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Using ChatGPT to Help With Book Titles & Blurbs
In this week's AWW newsletter, I ask ChatGPT to assist with a title and a back cover blurb for my new book. Also: latest #aiwriter news, perspectives & research.
Welcome back to AI Writer World! The lead image is a 1935 Underwood / Remington Noiseless Portable Typewriter, currently selling for £1,221.88 on Etsy UK. It sure is beautiful, although alas I can’t afford it. But as eye candy for this newsletter, I’ll continue showing you one vintage typewriter or word processor each week, to remind you that writing is above all an act of human creativity. Remember that AI is just a tool, albeit an increasingly useful one.
Ok, it’s business time! Each week I’ll be testing an AI Writer tool with a specific user type in mind. I’ll get to content marketers, journalists, technical writers and other writing occupations in later weeks. But today I want to start with authors. Book writing is top of mind for me currently, as I finish up the writing process for my Web 2.0 memoir (coming soon to a Substack near you!).
This week I’ve been trying to come up with a title for the book, plus a back cover blurb. I used ChatGPT to help me with both. First, I started with the title.
When I opened up ChatGPT in my laptop, for perhaps the first time I noticed a little box on the top-right with a “K” in it, and the instruction to “Pls Continue”:
Turned out it is via a Chrome Extension called Keywords Everywhere, which I had installed some time ago to help me with SEO. I don’t know how long this app has been resident in my ChatGPT, but I soon figured out that it’s a menu of shortcuts. Clicking “Expand” types in “Please expand on this” into the chat you have open. That didn’t really help me for my book title purposes, but then I noticed another small “K” icon — this time at the bottom of the left-hand menu of ChatGPT. This was an inserted menu item entitled “Templates.” I clicked on it and was delighted to find there was a template for generating book titles.
Here’s the information it wanted me to enter:
I changed the persona to “a top selling author of technology biographies and memoirs” and then entered the (very) rough draft of my back-cover blurb into “Plot Summary”. I clicked “Execute Template” and got a pretty good list of ten prospective titles.
I iterated on the result with ChatGPT, but after many revisions the only thing I kept was one of the subtitles in the first response (which was admittedly very good — much snappier than I’d managed to come up with).
However, ChatGPT was having trouble coming up with a catchy main title for me, particularly when I specified that it should be just two words. Why did I want a two-word main title? Because I’d noticed previously that many of the books in my desired book category have catchy two-word titles (“Uncanny Valley”, “Chaos Monkeys”, “Hardcore Software”, etc).
In the end, I settled for a main title idea that I’d come up with myself several days before, so ChatGPT wasn’t able to assist there. But I did use the subtitle that ChatGPT had generated and which had caught my eye.
Where ChatGPT helped me the most was in shaping my back-cover blurb. This time I decided to eschew Keywords Everywhere and write the prompt myself. Here’s what I input:
You are a well-known book publisher of business biographies and memoirs. Can you re-write this blurb so it is an eye-catching and enticing blurb for the back cover of the book:
(I entered the rough draft blurb again.)
Admittedly, this wasn’t the greatest prompt in the world, but ChatGPT’s response was pretty good. The only trouble was, it included a lot of hype words. The proposed blurb began: “Step into the captivating world of [my book title], a mesmerizing memoir that takes you on a thrilling journey through the 2000s tech revolution.”
Now, I think I’ve written a good memoir, but “captivating”, “mesmerizing” and “thrilling” is probably over-stating it. So I entered into ChatGPT:
That’s good. Can you do another version, but this time with less overt hype. Emphasize that it is a personal but insightful memoir about the Web 2.0 era.
It edited the blurb accordingly, and now I felt I had something to work with. I iterated several more times, for example instructing it to use third-person and to emphasize certain themes. Soon, it was just minor tweaks I was asking for, such as:
Write it again, without mentioning the author. E.g. instead of “Join the author in reliving the birth of…” write something like “Relive the birth of…”
After multiple rounds of prompts, I had an excellent blurb for my back cover. I moved it into my Evernote and continued doing manual edits there. But the bulk of the blurb had been generated by ChatGPT, using my initial rough draft.
I’m pretty sure many readers of this newsletter could come up with better prompts than I used. But the point is, even out of the box, ChatGPT can be tremendously helpful for authors who need help with marketing copy for their book. Plus, there’s the option of assistance from a third-party app, like Keywords Everywhere.
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Product News ⚒️
OpenAI discontinues its AI writing detector due to “low rate of accuracy.”
Google discusses adding watermarking and other methods to verify where content comes from: “We’ll soon be integrating watermarking, metadata, and other innovative techniques into our latest generative models…” (via The AI Exchange)
Cohere releases Coral, an AI assistant designed for business use; this will be of interest to technical writers and other knowledge workers. It can be “trained on internal data and technical company resources.”
LangChain shows how to automate web research; “While hosted AI search from large models like Bard or Perplexity.ai are extremely performant, smaller lightweight tools for web research also have important merits…”
Stability AI has released SDXL 1.0, an open model that according to The Runway is “the next major leap in the evolution of text-to-image generation models.” I had a play, asking it for a “photo of Ernest Hemingway writing his latest novel on a silver Macbook.” The result was much better than other image generators I’ve been using lately (although the ‘photo’ includes an oddly-placed and strangely vertical pencil!).
Excellent Guardian long-read profile of pioneering computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum, who believed that no matter how powerful computers get, machines will never be equivalent to human intelligence. He thought that intelligence “isn’t just in the head but also in the arm, in the wrist, in the hand.”
Laura Hartenberger, a creative writing lecturer at the University of California: “Even if we use AI to make writing feel easier, we still need to do the hard, lifelong work of becoming ourselves.”
WGMI thinks OpenAI’s Custom Instructions “just took ChatGPT one step closer to a true AI-powered personal assistant.” (unfortunately, I discovered this week that this feature isn’t yet available to UK users!)
AI-related jobs are being talked about a lot currently; e.g.
Here’s a huge list of AI writing tools on an aggregator called There's An AI For That. Nice site to bookmark.
Grammarly blog: How to Cite ChatGPT and AI in the Chicago Manual of Style
I’m on holiday all next week, so the next AWW newsletter will be in two weeks. See you then, my fellow augmented writers!
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