A deep dive into Literary NFTs
Non-fungible tokens are a transcendent technology that are infiltrating a myriad of industries — from digital art to music, automobiles to collectible Pokémon cards, sports to fashion, gaming to film — and beyond.
But what about NFTs for writers?
As writers ourselves, that’s one question that has been on our mind a lot lately.
This week we set out to find the answer to that question. In the process, we explore the benefits blockchain technology can have for writers, some of the hurdles Literary NFTs must overcome to be successful, and the top NFT writer platforms emerging in the space.
Let’s take a look.
What is a Literary NFT?
When poems, books, blogs, articles, and other literary works are minted onto the blockchain as NFTs, it is called a Literary NFT. Literary NFTs, like all NFTs, have the potential to be versatile. They can be digital collectibles, displays of written works, audio books, or digital assets that provide token-gated access to a community or live event like a book reading.
For now, the sector is still in its infancy stage. But the popularity of Literary NFTs is growing quickly. And that’s because NFT technology offers several benefits to authors as well as readers.
The Benefits of NFTs and Blockchain Technology for Writers
Like many artists, writers often get the short end of the stick when it comes to publishing their work and making money. Even with the advancements provided by platforms like Medium and Substack, as well as the benefits of self-publishing, writers still experience frequent setbacks when trying to get their work in front of an audience.
In traditional publishing, for example, authors typically receive royalty rates in the 8%-15% range. Imagine laboring for years over a novel, finding an agent that likes your work, and then receiving less than a quarter of the royalty rates for your own book! It’s certainly not ideal — but it’s often the best-case-scenario for authors lucky enough to snag a publishing deal.
But writing NFTs, or Literary NFTs as they’re called, have several benefits that could transform the dynamics of publishing. Here are some of the top ways that NFTs can help writers in 2024:
- Creative control. When it comes to traditional publishing, publishers often have a major say over what makes it in front of a reader. Literary NFTs change all that by eliminating the gatekeepers and putting creative control back into the hands of the writer. With complete control of their product, writers can be creative when they release new work. One example comes from Jenkins the Valet and Tally Labs in their project The Writer’s Room, where they opted to give NFT holders a vote in the creative direction of a forthcoming book.
- Token gated NFTs. Writers can use token gated NFTs to connect directly with their audience in ways that were not possible before. For example, an NFT can serve as a key to unlock an exclusive fan community or grant access to events like book readings and signings. They can even grant personal access to a writer. Writers can choose what sort of possibilities they want their NFTs to unlock.
- Royalty structure. As mentioned above, traditional publishing is notorious for giving writers extremely low royalty rates. But with literary NFTs, writers can earn immediately from their audience and receive much higher royalty rates from first-time sales. Furthermore, smart contracts enable writers to earn every time their work is resold on a secondary market.
- Direct connection. In NFT music, several artists, including the pop star Rihanna, have sold NFT tracks that grant fans a small percentage of a share in royalties. We haven’t seen it done yet with literary NFTs, but writers could potentially employ a similar model that would help fans benefit from the sale and resale of their written work.
- Immutability. As the saying goes, “the blockchain is forever.” When a writer publishes a literary NFT it becomes ingrained on the blockchain, which hypothetically, lasts forever. While the top five publishing companies have been around for a while, and Amazon doesn’t appear to be closing the doors anytime soon, none of them can guarantee the everlasting existence of a work of art the way a top blockchain can.
While there are clear advantages to writers publishing Literary NFTs, the main challenge now is that the sector is still just getting started. Ultimately, most writer’s goal is to get their work in front of as many eyes as possible, and for now, this still means going the traditional publishing route — even with the meager royalty rates considered.
Top Literary NFT Platforms
Although Literary NFTs have yet to catch on in popularity with the general public, there are already several platforms experimenting in the sector and working hard to build their audiences.
Below are some of the top Literary NFT platforms currently in existence:
- Creatokia. Founded by the international digital publisher Bookwire, Creatokia provides a marketplace for limited-edition Literary NFTs consisting of audio and text from top authors. It boasts creative independence for authors, digital ownership for writers and readers, and accessible tool kits to create literary NFTs.
- Mirror.xyx. This Web3 platform specializes in transforming blogs, essays, white papers, and other text-based content into NFTs. Authors retain all publishing rights to their work, and the NFTs are minted on the Ethereum blockchain. The platform also features a variety of co-authorship features, and is built to support multisigs and DAOs.
- Paragraph. An alternative to Substack, this Web3 platform lets authors create a newsletter where each post can be minted as an NFT on Polygon. Paragraph authors can paywall their content through token gated NFTs, and writers can receive recurring crypto payments from subscribers. According to their website, they have over 10,000 creators and 1 million newsletters delivered monthly by authors.
- Readly. This platform lets writers sell articles and complete books as NFTs. Readly only takes 2% of sales, and it is free for authors to publish. E-books can be resold on secondary NFT markets, enabling secondary royalties to be earned by the author.
- Book.io. A Web3 marketplace for reading, selling, and buying eBooks and audiobooks. The digital books are minted on the Cardano blockchain, and can resold on NFT marketplaces. Readers earn native reward tokens as they read and interact with the community for discounts on future purchases. Authors earn 70% of revenue on the initial sales of their books, and can earn through secondary sales in perpetuity. Authors also don’t have to be exclusive with Book.io, meaning they can simultaneously publish their book with another platform or publisher.
Final Thoughts on Literary NFTs
The world of Literary NFTs is certainly an exciting possibility for writers. But for now, it remains just that — a possibility.
One reason Literary NFTs have been slow to take off may be that to purchase an NFT on most of the current platforms, users need a crypto wallet like MetaMask and a small amount of cryptocurrency to make the purchase. This means that for the time being, it’s mostly Web3 natives that are reading and collecting Literary NFTs.
In the future, platforms working to develop a readership for Literary NFTs might look to Web3 gaming for an example, which has been creating more and more features to onboard non-crypto natives into the space. After all, what is essential to a great literary work has little to do with its underlying technology, and much to do with its underlying message and style. Perhaps if readers were less aware they’re reading a Literary NFT, and more focused on the quality of the work their reading, the sector could enjoy more gains.
Still, the future looks bright for Literary NFTs, especially since many of the same components of NFT technology that are helping musicians, digital artists, and all sorts of creators around the world, could work to one day change the game for writers in their favor. At Rarity Sniper, that’s a transformation we’re looking forward to.
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