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“How We Can Use AI To Inspire Better Writing”, With Alessandra Torre & Fotis Georgiadis

We want to be the catalyst for untold stories to bloom. Our technology will help a lot of authors turn their hobbies into a career. Their stories might be told in the form of an ebook, a paperback or an audiobook. Or it could be converted into a movie script — one of our advisors […]

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We want to be the catalyst for untold stories to bloom. Our technology will help a lot of authors turn their hobbies into a career. Their stories might be told in the form of an ebook, a paperback or an audiobook. Or it could be converted into a movie script — one of our advisors is a Hollywood filmmaker who sees the potential of connecting the film industry directly with storytellers through the use of AI. The format doesn’t matter. What matters is the story.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Alessandra Torre. Alessandra is a New York Times bestselling author and president of Authors A.I., a new startup that is tackling a creative challenge — how to help authors write better novels with the help of artificial intelligence that serves as an initial judgment-free editor.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was that nerdy bookworm who always had a giant novel in hand. Reading was easy, but writing wasn’t something I considered until 2012, when I heard about self-publishing. Suddenly, there was a no-risk, no-rejection path to my dream goal — holding my own book in my hands. The knowledge of that possibility, and the act of writing my first book changed everything in my life in a huge and incredible way. Twenty-three books later, I met the co-founders of Authors A.I. and my life took another exciting turn.

I was recruited onto the team because of my track record as an author. But I also have a background in tech, and I suppose I have the entrepreneur gene. So it was only a matter of weeks before my two co-founders asked me to become the company’s president. It’s been a good fit.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Watching and participating in the film production of one of my books was a pretty intense experience. Whether it was navigating the laws on pet usage in film, or popping ice cubes into actors’ mouths to keep their breath from fogging on set, to making the transition from novel to script — all of it was fascinating and taught me a lot.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

There’s a great African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I’ve gone fast, and now I want to go far. For a long time I’ve been a solo-preneur guided by a cool resolve, and I’ve done quite well by myself. At the same time, I’ve always had a penchant for collaboration on worthy community projects. So it’s been personally fascinating to see how those two sides mesh in my role as president of our startup. I’m trying to foster a culture of open communication, of finding common ground, of owning and learning from mistakes. If you’re not experimenting and trying new things — and yes, at times failing — then your dreams are too small.

OK. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

Our big idea is to use artificial intelligence to help authors write better books and to help readers discover great new stories.

We’re developing the smartest developmental editor in the world — we named her Marlowe, and we already think of her as a person. She can read a manuscript and deliver sound, intelligent and honest feedback to an author in less than an hour. So that’s the first part, the super-helpful critique given to authors during the life-sucking rewrite process.

And now we’re starting phase two. The vision is to turn Marlowe into a superstar in the world of book recommendations. Our A.I. will be able to suck in tens of thousands of titles and then recommend books that will delight you based on the story elements. We think there’s magic in the stories themselves, not just in book sales data, so you’ll be able to find those diamonds in the rough.

Of course, Marlowe would ding me for that cliché!

How do you think this will change the world?

We want to be the catalyst for untold stories to bloom. Our technology will help a lot of authors turn their hobbies into a career. Their stories might be told in the form of an ebook, a paperback or an audiobook. Or it could be converted into a movie script — one of our advisors is a Hollywood filmmaker who sees the potential of connecting the film industry directly with storytellers through the use of AI. The format doesn’t matter. What matters is the story.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the Law of Unintended Consequences in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

There is a very real danger that someone will develop A.I. technology to write books using text spinner programs that reword existing novels in subtle ways to create new, plagiarized stories. We’re firmly against this kind of future. We already have knockoff jeans, watches and purses. The last thing we need is knockoff fiction. That’s one reason we founded Authors A.I. We’re getting out in front of the A.I. wave and saying, let’s use A.I. for good — to help authors during the creative process. Not for evil — to undermine authors’ careers.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

I’ve always been thirsty for quick, unbiased and educated feedback on my manuscripts. I was an early fan of the book The Bestseller Code, and I was already familiar with co-author Matt Jockers’ ability to find successful markers in bestselling books. When I heard that his technology was being cultivated for use in the mass market, I was instantly intrigued and wanted to be a part of the team. For his part, Dr. Jockers spent three years waiting for the right opportunity to take his idea to market. So now we’re startup co-founders.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

There’s a quote I like by Joe Kennedy, the former CEO of Pandora, who said, “It’s easier to spread fire than start it where it doesn’t exist.”

There are burning embers everywhere in the fiction world today, and we’re ready to ignite a million careers. We have a very impressive technology out of the gate in Marlowe. We decided to bootstrap, so we don’t have a big marketing budget. But I think that when you have a big idea that gets a lot of people excited, it starts to spread by word of mouth. In the fall, we’ll start looking at a capital raise. It takes money to expand into overseas markets and to build out the team to take advantage of the big opportunity in front of us.

What are some “Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

I’ll share two. On the fiction front, I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way. I’ve learned that tropes are your friend. You can be really creative within certain story frameworks. But you can’t be a total rebel and violate your readers’ expectations for what they want and need in a romance novel. If you do that, you’ve lost their trust and they’ll never read you again.

On the startup front, I wish my guardian angel had told me, “Be patient.” We were actually ready to launch in March. But then the coronavirus hit with full force. How do you prepare for something like that? We really didn’t have a roadmap for what to do, and people were starting to feel anxious. We decided it would be crazy to introduce a completely unknown brand at the height of the pandemic. We waited and put the time into making the A.I. even better. And by the time we launched on June 8, authors were still holed up but they were ready to hear our message.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Controlling distractions. It’s very easy to waste an entire day on the fleeting, the ephemeral. You have to learn how to focus, how to control and eliminate distractions, and how to be efficient, or you’ll never get to where you want to be.

Envision success. I believe strongly in the power of visualization. I consistently envision the future of our company, the great things it will do, and how we will achieve those goals.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

There’s an old saying in Silicon Valley. “Ask a VC for money and you’ll get advice. Ask for advice, and you’ll get money.” So we’d love some angel investors or early-stage VCs to help guide us on our journey.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

We’re on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and YouTube. The best place to join in on our conversations and live chats is our Facebook group. And if you’re an author, I’d love to hear from you.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

Thanks for having me!

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