How to Double Down On Being Human. 5 Ways To Stand Out In An Age Of AI

How can you stand out with your books as more content is created faster with AI? How can you reach readers with your authentic story and experience?

In this video, I provide 5 specific tips to double down on being human and stand out in an age of AI-generated content.

In this video, I go through:

  1. Show your face and/or use your voice in marketing
  2. Be more personal in your emails and with your community
  3. Make beautiful books and physical products 
  4. Connect in person
  5. Tap into your Shadow side to make your books truly unique

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Transcript of the video

Hello Creatives, I’m Joanna Penn and in this video, I’m talking about how to double down on being human, 5 ways to stand out in an age of AI.

Since 2016, I’ve been writing and podcasting about the impact of artificial intelligence, AI, on authors and the publishing industry, and this impact has only become more significant as the years have passed.

Now, to be clear, I am a techno-optimist, I use various AI tools as part of my creative process already, and most of the services and websites I use as part of publishing and book marketing are powered by AI. If you use Amazon or Google or Meta or Facebook or Instagram, TikTok, you are using AI-powered tools.

I’m certainly not against using these tools, but they are tools to help us achieve our human creative goals and should be used as such.

However, it is clear that more and more books and other content, both written and video and audio will be generated by AI in the years to come. So here are five ways you can double down on being human and stand out as an author in an age of AI.

(1) Show your face and/or use your voice in marketing

The greatest part of human communication is through body language, and when it’s voice only, then intonation and energy can be felt by the other person, even through headphones years later.

My eye contact, even through a camera, gives you a sense of me that a still image or reading my books cannot.

You know I’m a real person because I’ve been podcasting since 2009 and doing videos on YouTube since 2008.

You can see pictures of me online, you can hear my voice on all kinds of podcast apps in different ways over time.

I could have a voice clone right now, and I could make a digital avatar of myself to be on video — and I have thought about doing this, to be honest. Especially on video because I shy away from doing this. It takes effort. I have to put on makeup and do my hair!

My podcast also takes a lot of work to prepare and produce. It would be easier to use a clone or a voice double. But as part of considering this, on how can we be more human, I’ve decided to continue as human me.

If you see me on video, or hear my voice on a podcast, it is human me. Unless it’s a deepfake, and unless in the future I tell you otherwise.

Now, of course, deepfakes are already happening, but they are made for a specific purpose, and they’re not an ecosystem of content built over time, some of which is more personal than others.

I know this is difficult, but find a way to share your face and your voice in some way, and do it which will build up a sense of who you are in all your complexity.

Of course, if you use a pen name or an avatar, you can still use your voice in some way or aspects of your life that don’t identify you.

Now, my main method for this is long-form audio through podcasting, primarily on The Creative Penn Podcast every Monday and more sporadically on my Books and Travel Podcast.

You don’t have to start your own show. You can pitch to be on other peoples’. Just remember to get to know the show first and pitch a topic that will deliver value to the host and the audience.

Many of these shows also do video, so that gives you a two-for-one. I also narrate my own nonfiction books and also some fiction short stories and my travel memoir. I post pictures of my cats and my travels and things around Bath here in the UK and my book research on Instagram and Facebook and I do occasional videos like this one.

Other authors love short-form video like TikTok Reels, YouTube Shorts. There are lots of different things.

The main way to decide is to look at what you consume in terms of content and consider whether that medium might work for you.

Experiment, then commit to something for the long term so people get to know you, like you and trust you over time.

(2) Be more personal in your emails and with your community

While many of the specific marketing tactics change over time as technology moves on, one thing has remained constant: Building and maintaining an email list of people who have bought or are interested in buying your books.

There are some key ways to get people on your email list. If you sell direct, you build a list of buyers, and you can also create a free lead magnet so people can try your work. [I have my Author Blueprint, and also a free thriller for J.F. Penn]

But however you do it, you also have to nurture that list over time.

Once again, you want to be more personal in terms of your communication. Make sure your email is in your voice. So really write more naturally in your emails and also share aspects of your life. You might not think you’re that interesting, but trust me, you are!

You can reuse the content you have already created. For example, I share my Instagram pictures in my fiction email newsletters and also my non-fiction, as well as links to if I do videos or podcast episodes or articles.

I also recommend books I’ve read that are useful or for fiction that I’ve enjoyed reading. And of course that gives an aspect of your personality as well. We all like to know what other people are reading!

You could also consider creating a private community, this might be a private group on Facebook, or a paid subscription like Patreon or Substack, where you share more personally and more openly than you do in public.

I have my non-fiction author community at, and I certainly share personal aspects. I’m able to be more open when I can trust my audience to care more about me than the general public, which is where you get most of your criticism from.

(3) Make beautiful books and physical products

There have always been spammers and scammers and pirates who take advantage of the ease of self-publishing to steal other people’s work, plagiarise, pirate and publish under other people’s names. AI tools are just the latest way that these humans are using to try and make a quick buck.

But usually, those books will be digital only, and the author will have very little history in terms of publishing.

So if you make beautiful physical books and products alongside your standard ebooks and audio, you will stand out because no AI scammer is going to do that. It’s too costly in time and effort, and quite frankly, they don’t care about books like we do. We love beautiful books!

You can also offer direct first and direct-only products, rewarding your community with higher-quality books and merchandise.

You can do this through crowdfunding, for example, as I am doing with this special edition of Writing the Shadow with gold foil and ribbon, and this particular edition with the ribbon and everything is only available on the Kickstarter,

It will be available in other formats wide everywhere later, but it is only in the Kickstarter for this special edition. And you can do these beautiful editions when you do crowdfunding because you get the money in advance.

I’m also still doing this with my book Pilgrimage, which I launched on Kickstarter originally as the hardback — it has colour photos and a silken finish cover, which is on my Shopify store,

I’m planning to do more beautiful books in the years ahead and really learning how to do much more quality production, making sure to spend extra time and money creating physical products with more personal elements that no bot can compete with.

(4) Connect in person

The term ‘social graph’ represents social relationships within a network, all linked together.

There are strong ties and weak ties between people, and increasingly as AI personas proliferate, it will be used to judge how human someone is. How many people is each person connected to? How many of these are real-life connections, or is everything online, which is easier to fake?

I’m an introvert. I get my energy from being alone. So being physically present in person, especially with a lot of people, is extremely tiring. This is true for many authors, so most of us resist in-person connection. There’s also, obviously, the cost involved if we attend conferences, even if they’re local.

Jo with Michael Anderle and Dan Wood (D2D) at London Book Fair 2023 – worth attending to reconnect with friends and colleagues!

But we need to connect in person to make the weak ties in the social graph, and then strengthen those bonds that we make online, or if we see people once a year at these things, if we meet in person, we strengthen these bonds.

So the relationships you build in authentic ways — because this is not about faking relationships or doing it for the sake of networking — but building in authentic ways through personal connection will become even more critical in the years to come. And in your career, when you connect with peers, you never know where they will end up in the future.

(5) Tap into your Shadow side to make your books truly unique

We will never beat the machines at productivity and perfection, and I have no doubt that at some point an AI will write a (technically) better book than me, but that’s okay.

Because our flaws make us human. Our shadow side makes us human. And that’s the part other humans connect with in our writing.

If we accept that we are flawed, and so is everyone else, then why are we so scared to show it? Why do we resist putting our whole selves into what we create?

We actually criticize art that is shallow or fake, and we ridicule wooden or one-dimensional characters in books or movies or TV shows.

We demand depth in the art we love, so let us make art in the same way.

If we can be even more human in our books, our words will resonate and readers will seek them out because they crave authentic experience.

In Writing the Shadow, and also in my memoir Pilgrimage, and in my fiction as J. F. Penn, you see my quirks and imperfections, and yes, my Shadow side, that which makes me, me.

We must find ways to instill the essence of our individual human experience and perspective into our books.

Delving into the shadow can help you do that in a deeper way.

You can find out more on how to do that in my book, Writing the Shadow, which is on Kickstarter until the 25th of October 2023 and then available on my store, and on all the usual stores from January 2024. Just go to and you’ll find out more.

You can find more videos on my YouTube channel and more audio on The Creative Penn Podcast.

I hope you will find ways to double down on being human. Happy writing and I’ll see you next time.

Writing the Shadow

The post How to Double Down On Being Human. 5 Ways To Stand Out In An Age Of AI first appeared on The Creative Penn.

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Author: Joanna Penn

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  • October 18, 2023