- Quick tip: Cook up your titles like lasagna
- Rant: AI stole my book!
- September Book Winner: Donna Batchelor
Quick tip: Cook up your titles like lasagna
A mouth-watering serving of lasagna contains three essential ingredients.
And so does my favorite format for a white paper title.
For lasagna, those three key parts are:
- Melted cheese topping that catches the eye.
- Rich sauce that forms the main body.
- Noodles that lay the foundation of the dish.
Miss out on any one, and you’re left with a dish that’s not quite lasagna.
Similarly, an effective white paper title includes its own three ingredients:
- A snappy lead that captures a prospect’s attention.
- A main line that describes the essence of the paper.
- A second deck that names the target audience.
Consider these examples, all drawn from actual white papers I’ve worked on:
Save the Orangutans!
The Green Life Diamond Closes the Information Gap
A Special Report for Cosmetic Artisans
Is Your Indirect Spend Out of Control?
Building Blocks for an SSC Business Case
An Executive Briefing for CFOs
Don’t Talk to Strangers!
How DNS Egress Filtering Safeguards Mobile Users
A Technical Backgrounder for Network Administrators
Notice how all three elements work together?
- The first line pops in a set of search results so a prospect is more likely to discover it.
- The second line describes the content clearly so a prospect can quickly see what it’s all about.
- The third line points to the paper’s ideal audience so a prospect can tell whether it’s for them.
Together, these three ingredients attract readers, present a crisp overview of the content, and tell a prospect that the paper is aimed at people in their roles.
Any title that does all has done its job.
So, next time you’re naming a white paper, build up your title in three layers, and let lasagna be your muse!
Rant: AI stole my book!
Have you seen the exposé of AI training in The Atlantic?
The original article was a fascinating saga in which Alex Reisner analyzed the database “Books3” and found it contained 180,000+ books used without permission.
He even tracked down and interviewed the database creator, who had an interesting justification: He wanted to even the playing field between Big AI and smaller companies.
Most people in publishing said, “Bullsh*t!” and some big-name authors quickly launched lawsuits.
Now we can all search the database
Now the magazine has created a webpage that reveals of any author’s work is in “Books3.”
Guess what? As you can see in the screenshot above, my book White Papers For Dummies is in there.
For all I know, it’s in “Books1” and “Books2” as well.
I’m certainly not alone.
For example, more than seven of Bob Bly‘s books on writing are included, as shown below.
Check your own books
If you’ve written any books and you want to check the database, here’s the link:
You’ll have to sign up for a free trial subscription to check it out.
Or you can try your national writers’ organization. Here is a list of the major groups in the English-speaking world:
- in Australia, visit the Australian Society of Authors
- in Canada, visit the Writers Union of Canada
- in the UK, visit the Society of Authors or the Writers Guild of Great Britain
- in the U.S., visit The Author’s Guild
If you’re in another country, contact your biggest national writers association.
They are undoubtedly following these developments closely. They will have some advice on what you can do.
How do I feel knowing my book was used to train AI?
<rant> First of all, I’m vindicated.
When I first started using ChatGPT, I asked, “Are you familiar with the work of Gordon Graham aka That White Paper Guy?” It said, “Yes.”
And every time I ask ChatGPT something about white papers, the answers sound suspiciously familiar.
I said as much when I was interviewed by CNBC in April.
Now I have the smoking gun, undeniable proof that at least some AI has been trained with my book.
Second, I’m peeved.
What’s the point of copyright if anyone can scan your books and give them away to anyone else who can download a file?
I hope authors and publishers win quick convictions against everyone involved in grabbing content for “Books1” through “BooksN.”
I hope the judge gives them a tongue-lashing with huge fines that Facebook, Google and Microsoft have to pay.
Finally, I’m almost relieved.
After all, this means I’m enough of a thought leader in the narrow niche of white papers that the people training AIs couldn’t overlook me.
So, I feel vindicated, peeved, and almost relieved. That’s quite the gamut of emotions. </rant>
How about you? Did you find your book(s) in there too? How do you feel?
September Book Winner: Donna Batchelor
My latest challenge was to read my new white paper from the Linux Foundation and look for mistakes that no one else spotted.
I’m delighted to announce the winner is Donna Batchelor.
Donna found some subtle errors, including a missed footnote early in the paper.
Congrats to Donna for her eagle-eyed vision! For her prize, she choose Letting Go of the Words by Janice (Ginny) Redish.
A little more about Donna
Born in Germany to a military family, Donna grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina and started her career working in her town’s vibrant banking scene.
Later she relocated to Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. Now, with more than 25 years in the banking sector, Donna is a seasoned B2B communicator.
One area she knows particularly well is mergers and acquisitions (M&A).
“I have been through so many mergers,” she says, “I could definitely do consulting for almost any company going through an M&A.”
Donna’s interests extend beyond finances. She can see herself helping a software or FinTech firm explain their value to logistics or shipping companies handling supply chains.
All three systems point to someone who is logical, organized, persistent, and good at problem-solving.
These qualities were all evident in the excellent paper she wrote for my AWAI course in white papers a couple years ago.
More recently, Donna won this year’s Spec Challenge for her outstanding case study in Casey Hibbard‘s course.
“It’s writing that I love,” she says, confirming case studies, blog posts, and white papers as her favourite formats. That’s clear from her LinkedIn profile.
With her winning combination of business experience, clear writing, and personal drive, Donna is an impressive B2B writer.
How I used AI for this newsletter
I continue to explore how ChatGPT-4 can help with this newsletter. Under my responsible AI policies, I pledge to reveal how I use AI to generate materials.
Here’s my full disclosure:
- Quick Tip: When I couldn’t find a closeup that showed the three layers, I used DALL-E 2 to create the lasagna photo. Does it look real? You tell me.
- Quick Tip: I asked ChatGPT for a list of things that come in three parts. From the list, I chose lasagna.
- Spotlight on Donna Batchelor: I gave ChatGPT the transcript of our Zoom and asked it to write a first draft. I don’t think I used a single word of what it came up with.
Time saved: Perhaps one hour searching through stock photos and brainstorming the quick tip. But an hour saved is an hour gained, right?
That’s all for this issue
Coming next issue: the results from my survey on AI for writers. Don’t miss it!
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That White Paper Guy