Earlier this year, our colleague Joanna Penn ran an interview with a marketing and automation expert who made several predictions about the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in publishing over the next few years. Among those predictions were the following thoughts:
- AIs will begin writing nonfiction books, blog posts, and news articles largely indistinguishable from those written by human beings
- Copyright law will morph as AIs programmed to write like famous authors skirt the line of plagiarism
- Voice synth technology will provide a low-cost alternative to hiring voice actors for audiobooks
- Content will become increasingly difficult to navigate, and AI discoverability will be the cure
- AI-augmented creativity will help authors and artists produce more, and help more people become authors and artists
Most of these seem like pretty bad news for independent and self-published authors, since the best benefits from all of the above will go first and most to the big houses with the money to afford top-level AI. However, this is a double-edged sword. We indie authors can leverage the power of AI to make our job easier, sell more books, and have more time to write.
Even though AI has some risks, it also directly benefits micropreneurs like you and me. The simplest example most of us are aware of is accounting and tax preparation. What used to cost hundreds of dollars or take several days, now runs in the two-digit price tag over a single afternoon…all because TurboTax and HR Block used simple AIs to run the numbers and set our strategies.
The same thing applies to many of our jobs as self-published authors. Here are the top five ways AI will help writers over the next five to ten years.
AI-Based Writing Coaches
AI comes in two categories: weak and general. A weak AI is programmed to do a single task very well, like play chess or analyze keywords in the context of a market. All existing AI is currently weak, though most futurists suspect it will the the language and translation programs that first develop into a general artificial intelligence.
Over the past few years, powerful AI writing coaches have begun to pop up. These started with the spellchecker in your word processor, which became a grammar checker, and then began being able to predict common mistakes and suggest better phrasing.
Today, platforms like Grammarly and ProWritingAid offer even more robust help, with AIs automatically suggesting tone and word choice most appropriate to a specific genre or style of writing, or to the purpose of writing an email. For example, they would make different word choice and sentence length suggestions for writing a memo to a colleague, sending a proposal to an editor, or offering an invitation to a friend.
As the technology develops, expect to find AI writing coaches who can give you advice about writing to a particular individual, how to pace and structure different genres of writing, and how to make your sentences feel more like a specific best-selling author in your market.
It will be a long time before an AI has the depth of knowledge and feeling to create stirring works of fine art. However, they’re already able to create market-worthy pieces of commercial art. This is because they essentially “spam” thousands of ideas in seconds, and produce a handful of options that most resemble best-selling art and design found on the web.
For example, website publishing platform WIX offers a free AI-based service that creates a basic website layout based on initial information given by the creator. Several dozen simple graphics programs can do the same for logos, and even book covers.
As the technology becomes more refined and less expensive, you will be able to outsource those tasks you used to send to Fiverr.com, and let an AI handle them instead. You may need a few dozen iterations before you land on the perfect match…but the AI will churn through a few thousand for free.
You’ve interacted with AI-driven marketing longer than anything else on this list. From the days of Yahoo up to right now, those search algorithms that help you navigate the web are weak AIs…and they’re getting stronger every day. When you use a keyword analysis program to help generate them for your next Amazon entry or blog post, that’s AI-enhanced marketing at work.
Another example is the Yoast plugin for your WordPress site. It analyzes each blog post for readability and keyword usage, to help you make sure every post performs as well as possible. It’s not HAL or Robbie, but it’s still AI. See also the analytics you get from Facebook or Google ad campaigns. See also how they turn your settings into displaying your ad in front of the right people.
There won’t be much of a qualitative change over the next decade here. How small(er) time authors like us interact with this data will be much as it has been over the past ten or so years. However, the quantity of available data, and how easily we access it, will both increase exponentially. Where before, those who did so well had a slight advantage over the competition, it will soon become a barrier to entry. If you can’t take advantage of the tools, you won’t be able to compete at all.
Translation and Audio
We’ve talked again and again about how easy it is to increase sales by offering different versions of the same book. Print and ebook are the two most obvious, but translation into other languages and audiobook versions are rapidly becoming even more profitable.
In the past, both were the bailiwick of big companies with the big budgets necessary to pay for translation and voice actors for producing the new editions. However, that’s changing before our very eyes.
Both automatic translators like Google’s, and text to voice synthesizers are getting more powerful every day. Recent testing of the Google Assistant has the app making restaurant reservations with live customer service reps successfully, and with less than half of them realizing they were speaking to a computer.
Within the next decade, this growing trend will mean you can pay a computer to translate or record your book…meaning you can enter those markets at very low costs and benefit from a wider audience for all of your books.
Ideally, you would make contact with every one of your fans whenever they wanted to reach out…and that’s probably possible for most of us still. But when we all hit the big time (or even the slightly bigger time), it’s simply not feasible.
Chatbots like Authorbot and Wonderbot exist now, working as triage attendants for people trying to reach you. They can be programmed to have a brief conversation via chat to answer basic questions, direct somebody to a FAQ or other informational page, and warm them up for live conversation with a real person. Right now, you can tell they’re bots but oftentimes they’re still useful.
Just like with the Google Assistant’s voice bots, these will quickly become less expensive and more capable of having “real” interactions leaving your readers feeling like they made meaningful contact. You’ll still want to engage as much as possible, but chatbots will allow you to engage a little bit with a swath of audience that was previously out of reach.
So listen, everybody….
Do not fear our coming robot overlords. They’re going to look a lot less like Skynet, and a lot more like Tony Stark’s Jarvis: a ubiquitous helper who handles our scut work and frees us to become more creative, more experienced, wiser, wealthier writers.
The only robot apocalypse coming for writers is coming only to those who refuse to learn how to make it happen.