AI Ghostwriting

With the launch of ChatGPT in November 2022, a whole new world of possibility seemed to open up as the world discovered the power of AI. For many hopeful authors, this technology seemed to offer a shortcut to getting their ideas on the page.

However, there are significant risks to relying on AI in writing and publishing—depending on how you use it. These risks could impact the publication and success of your book through the largest bookseller on the planet, Amazon.

Amazon and AI

It’s hard to overestimate Amazon’s place in the publishing world. More than two-thirds of readers in America buy at least some of their books from Amazon. At the moment, 40 percent of book sales go through Amazon. Some estimates assume it will be 70 percent by 2025.The numbers are even higher for e-books, where Amazon sells over 487 million copies each year, representing an astounding 83 percent of the market.

All of which is to say there isn’t much place in this world for a book that isn’t on Amazon.

For this very reason, though, Amazon is taking AI very seriously. Readers have gone to Amazon for decades now because they could find the book they wanted at a price they could afford. Increasingly, though, the website is being overrun with AI books, crowding out works published by real authors.

Amazon seems determined to take a firm stance against AI-generated content. And that is going to affect every author who uses AI.

Amazon’s AI Policy

Amazon’s current policy on AI breaks down usage into two categories:

  • AI-generated content
  • AI-assisted content

AI-generated content involves AI creating content for you. The latter involves the technology simply assisting you in the writing process. At the moment, Amazon’s policy is to require authors to inform the company of all AI-generated content in their books. Authors are also responsible for verifying that all AI-generated content “adheres to all content guidelines, including by complying with all applicable intellectual property rights.” More on that in a moment.

For now, let’s explore what exactly falls into each category.

AI-Generated Content

Amazon defines AI-generated content as any tool that creates the content for you. This includes:

  • Text generated by tools like ChatGPT or Google’s Gemini
  • Images (including covers) created through DALL-E, Stability AI, etc.
  • Translations completed through similar AI tools

The common thread here is that the AI does most of the work for you. Whether it’s text or images, AI is the primary creator.

Crucially, this definition holds true even if, in Amazon’s words, “you applied substantial edits afterwards.” In other words, generating a chapter with ChatGPT and then reworking it isn’t enough. That’s still AI-generated in Amazon’s eyes.

AI-Assisted Content

The tools included in this category help refine the work you’ve done as opposed to generating it. You might use these tools to:

  • Create of list of potential research ideas
  • Check your grammar
  • Suggest synonyms and different sentence structures
  • Offer up advice to strengthen your ideas or writing
  • Find errors and repetitions in the text

You may use some of the same tools mentioned in the previous section for this type of work. The difference is not the program but how you use it.

The Risk of Using AI-Generated Content

At the moment, Amazon still allows authors to publish AI-generated material. However, Amazon is very clear that it will remove any content that fails to adhere to its guidelines. That means, if you’ve included AI text that (unknown to you) plagiarizes another writer or artist, Amazon will remove your entire book. 

If your book is removed by Amazon, you can appeal, although this is a famously difficult process. In fact, only 30 percent of appeals are successful.

That’s the status quo today, but it’s likely that laws will pass in the next few years in the US, Europe, and across the world that will upend that status quo. So while it may be possible to use AI-generated content in a book today, that decision could lead to issues with your published work in the future, depending on the restrictions countries—and Amazon—put in place.

Other AI Concerns

Even without tough AI legislation, there are other reasons to limit your use of AI in your book. In the first place, there is a growing sense that people are developing negative feelings toward AI. While people aren’t always great at figuring out when AI has been used, they overwhelmingly prefer human-generated content. In a recent Pew survey, a majority of Americans were more concerned than excited about AI in general. This has jumped 15 percent in two years. According to that same survey, only 10 percent of people are actually excited by the technology.

All of which is to say it’s very likely that a large number of your readers will look unfavorably upon your use of AI in writing your book. This could be compounded by AI’s issues with accuracy. There is a recurrent problem with AI “hallucinations.” These hallucinations involve AI making critical errors in text or images. We’ve all seen the pictures of AI images with too many fingers or arms. In text, AI can generate false facts and present them as certainties. Needless to say, you don’t want to be caught copy and pasting untrue statements in your book.

One final concern is more personal. One of the main reasons to write a book is to capture your voice and your ideas. The value of the book is in presenting your authentic self. That’s impossible if you are instead presenting an AI’s version of your words and ideas.

Writing Authentically in an AI World

Where does that leave you? It’s clear there is a role for AI in writing a book. Whether it’s brainstorming new ideas, finding a starting point for your research, or cleaning up your grammar, AI has a lot to offer.

For all the rest, it’s best to stick with the tried-and-true method of writing a book: putting the words down on the page yourself. For those who are struggling with this, there are plenty of other tools out there. At Scribe, we offer future authors many paths to publication. In our Guided Author program, we provide coaching, editing, and publication for those who feel confident they can find the words for their books themselves. Our Scribe Professional service allows you to work one-on-one with a “Scribe” who can organize your ideas, capture your thoughts, and put it all on the page in your voice. And for those who want a truly elite experience, Scribe Elite includes a custom, fully individualized, white-glove approach to the writing, editing, and publishing experience.

AI is welcome to come along for the ride with any of these programs, but when your book hits Amazon, there should be no doubt that it is 100 percent yours.