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The Great Debate: AI in Publishing

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)? AI makes it possible for machines and/or software to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs, and perform human-like tasks. You don't have to look far to find it. It's in the facial recognition software used to unlock your phone. Those auto-reply suggestions in your email? AI. Entertainment and social apps like Facebook and TikTok use it in their algorithms. Car manufacturers use a version of AI for self-driving cars.

The question then is if AI is so prevalent in our everyday lives, why is it so divisive when it comes to the publishing world?

Before you scroll away, please note that this isn't another argument for or against the use of AI. Trust me. I'm as sick of those as you are. I can't scroll my Facebook feed without stumbling across yet another post advocating the benefits or the evils of AI. There seems to be no middle ground. People are either avidly for it or rabidly against it.

Let's take a look at the various types of AI programs. According to Google, the 5 Best AI Writing Tools for Fiction are ChatGPT, Sudowrite, Claude, OpenAI Playground, and Verb. I am most familiar with ChatGPT because there is a free version. AI Art generators include Dall-E, Bing Image Creator, Midjourney, Canva, OpenArt, Deep Dream, etc. I'm not a graphic artist, and while I believe AI produces some truly beautiful cover art, it's not something I've played with. The newest group troubling the publishing waters is AI Voice Generators for producing Audiobooks. Several companies offer this service, including Google Voice and new to the market, Amazon.

Writers are using AI programs to do everything from outlining their books, brainstorming plot ideas, asking for help with sticky points in the storyline, and writing the entire story. The latter can be divided into two groups: those who have AI write them a story that they then rewrite and heavily edit, and those who feed AI their detailed outline, have AI write a story based upon it, and then edit the results.

People who use the AI Art generator tend to fall into two groups as well: those who feed AI text prompts until the software creates a usable image, and those who provide AI software with a base image and then use the text prompts to manipulate the image into something they can use. However, I'm not here to discuss the ethical, moral, or legalities of using AI as an author.

So, what's this about? Freedom of choice. Whether I agree with it or not, I'd argue in a heartbeat an individual's right to make decisions that best fit their business plan and profit margin. You want to use AI to write your sex scenes, action scenes, or even the entire book? Do you, boo. You've chosen to use AI narration to produce audiobooks to sell? If you like it, I love it.

For those foaming at the mouth right now saying it's unethical, that artists are being put out of work because of AI, and that you'll never support an author who uses such business practices? That's your choice, too.

What I don't like as a business owner (self-published authors are business owners) and an individual is someone telling me how to run my business. I don't like narrators getting on TikTok telling authors not to use AI narration and telling readers not to purchase the audiobooks of those who do. I don't like readers posting on social media that authors shouldn't use AI art generators to make cover art for their books, and if they do, telling everyone they know not to support said author's work. It's no one's business but the person what business decisions they make.

When I first began contracting narrators via ACX to make audiobooks, the highest payment tier was $200-$400 per recorded hour. The highest tier is now $400-$1000 per recorded hour. I know authors who pay $200 to a couple thousand dollars for book covers. Most authors do not see enough of a return on their investment (ROI) to justify this expense.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. You wouldn't call Coca-Cola, tell them their business practices suck, and that you'll no longer going to buy from them or allow your friends to do so. Or, maybe you would. What do I know? I'm Gen-X. I'm too busy trying to survive and thrive in this current economy to worry about a company's business practices. Unless that company is Amazon, and their business practices affect my bottom line.

Maybe I'm in the minority but I don't feel an author should have to justify or explain their decisions to anyone they aren't married to or in partnership with. Do I use AI, either to write, for narration, or for my cover art? As my momma would say, Noneya.

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