Does AI Art Affect Indie Authors?

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From The Independent Publishing Magazine:

If you’ve spent any time on social media over the last few months, you’ve probably seen plenty of people sharing pictures of themselves that were “created” using Artificial Intelligence (AI). There are several apps currently available that allow people to share a few photos and instantly have them turned into pieces of art. You’ll find everything from cartoon-style drawings to interpretations that look like they could be placed in a museum.

While there’s no denying that AI art is fascinating and often incredibly beautiful, it’s been met with some backlash.

Not only can AI art reinvent existing photos, but it can also turn words into art — something that many authors are taking advantage of when it comes to creating book covers. AI text-to-image generators can take something as simple as the word “lightbulb” and create a one-of-a-kind piece of art for you to use with your next release.

But, is that ethical? Is it taking away from the human expression so many artists value? Using AI is easy, efficient, and often more cost-effective than hiring an artist to create a cover. It’s important to consider how using it might be affecting others in the creative industry, and how AI in general might impact indie authors and artists.

How Is AI Art Created?

AI art doesn’t just randomly manifest itself. You can’t create something out of “nothing”. To be effective in any industry, there are a few requirements Artificial Intelligence needs to deploy properly, including:

  • High bandwidths;
  • Computing capacity;
  • Data storage;
  • Security.

In the art world, AI is created by collecting data from existing artists (as well as artists from past generations) and their work. For example, some of the current apps generating AI artwork use generative adversarial networks (GANs). These algorithms have two sides: One that generates random images, and one that learns how to judge those images and align them with whatever is being inputted.

As an author, if you want a book cover featuring a young woman sitting on a chair in a particular style, you could simply type in something like, “a young woman on a chair Victorian era” into an AI art generator. The generator would look through thousands of images to “learn” exactly what you’re looking for. It would take data from other human-made works of art to create an original piece in the style of your choosing.

Why Are Authors Using It?

As an indie author, you’ve probably become used to doing many things for yourself. From editing to advertising, you might not have the resources or finances to hire others to do that kind of work for you. But, creating a cover is a different story. If you’re blessed enough to be a writer and an artist, you might be able to create a cover on your own, but that’s the exception, not the rule.

So, you’re often left with the option of hiring a professional artist for your cover design. Of course, that can cost money and stretch your budget quite thin, especially when you recognize the importance of an eye-catching cover. While it’s great to support independent artists, it’s not the easiest financial choice for authors who are just getting started. Plus, if you don’t consider yourself an artist and you’re also new to marketing in the book industry, you could end up hiring someone and fall victim to some common book cover mistakes, like:

  • Too many visual elements;
  • A cover that doesn’t accurately reflect your genre;
  • A low-quality or stolen image;
  • A title that’s too small;
  • Poor choice of font;
  • An uninspiring design.

Because AI is easy to use and can generate multiple images from a single input, you can use it to save money, and you can show several possible images to friends, family, and followers on social media to get an idea of which one will work best for your book.

The Ethical Dilemma

While there are some benefits to using AI art as an indie author, it’s essential to consider how ethical it is. As someone in the creative industry, you can undoubtedly empathize with visual artists trying to make a living through their work. AI takes away from those artists and even goes so far as to use human art to create new images, which some consider a type of theft.

Link to the rest at The Independent Publishing Magazine

3 thoughts on “Does AI Art Affect Indie Authors?”

  1. I don’t pay actual money for much when I put all the elements of a book together. There’s only (1) ISBN (bought in bulk long, long ago and therefore almost free), (2) Professional card-catalogue info for the copyright page, (3) the cover.

    The covers have to do a lot of the marketing heavy lifting (genre, sub-genre, quality, series-relationship, author recognition). I can do the minor things one tinkers with (add titles, author name, backcover copy, etc.), but not the fundamental wraparound image, so I have long since committed to finding the right artists, series by series, as necessary. (My current fellow is from Poland). If I can’t sell enough books to cover my actual per-title out-of-pocket costs (about $550 in total, the earnings of about 140 units), then what am I pretending to be an author for?

    The AI generated images that have started to appear are all very interesting and good (and inexpensive), but they’re also all very obvious as AI. I’d rather stand out as unique (within the genre-signaling parameters). There’s not all that much difference between the old “every cover is a bare-chested he-man rescuing a surprisingly scantily clad babe from an alien” and the new “every cover is a polished representation of a primary character in a genre specific background.” Same-old, same-old.

  2. I suppose a skilled woodworker who used only hand tools would say the same about Ikea. I wonder how many authors commission a table from the woodworker and avoid Ikea?

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