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I published a book under my name on Amazon this week. I haven’t read it, but it looks pretty good. I did spend a whole hour working on it.
AI did almost everything itself, including writing every word of the book’s 150 pages. It just doesn’t come with that sense of pride of becoming a published author.
It all started when my friend Jeremiah Owyang told me about this startup called Omniscience that publishes entire books based on prompts or other documents you upload. If you have an idea for what you want to say, you can do this in under five minutes, or just ask your AI platform of choice to wordsmith it for you.
I had to try it, using my FOAF.pro fraction-of-a-fractional CXO network as a test case. A half-hour after submitting the brief, Omniscience sent me links to the book in ePub (for Kindle publishing) and PDF formats, along with a cover image. The book was done.
Then, I published it. The Kindle process took a few minutes. Because I had to take this questionable idea a couple of steps further, I spent extra time creating paperback and hardcover editions. Claude generated the description.
So what didn’t AI do?
The original idea. I first ‘wrote’ a book on Omniscience called “Scaling Smarter: Agile and Adaptable Leadership in the Evolving Business Landscape.” Claude came up with that one, and I didn’t realize you couldn’t change anything once the book was delivered. I paid $20 (the price per book, after the first freebie) to try again. Worth it.
The title. Claude and ChatGPT came up with trite suggestions for the new edition. I stuck with the “FOAFing Around, Finding Out” phrase that has come up in various FOAF.pro materials.
The prompt itself. I borrowed those directly from FOAFer Jessica Robinson who led the project to build our marketing deck. The description of the book was an amalgamation of our elevator pitch, mission, and values.
The paperback and hardcover designs. Omniscience supplied an image for the cover, which worked fine for the Kindle. But print editions have a back cover, and a spine for that matter. Claude wrote the description based on my book. I used a bio and headshot I had handy. For the paperback, I used a Midjourney illustration that I had saved from some other project. For the hardcover, Amazon wanted a higher resolution photo, so I gave up trying to find one good enough from my AI stash and stuck with Amazon’s stock art.
Set the pricing. I made the prices as low as possible so I wouldn’t make more than a few cents per book. This isn’t a revenue stream. At best, it’s a marketing tool for FOAF. Or maybe I’m just that generous.
Write this column about it. I probably could have an AI-generated how-to guide, but you’d miss all these personal experiences.
So, should you become a published author this way and have AI write your book? Say you’re a client asking me this. Here’s how I’d respond:
The short answer:
The long answer:
As soon as I received the finished product and saw ‘my’ book published, it felt like the most terrible of terrible ideas.
There’s part of me that, as a marketer, loves what you can do with this. But that part of me is the same part that would tell a client to eat a Twinkie covered in fire ants if it would get them some press. Marketing is messy, and sometimes dirty.
The rest of me was thinking, “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” We’re on the fast track to the gates of hell, and it’s going to be bad for everyone.
We were already heading there in a handcart. As soon as ChatGPT gained steam less than a year ago, experts and apps were ready to help you publish a book using AI. But it was still a lot of work. ChatGPT and its peers wouldn’t spit out a whole book, however nicely you asked. And if you cared about what it was spitting out, you were spending all this time refining the content, tone, and style.
Now, it’s so easy that it feels worthless. And the bigger fear I have is that it will devalue the work that actual authors do.
Granted, for a book to make an impact, it has to be read by humans, not bots, and those people will have to get something out of the experience. This book might not be that bad, but it’s not something I’d want to read.
What if this gets worse though? I was able to set the Kindle price of the book for free as a promotion. Presumably, if I was unscrupulous, I’d have a bot farm ready to download the book en masse, and then have a large percentage of those readers write enough reviews to make it trending as a 4.5-star bestseller (it’d need some panning reviews for legitimacy). Then I could parlay that new status into a lucrative gig, like getting an advance on ‘my’ next book or raking in cushy speaking gigs.
For the record, I did none of that, and I won’t.
And also, if someone’s unscrupulous, they don’t need this tech to game the system and fake their way to the top. They could find other ways to shred any semblance of decency. Like, they could buy Twitter.
But the incentives align with doing more of this questionable behavior, not less. The phrase I wrote down immediately as I was outlining this column was “race to the bottom.”
This isn’t inevitable. Amazon can potentially flag books that are likely AI-generated and set limits for ‘authors’ uploading and promoting such works. The economics for companies flooding the zone with low-value content may prove to be inefficient. And it’s possible that most folks looking to use tools like these for more nefarious, manipulative purposes will find it easier to train email bots and stick to old-fashioned spamming and other ‘classic’ approaches to fraud.
I read books recently like Jared Belsky’s “You Get the Agency You Deserve” and Zain Raj’s “The Pyramid Puzzle,” along with the brilliant novel “The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store” by James McBride. I can feel the thought and effort and love that go into them.
And then I see how easy it is to call oneself a published author. Self-publishing brought a renaissance for independent writers to have a voice. But the democratization of publishing should, as a bare minimum, require the voices participating in a democracy to be human.
Would you use AI to write a book?
WHAT TO WATCH & READ:
Recent content shared by Serial Marketers and friends:
Rick Rubin & Malcolm Gladwell on “The Creative Act” | Broken Record by Broken Record Podcast
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HOW TO SHARE
Thanks to James Gardner, Cary Munk, Dan LaFontaine, Andre Archimbaud, Devin Brown, Justin Dank, Pauline Echols, Paul Robinson, James A. Gardner, Seth Girksy, and Michael Winter for spreading the word about the newsletter recently.
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(times EST unless otherwise specified)
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CONTENT MARKETING WORLD 2023
September 26-28, Washington D.C.
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PROPELIFY INNOVATION FESTIVAL
October 5, Hoboken, NJ
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AI FOR MARKETERS SUMMIT
November 14-16, Virtual
“Why AI for Marketers Summit needs to be your conference of the year. Here’s what you’ll experience at our marketing AI event. Hear from senior executives from cross-industry brands share how they’re investing in AI and how it’s transforming their marketing strategies. Gain practical knowledge and skills immediately applicable to your work, and get expert feedback to help refine your strategies. Determine how and when to capitalize on AI through hands-on workshops that identify real problems and potential use cases for AI in your work… etc”
Keep checking out the #jobs channel in Serial Marketers for more. You can also see our full list of job resources here. Here are some great opportunities shared in these places or sent to me directly.
Email Marketing Strategist
Full Time – Hybrid Role
“We are a demand generation agency committed to aiding SaaS and tech companies to scale online. We focus on strategic, data-driven solutions, designed to help our clients achieve their business goals. We are looking for a data-driven and creative Email Marketing Specialist to join our dynamic team. The ideal candidate must have experience crafting compelling copy and understand how to engage B2B SaaS audiences. If you use AI to write copy, that’s a bonus! This role is integral to our team, as you’ll work closely with sales and marketing teams to implement lead-scoring models that qualify contacts. You will drive our email marketing strategies and execution, ensuring that the messaging resonates with our clients’ target customers and leads to conversions.”
OCEAN RISK AND RESILIENCE ACTION ALLIANCE
“As the Communications Director, you will direct all aspects of the Alliance’s strategic communications and will have responsibility for overall messaging, brand positioning, project and member communications. Collaborating with cross-functional teams, industry experts, and stakeholders, you will work towards actionable solutions for building coastal and ocean resilience. Through your endeavours, you have the power to change millions of lives and help protect our world’s most valuable and vulnerable coastal ecosystems. We are looking for an individual who is seeking a new and exciting challenge and to build further on a successful career in communications. A wide variety of activities are necessary to keep communications running smoothly, upholding and enhancing the Alliance’s image and reputation with a wide range of stakeholders among the Alliance’s members and beyond…”
Digital Marketing Manager
Full Time – Hybrid Role
“Join Planhat on our mission to revolutionize Customer Success. We’re a fast-growing company with a platform loved by thousands of users worldwide. If you have a passion for data and digital marketing—with love for fast-paced environments—then you’re the perfect fit for our Digital Marketing Manager role. In this role, you’ll report directly to the Head of Marketing and play a pivotal part in our marketing strategy at Planhat. This is an excellent opportunity to join an experienced and global team in an expansive phase.”
Chief Marketing Officer
Via Ashleigh in the community
“Axis is seeking an experienced, driven, and collaborative Digital Marketing Professional that is called by God to support millions of parents in discipling millions of teenagers. Axis equips parents and teens to follow Jesus in a world of Social Media, Cultural Trends, Mental Health, Technology, & Gender. We want Jesus to be in the center of a family’s axis. This person will build and lead our marketing department to new levels of impact, especially since Axis made all of our resources free in Q1 2023. They will serve on the leadership team and develop and execute a strategy to see distribution increase 4x, engagement increase 6x, and general donations increase by 5x by the end of 2024.”
Also, check out the Serial Marketers job board
Other job resources (see a full list here):
Beeler.Tech: Job listings for ad operations, programmatic account management, sales operations, and more.
Braintrust: A freelance platform where you are the owner and where freelance talent keeps 100% of the bill rate.
Candidate: Featured marketing and sales jobs
ExecThread: Senior roles spanning a range of verticals and cities; membership is free but fully vetted (this uses my referral ID to get you in faster)
NYC Ad Jobs & Networking: A popular Facebook group
Questions to Ask for a Marketing Role: What questions should you ask when starting a new marketing role or job?
Serial Marketers Job Board: Post regular and featured listings and subscribe for updates.
Venwise: Submit your job interests here and get in front of their roster of hiring leads; select “Serial Marketers” under “How did you find us”
Do you run or enjoy other job listing sites? Let me know, and I’ll share them.
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