AI for Authors Update: Advanced Self-Publishing Podcast With Orna Ross and Joanna Penn

In this month’s Advanced Self-Publishing Podcast, ALLi Director Orna Ross and Enterprise Adviser Joanna Penn give an update on AI for authors. Generative AI is improving rapidly, almost day by day, giving authors unprecedented assistance in writing and publishing books. Orna and Joanna give an overview of recent advances in generative AI for words, images, and audio, including Alliance of Independent Authors guidelines on copyright and ethical usage and how to use AI tools to improve quality and output.

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Show Notes

About the Hosts

Joanna Penn writes nonfiction for authors and is an award-nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author as J.F.Penn. She’s also an award-winning podcaster, creative entrepreneur, and international professional speaker.

Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website:

Read the Transcripts: AI for Authors

Joanna Penn: Hello everyone and welcome to the Alliance of Independent Authors Advanced Self-Publishing Salon with me, Joanna Penn, and Orna Ross. Hi Orna.

Orna Ross: Hi Jo. Hello everyone.

Joanna Penn: Hello. Today we have an update on AI for authors and we will be getting into that topic soon, but as ever, we are authors too, and also, we give some updates at the beginning of the show.

What’s new at ALLi?

So first up, Orna, give us an update on ALLi.

Orna Ross: Yeah, so busy month at ALLi. We had our new tranche, we’re finished with data now, finished with data analysis for a while, but we, as regular listeners will know and as our lots of members will know, a while ago we did a research survey around income among our members and the wider community, and from that research we did an initial report, which was presented at the London Book Fair. We then put that report out for a secondary round of analysis with Create, here in Scotland. The first report was analysed by SKS and The Future of Publishing in the US. So, we got a second round of analysis, which we presented at Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing Show last week, where you were and where I was too.

We also, at that show, launched the Big Indie Author Data Drop, which is a collation of the most interesting data from around the community. All of this can be found at The three reports are there; the initial survey report, the Big Indie Author Data Drop report, and the Create report.

So, there is lots and lots of information there. We are currently working through our analysis of the analysis to pull out what we hope will be advice really coming out of this, focusing very much on what are the factors that helped authors to have more income, and preparing then to do this as a regular ALLi thing to do.

It was very well received, most people in the community are really delighted to have some data there that they can bounce off, and very often it’s about seeing something that’s there and maybe thinking something different and having discussions and dialogue and all of that.

So, there were a few people who weren’t happy at all because the findings were not what they wanted them to be, but it’s independent, there’s nothing we can do about that. So yeah, that’s been really taking up a lot of our time at ALLi. I’d like to give a shout out to Melissa, our campaigns manager, who was really fantastic in terms of pulling all of this together, particularly the Big Indie Author Data Drop, which was her idea, but also her help on all of the reports and getting the word out to the press.

It’s been picked up in lots of places, and I think it’s really good as well, aside from what we can learn from it as a community, it also has been very good in terms of taking the community out to the wider world because a lot of people, we kind of suspected the findings we found, that indie authors earn more and that indie author income is rising, we expected that kind of outcome and hoped for that kind of outcome, but it has come as a big shock to a lot of people and a big surprise to people outside the community. So, I think that’s the other value that it has. It says to people, hey, we’re here and hey, look what’s going on.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, that’s fantastic.

So, I am right now editing my next novel, Catacomb, which is a standalone horror novella. I’ll be sending that to my editor this week, so that’s been keeping me all consumed. Also, I’m doing a series of paid webinars for my community on AI. So, that overlaps with this session, but been very pleased by how positive the response has been, a lot of people wanting to learn about this stuff. Also, you know how this is, when we prepare to teach something, we go into a lot of things, and so I’ve been learning a lot more as well and playing with a whole load of tools. So, we’ll be talking about that in a minute.

But what about you, how’s Orna Ross doing?

Orna Ross: Orna Ross, the writer. Yeah. So, juggling non-fiction and fiction at the moment, which is fun, but the non-fiction’s gone to the editor, so a little break on that front. We were just doing an update on our right’s book and welcoming aboard a new right’s partner member, Drop Cap, who I know you’ve done some work with as well, and with them on board and with Ethan Ellenberg, our literary agent and various other people, there’s been quite a change in the licensing arena since we did the last right’s books, so good to have that up and out there.

Then I’ve been working away on my fiction whenever I can. A Life Before, which is my prequel to Her Secret Rose, a book I brought out some years ago, working away on that, and have to have it ready for the editor in August. So, the pressure is on, but I really am enjoying writing fiction, and to the point of today’s show, enjoying using some AI tools to help me along with that, which is lightening my load as a historical novelist quite a bit.

Joanna Penn: Just on that licensing book, the right’s book, when can members expect to be able to download that book and also for it to be available more widely?

Orna Ross: So, it’s with the editor at the moment. I would say within four weeks we should have it up and out there. There won’t be a massive launch. We will of course, tell members about it and the new one will go up on in the shop, but we’re end of June now, it should be there by the end of July.

Joanna Penn: Fantastic, because as ever, that’s really important, and we all self-publish something, but we also like to license rights for other things too.

So, let’s get into the topic for today, which is an update on AI for authors. Now, you and I have done sessions on this. I talk about this every week on the Creative Penn Podcast, and today we’re going to give a kind of, overview specifically for the Alliance of Independent Authors audience.

So first up, Orna, you and I, we talk to a lot of people, there’s a lot of conflicting feelings. So, what is the kind of attitude that we can go into this with?

Orna Ross: Yeah, one of my favourite quotes of all time, and I know you’ve quoted this a lot in relation to AI in particular, is Walt Whitman from Song of Myself, “Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)”

With regard to AI, you are allowed to both be concerned about the implications and also excited as an artist to try it out. So, we posed, which we’ll be talking about a little bit later in the show, but we posed three key questions to our members about AI and got a lot of responses to that.

One of the most interesting responses we got was from the people who are really against it, but have never tried it, and they all just went into one pile at the side because, to be honest, if you’re talking about something you haven’t tried, then you don’t know what you’re talking about, and I think that’s the most important thing.

What AI tools are available for authors?

Joanna Penn: Yeah, exactly, and the thing is, it is easy to try these things, and it will only take not very long, and I think that’s important. So, I’m going to give a quick overview of what’s available right now in terms of the various AI tools that authors are using.

So, in terms of writing, plotting, help with marketing text, the big one is ChatGPT and there’s a free version. The paid version, GPT-4, is the more powerful version, and certainly we found that it is worth paying for in terms of using because it’s just so much better.

Also, Claude has a different personality, if we say that, which you can access through, and that is essentially, it’s a different model, it has different functionality.

The other one for fiction specifically is, and that uses ChatGPT, the GPT-4, and Claude, and some other models to create the skin over this stuff.

So, many of the tools that you’ll use, so for example, Grammarly and ProWritingAid, they also utilize these generative AI tools in their software. So, when you see adverts for different tools and new offerings and new apps, they are mostly just skins over the top of these base models. So, we’re suggesting that you even just go to and try the free version just to give it a go.

Now a lot of people say, oh, but it makes stuff up, and first of all, yes, it’s a creative partner, which is why we actually really enjoy it, but if you do want it to be connected to the internet, then you can use Bing Chat. So, that’s free, you can use the Microsoft Edge Brow browser, go to Bing Chat. You can use Google Bard and also ChatGPT, the paid version now has browsing. It also has plugins, there’s a thousand different plugins, which are like apps you can use with ChatGPT. So, say you want WolframAlpha, which is a mathematical plugin, or you can get a travel plugin, or you can get, query my PDF plugin.

So, there’s all these different ways of using the tools that make them more correct, if you want to do that.

So, for images many of us, including myself, love MidJourney. At the moment, you have to use it through Discord, and again, there’s a lot of language coming at you right now. I mean, I understand that. It’s like with self-publishing, there’s so much language and different sites. So, I guess we’ll have-

Orna Ross: Jargon, and terminology, and services.

Joanna Penn: All of those things. So, we’ll probably have some links in the show notes where you can have a look at these things, but I guess it is important to get to know the language because there is so much misinformation.

So yes, MidJourney is great. They will have their own app soon, so that will be very useful.

But Adobe Firefly is the one, many cover designers use Photoshop, and Firefly is Adobe’s own generative model, and you can design stuff in there.

Damonza, who is a fantastic designer, has a whole load of articles on why he, as a cover designer, is now using these tools, and what’s exciting is even Adobe is indemnifying clients who use Firefly from any copyright infringement issues because they’re so confident that their model is fine. So, if you are worried about this, then Adobe Firefly is the one to look at.

Then in terms of audiobook narration, and again both of us view this as not replacing human narrators, but existing alongside narrators. So, we see a stratification of audiobook rights where you might have a human narrated version and an AI, like I do, I have both of these and I’m a narrator.

But yes, in terms of audio narration, we’ve got the free Google Play Books option, which if you publish wide with your eBooks, you can use the Google Play for free.

ElevenLabs is the one that many authors are now trying out and thinking is pretty good, and they’ve just signed a deal with StoryTel, who are a big audiobook publisher, for voice switching, which I’m excited about, because I’ve said this for years, we should be able to choose a voice when we are listening to an audiobook. So, they’ve just done that partnership.

Then in terms of translation, is still the most recommended tool, and that utilizes AI, but people are also using ChatGPT for shorter texts.

So, then I just wanted to add that what’s coming is AI in everything. So, in the next few months, Microsoft365, so if you use Microsoft Online, will be putting generative AI in MS Word.

I just got access to Google Docs with generative AI. Again, that will just be part of the software. It’s coming to Gmail. It’s coming to everything. So, this will be incorporated in pretty much all the tools we use within the next couple of months.

I have already published a short story, I published With a Demon’s Eye earlier this year where I used SudoWrite, I used MidJourney, and that has gone completely fine.

So, that’s a kind of overview, bit of a whistle stop tour.

Orna, what are you using and any thoughts on that?

Orna Ross: Yeah, thoughts first. I think it’s important to say that is a whizz through some of the key services and options for different formats and everything, and there is no requirement to do all of those things, that is just a look across the entire ecosystem.

We’re also aware that SudoWrite, in particular, caused a lot of fear, I suppose, quite recently in the community when they introduced the, create an entire book.

Joanna Penn: Story Engine. It’s super fun.

Orna Ross: Story Engine, thank you, I forget all the names, but the feeling that it generated in one part of the author community. So, one part was saying, yay, fantastic, cannot wait to try, and at the other end of the spectrum, and we welcome all responses by the way, to AI and the Alliance of Independent Authors, as we welcome all responses to everything; we’re a broad church, and the broader the better as far as we’re concerned. But yes, there was a lot of, kind of, fear and concern, and I think we need to keep having those conversations, but we also need to again, recognize that some of the people who are most concerned are those who are assuming that plagiarism is involved here, and that is an extremely weak argument because, if you’re talking about plagiarism, you have to have an infringement. You have to show what has been plagiarized, and it simply doesn’t wash in this case.

So, if we’re going to argue against something like that, our arguments need to be better, our arguments need to be more informed.

So yeah, in terms of me, myself, as you know, I was blown away by ChatGPT when I finally got around to trying it, after you.

Joanna Penn: I press ganged you into it.

Orna Ross: Just try it, about five times. So, eventually I did it, and then I went, oh, why didn’t you tell me?

So, it’s amazing. I’m using it in all sorts of ways as a, I see it as a crazy, always on, creative writing partner. 90% of what I get is not useful, but about 10% of what I get from it is useful, and then I work with that and so on.

You mentioned translations. I’m actually doing a dual bilingual Irish and English book of poetry, about Irish mythologies past and present. So, I’m using ChatGPT, my school Irish, and Google Translate, and obviously a good editor who writes poetry in Irish. Between the four of us, I’m doing something that I could never do and never would do if it didn’t exist.

So, that’s just an example, and I think that’s the most important thing, when you hear that long list, you go, oh my word. I do, I have to say, when I hear a long list of things to do, services to try, tech, all of that. Something inside me dies a little, and I always need to work with that part of myself, and we talked about multitudes, one part of me has to bring that other part, hold her hand and bring her along. But it’s always worth it, and I think the important thing is to find what it can do for you.

So, not all of you out there are going to be writing dual language poetry books, I know, but I’m sure that there’s something that some of these tools can do for you, and it’s really exciting when you jump aboard.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, I think that’s important, and yeah, I just wanted to give a sort of list.

The other thing is, I think it is important to remember that things have been quite static in the author community for quite a long time, and we are in a period of change, and so at least understanding that there are other things now coming around and hearing some of the words is important, because it feels a whole new suite of tools is arriving, and to be aware of them is good. Even if you don’t want to try them now, then maybe you will be in the next six months.

Orna Ross: It’s super important to know that it’s happening, and I think it’s very important to realize that we are in a period of transition, of big transition and big change. Some of us feel like we’ve just landed in a steady sort of place. Some of us are very excited by change and delighted to see this shake up, but for those of us who feel like we’ve just got to grips with whatnot and the last thing we need is change, unfortunately we are in a period of major change coming. So, that is something we need to, if we want to stay here and write and publish books, that’s something we’re going to have to recognize is an actual fact. It’s non-negotiable.

What are the copyright concerns around AI for authors?

Joanna Penn: Yep. So, some things will hopefully stay the same, and I guess one of the things that is being discussed a lot is copyright, which underpins a lot of what we do as authors. Now, there is a lot of stuff that’s up in the air. There’s a lot of things to think about in terms of both the input, the training of the models, and also the output, who owns the copyright of work that is co-created with AI, and as ever, there’s no black and white.

So, do you want to give us a bit of an overview on your thoughts around this? Obviously, we are not lawyers, and all of the other legal stuff, but give us your thoughts.

Orna Ross: Yes, all of the usual caveats apply, but from where we are sitting at the moment, on the input side, it seems to us that there are three options. So, there are legal cases going through the courts in various jurisdictions, most notably the US, and until we have the outcome from those, we don’t have a clue what’s going on.

The second thing that complicates matters is, we were talking about this earlier, when it was all on the internet and it was all hypothetical, it was global and it was universal, but now, the legal comes in and then it becomes jurisdiction limited. So, it’s going to depend on where you live, and different parts of the world have already existing different copyright law in relation to AI, and with some their copyright law doesn’t mention anything to do with anything like this whatsoever.

But anyway, as far as the options are concerned, we use the existing law, and that would mean that all data used to train the AI system must either be originally in the public domain or licensed through the existing licensing formats that we have or a new license.

A second one is that an extended licensing or exemption will be created for AI-created works. So, that would be expansion, in some way, of the fair use or the fair dealing doctrine, and that’s what’s being currently looked at in many of the court cases.

Thirdly, there is the option of maybe a data commons, which will be similar to a creative common’s kind of approach, a more collaborative route, and this is something that we would like to see more generally, that there will be some collaboration between the tech companies who are creating all these services and the creators whose work the services are being built on. So, that’s on the input side.

Then on the output side, all output generated by an AI could be attributed to the owner or the human operator of the AI system. So, that will be kind of like how the photographer gets credited for the photo, and the camera doesn’t get credited. So, in other words, copyright can only be granted to human-created work.

Secondly, the AI itself could be legally defined as a creator, and then we would need a new legal framework to account for non-human creators of intellectual property.

Thirdly, we could have a whole new category of AI-generated work with its own set of rules for ownership, and licensing, and infringement. That seems to me, those three kinds of options on either side seem to cover all the options. We don’t know what people are going to come out with.

Now that we’ve done our survey of our member base, we have a good idea of where we’re going to come down in terms of recommendations, both for authors and for what we’d like to see happen within the community.

Should authors wait for new copyright laws before using AI?

Joanna Penn: Yeah, but I guess the big question that everyone has, I’ve heard a lot of authors say, until this is all sorted out, we can’t use anything. So, what are your thoughts on that?

Orna Ross: No, I don’t agree with that. I really don’t. I think it’s very much that you can’t talk about this or get properly involved in the conversation until you use these tools and see what they do, and how you use them, and how they behave, because until you use it, you’re full of opinion. When you use it, then you’ve got practical experience to draw on, and then we can have meaningful conversations.

If we’re just talking from a position of not having used the tools, then we’re talking generally speaking from a position of fear because there is nothing else that can be going on there. And as we said, we need to have lots of different emotions about this, but mostly we need to approach it as creators, and standing up for our own creative community while also advancing what’s good for readers and what’s good for humanity generally. So, there’s a lot to balance here and a lot to think about.

And as usual, you make these decisions as an individual and as a person, but one of the things that I have found a little bit disturbing in the author community is people who are using AI and pretending they’re not, and boasting to each other about getting it past their editor, the editor didn’t notice, getting it out on Amazon and nobody got caught.

It’s really important, I think, that we are honest about the fact that we’re using these tools and we’re open about how we’re using them. Transparency and clarity, there’s nothing to be ashamed of here if we are using them as creators, as writers, as creators in whatever capacity we might be using them.

So, we can talk about it. So, I will talk about the fact that I produced a poetry book with AI-illustration and that book is now for sale and it’s there. Could I have not mentioned the fact that they were AI generated illustrations? I could have, but why wouldn’t I?

So, once there’s a law in place, then we don’t break the law. It’s easy. When there isn’t a law in place, we have to rely on our own ethics, and honesty, transparency, clarity, openness; these are not just ethical values, they’re creative values. Being honest and true about what we do and about life, that’s what an artist does, that’s what we exist to do. So, pretending around this stuff is not a good place to stand.

Joanna Penn: No, and I mean obviously, I’ve been quite open about this for years now, but I think the other thing is, and I’ve proposed this AI-assisted artisan author approach, which is we use these things as tools and we care about our readers, we care about our output, we care about our creative ideas, and we’re just using this as a tool.

The thing I find disturbing is the binary idea that it’s either a hundred percent human or a hundred percent AI, and you and I both know, and this is why people have to try it, it is not a hundred percent either way. I might be chatting about an idea and then it might feed an idea back to me and I’m like, oh, that’s cool, and then I’ll go down a rabbit hole and then I’ll do research, and then I start writing and then we go editing, and then we work with an editor. I mean, where is a hundred percent human, even before AI? There’s so many of these influences that come up for us.

So, I think any sort of organization that tries to say, if it’s over 50% AI, then it’s not allowed or whatever, I just can’t see how we can do that.

In editing Catacomb at the moment, there are some lines where I’m like, did I write that or did ChatGPT write that? I really can’t tell the difference because of the way that we’ve co-created this, and I feel again, like you said that being honest about it, being transparent about it is important.

Like back in 2007 when I’m proud to be an indie author, I’m proud to be an AI-assisted artisan author and an independent author, because yeah, I mean, I want to play with this stuff.

Orna Ross: Also, because I believe that my novel will be far better because that was there, because it was able to do some of the grunt work for me and some of the things that I found particularly difficult and time consuming and laborious.

Again, when you use it, you see that the one thing it finds easiest to do, which is just spit out words, is the hardest thing for me. First draft, scraping up that stuff. I’m never, ever happy with the first draft. I just write the shitty first draft that everybody talks about having to write, and then writing for me is rewriting.

So, I get this, I ignore most of it, take some of it across, and then I can begin the drafting process, or mix it in, obviously with my own shitty first draft, and the two get mashed together in all sorts of interesting ways, and then get edited. It means that I can bring my overall view in terms of the outlining, all that sort of stuff, where things go, organizing the shape of the text, all of that becomes so much easier.

So, why wouldn’t you use a tool that allows your artistry to be foregrounded? I think we will see an absolute flourishing of the literary arts because of AI- generated texts. I think we already are.

Are there people who are just pressing a button, producing something and slapping it out there? Absolutely. But people are doing all sorts of crazy things, that is not the typical thing and that’s not what people like us need to even be thinking about. All those things are going on in different ways on Amazon anyway. There are sweat shops full of writers being paid absolutely nothing to produce stuff for people, and all sorts of awful things are going on, and they’re not right, and we will speak out against those things, but speaking out against that doesn’t mean that you’re speaking out against the whole thing.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, and I actually like, the US Copyright Office put out some guidance around policy, basically saying that it’s about human authorship and they actually say, this policy does not mean that technological tools cannot be part of the creative process, authors have long used such tools. So, what they really say is, is there enough human authorship?

So, this collaborative process, definitely, but with MidJourney, with the images I create, I don’t claim to have any copyright over my MidJourney images because they are a one-click output and I use them in social media, I give them to Jane for my covers to make composite covers and all that kind of thing. But it is a very different process to do one-click output and there’s a finished product to the incredibly intensive back and forwards that I do with my writing.

So, I feel like this idea of human authorship is what we need to remember, but authorship doesn’t necessarily mean generating a ton of words. So, it’s interesting to wrestle with these ideas.

What is ALLi’s stance on authors using AI?

Joanna Penn: So, tell us a bit more about how you think the community is taking this, in terms of the ALLi response, and how people can maybe move forward depending on where they’re sitting.

Orna Ross: Yeah, so I think back to that idea of human authorship. On the input side, that also rears its head, obviously, and there is a question about whether infringement happened, and I think without a doubt, it did. It did happen, and that the AI creators, there is something to be answered there and that’s why we’re having these legal battles.

So, we asked our membership three key questions. What is your stance on how the data was collected for these models, as far as you’re concerned was it copyright infringement?

Secondly, should we accept the harvesting of that data without attribution or consent as a fait accompli now? In other words, it happened, or should we look for some kind of compensation?

And three, what is the best way to encourage the growth of author agency and income in this era of generative AI?

So, we got, as we expected, every kind of response to those three questions. Some of the key points that I’d like to highlight, because I can’t touch on everything, is that the majority of our members did feel that infringement had happened and did feel that creators need to be credited and compensated.

And this idea, should we accept it as a fait accompli? It isn’t a fait accompli because obviously it’s not over, and the models would very quickly be out of date if they just stopped in September 2021, or whenever it was the last training happened on ChatGPT and didn’t continue to update.

So, the models are being trained on work by human authors and human creators. So, that is at least a conversation now that needs to happen. So, how does that happen?

And I just liked this comment by one of our members, “if we accept data harvesting as a fait accompli, we give away the only thing we own in this business, our intellectual property.” that was Michelle Diner.

We own other things. We, as intellectual property owners, we create all sorts of assets built on our copyright, but copyright is really important, but it’s also very imperfect. So, it’s back to that idea of, we contain multitudes; we can both accept it as an imperfect institution and as an imperfect system, while at the same time recognizing that in countries where there is no copyright, it’s very difficult for authors to make a living.

Joanna Penn: Can we just say on this potential outcome, just to reiterate, this is as you’ve said, a fight between big tech and big content. So, I think there’ll be some big fines which will be paid out, but I think they will be paid out to big content owners. So for example, and I’m not saying these are the people that will happen to, but if you are the New York Times or if you are Penguin Random House, or if you can prove that the model has X-percent of your data in it, then I think those people might get a pay-out, but my data will be .0 whatever, and it’s probably more than most authors because I’ve been on the internet for 15 years posting, blogging, podcasting, like you as well. But it will be so small that I certainly don’t expect a pay-out.

So, I think that’s important to say too. I don’t think it’s going to be like, oh, there’ll be a pay-out for all content producers in the future. I mean, that surely won’t be happening.

Orna Ross: No, I don’t think anybody thinks that will be happening, and when we talk about credit and compensation, it’s more about that crediting, I think, and the fact that it is acknowledged.

So, there may be a role for example, for some of the collection societies here, whereby somebody like ALCS, the Authors Lending and Collection Society, they collect money at the moment for secondary uses of books, and they’ve paid out over £650 million to writers since 1977. Has it made anybody rich? It most certainly has not, but do we like when our little ALCS pot drops into the bank account. Yes, you do, because it feels somebody cares that your work is being used, collected, lent, whatever. Similar with public lending, right?

Now, ALCS was set up by authors for authors back in 1977. People said there was no way it will be possible to get money to authors from all these different places, photocopying agencies, and libraries, and so on, but they did, and they do, and it’s important to authors.

It’s more about that moral right of copyright that says you are the author. That then allows you to go off and build your community and create all your things around it. You know you’ve got the legal protection within law. It’s not that you’re going to be bringing anybody to court today or tomorrow. As you say, these big fights happen up here, but the fact that it exists allows things to happen in a way that where it doesn’t exist, they can’t happen.

So, there is a precedent here for licensing, and I really believe that author associations should get together with a proper understanding of the tools and how to use them. There’s a bit of a problem there, because some of the author associations don’t understand, and it always surprises me that so many author associations aren’t run by authors, they’re run by people who don’t write and don’t publish.

Joanna Penn: Who run organizations.

But just on this licensing, the big foundation models they’re called, which are the ones like you mentioned, like GPT-3 and 4 and LLaMA, and all these different models, they are foundation models, but the future is fine-tuned models based on smaller data sets. It doesn’t take the whole internet to train a fine-tuned model.

So, I see a future in licensing, in terms, and which we’ve talked about for years, and I put it in my 2020 book, we should have this way of licensing so that if people want to fine-tune a model for action/adventure thrillers, or even with self-published author data, that there can be a data set that we can get paid for, that then can be used to fine tune a model. So, I actually see that the future of licensing is more important than the past, and that we need to set up things so that we do open up our data to be officially licensed in the same way that if we publish wide and we put our books out there everywhere, they’re less likely to be pirated because they’re already out there.

So, I’m quite passionate about that and why we need to put clauses around, yeah, I’m happy to license my data, just come and pay for it.

Orna Ross: 100%, and I think that is the majority, certainly looking at the responses that we got from our members, that is the majority view in our community.

How can authors use AI ethically?

Joanna Penn: Right. So, we’re almost out of time. Should we talk about how can people use the tools ethically, or is there anything else you want to talk about?

Orna Ross: Yeah, I think it’s important to, again, to say that, yeah, we’ll talk about the ethical use of tools. I think it’s really important to say that it is possible, very possible, to use AI ethically, and any author who judges you or makes you feel bad about that, you challenge them and don’t hide, don’t allow yourself to be brow beaten into not using something that might be of value for you.

There are guidelines for authors on, and that was update. Sorry, it’s the audio link, We updated it earlier this year. We’re doing another update now in the wake of the changes that have happened already in just six months, and also in terms of our member feedback.

But are there some tips and things that you could maybe offer to authors when they’re actually using it?

Joanna Penn: My biggest one, and the one I say is, to me, the only non-negotiable thing is do not use other people’s names in your prompt. So, with writing, don’t say, write this like Stephen King, or write this like Nora Roberts, or write this like Orna Ross. Don’t do that. You don’t have to.

You can train these models. You can put a paragraph of your own writing into ChatGPT and say, tell me about this style, and then carry on writing in that style. You can be very specific about styles.

The same with visual art. Don’t use artists’ names in your prompt. Don’t use photographer names. Don’t use National Geographic or don’t use Pixar. These are all people’s IP, and even though most of these things, we don’t expect you to be able to accidentally plagiarize because of the way the machines work, it’s very unlikely, but at the end of the day, this is the ethical decision that we are making, which is, we are the creator we want to create like ourselves. So, we don’t want it to write in the style of Stephen King or whatever, and even though, as new writers, that may be how we feel we want to be, the most important thing is to find your own voice and to find your own style, and these tools can actually help you do that, which is very cool. So, that’s probably my main, that must happen.

What about you?

Orna Ross: Yeah, I think, do see it as a tool. Bring all your writing faculties to it. Check the facts. It tells you itself, it’s not reliable, and daft things emerge without a doubt. So, always check your facts and edit to your own voice. I think that’s the single most important thing.

It takes a little bit of working with it in terms of knowing how to prompt and learning how to prompt, and learning how to prompt, that’s what your course is about really, isn’t it? It’s about working with the tool and prompting it properly. Do you want to say a little a bit, are you doing more of those?

Joanna Penn: My webinars are done by the time this goes out, I’ve been doing some live webinars, but there’s loads on YouTube. I would also recommend people use the Facebook groups, AI Writing for Authors and AI Art for Authors. There’s almost 3000 people now in the AI Writing for Authors group and a good number in the AI Art as well, and it’s full of people sharing how they’re using the tools, how they’re using the prompts, and these are AI-positive communities, or at least AI-curious we call it, where people are really just open to trying new things, and I think that’s the most important thing.

So, let’s be patient with each other, I guess that’s the other thing, and accepting other people’s muse.

Orna Ross: Yes, kind to each other. We can have the debates and the discussions, and there sure are debates and discussions to be had here, and we should be having them, but let’s have them with kindness and tolerance.

Why should authors care about AI?

Joanna Penn: Yeah, and I guess as we come to an end, Orna, someone has said to me, Joanna, you are always ahead of things and sometimes you get all excited about stuff and then it doesn’t happen. So, persuade me. This person literally said, persuade me that this isn’t hype over nothing. Why is this actually happening and why should we pay attention now or is this just something that you are excited about because you’re early on stuff.

So, I would like to put that to you, Orna Ross, nothing to do with me, why should authors actually care about this now? Should they just now stay on the fence or wait? Why are you convinced that this is important?

Orna Ross: It’s the same thing as when authors 10 years ago said, why is self-publishing important? And my answer used to be, it’s not just another route to market, it changes everything.

So, I don’t think AI changes everything in our world, I don’t think it changes everything, but I do think it is the most interesting tool to have emerged ever, and I’m including in that the internet, and of course it’s built on that, but I’m including in that really big things like word processing, which, I began on a typewriter, so I know what that was like.

It’s a huge advance in our world and not being involved, not knowing, you’re only holding back. You will be there; it’s being used everywhere. It’s happening under you, whether you’re aware of it or not. So, this is this incredible tool which can make you a better writer, which can speed up your productivity, which can teach you a lot.

You mentioned earlier about what it can teach you about your own voice, about your own way of doing things.

I’ve been in this business since I was in my early twenties, which is not today or yesterday, and I have learned more in the last few months about what I do, why I do it, how I do it, than nearly in all the time up to that. It’s a huge game changer. So, why would you hold yourself back from a huge game changer in your own arena? Why would you not be interested? There’s only one reason, and that is fear, and fear usually dissipates in doing. Fear is always in the thinking mind, it’s never in the doing hands and hearts.

So, getting stuck in, and then you can decide, you know what, this is not for me. We have a comment here from Kurtz, I don’t want to rely on it. And that’s great, that’s fine. If you decide having tried it that you don’t want to rely on it, or that you would become reliant on it, or that it would be too tempting for you to just press buttons or something, that’s 100% fine.

But no, this isn’t one of those things that’s just going to come and go. This is here and it’s here to stay.

Joanna Penn: There we go. You heard it from Orna. That’s great, I might even take that quote and play it on my show, because I’m just having these emails like, oh, you are always so excited about this stuff, and I’m like, no, here’s Orna.

Orna Ross: Yeah, here’s the tech-useless person, and she’s excited.

Joanna Penn: She’s excited, so you must be. No, but that’s fantastic.

Right, so we’ll put links in the notes to the AI for Authors guidelines and a lot of the stuff we talked about.

But next month we are talking about making changes in your author business in a changing world, because as we talked about, we are making a lot of changes and a lot keeps changing, but Orna and I change our processes too. Just like what you just said, I’m changing my creative process too. I have tried so many courses on plotting. I have tried to understand so much about writing story that I can now understand because of Chat and Claude, and all of this stuff. I’m like, oh my goodness, it’s such a great teacher.

So yes, I’m changing my creative processes and my business processes, and we are going to talk about that next month. So yeah, tune in.

But until then, what else is happening? Anything people need to know?

Orna Ross: No, not that I can think of off the top of my head. Do visit and have a look at those reports. I think you’ll find them interesting, and there should be something in there for you. That’s it really for now.

Joanna Penn: Right. Okay. Happy writing,

Orna Ross: and happy publishing. Bye-Bye. See you next time.


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