I wish I could tell you I had this self publishing business under control, but even after going through the Launchpad course, I think I'm far from it. I fixed the issues with the basics for delivering my books through Bookfunnel and even began running ads, but it can get expensive until I figure it out. Perhaps I'm going about things the wrong way as well. I don't mind when people shop for the books on the big retailers. But I would prefer to sell directly to readers. So I must investigate how to do that better than what I'm doing now. I would also like to create a community for those who enjoy the stories. More on that in a future post.
Sadly, I'm out of time during my summer vacation. I've done as much as I could with that brief lovely window of uninterrupted publishing opportunity. Things must once again slow down. I've returned to the real world and left the dream, except for fits and spurts once again. What time I have when the education world isn't claiming it all, I hope to be writing. I seriously don't recommend that for your social media posts, blogging, video crafting, or community building, but there are only so many hours in the day. Not to mention, the day job pays all the bills, including the publishing ones. So I best get on with that.
This weekend I hoped to clear the air surrounding the use of AI in the dream as it has become a hot button topic in the Indie Author community. If you love the dream and don't care how it's written and you simply want to read stories, I warn you, this post is not about that. I'm pulling back the curtain so you can see the wizard this time. If you don't want to know how the magician pulls off the illusion, stop reading now. If you're curious about how I handle a lot of the tasks involved in writing, allow me to bring you behind the scenes into my world for a moment.
AI Technologies and Ophelia Kee
Using AI technology in the author community is something I feel I should address completely for my readers. Informed readers are, in my experience, happier readers. We enjoy the lore surrounding the story as much as the story itself because it adds to the experience and allows us to continue the connection to the story long after we've finished the book. It allows us to recall the parts that affected us the most. So today I wanted to break down how I use modern technology along with older technology in my quest to create the dream.
Many people feel strongly about AI, and I'm not interested in changing anyone's mind or stirring up a debate. I am a creative mind attempting to use the tools available to me to craft the vision in my mind. I wonder if the Da Vincis, Edisons, and Einstein's of the past would not have done exactly the same thing on a much grander scale. Not being one of those great minds, my simple creations don't compare, but we would more easily accept those new tools and use them to our advantage if well-known great minds did the same and made that known.
My intention is to share my views and provide my readers with a better understanding of how and why I currently use AI technology. I have touched on aspects of it before, but I wanted to keep my long ago promise to always be honest about my author journey. So this post focuses specifically on two points: my position on AI tools and my current specific use of AI tools.
How do I view AI? Is it a good or bad thing?
I don't think any tool is good or bad. It simply is. It's how humans use the tool that cast connotation. I enjoy AI, and I'm not a technophobic person. I refuse to live in fear. The technology exists. So long as I use them ethically without abusing those tools, I intend to use them. I have no intention of being left in a past I'm no longer living in. That's as true for my professional educator career as it is for my personal life and my Indie Author journey. There are only two options: Stand still or move forward. I choose to move. I also must choose to limit because there are more tools in use than I can learn. But that has always been the human existence. We can't learn it all, so we learn what works best for us at the moment.
I use a lot of tools to help me with writing, self publishing, and book marketing. For instance, I use a Chromebook, write in Google Docs, and save my files on Google Drive. Obviously, there are many options available, but these are my current tool choices for writing my stories.
I see AI tools no differently than some of the other tools I use. They are simply more modern and in some ways more efficient. I use Quick Write for Fiction Authors, ProWritingAid, Night Cafe, Speechelo, and Google for a lot of the jobs in self publishing, which I can't do well. Skills I lack: I can't draw, nor do I have Photoshop skills. (But I can manipulate images in Google Drawings like a pro.) I can't narrate my books, and my editing is trash. So AI tools help me overcome the weak areas and my stories become more easily accessible for others' enjoyment. It also makes them more market friendly.
As a generation-x character, technology often takes me longer to master and use because I need to understand the basics for how it works first. So I'm always late for the party, but I never close my mind to it. That's why, although turning the books into nfts on the blockchain is something I feel I should do, it isn't something I understand, so it won't happen soon. I view AI as an assortment of tools to help me polish my stories and turn them into marketable entertainment packages, and the winkles in my brain understand their function better than my wrinkles understand blockchain.
Let me be so clear that a bird will fly into the glass and get a concussion, mistaking it for empty air.
I do not use AI to write my stories.
The stories are all mine. I'm seriously territorially possessive of the world I've been building for years. The dream is my territory and I am the tiger roaming it to safeguard it. Only the human mind creates things like that. AI must copy us to produce anything, and in the end, it only produces a more advanced and efficient compilation of information in some forms, but it does it rather quickly. Meaning for me? I can get a task done and swiftly move on to another in my supreme effort to create my vision.
Writing is the creative peace I enjoy; it's the great escape. I would probably make more money and might improve my ranking on Kindle if I could write and publish faster, or if I allowed AI to write a story, and I revised it, but half the fun is in writing the story and finding out where it goes. The other half comes when you finally write the end on a manuscript and feel you crafted a unique story with unique characters.
So not only do I not use AI to write my stories, I never intend to use AI to write in the dream. The words read or heard in my stories from the dream are always 100% Ophelia Kee originals.
How do I use AI specifically? Which tools am I currently employing and how are they being utilized?
Let's start with Quick Write for Fiction Authors. I use Quick Write to help me write book descriptions and taglines for stories I've written and wish to publish and market. That kind of writing is part of the marketing aspect of self-publishing. Storytelling is amazing and fun. Marketing writing? Not so much fun. Selling stories is hard. Convincing someone who never heard of me, they should buy one of my books is just short of convincing them the grass is black and the sky is purple. That may be easier to do. So I freely admit I need help in that department.
ProWritingAid is next. I use it to edit everything I write, including this post. Let's face it. I don't know where the commas go. I'm always leaving them out or adding them where they don't belong. Also, I grew up reading. So I spell words the way I learned them in the fantasy tales by a host of English authors. I'm American. Apparently, we neither speak nor write English correctly and have our own separate rules for how it should properly be done. I can't speak or write English properly in either the America or British versions as I was born a southerner (nor do I handle the Canadian or Australian versions, but I digress).
Y'all, I needed serious help. I'm a ProWritingAid power user. I'm not sure anything I published before I bought it is worth reading. But it's a tool. It writes nothing. It polishes what I write, so my writing is as clear for the reader to understand as is possible. I even use it to edit what Quick Writes generates for me because AI writers aren't that smart about where the commas go, either.
Speechelo and Google Books are tools to create AI audio voice narrations of my stories. As much as I would love to have my books turned into human narrated audiobooks, it's far beyond my budget. I use Speechelo to narrate each chapter as I edit the stories so I can hear the story and fix anything which sounds wrong. I love ProWritingAid, but as with any tool, it's not perfect. Hearing the story shows me things reading it can't. So it's part of the editing process, but since I created the audio, I gave it to my readers if they wanted it as part of the serialized miniseries and used it to create some videos for YouTube as well. I have it. I might as well use it. Right?
I use Google Books to create AI audiobooks. I choose the voice and adjust the pronunciation of hard to pronounce words. Then the AI narrator reads the entire ePub I've uploaded. It's the highest quality AI voiceover technology available to me. Google allows me to download my AI audiobook and sell it on my website. In only a few hours, I have a beautifully narrated AI audiobook for the low price of sharing royalties with Google. How could I say no to that? I'm eventually hoping to do something similar with Apple Books, but it's currently by invitation only, and they have yet to invite me. I bet it's because they know I'm Google-centric or maybe I'm just being paranoid.
The image above is a picture of Mystic Dark, the cafe which serves immortals in Chicago. It's run by a Voodoo princess, Mardeva Leveau. Her uncle is Leland Shade, the last Vampire King. Mystic Dark is also the series title for my current work in progress. I love this image.
I saved the most controversial tool I use for last. Night Cafe. I love it. It allows a non-artist a way to make exceptional images perfect for fantasy book covers and ad copy images. Or simply to bring to life an old tiger's idea of what the Mystic Dark immortal cafe looks like.
I know it's pretty much in the public domain and anyone could use the art I generated for whatever they wanted, but why would they when they could make what they needed themselves? I'm aware of the argument around professional cover artists going out of business. Y'all I can't afford to pay Get Covers for their covers and their highest priced one is only $35.
I can guarantee the cover art industry isn't losing something they never had from me. I grew up in poverty, and I'm good at living poor. Don't buy what you can make yourself. Invest in the tool rather than the thing the tool makes. It's a way of life, an ingrained bit of my psyche.
More than that, Night Cafe is a tool which made it possible for me to handle one more aspect of my publishing business myself. It allowed a non-artistic yet creative mind to produce imagery which exactly fits the stories I write. That's pretty cool, and I must play with it like any child with a toy that lights up and sings.
Book covers are a huge part of marketing. Seriously, you can't publish a book without a cover. I know because I've tried it. (I'm sure I include the tale on how that happened with the companion materials for Kingdom Rising Miniseries.)
I paid for all the covers in Kingdom Rising. Created by Markee Books, they are astounding. And just as ProWritingAid and Speechelo can't replace humans and the quality isn't nearly as good, AI is a long way from creating anything so amazing as a professionally crafted book cover. The high quality professional covers also cost a pretty penny. Once I earn enough to pay for high-quality book covers for each story in the next miniseries from the first one, I'll purchase more of those expensive marketing package wrappers for my tales. Until then, I'll use AI tools like Night Cafe to help me level up.
It's not because it's the best available, it's because it's the best I can do at the moment.
AI art is a valuable tool for beginning authors and an easy way to craft better book covers, so they have a better chance of success as they start out. If I can keep the costs manageable, I can try more things with my stories, like animation, high-quality video books, or those nfts I still don't understand well enough. Storytelling is unlimited. The budget for storytelling, however, is not.
If self-publishing is a hobby, it's one of the most expensive hobbies to get involved with, especially if you must outsource everything except writing the book, although I suppose you could do that too and pay a little more. For many authors, earning enough to pay for the expense of creating the book is a barrier to self-publishing, which means no one reads that work.
Trad publishing, agents, and query letters are far more subjective and could take forever with a seriously low rate of return for the writer. I'm not bashing it for everyone. I'm sure trad publishing works for a lot of authors for many reasons. It simply isn't something I could consider.
I can't write to the market or meet deadlines. I lack the time to tell the stories and then send out tons of pitches for a story to gatekeepers. And why would I, when I can send that pitch to my readers, allowing them to decide if the story is good? My reader's opinions are valuable to me, far more than the opinion of someone whose job is to select only stories they wager will earn the company a pile of cash. I write with a long-term goal, not a short-term hope. I write for readers who enjoy urban fantasy with paranormal romance, not to sell my stories off for someone else to deal with.
AI tools ease the burden of the things I can't do well. It's how I'm creating new book covers, editing my written work, and making it more available to a broader audience. What I'm not doing is asking AI to write my stories for me.
This is simply my position on AI as an Indie Author. I'm not telling anyone else they should use it. It's simply a transparent look at my current process. Every creative mind must decide which tools are used to create whatever the vision is. This post is as much a part of the lore as the stories themselves. It's one more piece of the behind-the-scene's extra information, extending the connection between the world I created and the storyteller, offered to the reader.
I've got writing to do. Don't forget to check on Royal Council or Mystic Dark if you've purchased Just Let me Read the Dream or the current Work in Progress miniseries. I post new chapters on the weekends. I leave you, as always, with the parting request to please be kind and leave your reviews when you read. Until we chat again,
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