Regardless of what happens, we'll be using something to buy and sell NFTs, right?

John: I agree with you that yes, they're obviously being manipulated because we're at this frenzy, we're at this froth of cryptocurrencies right now. So yeah, Elon Musk can tweet something, and it radically affects stuff.

But that's just because these are in their infancy, and they're so volatile right now. Five years from now, 10 years from now, there's going to be a broader swath of people who own them, perhaps fewer whales out there who have the ability to completely tank a single currency. I feel like over time, it's going to even out and be less manipulatable by Elon Musk, or other big-time people in the public sphere.

Joanna: One of the reasons I want to do NFTs is I want to earn cryptocurrency instead of buying it with my fiat currency.

I figure if I can earn some, I'll feel happier because I just feel like, I want to earn it. And it will be interesting how that turns out. So watch this space.

John: I hear you. Back in 2018 someone volunteered to pay me in Bitcoin to edit their short story. And I'm like, all right, man, I sure wish that could have actually gone through because now I could have earned, you know, $20,000.

Joanna: Did you get it?

John: It didn't happen. He never ended up paying me. It fell through, but it's like, oh, man, that would have been the most lucrative short story editing I'd ever done in my life.

Joanna: That's brilliant. Yes, we can put it out there on this show. Both of us are interested in being paid in cryptocurrency for things. I feel like this is a good way to get the currency as opposed to trying to buy it with my fiat money, which I'd rather put in really boring, steady investments.

John: I agree with you, I tend to be more risk-averse.

Joanna: Exactly.

John: And I have it in boring stocks.

Joanna: As we come to the end here, I did want to circle back. Right at the beginning you talked about starting blogging in 2006. I started in 2008. So you started before me, and you've been going a long time, and you've built a business based on a blog. And now we're talking about these future things.

This is something I think about all the time. What do you do when you're a mature business like we have, and these technologies are changing so fast?

How are you thinking about your business for the next decade in terms of what's changing?

John: I feel like it's very important to be an early adopter. Obviously, we were both early adopters of the technology of blogging and that's really paid off for us. So now, what's the next thing that we need to be an early adopter of?

You're doing a great job with your podcast to get your audio out there, I think that's awesome. What other sort of social media channels can we jump on and take advantage of? I haven't seen people really take advantage of say, TikTok, or a social media platform like that in the book space, because it's so visually based and not like text-based at all. But I'm sure there's going to be authors who really take advantage of that.

So I think the question is…and if you're an author out there, you need to ask yourself, what can I get in at the very foundation of? What can I be an early adopter of, because that's what's going to pay off for you in terms of gaining an audience, in terms of making your mark.

That's the right marketing strategy for you is to figure out, what's new? What can I jump on that's going to expand in the future?

Joanna: Are you looking at switching your business model in any way? I don't think editing is going to go away, but it's interesting that you're still blogging and writing articles when I almost feel my blog posts now are audio first, basically, and then I prepare the text and then create the audio, or create the audio and then create the text, so they're always both of them.

Do you see yourself changing your business model?

John: I'm constantly figuring out how to change my business model. The big switch for me over the last two years that I've been trying to make, is to move away from editing. I've largely stopped editing. I do editing on the side now, and trying to move more toward a course model, toward a video model.

That's where I see the future of my business is all video. So, I keep on working on creating courses. I'd like to have a more active YouTube channel. It just takes a lot to create video, a lot of energy, a lot of equipment, a lot of editing. But that's the direction of where my business is going.

Text is cheap, and we've seen really big companies wade in and just write blog posts for every single keyword imaginable for blogs. So nowadays, if you try to start blogging, I feel it'd be so hard to get traction in the writing universe because there's a gigantic website out there that has already written on the exact topic you're trying to write about.

So you have to figure out, okay, what's the new space that big companies haven't waded into yet that I can actually create, or carve out a space of my own?

Joanna: I definitely agree with you.

Tell people about your courses and your website and everything they can find, and where you are online.

John: I'm at thejohnfox.com, or if you just Google Bookfox, you'll find me. And I have a whole bunch of courses for writers, whatever stage of writing that you're at.

If you need to work on your writing habits, I have a course on mastering your writing time. If you want to work on something specific, like how to write better sentences, I hear sentences are important for writers. I have a whole course talking about that.

I'm working on how to write a novel course right now, and then how to revise a novel course, that's the next course I have coming out. And then I have a course on how to market your book as well. So basically, at every stage of your writing journey, I'm trying to create courses that are going to help you get to the next stage.

Joanna: What about an NFTs for authors course?!

John: Oh, boy. Not quite there yet. But I think that'd be fascinating. Teach them how to do it. I also think it'd be great if someone had a service where they said, ‘Oh, like you want to create an NFT, I'll guide you through the process of how to do that for your book.'

Joanna: Yes. So we are predicting here, the whole ecosystem, like we have right now on how to do all these things. And that is definitely going to come.

Mark Dawson is a great friend of mine and the Ads for Authors course is great, but they have to keep recording those because Facebook keeps changing, and the dashboards keep changing. It would be the same for NFTs. It's like, every few weeks you have to update the course because there's so many different things coming up.

John: Seriously. The joy of building a course, it's like you build it once and then it lasts for a few years. If you're changing it every week, that's a lot of work.

Joanna: That is difficult. But I do think that once Bookwire launch, I think there will be an ecosystem helping people do this. Although, personally, I'm just interested in creating some myself and I should ask you that, John. I mean, you've done short stories.

Are you going to do your own NFTs?

John: I built that thing on OpenSea. I haven't minted any yet, just because there's actually some gas taxes you still have to use to inaugurate your account. So I was going to sell it for like $100, my first digital edition of my short story collection, and then they want to charge me $130 for the gas tax.

I'm like, well, I don't know about that. I have another book for writers. I have a book specifically for writers, The Lynchpin Writer, and that's coming out later this year. And absolutely, I'm going to do some NFTs for that and figure out how I can help ardent fans of the book, buy into the book more and get some extra goodies.

Joanna: Fantastic. Well, you will definitely have to come back and we will talk about this again, because this is going to change a lot between now and say, post-Frankfurt, so I will look forward to talking to you again.

Thanks so much for your time, John. That was great.

John: Absolutely. Thank you for having me on. I appreciate it.

Joanna Penn:

View Comments (10)

  • This was pretty interesting. I'm not sure I understand the blockchain or how any of this works yet, but I'm continuing to watch and learn!

  • I'm trying to wrap my head around this. If, for example, I wrote a short story and put it up on Opensea and someone bought it...the story would go into their "wallet". Are they able to transfer it from their wallet to a kindle? And what keeps them from simply selling it, or giving it to someone else much the same way books are loaned out after being bought?

    • Hi Chris, It's still a file so they can transfer it to their Kindle.
      They CAN sell it, that's also part of the reason why this is so good, because you make money on the resale if you include that in the contract. Right now, someone who 'buys' your book on a Kindle doesn't actually own it, if their account is terminated, they lose access. They have only purchased the right to read that book on a Kindle device. If someone pirates it, you don't get any money, but with NFTs, and blockchain in general, it is trackable. An NFT will have some kind of provenance stamp that proves its authenticity. I hope that makes sense!

  • You may also be interested in the NFT ebook store recently launched by BooksGoSocial.

    • That is VERY interesting, Laurence! I love the options and the carbon neutral Wax blockchain.
      There are lots of emerging options for where to launch NFTs, but the problem as I see it, as with any books, is finding the audience to buy them.
      Do you have any thoughts on that?

  • Selling NFTs would almost warrant a different Asset Management List. My head is exploding!

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