Things Authors Can Do With 3D Printers

Recently I spoke to some forward-thinking people at a conference and kept hearing about the same things again and again, the things they were most excited about:

  • How at-home 3D printers will change how we create and consume stuff.
  • How embedded sensors will change how we interact with the world around us.

Here is an explanation of a 3D printer is:

And nowadays, they are becoming smaller and more affordable (around $1,500), making them available for home use.

As for sensors, the idea is that when everything around you has a sensor in it, and you wear a sensor, then how you relate to your environment changes. I won’t get too into that now though.

SO! Let’s say you are an author, and you know that a good portion of your audience has a 3D printer at home. What could you offer them that connects readers to your work via their 3D printer? I am just throwing ideas at the wall here, and I am sure there are SO MANY cool ideas I am missing, so please add your comments in the thread below. Okay, how about…

  1. Printable bonuses. So the idea is that some of these things you receive instantly when you preorder a book, when you buy it normally, or through a promotional time period.
  2. Printable character action figures.
  3. Printable dioramas of scenes from the book.
  4. Printable key objects from the book – a pocketwatch, a hammer, a lunchbox, a pen, a magic wand, or the One Ring?
  5. Printable art books, pop up books, or interactive books. Can you literally print out a book that is not only physical pages, but a complex moving work of art?
  6. Printable embossed covers.
  7. Printable Kindle covers, with your book cover on it.
  8. Printable bust of the author themselves! (or key characters)
  9. Printable puzzles to solve, à la something you may find in The Da Vinci Code
  10. Contests – who can paint these 3d prints of our characters. So your audience would have to come up with custom paint designs from what you give them to print, and then they share their designs online.
  11. Printable t-shirts, jewelry, flip flops and other wearable items that have your characters/book emblazoned on them.
  12. For nonfiction books: instructional elements. Can biology books come with printable models for you to explore? Can a book about how to fix an engine come with a fully printable 3D engine?

As I consider this, I am wondering, what would Neil Gaiman do? Or John Green? How would authors who are intently engaged with their audience connect with them in a new way via 3D printers. How would you give your readers something that will occupy a physical space in their lives, beyond the book itself?

How would the types of things to print differ by genre or topic of book? For instance, what sorts of things would science fiction books all want to print (space ships, ray guns, futuristic technology) vs romance novels vs spy novels vs books for early readers?

Regardless of the answer… there is a whole new world opening up to creative professionals such as authors to interact with readers in new ways. Some of these elements could be a core part of the storytelling and reading experience, others could simply be souvenirs.

There are also the business models to consider… which of these things would be free, and which of the 3D files would cost $1 or $10 or $80? Will self-published authors jump into this space first, with 99 cent ebooks and $9.99 packages that include limited edition 3D files? Or will large publishers go nuts with their popular or franchised brands, turning an individual book into an entire product line?

Maybe 3D printing is still on the horizon, but I imagine that the early authors who leverage it will get A LOT of marketing value from it. Who will be the first to experiment, the first to earn $10,000 from 3D files related to their books?

Will that be you?

Please share your ideas below!

Rock Star Yearbook Photos: An Example of How We Each Create the Vision for Our Lives

As a writer, an artist, a creator of any sort – how do you choose the vision you have for yourself and create your legacy? I came across a compelling example of how some people did this – rock starts. The post my friend Judah shared showed yearbook photos of rock stars. In this video, I show you those photos, and discuss how each of these people had a responsibility to themselves to create the vision of the life they wanted to lead. Maybe your goal is not to become a heavy metal singer, but regardless, creating the life you want is up to you.

Here is the original post.

Why I Am Vlogging

Two weeks ago I began vlogging. What is a vlog? They are video blogs: short video updates on a topic, just as you would expect from a text blog.

I have considered doing this for a long time, and have been obsessed with YouTube for awhile now. I spend my days talking to writers and publishers, and I found that there were lots of little insights being shared in these conversations – nuggets that kept rattling around in my brain. Sure, maybe some of them will eventually come out in a blog post, but too many of them are lost as I move on to the next thing in my day. So I figured that quick vlogs would be a great way to capture and share these insights.

What held me back? It wasn’t technology, the tech is easy. It was the human stuff, things I had to “get over,” including:

  • Background: my home office is rather small, and it contains my LEGO collection. What? That’s right, I have always had an affinity for LEGO. You can imagine that when I first met my wife and found out that she graduated college with a degree in toy design, it was a match made in heaven.

    But still, I was concerned that having toys in the background would seem unprofessional, or would be “off brand,” for what I was creating with We Grow Media.

  • What I am wearing: I do not wake up everyday and iron my shirts. Maybe this is because I work from home. When I speak at events or meet with publishers, I wear a suit jacket and nice collared shirt. So there was concern that rumpled plaid shirts would make me seem unprofessional.
  • Hair and beard: Some days are just bad hair days. Some days I should trim up the stubble, but opt for other things. Do you know people who HATE having their photos taken? I am not one of those people, but like anyone, I can be self-critical about what is a good hair day, and what is a bad hair day. Truth be told, at 39, I am just thankful to have hair! 🙂

In the end, I just went for it, putting aside all of these little qualms that seemed important to no one but me. The reaction so far has been positive. The very things I was worried about are exactly the things people seem to appreciate – the unfiltered down to earth conversation that a vlog is meant to embody.

I will be sharing vlog updates nearly every day, sometimes twice a day. Please subscribe to me on YouTube if you have an account there. I will be cross posting many of the vlog updates here on this blog as well.

Here are some recent vlog updates to give you a sense of them:

When Everyone Has A Platform, Your Job Is To Create Meaning

With Greater Choice, You Have To Focus On High Quality

Why I Share My Cell Phone Number On My Website


With Greater Choice, You Have To Focus On High Quality

When your audience and customers have greater choice, you have to focus on differentiating yourself with higher quality.

I was reading a blog post by Jason Fry about his decision to no longer purchase comic books at his local store, and instead buy digital editions.

He makes good points about how much more competitive the marketplace is now for publishers and writers. And it aligns with attitudes that folks like Rachelle Gardner and Porter Anderson have been discussing.

Have a great day!