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What are the different ways that authors can use NFTs to reach readers and earn money with blockchain technology? How can we address the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that is inevitable when faced with new technological options? Jessica Artemisia Mathieu explains some of the business models with NFTs.
In the intro, and in a longer segment after the interview, I talk about some of the things I'm considering around what could be the ecosystem of the next iteration of online business.
This episode is sponsored by my wonderful patrons, who give me the freedom to investigate the future of creativity and share it with you here. If you find the episode useful, please consider supporting me at Patreon.com/thecreativepenn or buy me a coffee (or two!) at BuyMeACoffee.com/thecreativepenn
Jessica Artemisia Mathieu is a sci-fi fantasy author and digital marketing agency owner. She's also the creator of The Sovereigntii, which uses NFTs on blockchain as a new form of storytelling, community, and income.
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.
- Business models that authors can consider with NFTs
- The language of NFTs and blockchain
- How Jessica manages The Sovereigntii, and her collaborations with other creators in other worlds
- How fear, uncertainty and doubt hold creatives back from what is already a thriving creator ecosystem
- Copyright and NFTs (Note, it will all depend on your contract, smart or not!)
- Addressing the ecological and environmental issues with blockchain
- In the extended segment after the interview (at around 42 mins), I talk about what I learned and recap the business models, adding extra ideas around practicality, mindset, and licensing
- The 3 things you need to do regardless of technological platform: Create IP, License it, Reach readers/Find an audience
You can find Jessica Artemisia at TheSovereigntii.com and on Twitter @JessArtemisia
Transcript of Interview with Jessica Artemisia
Joanna: Jessica Artemisia Mathieu is a sci-fi fantasy author and digital marketing agency owner. She's also the creator of ‘The Sovereigntii,' which uses NFTs of blockchain as a new form of storytelling, community, and income. Welcome, Jessica.
Jessica: Hi, thank you so much for having me. It's an honor to be here.
Joanna: Oh, I'm excited to talk about this.
First up, tell us a bit more about you and your background in writing and publishing.
Jessica: Writing I started as soon as I could read and write. I've been a fantasy nerd my entire life and I've always dreamed of being a fantasy author. But I didn't start really, really writing until about 10 years ago.
I still didn't share because I never really felt that it made sense to try to pursue it professionally. Because the business models at the time … you could be a best-selling author and still need a day job. And for me, I didn't have enough energy, honestly, to be a best-selling author and have a day job, like a full-time job. It just wasn't realistic for me.
I did end up starting to take writing seriously a couple of years ago anyway because it's a passion, it's kind of just in my soul and I had to try it. I started actually getting published. But the problem remained, so I decided to dive into marketing, digital marketing, to find an alternative business model. And that's how I ended up getting into NFTs.
Joanna: You're talking about getting published and marketing. Is that traditional publishing and book marketing or other forms?
Jessica: I did get traditionally published and I also had some interest from a really big agency in L.A. for a manuscript I was working on. But I still didn't feel that the publishing industry was right for me.
I've been doing marketing since 2005, but it wasn't really focused on digital marketing. So, I started learning marketing in a general sense to understand the industry more deeply. And I did that for the purpose of finding a new business model for authors.
Joanna: I think it's really interesting. And mentioning that publishing wasn't really a good fit and feeling like it's strange, I often feel that some independent authors, us included, have perhaps more in common with the tech industry than we do with the publishing industry.
Even though product comes out of a book manuscript, I feel like there is quite a big difference between some of the people in the traditional industry and some authors — and then authors who are more comfortable with technology.
Do you think that's the basis of why you were feeling that way, it's just your interest was much more developed, in a way?
Jessica: The tech is okay for me. I feel very native in the digital environment and marketing. I just didn't think that it was a good business model.
For me, a good business model means you do it and you make a lot of money. That's what it means.
So, if I do it and I do it well and I'm successful and I still don't make a lot of money, to me, that's just not a good business model. For me.
People have different ways that they value things or judge things as good or not good. For me, I mean, if I like I wanted to make $100,000, $150,000 being a full-time author…or why not a million or $50 million?
An entrepreneur can start a business and make $5 million or $50 million. A writer who contributes enormously to the culture and the economy might only make $35,000 if they're lucky or if they're a best-selling author.
That's not to say that making less money is somehow inferior, but for me, I just don't have the energy to be an author and contribute that way and also feed myself and put a roof over my head and take care of all my other responsibilities. I just couldn't balance that. So, I wanted to find a different way.
Joanna: I love that. And we love ambition on this show. We don't mind talking about money. So, that's brilliant.
You've mentioned business models a couple of times. Let's start on the broad level of going through the business models that you're talking about, and then we can get down into the detail of what you're doing specifically.
What are the different business models with NFTs?
Jessica: There are actually infinite possibilities. And it's really open to the innovation and creativity of anybody who comes to the blockchain to start a business. There are different blockchains, of course, and they have their different communities and their different ways of doing things.
Ethereum is the most popular right now. It's the most established blockchain and the biggest community, but it has really high gas, and it's a problem. It's like you might have a $70 transaction fee, so that limits the type of the model that you would use.
A few of the popular ones are PUNKS Comics, a comic book that's released on the blockchain, and I think there are maybe a few thousand, maybe, in existence and they're all minted and you can buy them as an NFT.
There's ‘Forgotten Runes Wizards Cult,' which is really popular and it's like a Dungeons & Dragons kind of thing, community lore building. And that was really popular. It's considered a blue chip. ‘PUNKS Comic' is considered a blue chip too.
‘Forgotten Runes Wizards Cult' was really fun because it actually involved the community in the writing. And then there's ‘Etherpoems,' which are on-chain poetry, and they were just literally minted on the blockchain.
And then on Solana. I'm actually part of another project besides the one I started, which is called ‘Saiba Gang‘ and we're minting end of October, early November. And I'm writing a manga for it. I'm a partner in the project. I get a percentage of the drop, which might be close to $2.6 million. And that's what's exciting about being a creative or writer on the blockchain is that there's just massive opportunity.
There's Gloom Punk, which is writing a story with community-directed lore, and Soul Gods, which is also doing lore.
So, you can be a writer on a project that's based on art, or you can partner with an artist, or with AI to create art that represents your story, or you can just straight up mint your story.
There's a lot of different ways to do that. And, on the different blockchains, there's going to be different options based on what kind of technology has been developed already for that.
Joanna: There's lots of exciting things there. We've got to circle back and say what some words mean. I've done quite a few episodes on NFTs and blockchain now, but I know people are still struggling.
How do you explain what is a blockchain and what is an NFT to non-technical people?
Jessica: I had to figure that out too. And depending on how you talk about it, it's pretty simple actually.
A blockchain is a digital ledger. It records transactions and it's distributed to hundreds or thousands of different nodes where the data is stored. And that makes it really, really, really hard to falsify, you can't go back and change it.
So, it creates a trust in the digital world because you can't change, you can't alter the data. And it's also distributed and decentralized, so no one person controls the data. And it's public, so everyone can see all the data. So, that's the blockchain, that's the basics of blockchain, the blockchain concept.
An NFT is a digital asset that's recorded on that blockchain. So, it can be considered the original of an art piece. For example, if you mint your book or a chapter or a character or a scene on the blockchain, that can be proven as yours because the record is public and unchangeable.
It's like being the creator of the ‘Mona Lisa.' The ‘Mona Lisa' is infinitely copied but there's only one ‘Mona Lisa' and that kind of provenance is really important. And the blockchain creates the ability to find out the provenance of a digital asset. Makes sense?
Joanna: Yes. Well, it makes sense to me but I know often people need to hear it multiple times as well for the idea to sort of drop…well, let's use the word ‘drop.' You mentioned the ‘minting' and the word ‘drop'; what do those things mean?
Jessica: To mint an NFT is to basically just create a record of it on the blockchain.
Joanna: And the drop?
Jessica: To make it known or public, so to make it available for sale.
Joanna: So, it's basically like when we publish a book, it's like the day we publish a book and press publish, it's the same as minting and it's the day we drop. It's just different language, isn't it, for a different community?
Jessica: Exactly. It comes out of the cryptocurrency world. Minting, it's like a coin you mint. You mint a penny or you mint a coin. Minting it is the process of creating an actual coin. So, they took that language from creating currency, hard currency, to creating digital currency, and now it's minting on the blockchain, the digital assets.
Joanna: Then I think this is the next question because many authors are uncomfortable with digital wallets, with cryptocurrency. Most people have heard of bitcoin now probably, Ether, as a currency, let alone a blockchain.
And there are, let's face it, lots of scams out there, there are lots of good things but people have a lot of doubt around crypto.
Do people need to know programming? Do they need to have a wallet? Do they need to have cryptocurrency like Ether in order to do NFTs?
Jessica: You definitely do not have to have any technical background at all. I do think having a basic understanding of best practices for security is important, but if you follow them there's very, very low chance of getting scammed. But it's possible.
One of the things you do is you have a cold wallet, which is where you store it offline, or you don't keep your valuable assets in a wallet that you use for transactions. [Note from Joanna: This is what I do with my ‘normal' bank accounts as well. Don't keep a big balance in a transactional account.]
So, there are just basic good practices that you can do. And it's pretty simple, most people don't have a problem.
When you follow the best practices, you don't have to worry. But right now, you do need to have a wallet with Ethereum or Solana or Wax or Tezos in it, those are all different blockchains that are all being used for NFTs right now. But they're really easy to set up.
Joanna: As we record this, it's before Frankfurt Book Fair. And, at Frankfurt, I know there's a couple of new platforms launching within the publishing industry. And, of course, PayPal is going to be doing crypto, Shopify, and eBay as well.
There are all these different mainstream sites that are going to be offering these blockchain options. I almost feel, like in 2022, what we might see is people doing these without the need, it might be almost hidden.
For example, no one needs to be able to program to format an ebook and upload it onto Amazon. You don't need to know HTTP or you don't need to know any kind of internet-y techy stuff to use it.
I feel that it will be the same way with NFTs and blockchain. What do you think?
Jessica: I agree completely. They're definitely making a streamlined process where it's a really low barrier to entry to make it easy for everybody, and secure. I do think that there is going to be a lot more opportunity if you do know the basics of the tech.
It's really exciting, and it takes some getting used to but it's really, really fun. And, if you limit yourself to the platforms of other people there's a huge price to that.
Joanna: I'm with you, and I almost feel like I did getting into ebooks, in 2008, 2009, and getting into podcasting in 2009, when there weren't many people doing this. But you can see, the way things are going, some of the early people did well.
And, of course, I think books will be quite different to the art space where the valuations are massive. But you've talked about some of those options.
When I look at it, I think, ‘Oh my goodness, there are so many options. I don't know where to start.'
If people want to get started, what do you recommend?
Jessica: I would probably, number one, join Twitter and join the community and just start talking to people. It's a really, really friendly, open, inclusive community that's just having a really great time. It's a great global 24/7 party. And that's definitely the place to start.
And I probably would…this is going to sound like…oh, man, people are going to hate me for this, but probably skip Ethereum. The transaction fees are so ridiculous right now, to me, it's offensive to my soul because it's exclusive of people, of small to medium-sized businesses that are not, like, blue-chip whale-backed. Whale is a really big investor, not venture capital-backed.
So, Ethereum's pretty hoity-toity right now. You have to have a lot of money to be able to trade on that blockchain.
Solana is excellent, and it's a small and growing community.
Now is really a great time to get into it. There's a ton of lore-based projects coming out and you don't have to have art. I sold a chapter of my book, I didn't even have the rest of the book out yet. I sold it for like $400, $450, just a chapter of my book.
And because the writing…if someone reads it, and they're like, ‘Oh, this is good. This is going to be big,' they're investing in it and they become an owner of it. And then, of course, you always get royalties anytime that's sold. Then, when they become an owner, then they also have an incentive to spread the word about your book, so then they become a collaborator in building your business.
And your community, when they own pieces of your work, then they become your marketing, they can become your marketing team also because they're invested in making their investment in your book successful because then they can resale at a profit.
Joanna: Right. So, let's get into the detail of what you're doing then. You've mentioned a few business models, you mentioned there putting a chapter on Solana. So, what are you doing? Tell us a bit more about how you're putting things together right now.
Jessica: Okay. So, real quick, I actually put it on Ethereum in June, and I just don't recommend Ethereum anymore. My whole project right now is on Ethereum and we're moving it to Solana.
Basically, what I'm doing is a completely different way for fans to be involved in the experience and the generation of value of a creative IP project.
I have my book, which is ‘The Sovereigntii' series. And there's my aspect and then I'll get into a little bit more about how there's community world-building too.
My book has different characters, it has a map, it has a whole world. And all the races can be created through AI and each one can be sold as a character that people can create fan fiction from. And they can sell that fan fiction and then I get a percentage of it.
So, the fans can become co-creators in my world by buying NFTs that give them the right to write related fiction. Not using my characters but using the platform of like the environment, the world. So, I have my IP which I'm building and people buy pieces of it.
It's actually free to read. It's free for anyone to read the actual story, anyone can read it. It's available for free on Medium. But if you want to join the community and if you believe in it as a project that is going to be big one day, you want to get a piece, then you join the community.
You also don't have to buy anything to join the community, I really want it to be as inclusive as possible. And then people can just decide for themselves what level of ownership they want to have of the project, as we say in the NFT community, ‘aping in.' We ape into a project.
So, what level they want to ape in. I'm building my platform that way but it's also a co-creative world-building tabletop role-playing game.
And there's a lot about it. I almost feel like this is a massive info dump. I feel like, in a couple of years, there's going to be other reference points and it won't be so like info-dumpy.
We're working on the tabletop role-playing game, it's in progress. So, actually people can take the NFT elements, which I call basically ‘stems,' but we might call them like ‘seeds' or whatever, their inspiration, their characters, their scenes, their different aspects. And then people get together and create on a map and do a co-creative scene storytelling together.
So, fans become characters in the world and they co-create a story together in the world using the inspiration and elements of the world that I've offered through NFTs which they own.
Joanna: So, it's very community-centered, your project?
Jessica: Yes, very. Very much so.
Joanna: Right. So, there's ownership almost in a collective world.
What is the situation with copyright and NFTs?
Jessica: The same copyright applies in terms of my writing. No one else can sell it, no one else can use my characters. If they do, I can sue them just like in any other case. But in the model that I'm building, it's built in that I get royalties from people using elements of what I create.
Let's say I create a race of people, this group of people called the High-Pitched Screech. And you just imagine somebody screeching, and that's their name. And they live in the Pits of Madness. And I have all these portraits of these high-pitched screeches that I've created using AI and I can sell each individual as a character that somebody else can then take and tell that story and use it within my system.
If they do that and if they create value that that character becomes valuable and is resold or whatever and any NFTs that they create relating to that character or that story that they've written in my world, I get a royalty on.
Joanna: I love the smart contract idea, which is, you can basically code a contract. Right? And, well, let's not say ‘code,' it doesn't have to be that technical.
The smart contract means you'll get a percentage down the line, and if people want to sell their stake or their NFT, you get a percentage. This really is game-changing for publishing.
I'm fascinated with this community idea because I think, originally, like you mentioned, I sold a chapter of a book on Ethereum blockchain. In my head, I think that's what I have been thinking and what many authors have been thinking, which is, ‘Okay, I'll sell five limited edition copies of my ebook. Each one will have its own image in and there'll be a video that goes with it.'
To me, that's like just publishing in another format that people can sell. And I still think that's completely fine, but it's not as ambitious as what you're talking about, which is, essentially, creating this massive world and having lots of creators within it. Would that be right?
Jessica: Definitely. The other thing too, it's not just for me, it's also a platform for others. Let's say another fantasy author just doesn't want to build the whole system, the whole platform of community and really utilizing Web 3 in a way that's kind of the exciting way of using it. To me, I mean I find it really exciting.
They can buy, what I call, a ‘publishing-rights avatar' in my world. And for only like 10% they can just create as much as they want. They can create their own map, their own world. And then the only royalties that go to me within the system are 10% of their world that they generate.
The 10% of the money that they generate in their world, which is different from 30% of Amazon royalties that Amazon takes. Basically, it's like an agent takes 10% of what sells for an author.
Joanna: Okay. So, I get it, you're building more like a platform. So, ‘The Sovereigntii' is more like a platform and there are books as part of it but there's also, like you said, all these characters.
Tell us, how are you generating the AI art characters? Because I find that all so fascinating.
Jessica: I use Artbreeder, and I have a video on YouTube that shows you how I do it. I don't leave any of my tricks off the table. I love it when people make really beautiful art. And there are also other systems that you can use that are text-based, it's called VQGAN.
Joanna: I have talked about Generative Adversarial Networks before, don't worry! [Check out the Future of Creativity episodes for more on this.]
I think what I like about this is that it's a combination of lots of different technologies. You mentioned Web 3.
What do you think Web 3 means?
Jessica: Web 1 came about in the mid to late '90s with websites. And that was the introduction of the internet to the world. That's Web 1.0.
Web 2.0 is social media where we all got online and started being social and connecting with each other.
Web 3.0 is with the advent of assets, digital assets on the blockchain, you can buy and sell and create whole business systems and own things online. And that's Web 3.0 is the financial and asset aspect, ownership aspect of the internet.
Joanna: I think there are lots of aspects of Web 3 but it's almost like the static website, and then the mobile website, and now the blockchain ecosystem. That could be another way. Or people putting cryptocurrency is a Web 3 idea.
Metaverse, doing VR and AR is also Web 3. I think we're moving into this next almost 20-year phase, I think. The mobile revolution was sort of 2007, so we're 15 years in. And, let's be fair, it'll probably take five years before all of this is mainstream.
Jessica: Right. Definitely.
Joanna: We're at very early stages. Okay, still there are so many things we could get into, I hope people are being inspired by this. A lot of people have heard that there's environmental issues with blockchain.
Can we tackle the ecological, environmental issues that people have?
Jessica: I hear that a lot too. I think it's really important to always understand where the information you're getting is coming from and who's saying it and why they might be saying it. I think it's definitely not something that isn't true.
Blockchain, especially proof of work blockchain, not proof of stake but proof of work, like Bitcoin and the way that Ethereum is right now, although that's changing to proof of stake, which will then be 99.99% better than it is now ecologically.
[Check out Ethereum's technological shift to Ethereum 2.]
Understanding that the blockchain represents a very serious threat to the way that the political economy structure of basically the world as it is right now, the people who are really invested in that and who are stakeholders in that system are going to not want the mass adoption because it really threatens their power.
They tend to own a lot of the media outlets, they're the people really in power. And so, there's a lot of information out there, and we call it FUD, which is fear, uncertainty, and doubt.
If someone were to take the same criticism of ecological impact and level it at the publishing industry…
Joanna: Yeah, book pulping!
Jessica: Exactly. Bitcoin, for example, which is the biggest offender, which has nothing at all to do with NFTs, consumes about 0.25% of the global energy. So, it's a really small percentage. And things like fashion, book publishing, Amazon…a lot of people sell on Amazon but I mean the environmental impact of Amazon is much higher.
Joanna: Just packaging, for example, packaging is a big deal. I'm with you. I think that there are some issues that are being solved.
For example, you mentioned Solana instead of Ethereum and Ethereum instead of Bitcoin, it's almost like with every iteration, things are getting better and easier and, like you said, cheaper. You mentioned gas fees, and that's like a transaction fee that you have to pay.
[Check out this list of environmentally friendly cryptocurrencies from Sept 2021 and do a Google search for the most up-to-date info on blockchain and the environment as it is changing every day.]
What we don't want to do on this is to go into massive detail on everything. Because, as we said, it is changing.
I do want to come back to the people. Okay, so I got a glimpse of your ambitious world community, but the big question is, so where are these people? We all struggle to find readers for a blooming ebook, let alone someone who wants to buy an AI-generated character in a new world.
How are you finding people to join your world? And do you think that there's going to be enough people to sustain all of this?
Jessica: I'm able to scale step by step. I'm taking small steps because that really builds a strong foundation. But also, I've already sold in my collection something like $5,617. I mean approximately. That's in the past like four-and-a-half months coming from no audience. Starting from zero.
That's how much I've sold. Which is more than most people with zero audience never having published a book, I had published a story, can make right away, which is a good start, it's a good start for me. So far so good.
But also, with that, one of the problems I think that with writing and selling a story is that there has to be demand for it in order for people to buy it, but they have to read it in order to like it and, therefore, have demand. Demand is created by desire, desire is created by kind of like knowledge of the book. Right?
That's always been a problem. How do you get people to want a book they've never read? They want to buy a book they've never read. So, a chapter works. Or you make the writing free and then create this really amazing community experience. Which is what, for example, ‘Gloom Punks,' which is on Solana, they're doing a story, ‘Soul Gods' and ‘Saiba Gang.'
‘Saiba Gang' is set to sell a bunch of these generated avatars, and they're writing a manga to go with that, to continue creating the community.
Writers can partner with artists.
And one gets a million dollars and the other gets a million dollars. And then you have to have the developing team. It is a team effort and it's a community effort, and that's what makes it amazing and fun.
The other thing too is you don't have to build it all yourself. For ‘Saiba Gang,' I'm not building any of that, I am just writing the manga. I'm just the writer for it and I don't have to worry about all that. I can just write and be creative. I don't have to do it full time but I get a percent, and that's what's exciting for authors.
You could become a Loremaster for a project, do that part-time, make a considerable amount of money, and also be writing and building your audience in the Web 3 world. If you have 10,000 people reading your writing in another project that's really popular, then they're also going to be interested in your writing outside of that. So, it's one way to build an audience.
You don't have to make your writing free, but personally, I like that because it enables people to want to read it and know if they like it and be a part of the whole IP system.
Smart contracts enable easier collaboration.
Joanna: I think this is another thing, the idea of smart contracts enables this collaboration, this percentage that you talked about. This is very, very hard at the moment in the ‘normal' world.
To give a percentage of revenue and resale to anyone else, it's practically impossible because there are humans who have to actually put that contract through. I have to pay some of my co-writers, and it's a right pain in the neck. Whereas, with smart contracts, it happens automatically.
I want authors listening, you have to think much bigger around how you can collaborate, it's going to be much easier. For example, just a completely different idea, but like people ask me all the time to do various things and most of the time, I don't have the bandwidth or whatever. But if someone says, ‘Could you do this or lend your voice to this audiobook,' for example, ‘you can have a percentage of the drop,' then I'm far more likely to say yes to that as a possibility.
What we're going to be seeing is, as you said, writers doing things for percentages for bigger names. For universe owners, like what you're aiming to build, and collaborative worlds, I think this is going to be huge. Right?
Jessica: Absolutely. It's the community aspect, we're not doing it alone and then waiting for somebody else to sell our work for us. We're out there and we're with our fans and it's co-creative and collaborative. It could be, but it's collaborative in the sense that they become owners with you.
It's been called an ‘ownership economy,' meaning that your fans, if they own a piece of your work, are part of it with you.
And then they have an incentive to also share your work with their friends because the more that they generate value and make your project high value, the more they also get out of it. It's like they're the stockholders of your book.
Joanna: And again, it doesn't have to be a book, it could be an audio project. I think this is fascinating. Just one other technical question. You mentioned Solana and then you mentioned OpenSea. Can you use the Solana blockchain through OpenSea?
Jessica: Currently, no. They have Solsea. OpenSea is for the Ethereum blockchain and also the Polygon blockchain, which is considered a layer of Ethereum.
Joanna: If people want to do an NFT on Solana, where do they do that?
Jessica: There are a variety of options. I wouldn't necessarily be able to recommend any because I haven't personally used them. And a lot of them are young, and they work, they're great, but I'm not an expert in Solana.
I know much more Ethereum and I'm moving towards Solana, for a lot of reasons, but a disclaimer, I cannot recommend these places because I haven't personally used them but I can say what some of them are, which is, I think it's called Magic Eden or something, and DigitalEyes, and Holaplex, and Metaplex if I'm correct. And Solsea. I don't know if they're going to be a good experience.
Joanna: I think this is really important.
Like we said, this is a new space, so we don't know what's going to happen with the various things.
The very positive side of a blockchain like Ethereum is it's not going away at this point. Whereas a newer blockchain…I guess, to put it in terms…there were lots of websites in the dot-com boom, and in the year 2000, there were lots of dot-com websites that disappeared.
But if you had picked Amazon, you were all good. I think this is the difficulty now is there is some speculation but what we're talking about is the principles of what this new ecosystem could look like. I think that's our overarching thing.
Jessica: Right. Understanding the conceptual framework for creating a digital business around the IP that you're developing.
Joanna: Absolutely. We mentioned maybe it will be five years before things are more mainstream. Although, as I said, there's Frankfurt Book Fair, which is traditional publishing, there are NFT platforms launching.
For the next five years, how can independent authors position themselves for success in order to be ready for these new opportunities?
Jessica: I would say the first thing I would do is get on Twitter and just start sharing your work. Let people see how brilliant you are, let people see what you're capable of, let them see how reliable you are.
Build a reputation as an author and then let people know you're available as a Loremaster if that's what you want to do. And then you can start out in the Web 3 and learn from really amazing developers and project leaders and artists about how to build a successful project while getting paid and not doing all the work yourself.
Projects will start reaching out to you, especially if they know that you're available. Loremasters having lore and projects right now is actually the next big step. Everyone was saying it's games, it's not because games are extremely difficult and expensive to make. All the projects now are moving towards lore.
What do they need? Loremasters. So, now is the perfect time for writers to jump on, jump in, ape in. The water is really warm, people are super friendly.
And also another cool thing, this is kind of a side note, I have never experienced like ‘tech bro' sexism or anything like that. I'm valued as a woman, I'm just valued. There's none of that tech-world-bro-iness that you have to worry about that I know a lot of people experience elsewhere.
I can't say it's going to be the experience for everybody but it's kind of a new culture. And I think that's really exciting and I want people to realize how it's like a revolutionary culture, as well as a revolutionary technology. And now is the time to jump in, share your work, share your genius, let people know you're available as a loremaster, find projects you like, and mint them.
Become an NFT owner, learn how the process works, and you're just going to have a really, really great time.
Joanna: Just on ‘loremaster,' do you mean L-O-R-E?
Joanna: Is that really a fantasy author thing?
Jessica: It's an author thing, so the title of the person who creates the narrative IP for a project. There's the artist who creates the visual. There's the developer who create the technical, the code.
There's also an emerging need that's very urgent right now for people who create a narrative story around the art to create an engaged and invested community in order to maintain the value of the NFTs and the art beyond the initial mint.
Joanna: Ah. Like you said, it's a whole new community and language, it's like learning it all over again. When people come into self-publishing, they're like, ‘What do all these words mean?' This feels like all over again.
People invent a language to put boundaries around a community. And so, again this is just learning a language. And inside of it, it's not as complicated as I think many people think from the outside. So, yeah, that's awesome.
Where can people find you and everything you do online?
Jessica: The easiest one is just @JessArtemisia on Twitter. And then my project is called ‘The Sovereigntii.' It's like a plural from another language that I was inspired by. So, it's TheSovereigntii on Twitter, and then thesovereigntii.com.
And then ‘Saiba Gang,' which is saibagang.com. And that's the same on Twitter and the same, saibagang.com. And I'm totally open to connect with people and invite them into the community and help in any way that I can. And if anything I've said is like too lingo-y or whatever, I'm so sorry. I am swimming in it 24/7.
Joanna: Oh, no, it's great. We have to get used to the language, so, it's good to hear you talk about it. Well, thank you so much for your time, Jessica, that was great.
Jessica: Thank you so much, Joanna, I really appreciate it.
My thoughts after the interview
This is another futurist awareness episode as NFTs are still an emerging business model for creatives — so there will be language you don’t necessarily understand – but that’s OK.
Every domain has a language to learn in order to become comfortable with it.
If you’re new to self-publishing, you’re probably confused by all the things we say and the different companies we work with for different things.
I had a conversation with an author the other week and she didn’t know what permafree was, and had never heard of Kickstarter or ePub format or Draft2Digital or Kobo, let alone NFTs!
I watched a documentary on the physics of bubbles the other night and it had a lot of scientific terms I’m not familiar with. I read the Financial Times in order to keep refreshing my knowledge on how the financial language works.
So don’t be frustrated — the language of blockchain and NFTs is bound to be confusing at first.
That’s why I’m going to keep doing these discussions — because when you listen to conversations, the meaning slowly becomes clear and you make connections and understanding emerges. You will have an ‘aha’ moment at some point around blockchain, if you haven’t already!
I should also say that I am not an expert at this area, but I fully intend to become one, which of course, is how this site has always worked.
If you’ve been following since I started in December 2008, you will know how much has changed and how much we’ve all had to learn as the industry has changed. It’s kinda scary, but also incredibly exciting! Consider me an enthusiastic newbie at this stage and it’s likely that I am getting some things wrong — it’s all about ‘beginner’s mind’ at this stage.
Don’t get too technical or down in the weeds initially. You don’t need to know how to program the internet to use Amazon KDP to publish an ebook or a print book. You don’t need to know how PayPal works to send money across the world.
The same is true of NFTs and it will only become easier as new applications are built on top of blockchains. In fact, I have a couple more interviews coming in the next few weeks with creators of these very tools for authors and publishing.
I’ve done a couple of interviews on this topic now — just go to TheCreativePenn.com/future to find them grouped together in one place, as well as my other futurist episodes around AI, auto-narration and more.
We are in VERY early days when it comes to NFTs and it is a bit Wild-West-y at the moment!
There are new blockchains emerging all the time and new sites and groups of creators coming together — and inevitably, there is some hype and there will be rip-offs happening and there will be blockchains that don’t last and coins that go to nothing.
But let’s face it, that happens in every arena — it is not specific to blockchain and crypto.
There are also environmental issues around some blockchains, particularly Bitcoin and other ‘proof of work’ blockchains — but there are also some blockchains that are more environmentally friendly, and there is a proposed redesign of Ethereum around ‘proof of stake’ which will also reduce impact.
The crypto and NFT community are (mostly) committed to the environment and if you spend a little time researching, you will find a lot of people dedicated to changing the infrastructure, so it works for the environment as well as creators.
In the meantime, you can always use carbon offsets through a site like https://aerial.is/ which has been used to offset NFTs from the latest Dune release, as well as by people like Ellen, Shakira, and Susan Sarandon.
Plus, if you want to question the ecological impact of blockchain, then you have to compare it to the rest of publishing — from the sustainability of ink and paper, to printing, shipping, packaging, pulping, and the electricity around digital products. It just means stepping back and considering the wider eco-system, rather than jumping on the things people have said on Twitter.
So despite the issues, don’t write everything off!
Jessica mentioned FUD — fear, uncertainty, and doubt — and I have seen that in the author and publishing community over and over again since 2008, especially when it comes to technological innovation, or changes that take people outside their comfort zone. I still get people asking about the “stigma of self-publishing” as if it was 2010 all over again!
The antidote to fear, uncertainty and doubt is to learn more about the area so you can have a conversation and make decisions from a more knowledgeable perspective.
That’s what I am trying to lead you into through these various conversations — and soon, through my own experience as I am intending to drop my first NFT before the end of 2021.
The opportunities within the NFT space are expanding — and I love Jessica’s ambition. There are going to be a lot of possibilities emerging for writers — just to recap, she mentioned a few:
Release your book or chapters as an NFT.
This is the most standard application of what we already do as authors and what I’m intending to do with Tomb of Relics. It’s one NFT package, there’s no community aspect, it’s a way for fans who believe in the value of your work to own a digital asset – and resell it as they like.
I’m going to include the ebook with unique images — a photo of my hand edits on the original manuscript, and perhaps even some AI-generated art around a particular character, The Black Anchorite, who ages in a pretty cool way.
There might be a business model around accumulating special NFTs and then leasing them, or having a virtual bookstore somewhere like Decentraland, where you could resell or lease based around a metaverse community. There are so many options!
Create a community based on your world or your IP.
This could be fiction or non-fiction, and then create NFTs within that — basically smart contracts that have various rights attached.
Jessica mentioned characters or the ‘right to write’ within the world — which I can see the application for those with larger shared worlds where people are already writing in them.
Have a look at saibagang.com. There’s a Lore button with a description of the world – “It is the year 2167 in Wintermoon City … “ and then info about the world and the characters. Then there’s a roadmap of development and how they will do the drops.
So you could collaborate and create something as big as that — or any kind of community model.
Gary Vaynerchuk has Veefriends, which uses NFTs as access to a community and also as tickets to his events, for example, VeeCon 2022, “the world’s FIRST NFT-ticketed conference; a first-of-its-kind, multi-day event held specifically for an audience of 10,255 VeeFriends token holders. A real-life demonstration of NFT smart contract technology in action.” If you like building community, then this model is interesting.
Become a writer for NFT projects.
Collaborate with other creators around building an ongoing narrative around images and communities and receive a percentage of the drop, or a percentage of royalties and resale going forward.
I see this overlapping with the gaming episode I did with Edwin McRae in episode 571 on narrative design when he talked about how many writers are needed as the gaming industry expands. There are plenty of gaming companies building on blockchain so that is another angle.
This is just a tiny glimpse of what could be possible with a blockchain eco-system.
Smart contracts will allow for so much more collaboration as they make it easy to split payments automatically without having to manually do everything, plus they make micro-payments more practical.
So there are some great ideas here — but you don’t have to jump into anything. Just spend some time learning and opening your mind to possibilities.
Think back to the dot-com boom and bust and the internet craziness around 2000.
But Amazon was founded in 1994 and Google in 1998, then Facebook in 2004. YouTube was founded in 2005 and it was silly cat videos for years before anyone took it seriously.
Platforms rise and fall, but the most valuable companies now are built on the internet. Consider what opportunities will arise in a new ecosystem built on blockchain.
You might not understand it all yet, but keep an open mind and as ever, I will attempt to step into it and make lots of mistakes so you don’t have to!
Regardless of technology, it comes down to the same things:
- Create intellectual property assets. Writing books is still our primary focus — but it's also about understanding that you have created IP, not just a manuscript.
- Consider the best way to license that IP. NFTs and blockchain applications will offer new ways to do this — so once again, don’t sign contracts for “all formats existing now and to be created, for the life of copyright” as that will exclude you from all this! If you have signed away “digital rights” or even “ebook rights,” you might not be able to do it either. That is still to be worked out, but at least try for term limits and specify exclusions for ‘digital special editions/NFTs.’
- Consider how to reach readers — and that might have a community aspect, or not. Personally, I don’t want to run a community, and I value my time offline, so I am more likely to go with the model of the individual drops per book, and perhaps special audio projects, as well as collaborating with others for a percentage of drops.
So many possibilities, and it comes down — as ever — to knowing yourself, knowing your book and your author brand, and knowing your reader, then making a choice that suits you.
Interesting times, Creatives!
I’ve got a couple more episodes on NFTs coming up in the next few weeks on the new platforms emerging for the publishing industry — and then a round-up episode when I am ready to drop my own NFT before the end of the year.
Please leave a comment or question on the episode, and if you have experience with NFTs, I’d love to hear what business models you’re considering.
Once again, a big thank you to my Patrons whose financial support enables me to spend time on these extra in-betweenisodes.
If you found this useful, and would like an extra monthly audio Q&A where you get to ask your questions, please consider supporting the show at patreon.com/thecreativepenn or for a one-off donation, you can use BuyMeACoffee.com/thecreativepenn
Fred Tyre says
While I am loving this particular podcast and am very pro-blockchain, I want to ensure that people are informed. NFTs are still in hybrid form and encrypt a link off of the blockchain to current insecure storage methods. The reason? The size of each chain on the block chain is similar to a tweet on Twitter. Small. Images and other files are often stored on the Interplanetary File System (IPFS) with a link back to the chain where the NFT is minted. Unfortunately, the blockchain thrives on anonymity just like the web and it might be hard to locate the culprit to sue for copyright. Until this hybrid method is no longer used, I plan to not put my absolute best works (art or writing) on the block chain. It does make it harder to “steal” the data and maybe it doesn’t matter in the end. Even publishing with Amazon can lead to having your work show up on P2P download sites. I just want it to be clear to the audience what they are getting into when it comes to their intellectual property.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks, Fred, and yes, there will always been problems and scammers and issues with any tech, but progress marches on regardless. I think getting involved is better than sitting on the sidelines as nothing will ever be perfect.
James Palmer says
Very interesting interview. What I found most compelling was that Jess sold the first chapter of a novel for $450. Being a loremaster sounds interesting, but I don’t think I have the patience to navigate everything else involved with it. The 12-year-old inside of me thinks all of this new technology is awesome; the 47-year-old outside of me wants to yell at these kids to get off my lawn. Though I am glad the community is an inclusive one.
However, there are some good things that will come from this technology. Cryptocurrency is just an energy-wasting way to hire hackers and hitmen on the dark web, but the blockchain that enables it has a lot of utility, such as smart contracts. I both publish and contribute to a lot of royalty payment anthologies, and smart contracts would be an easy, hands-free way to keep track of who gets paid what, as well as the minutae involved in splitting three dollars ten ways.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks, James, and yes, the utility of blockchain for smart contracts and resale of digital assets is what I am most excited about — at the moment!
Milissa L Story says
Fascinating subject and am eager to learn more, my question is what the income tax implications for earnings from NFTs? Is it treated like any other income we report from sales in digital areas for ebooks? Sorry if this is too basic a question, I just want to understand all the nuances.
Joanna Penn says
It depends on what currency – so if you transact in USD/GBP etc, then it’s just another income stream to report. I suspect this is what many platforms will use anyway.
If you transact in a crypto-currency e.g. ETH, it will depend on your jurisdiction. Interestingly, I have asked my accountant about this 🙂
Crypto is subject to capital gains so it could also be quite complicated. Basically, I’m not sure yet even for my situation so best to ask your accountant.