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White Paper World 20: April 14, 2023

  • This just in: AI for Writers Summit Highlights
  • Fresh worry: AI may “flatline” all human skills
  • Quick tip: Stop charging by the hour!
  • You asked: Why so much on AI?

AI for Writers Summit 2023 logo

This just in: Highlights of AI for Writers Summit

Writers who have never written a line of code in their lives make the best AI prompt engineers.

Paul Roetzer, the world’s leading expert on AI in marketing, doesn’t use any AI writing tools… because he wants to think carefully.

 One of the worst effects of AI may be that future generations never reach mastery in any human skill. In effect, everyone “flatlines.”

Those were a few of the surprises coming out of the recent AI for Writers Summit.

This first-ever virtual event was presented by the Marketing AI Institute led by Paul Roetzer with some awesome guests:

Read on for more elaboration on the points above…

Writers make the best prompt engineers

Matt Shumer noted that the best people he has seen crafting prompts are writers, not engineers.

That could be because we’re already trained communicators used to explaining things.

Teachers are likely good prompters too, since they’re used to explaining things to children. And today’s AI chatbots are like children.

Whether prompt engineering will be a sustainable career remains to be seen.

Future chatbots may well create or optimize their own prompts with minimal need for any “engineering.”

On not using AI writing tools

Paul Roetzer Marketing AI Institute founder

Paul Roetzer, founder of the
Marketing AI Institute

Paul Roetzer is one of the best people at explaining what’s going on with AI.

He calls himself a writer, too. He went to school for journalism, ran his own ad agency, and then started the Marketing AI Institute when he wisely spied AI on the horizon far sooner than most people.

He hosts a weekly podcast which is my #1 must-listen every week.

And when Paul needs to get his thoughts straight, he does it by himself, without any chatbot to suggest ideas.


Because writing is thinking. And rewriting is clarifying our thoughts.

That’s nothing you ever want to outsource to a robot.

But there are parts of the publishing process that AI can do perfectly well. The key is to know the difference, right?

Read on for a truly scary possibility.


Fresh worry: AI may “flatline” all human skills

This is the scariest thing I heard at the AI for Writers Summit, in a discussion between Ann Handley and Paul Roetzer.

Ann illustrated this fear with a charming hand-drawn graph.

I’ve reworked her graphic into a set of three and extended the concept from writing to encompass every human skill.

1 the traditional way to learn any skillTraditionally, any beginner learns any skill through practice over time.

This is how anyone learns how to write or do anything else.

We start off as neophytes. And through decades of practice, we climb towards mastery.

But AI disrupts this pattern

2 but AI interrupts this patternUsing AI, any beginner can perform at an acceptable level of skill… without the need for any learning or practice.

No one has to struggle up any kind of learning curve. Not writers, not artists, not anyone.

All we have to know is how to ask AI to do something for us, and we can do it about as well as everyone else.

So no one bothers to pursue mastery

3 so everyone flatlinesAnd that means everyone flatlines at the level of skill provided by AI.

How can future generations develop skills if AI is there to do it all for us?

And how can anyone size up how well AI is performing, if it sets the bar for acceptable performance in every field?


How can any future writer avoid melting into a puddle of mediocrity, if they never need to struggle to capture their thoughts or refine their expression?

Forget SkyNet exterminating all humans.

Instead, AI may cause our minds to atrophy and our wills to shrink, making us all “average”.

Let’s not let that happen. Let’s keep struggling and learning. And trudging on towards mastery in our skills like writing white papers.

No matter how long that takes.


piles of coins, hourglass and red arrow pointing down

Quick tip: Stop charging by the hour!

Whatever you think about AI, it’s fast. And cheap. 

ChatGPT-4 can write a blog post faster than you can even dictate the words.

It can spit out a press release or draft a landing page in less than 10 seconds.

And it can revise and rewrite just as fast. For pennies. With no complaints.

So if you’re a writer or agency still charging clients by the hour, you can’t compete with that old-fashioned business model.

Why should any client pay you $50 or $100 an hour when they can pay AI 10 cents an hour?

Sure, you deliver much better content than AI. But is it really 500 times better?

Three reasons why not to charge by the hour

Hand putting card in time clock1. You put all the risk on your client

And they know it.

How can you claim to be looking out for their best interests when you’re clearly looking out more for yourself?

2. You can’t increase your income

Charging by the hour freezes your income, almost like having a full-time job. Here’s why.

While you may bill a little more, most contractors bill about 25 hours a week. And that means…

25 (or however many hours) X your hourly rate = your weekly pay

Sure, you can work longer hours, evenings, and weekends. What joy!

The only other way to earn more is to raise your hourly rate. Good luck doing that in the AI era.

3. You get no reward for getting faster

As you gain experience, you will get faster.

But when you charge by the hour, you have no incentive to work faster or smarter.

If you do, you’re delivering more to your clients without getting paid more.

Is that fair to you?

So you’re stuck

Stuck with resentful clients. Stuck with fixed income.

And worst of all, stuck competing with AI.

Clients can do the math. They’re not stupid. But your hourly rates will look pretty stupid to them.

So please, stop charging just for putting in time.

Start charging by the value of the projects you complete.

Ten years ago, writing an average white paper cost $4,200.

Today, a human-written white paper with reliable sources, good storytelling, and an emotive connection with readers is worth a lot more than that.

But to earn that higher fee, you have to do things that AI can’t.

And get away from the hourly billing, so clients won’t compare you to AI.

Thanks to Paul Roetzer from the Marketing AI Institute for updating this timeless wisdom for the AI era. 

Black hole with OpenAI logo

You asked: Why so much on AI?

“Why all this stuff on AI? I thought this newsletter was supposed to be about white papers?”

You’re right. It is. So please allow me to explain.

AI is a game-changer today. A black hole that every writer is being sucked through. A singularity that changes everything.

I’ve consciously decided to learn about it, to test it out, and to help other writers understand what it can do for their careers, especially in writing white papers.

For more discussion, see my full article Why so much on AI?

And don’t give up on me. I’ll get back to more balanced coverage between white papers and AI.

I promise.


That’s all for this time

Thanks for reading another newsletter packed with AI content.

If you missed anything, you can see all the previous issues here:

And to see every issue, make sure to subscribe here:

Gordon Graham
That White Paper Guy

About Gordon Graham

Worked on 320+ white papers for clients from Silicon Valley to Switzerland, on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, for clients from tiny startups to 3M, Google, and Verizon. Wrote White Papers for Dummies which earned 60+ 5-star ratings on Amazon. Won 16 awards from the Society for Technical Communication. Named AWAI 2019 Copywriter of the Year.

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