nft book publishing
Image: Wild Sun Collective/Annibale Siconolfi

Meet The Sci-Fi Authors Trying to Democratize Book Publishing Through NFTs

Brothers Ehsan and Shakil Ahmad are selling their latest book alongside the digital art it inspired in an attempt to shake up book publishing.

A pair of science fiction authors, who also happen to be brothers, ventured bravely into the world of NFT publishing, combining the written word and visual art in hopes of creating a new paradigm for 21st-century authors and artists looking to break into this exciting and controversial new space.

“The freedom that NFT provides is similar in the way that you would describe the Renaissance occurring on the visual art side,” said eldest brother Ehsan Ahmad in an interview with The Debrief the day before the auction’s launch earlier this July, “meaning you’re getting rid of a ton of middlemen, making it so that the financial benefits and transactions can occur directly between the reader, and in this case, the authors.”

NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are specialized, encrypted digital tokens that can be verified as “authentic.” Any digital file, like an image, audio file, 3D rendering, or digital book, can be duplicated. However, when that digital file is “minted” as an NFT, that file becomes secured in a digital infrastructure called a “blockchain.” Even though copies can be made, the buyer of the NFT owns the original version of that file they purchased and can prove it.

In April, The Debrief reported that several intrepid authors were moving to the NFT marketplace to sell their books. One author told The Debrief that NFTs and cryptocurrencies are a brave new world. However, as the user base of this technology continues to grow, it is silly to overlook the potential opportunity such a digital landscape provides.

Based on their successful Wild Suns trilogy, (the first two novels are out, with the third due in 2022 or 2023), the 39-year-old Ehsan and his younger brother Shakil, 37, have partnered with established digital artists from around the globe to offer something entirely unique to both the NFT art and digital ebook publishing space.

“We took the backstory [for] one of the characters in book one, a principal character, one of the three [main] characters, and we wrote a backstory for him in novella form,” Ehsan told The Debrief. “And that is what we have. That’s the literary piece that we are turning into an NFT book, one of the first NFT books.”

However, unlike the handful of pioneering authors who have recently ventured into the NFT space, the brothers aren’t simply minting copies of their latest novella “Mindchanger,” but have also partnered with a diverse group of artists from all around the world to offer one of a kind digital artworks inspired by their series.

“It’s what we’re essentially calling immersive publishing,” said younger brother Shakil in the same interview. “Get all these artists together, create an immersive experience, not just on the art creation side, but also on the collectible side.”


nft book publishing
Wild Sun Prequel Novella “Mindchanger”


Born to Dream and the Rise of the NFT

For Shakil and Ehsan, growing up in a basement apartment in Queens, New York, provided a unique perspective on the world. Children of Pakistani immigrants, these first-generation Americans would often create their own fantasy worlds, escaping the struggle, racism, and poverty that surrounded them.

“The reason why we, I think, liked it [science fiction] so much was we can transport ourselves in a lot of ways into these worlds and really, truly escape into them,” Shakil told The Debrief. “Being kind of like a hybrid, like understanding things as a heightened version of an American. Seeing that side [their Pakistani heritage] of the world growing up, but [growing up] very much into an American, into an American way of life.”

As the young Ahmad brothers grew into professional young men working in the tech industry, they started to put these daydreams to better use, working in their spare time to create their science fiction worlds. At first, it was just a rough idea for a screenplay neither was sure they would ever get to write. Still, over time the list of characters and places grew, with entire histories, politics, and societies ultimately taking shape, causing the brothers to believe they might really be on to something.

“We got drunk enough to convince ourselves, which is [how] a lot of our brainstorming sessions [happen], to collaborate on a project that was actually a screenplay at the time,” said Shakil, recalling the genesis of the story that would eventually become the Wild Suns trilogy. “We started doing a lot of research on characters, and were very keen on making a character-driven story. Sure, we have a huge sci-fi [influenced] background, but most of the time for us, at least, what we liked about it the most was the character struggles.”

Before long, the brothers realized they had more than a screenplay, but instead a full-blown trio of epic stories just waiting to be told. Feeling inspired, they spent hundreds of hours researching history and perfecting the politics, societies, cultures, and lands, all while trying to bring their unique perspective to the story.


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“We just felt like a lot of science fiction really takes a Western bent on things,” Ehsan told The Debrief. “So we tapped into the Assyrians, or how Persia was founded, all the little civilizations, the warring clans, all those things, and power dynamics that played out, the characteristics of their tools, the minerals they use, things like that. We created our own sort of analogs, and really pulled from that rich history.”

In October of 2020, the first novel “Wild Sun: The Wild Sun Series Book One” was finally released and was even endorsed by Paul Mullie, the creator of the TV shows Dark Matter and Stargate SG-1.


nft book publishing
Ehsan and Shakil (Image: Uproar Publishing)


A Wider Path Unfolds

With a hit novel on their hands and the second novel on the way (it was released in February), the brothers started looking into the world of NFT art to see if there was a way to take their characters and stories in an entirely different direction. This led them to tech entrepreneur and future partner Matt John, a.k.a. “MJ Data,” who they say had already established himself in the NFT collectible space. The three men hit it off, and before long, the idea of the combined ebook and digital art NFT auction started to take shape.

“We needed someone to kind of light the path forward,” Ehsan explained, “and he [MJ] happens to come from a family of artists and collaborated on the digital art collector. So he gave us a roadmap.”

Still, to set their NFT promotion apart from the wide range of ebooks and blockchain art already flooding this nascent marketplace, the Ahmad brothers knew they would need something completely unique. And, they say, that is where MJ’s expertise and connections came in, sparking the idea of partnering with digital artists to create a completely unique set of works based on the characters in their stories.

“Matt’s been on sort of the ground floor of NFT’s back when it was really, it’s already pretty challenging to get involved, but much less so than originally where it was just finding its footing,” explained Shakil Ahmad. “He was basically supporting a lot of artists to make them move from commercial into NFT.”

Hoping to create synergy between the digital artists being recruited by their new partner and the Wild Sun stories, the brothers sent copies of their existing works to the various artists, then simply let them do their thing.

“What we did was we [reached out to these artists], we sent them the first novels, the treatment of the novella, and some backstory, and told them to create whatever they wanted,” said Shakil. “And believe it or not, by the time we started [writing the novella], we were already receiving some of the concept art.”

Within weeks, the project had taken on a life of its own, including a whole range of high-level NFT artists suddenly joining the effort.

“About 21 artists have created 30 art pieces that will be mostly ‘one-of-one’ collectibles,” Ehsan explained. “Our artists span across the globe. We have artists from Singapore, from India, from all over Europe, all over the United States, South America, and Brazil.”

Of course, the Ahmad brothers were quick to point out that even though the NFT market is still relatively new, the artists they were lucky enough to work with are in such high demand that they probably wouldn’t be able to put this same group together again.

“I think it’s fair to say that what we’re doing now, what we managed to pull off several months ago by getting these artists, wouldn’t be possible now.” Ehsan told the Debrief. “And I say that to mean that these artists have now absolutely exploded in the NFT community. They’re inundated with larger projects of NFT, so we came in at like the perfect timing.”


The NFT Auction Draws Near

When getting closer to their July 9th auction launch, the brothers said that they not only made a concerted effort to stay focused on generating a unique experience but on integrating the feelings of the artwork and the printed word from their series to create something of unique value to the would-be bidders.

“In the NFT space, there are projects that are labeled as just sort of gimmicks, you know what I mean?” Shakil told The Debrief. “Where they’re just kind of like very superficial and gimmicky, and they basically fail very fast because there’s nothing inherently inherent in them.”

To avoid that fate as well as add further value for both artist and collector, the brothers settled on a unique set of parameters for the big auction. First and foremost, the digital artworks created by the artists from around the globe would be priced to reflect their one-of-a-kind value.

“Our price ranges will be between two Ethereum, you know, like, five to six thousand [dollars], all the way up to 75 Ethereum, or, you know, between $180,000 and $200,000,” Shakil explained.

Second, and to them just as important, the brothers would mint a full run of 50,000 copies of the prequel novella, “Mindchanger,” meaning each one would be digitally recorded in the NFT blockchain, establishing permanent ownership for the purchasers of their own numbered edition.

“In addition to all the pieces, there will be the 1 to 50,000, which is just for your everyday reader that wants to come along,” Ehsam explained. “So, instead of going to Amazon, you’re gonna go to our OpenSea, you’re going to either download the JPEG, you’re gonna have to pay your Ethereum, your 20 bucks or 15 bucks, and then you’re going to get a download link to the EPL file where you can pop right into your Kindle. And there you go. And then you have the book.”

As an extra bonus to their digital artist partners, the Ahmad brothers are not only splitting the commissions for each piece of art sold but are giving away 2.5% of all future royalties paid on the novella as well, just to say thank you.

“Each of those artists will get 2.5% of any proceeds to the book itself, a way of saying thank you,” Ehsan said. “We [also] think it’s a way for them to have stability and engagement, [ongoing] involvement in the project.”

Another benefit to the artists, the brothers explained, is that their artists will continue to receive royalties as the artwork is resold in the future.




The Launch Happens, and The Future (Possibly) Begins

“At 5 pm EST on July 9th, 2021, the artwork on OpenSea and the first natively published NFT book, “Mindchanger,” went live,” Shakil Ahmad wrote in a July 16th email to The Debrief. “Within two hours, the first piece sold while we were on a planned live Discord chat with some of the artists, Matt John (producer), collectors and others interested in the project. We announced the sale during the chat, and everyone was so excited.”

In that same email, Shakil said that “the ‘Mindchanger’ [novella] has sold approximately two hundred copies, with commitment from a few other projects for bulk purchases and distribution.”

Then two days later, they sold their next piece of art.

“Matt had made clear when Archangel’s piece dropped that if no one scooped it up within 72 hours he would,” Shakil told The Debrief. “He did just that!”

With the auction still live and much of the art still available, the brothers say they know they are in for a long journey to see if their pioneering new method of combining ebook publishing and digital art as collectible NFTs will gain momentum.

“We are in the seeding phase now,” Shakil’s follow-up email explained, “meaning we need to grow the NFT reading audience as it is currently a highly visual space.”

Towards that end, Shakil indicated that ever since the auction went live, they have received significant interest from outside parties that want to take the entire endeavor to a much larger scale. However, he says, for now at least, those parties must remain anonymous.

According to Ehsan, they have also begun the process of reaching out to the handful of NFT digital art galleries that have recently popped up in New York, with hopes of bringing all of the participants in their adventure together.

“That will be part of an immersive experience, [where] we’re looking into actually flying in as many of the artists as possible,” he said, “and do an auction with those who work in the physical space as well.”

Near the end of the original interview, the enthusiastic brothers listed a whole range of opportunities they hope to explore in this marketplace, including adding music and physical art, along with an entire array of other unique elements to create the “immersive publishing experience” that is the driving force behind the whole project.

Of course, they also realize that wherever this first of its kind endeavor takes them, the nature of the space means they will be forever immortalized for taking those adventurous first steps toward bringing these artistic worlds together.

“The idea here is to be authentically first mover’s and that’s why we’re really prioritizing doing it right by the Wild Sun universe, creating something truly real world for engaged readers and folks who want to come in and imbibe it, rather than just sort of an opportunistic approach here,” older brother Ehsan told The Debrief. “No matter what happens, it’ll be over blockchain, and we’ll be recognized as those folks that did it first.”

Follow and connect with author Christopher Plain on Twitter: @plain_fiction

The Debrief is always looking for interesting stories surrounding cryptocurrency, blockchain technology, NFTs, VR, and future digital worlds. Send us a tip at