STEP 1: Ask Your AI Platform to Write a Synopsis for Your Book
Purpose: To create a summary that will jumpstart your research and help you decide on the focus of your book.
In this step, I asked AI to write a synopsis for a book on a specific subject. I ask GPT4: “Write a nonfiction book synopsis for a kids' book, ages 8-12, about the Potoo "Ghost Gird" of South America.”
GPT4 spat out a five-paragraph synopsis (with a working title, which was fun). Here’s one paragraph from that synopsis:
“In this book, young readers will discover the fascinating world of the Potoo, from its physical features and behaviors to its place in the ecosystem. They'll learn about the different species of Potoo, where they live, and what they eat. They'll also explore the cultural significance of the "Ghost Bird" in indigenous communities, and the myths and legends surrounding this enigmatic bird.”
Potoo myths and legends? I’m going to want to investigate those! The synopsis didn’t just give me direction and tidbits about my subject. It also gave me additional insight about the Ghost Bird that I hadn’t anticipated.
Of course, doing research my usual way would most likely bring up these same relevant rabbit trails for me to follow. But I appreciate the fact that AI gives me these fun extras much faster than I would've found on my own.
Did I tweak the synopsis? Yep. There were some things that I felt didn't fit into my book. But this not going to be my final professional synopsis for the book itself. It is just a blurb that gives me more focus and direction. A jump-off point for my use only.
P.S. If you're not happy with the synopsis AI creates for you, try asking the question differently, maybe with more detail. Or ask it to regenerate its response.
Step 2: Ask AI to generate a list of topics from the synopsis it created
Purpose: To break your topic into sub-topics.
Asking AI to create a list of topics will help you discover even more about your subject matter and give you a jumpstart on creating your table of contents and maybe even give you ideas for back matter.
In GPT4, I simply asked it to “create a topic list for this book” and, since it follows my previous request, it knows exactly what book I’m talking about.
Here’s what I got for my little ghost bird story:
• Introduction to the Potoo.
• Habitat and range of the Potoo
• Physical features of the Potoo.
• Nocturnal lifestyle and behavior of the Potoo.
• Camouflage and hunting strategies of the Potoo.
• Vocalizations and communication of the Potoo.
• Life cycle of the Potoo, including nesting and parenting habits.
• Potoos' role in the rainforest ecosystem.
• Conservation efforts to protect Potoos and the rainforest.
• Cultural significance of the Potoo for indigenous people of South America
• Potoos in mythology, folklore, and legend.
• Comparison of the Potoo to other birds in the rainforest.
• Unique and interesting facts about the Potoo.
• Ways kids can get involved in rainforest conservation.
• Conclusion and call to action for readers to help protect the rainforest and its inhabitants.
This is a great list of topics! I can choose to condense it or broaden it, or just target one of these and make it into a book. (Or even an article.)
Since my book isn’t about protecting the environment, I probably won’t add conservation to my list of topics that GPT4 suggestion in #14 & #15. However, I can add it into the backmatter of my book! Huge bonus!
P.S. Is it possible this could be tweaked enough to become your table of contents?
Step 3: Ask AI what resources are available
Purpose: To give you direction on where to research, who to interview, and what to read.
AI has given you a lot of information on your subject and some direction, but you still need to do the research. But where? You can spend time chasing rabbit trails on the Internet for hours, or … get a head start by asking your AI to generate a list for you.
GPT4, “Create a list of experts, books, and other resources related to the Potoo ‘Ghost Bird’.”
Check out this treasure of resources from my little AI friend:
• Dr. John Fitzpatrick, Director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology
• Dr. David M. Watson, Professor of Ecology at Charles Sturt University
• Dr. David C. Duffy, Bird Curator at the San Diego Zoo
• Birds of South America by Francisco Erize, Jorge R. Rodriguez Mata, and Maurice Rumboll
• Field Guide to the Birds of Colombia by Miles McMullan and Thomas M. Donegan
•The Handbook of Bird Photography by Markus Varesvuo, Jari Peltomäki, and Bence Máté
• The Cornell Lab of Ornithology - www.birds.cornell.edu/home BirdLife International - www.birdlife.org
• The World Wildlife Fund - www.worldwildlife.org
• “The Living Edens: Manu - Peru's Hidden Rainforest” by PBS “Jungle” by BBC Field Guides:
• A Field Guide to the Birds of Brazil by Ber van Perlo
• A Field Guide to the Birds of Peru by James F. Clements Online
• “The Mystery of the Potoo” by Emily Kolkemo for Audubon Magazine
• “The Potoo: A Master of Camouflage” by Andrew Snyder for National Geographic
Bam! No more wondering where to start. And the beauty of having these resources is that they will inevitably lead you to other resources.
I absolutely love this step. What a time-saver!
P.S. While AI will lead you to quite a few resources, don’t trust your AI to provide the best sources. There will be times it might give you an expert who has passed, a link to an outdated report, or a book that is no longer in print. You still need to do your homework to make sure your sources are current and credible. And keep track, your publisher will ask for documentation.
Step 4: Check Out the Competition
Purpose: Make your book is original and marketable
Although it seems like you’d want to do this early on, I always wait until the end. Because I find that even if there is some competition, I now have enough information that allows me to change my angle to differentiate myself from all the others.
GPT4, “Give me a list of books are already written about the Potoo for kids ages 8-12.”
“There are not many books that are specifically written about the Potoo for kids ages 8-12. However, here are some books that touch on the topic of birds and rainforests that may be of interest:
• The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry - This book is about a man who falls asleep while chopping down a tree in the rainforest and dreams that the animals come to talk to him about the importance of the rainforest.
• Eye to Eye with Endangered Species by Jeff Corwin - This book features information and photographs about various endangered species, including the Potoo.
• Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson - This novel is about a girl who goes to live with her distant relatives in the Amazon rainforest and becomes fascinated with the wildlife there, including birds like the Potoo.
P.S. Again, AI does a pretty good job, but I would do some additional research on the competition.
Bottom line, AI is a great way for you to start framing your nonfiction book. But it is not flawless. And it lacks the ability to emulate your writing voice and style.
So, how about you? Do you feel like it is cheating to use AI as a tool to help lay the groundwork for your book?
Personally, I compare it to doing research on the Internet. Basically, be careful how you use it. Realize it is flawed and it should only be used as a starting point.
There is some fear that AI will replace authors and illustrators. Scary thought? Check out my blog post “3 Steps to Create Perfect Kids' Books with AI. Not!” to read my experience in trying to create a picture book with today’s AI. We may not be able to predict how AI is going to impact us, but we can learn how to use it in a way that complements our production and work.
But you need to do what you feel most comfortable with. In any case, only you can be authentically you. With your unique writing style. Your own voice. Your creative expression. All wrapped up in a artistic piece of literature that only you can deliver.
AI can’t take that away.
Cindy Lynn Sawyer is a KidLit writer with a passion for helping kids to G.L.O.W. from the inside out, and to help other children's writers on their path to publication.