Jane Friedman, a prominent author, found herself in a state of indignation when she stumbled upon a perplexing situation on Amazon – a collection of nearly a dozen books bearing her name, yet not her own creations.
Fortunately, the inexplicably AI-composed books that appeared under her authorship were eventually removed from the platform. This positive turn of events transpired following her public outcry on Twitter and her personal blog.
During an interview with The Guardian, Friedman detailed the chain of events that led to this viral episode. A concerned reader reached out to inform her about the existence of counterfeit titles that imitated her genuine works. Ironically, her genuine works are dedicated to assisting aspiring authors in navigating the intricacies of the publishing world, boasting titles such as “The Business of Being a Writer” and “Publishing 101.”
These deceitful publications sported titles like “How to Write and Publish an eBook Quickly and Make Money” and “Igniting Ideas: Your Guide to Writing a Bestseller eBook on Amazon.” Understandably, these bogus offerings deeply troubled Friedman, whose entire career revolves around offering valuable insights and guidance.
“It makes me look like I’m trying to take advantage of people with really crappy books,” she told The Guardian.
Although she couldn’t definitively confirm her suspicion, Friedman strongly believes that the subpar quality of the counterfeit books is indicative of AI-generated content. In a blog post, she revealed her own experiments with AI tools, using them extensively to assess their ability to replicate her expertise. She even admitted to engaging in “vanity prompting,” tasking AI to emulate her unique writing style.
“I’ve been blogging since 2009 — there’s a lot of my content publicly available for training AI models,” Friedman wrote. “As soon as I read the first pages of these fake books, it was like reading ChatGPT responses I had generated myself.”
With a resolute conviction that the spurious books were “largely, if not entirely, produced by AI,” Friedman lodged a complaint with Amazon to have them removed. However, her initial request was met with a setback. Amazon’s spokesperson informed her that her name wasn’t trademarked, which initially hindered the takedown process.
Ironically, both Amazon and Goodreads eventually responded to the growing online uproar and took action against the fraudulent titles, culminating in their removal from the platform.
An Amazon spokesperson told The Guardian and The Daily Beast in identical statements that the company has “clear content guidelines governing which books can be listed for sale” and that it “promptly investigate[s] any book when a concern is raised.”
“I’m sure [the titles were removed] in no small part due to my visibility and reputation in the writing and publishing community,” Friedman wrote on her blog. “What will authors with smaller profiles do when this happens to them?”
The entire saga, though undoubtedly taxing, has had one silver lining for Friedman.
“I am revisiting my key book, ‘The Business of Being a Writer,’ and I am going to have a section on AI,” she told The Daily Beast. “At least now I will have a good story to include.”