This guy wrote a children’s book with an AI in 1 day and is now selling it on Amazon for $8.99

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That really shouldn’t surprise anyone now. In fact, it’s one of the use cases OpenAI names as one of the first in its announcement of DALL-E’s open beta: children’s books. The style of the image generator seems to appeal to the tastes of young people in particular, and one author has taken direct advantage of that.

Within one day, he illustrated a “book” full of knock-knock jokes with the help of DALL-E and offered it for sale on Amazon shortly after. Supposedly, he’s even had sales already. The work seems to have paid off, because two reviews currently give it a full 5 stars, even though it is of course not certain that these are not friends and family.

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“Like others, I am blown away by DALL-E’s ability to accelerate the creative process. With just a single day of concentration and fiddling with the prompt tool, I was able to fully illustrate a book of knock-knock jokes”, user kmewhort writes in the “Show HN” section of Hacker News.

The prompting of DALL-E, like any tool, took a bit of learning. My take-aways using it were:

  • The four variations initially generated are rarely enough. The variations can be quite diverse, and a better rendering can often be found just by generating again. After three times (12 variations), the returns get diminishing and it’s usually better to either tweak the prompt phrasing, or drill down into the best so-far to get variations of it.
  • The ability to select and replace a section allows for a great deal of control. Usually the scene will end up more smoothly connected and related if you try to specify everything in the original prompt. However, where this is not understood properly by DAL-E, selecting an area and then using a new prompt in that sub-region works well.
  • DALL-E on occasion renders objects that you don’t specify, ruining an illustration that would otherwise be perfect. There’s unfortunately no “erase” option, but if you specify “empty” on the prompt it works to clear the object most of the time.

Just to be clear, in case it hasn’t become clear yet: this is a real book that you can hold in your hands, not a cheap e-book (which he gives away for free on Google Drive). So the resolution of the images that DALL-E generates is also sufficient for printing. The author takes advantage of Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) offering, which handles all printing and shipping. Mr Kent Mewhort, as the author of “Dorky Dad’s Knock Knock Book of Vegetables” calls himself on Amazon, even tells us the costs and what’s left for him in the end:

It was just released yesterday and I’ve only sold a few copies – so not much to report on the overall revenue front yet!

In terms of the profit margins though, Amazon KDP lets you choose the sale price for each region, and they take a royalty and deduct the printing cost.

This book costs $3.65 USD to print (which I believe is on the high side…I’m making it available as a largish 8.25×8.25″, on glossy paper). I’m selling it for $8.99 in the US. Amazon takes a 40% cut. At first glance I thought this would mean I get a royalty of (8.99-3.65)0.6 = $3.204 per copy; but, alas, it’s actually calculated as (0.68.99)-3.65= $1.744 per copy.

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