Quick response to Substack newsletter Counter Craft, whose author Lincoln Michel calls my AI books a “transparent grift.”

I’ve seen other people cling to this label of “grift” in order to wrap their minds around what I’m doing, and I think it’s worth defining what that word actually means:

a group of methods for obtaining money falsely through the use of swindles, frauds, dishonest gambling, etc.

I’m wondering which part of my work exactly is the “grift” when the very Newsweek article Michel is referencing explicitly spells out exactly what I’m doing with AI, how I do it, and how much (or how little) I am making on it. Plus, my Gumroad store is marked “AI Publisher” and I’m billing the books as “AI Mini-Novels,” and all the books include disclaimers that aspects of the content were generated by AI.

It’s not just Michel who has made this false and defamatory claim either. One other equally wrongheaded statement from an angry Twitterer said I was trying to “make that fast buck before readers catch on.”

Before readers catch on about what exactly? About that thing that I am endlessly telling them I am doing, and explaining profusely in the media, and on my blog?

Is this what Michel means then by adding the qualifier that it is a “transparent grift?” I’m not going to bludgeon the English language to death here, but by the very definition of the word, if it’s transparent, it’s not a grift.

Interestingly, Michel goes on to lament that chatbots are merely being used to recreate writing that could be made without them, and I think correctly states, re: the rise of photography:

Photography blossomed with photographers embracing the unique things the medium could do, not by trying to make every photograph look exactly like a 17th-century still life.

The question is then asked, what can chatbots do that human authors can’t, and one of the answers that is flung out is:

…how about the book version of an open world…

Which is literally what my books are. Each of my 100+ books contains assorted lore and bits of narrative (and tons of images), together which comprise essentially an open world that readers can explore in the direction of their choosing, following through on any number of side quests they want.

I’m not saying my books are perfect. They are not meant to be. They are “agile” and a v1 and continuously evolving. But at least know what you’re talking about before you try to rip something down.

Best wishes!