KWE Publishing Newsletter - 09/07/23
If you've been subscribed to our newsletter for a little while, you know we've talked about artificial intelligence (AI) quite a bit. AI can be a wonderful tool for authors, but there are undoubtedly downsides to using AI, too.
As technology changes, that unfortunately means new scams and problems will, too. Recently, author and publishing expert Jane Friedman shared that she'd been affected by a new scam, and she suspected that AI was involved.
On her blog, Jane shared that "garbage books [were] getting uploaded to Amazon where my name is credited as the author."
She went on to add, "Whoever’s doing this is obviously preying on writers who trust my name and think I’ve actually written these books. I have not. Most likely they’ve been generated by AI. (Why do I think this? I’ve used these AI tools extensively to test how well they can reproduce my knowledge. I also do a lot of vanity prompting, like “What would Jane Friedman say about building [an] author platform?” I’ve been blogging since 2009—there’s a lot of my content publicly available for training AI models. As soon as I read the first pages of these fake books, it was like reading ChatGPT responses I had generated myself.)"
Essentially, low-quality books that were likely written by AI were being published under Jane's name even though she had nothing to do with the creation of these books and wasn't profiting from them.
Understandably, this was upsetting to Jane and other authors. And this was a multifaceted issue, too, making it even more complicated. The issues included:
Jane, being a well-known author, could receive backlash since the books being published under her name weren't of good quality; this could damage her reputation (which could also hurt her ability to gain revenue in the future).
Fans of Jane who may purchase the books that were falsely attributed to Jane would likely be disappointed with the books since they wouldn't read like a book actually written by Jane.
These fraudulent books were left up on Goodreads and Amazon until Jane contacted the sites.
The last point was particularly concerning because this means Amazon and Goodreads' systems for authenticating authorship aren't entirely effective.
We're not saying that we have a perfect solution, here, but it's important that major retailers and other sites that relate to books do as much as possible to protect their authors. This might mean that the process to sign up or prove that you're the author of a work takes longer than usual, but most authors would probably prefer this than to see, as Jane puts it, "garbage books" attributed to them.
Readers, of course, also should be able to trust that information on major retailers and reviewing sites is legitimate. Putting the responsibility to research the legitimacy of every single book they want to purchase doesn't really seem fair.
Before you start to worry too much, it's important to know that these scams, at least right now, are primarily affecting big-name authors. Authors who have an existing audience tend to sell more books, so the scammers who are behind these fake books are targeting them in order to get more money.
However, authors of all sizes and in all genres should still be aware of this issue; as AI becomes more prevalent and easier to access, new issues are going to arise.
So, if you're an author concerned about this problem, what can you do?
One of the easiest things to do is to search for your full name on Amazon, Goodreads, and other sites where your books have been or are being sold or where your books are being reviewed. All relevant books should pop up. You don't have to do this too often, but doing it once every few months isn't a bad idea.
You can also share your concerns with companies that have had these issues and ask what their plans are to protect authors and readers. While this might feel a little useless, and you may get a pretty basic response, the more people that share their concerns, the more likely these organizations are to make changes.
Ultimately, even though this issue probably won't affect indie authors, it's important to be aware of scams to protect yourself as both an author and a consumer!
Have you heard of this scam before? Or are there other problems in publishing you'd like to hear us discuss? Reach out and let us know!