Congrats on the article, Elle. And a clever way to pitch, too (though I can't quite get my head around if there woould be any awkward GDPR implications here in the UK).

I'm in the camp of finding this proposed future rather dystopian. It doesn't help that NFTs and crypto have such terrible reputations at the moment, of course, and that's something that could certainly shift over time as the early adopter get-rich-quick schemes and scams fall away and the blockchain can return to being a useful bit of invisible tech. For now, though, I don't see many benefits for the author, or for most readers.

I'd expect this sort of investment opportunity to attract people interested in money and investment, rather than anyone interested in books/art. But the catch-22 is that books are a terrible way to make money and a terrible investment generally. :) This has been the case for a long time (always?), so I struggle to see how it would be appealing to investors (especially once that "FIRST!" novelty bubble pops).

The notion of giving away partial ownership of ideas and stories feels very strange to me. Won't investors demand sequels, and control, and ROI in general? There's a version of this where creativity and innovation is entirely crushed, as authors all fall into a template of trying to create the most investment-friendly 'stories', while investors then pressure those authors to make more of the same.

There are some basic practical benefits you mention, though, like enabling royalties through the 2nd-hand market. That's an interesting use case that could run silently in the background and doesn't really require the additional layers of financial complication. Blockchain is often presented as an exciting opportunity to Make Loadsa Money $$$, but its in the more mundane-but-useful instances that I think it is most likely to take off.

Ultimately, for me, the assumption that everything will and should be monetised is where I take issue with a lot of NFT, crypto and blockchain concepts. Fanfiction is done out of love for the source material, and I'm not convinced that it needs to be shoehorned into an official monetisation model.

I think what surprises me so far about blockchain tech is that there are so few useful applications of it - or even ideas. Perhaps I'm thinking too small, but it seems its promise should be more evident and more interesting (beyond the early investor Loadsa Money $$$ crowd, that is). Ed Zitron had some interesting thoughts on this point: https://ez.substack.com/p/its-like-the-early-days-of-the-internet

Anyway, I'll shut up now. Always fascinated to see what you're poking at, Elle!

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This was awesome!! 👏

Really looking forward to reading more of your work.

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What an incredible way to pitch- congratulations on a fascinating article and on getting it into a dream publication. You are an inspiration, as always. ✨

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Ok, this hit the trifecta for me: a relatable (finally) analogy/explanation of how writers can use the blockchain; a revolutionary pitch tip; a mind-blowing publishing concept in an exceptional article. Well-played, Elle!

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Awesome how you landed the Esquire gig - that is some pitch-witchery going on right there lol! :)

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Thank you for the analogies! I think that's what's missing. The mainstream self publishing community (in my experience) has negative beliefs about blockchain, and just wants to blow up with booktok. It's really hard to find educators who explain it simply.

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Fascinating article and outstanding research. If this process takes off, one thing you can guarantee is that secondary markets will form, derivatives contracts, financial instruments, and all other manner of financial engineering will ensue, leading to boom/bust cycles. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but for this model to stick, it would have to survive the initial bust after the inevitable bubble. That's sort of what's happening with the crypto/NFT market right now. If it survives, and learns, it'll persist. But you're seeing a lot of wash out during this crash.

By the way, I have a background in finance and journalism and I'm currently writing a contemporary fiction novel set on Wall Street. If you ever have questions about the stock market, finance, valuation, etc., don't hesitate to reach out. Happy to help anytime.

Keep up the great work!

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Congrats on the Esquire piece!

I had a long conversation with a friend about the blockchain recently and he made the salient point (of which I didn't have a rebuttal) that once you are talking about an asset or something that is offchain, the use case for blockchain falls apart. Like why does the restaurant in NYC that sold NFTs for access to tables need to use the blockchain to facilitate that other than because the blockchain is (was) the hot thing?

Neil Strauss recently created NFTs of one of his books and sold them on Opensea, and then selected one random token holder to get the copyright to the book. But to execute that transfer of rights, they still needed to effectuate the copyright transfer off-chain.

We can see what happens when speculation runs rampant and then an overheated market crashes.

I think the better use case for blockchain and tokens in the book space is creating a community around an author book that go wherever the author is. Substack is great but what happens if you need to port your audience somewhere else? Or what if I wanted to give exclusive access to paid subscribers to something on another platform? Maybe a token recognized by both Substack and that other platform could help facilitate that.

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Congratulations on the Esquire article! 🍾 What a clever use of your email list. Newsletter writing pays dividends!

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Jul 22, 2022Liked by Elle Griffin

“… a lesson in the power of creating a platform for your work…” This is so true. You not only have to do the hard work of creating a platform, but then you have to figure out creative ways to use it. (As you did with mining your list for the contacts you needed and then reaching out to them.) I wonder how many creators really think about how they can use their platform in new ways to reach their goals?

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Great story Elle. I love the potential. Thanks for putting it on our radar. Congratulations on your first Esquire publication. Write on!

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Useful reading. We do NFT based startup for authors, publisher readers.

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Do you have any articles about list building? I’m really curious how you’ve built your Substack readership.

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I printed this I loved it and want to understand it so much.

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Congratulations! It’s funny, I saw the Esquire story first, recognized the byline, and checked my email to find a corresponding copy of the newsletter that I have long enjoyed.

I do hate to say that I think you picked the wrong startups to focus on, and a framing that focuses far too much on investors and far too little on the storytelling and creativity advances that become possible through blockchain technologies.

Personally, I don’t want books to be seen primarily as investment opportunities rather than for their artistic or entertainment value. I don’t want books to become commodities to be pumped and dumped by TikTok influencers. I don’t want to see copyrights fractionalized so that creators incrementally lose control over their own characters, worlds, and visions. I don’t want to see hedge funds crowd true fans and early adopters out of croudfunding opportunities.

These are nightmare scenarios that you present as aspirations, not to mention the legal gray area of representing NFT books or other literary assets as investments. As regulation comes into focus, some of the practices you describe could lead authors into ruinous lawsuits, hefty fines from the SEC, or even jail time.

Speaking as a Web3 author who has already minted tens of thousands of literary NFTs for thousands of readers, I pledge to fight against the future you’ve presented in your article with every ounce of strength I have. Your dystopian funhouse-mirror take slanders many of the hard-working authors who aren’t using bitcoins and ethereum to rack up points in a game.

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Congratulations on the Esquire article. I'll bet that is blowing up your subscribers numbers!

I'm a crypto skeptic myself, and I am guessing that most of this was probably written and researched before the crypto crash. Has the dumpster fire that the crypto market has become over the past few weeks dampened your enthusiasm for this at all?

I do notice and appreciate some notes of caution in your article. I would question the concept that this really represents a new way to monetize a book. It really sounds more like putting the public in the position to act like a publisher. The author collects money from the sale of NFTs (like an advance) and then gives up a portion of their revenue (royalties). It does not sound any different from a typical publisher's contract.

As with traditional publishing, the only money actually entering the system still comes from readers. The investors money is not new money, it is an investment made in the hope of sharing in revenue from readers, which is just what a publisher does. The difference is that these investors don't provide any services for their cut. They do nothing to help the book become more successful.

As with a publisher, the author may make a little more money if the book is unsuccessful and they never earn out their advance. But if the book is successful, they will make less money because they are sharing their revenue with their investors.

The only think that the investors bring to the table is startup capital, and, like all VCs, they will want a big cut of the action. You use them if you have to. But if you can self-finance, you can make far more if your venture is successful and you don't have to give most of it to the VC.

But with VCs, they do at least bring some management expertise and business connection that can help business growth. I don't see what NFT investors can bring to the table to make a book more successful.

And since the success rate of books is so abysmal, I'm not sure how this looks like a wise investment, once the novelty and the speculative mania surrounding it has worn off.

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