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5 Ways to Use ChatGPT as an Author

One way or another, ChatGPT is set to shake up publishing. How can you benefit from it?

Have you ever wanted a digital assistant like Iron Man’s J.A.R.V.I.S.? Well, you’re in luck. Right now, thanks to Chat “Generative Pre-Trained Transformer” — or ChatGPT as it’s known to mainstream users — we’re on the cusp of that reality. In case you’re unfamiliar with it, despite the media being abuzz with discussion on the topic for the last few months, ChatGPT is an AI language model that uses natural language processing and machine learning algorithms to interpret inquiries and provide relevant responses. In layman’s terms, it’s a chat bot that answers questions and improves the more users interact with it.

Sounds great, right? Well, that depends on who you ask. Many authors worry about ChatGPT. They claim it infringes on authors’ rights when it crawls books, and that those who embrace it could swamp the market. As largely unregulated tech, it’s scary. However, remember that digital book pirates already work essentially unpoliced and the book market already contains more titles than anyone can read. Authors with a strong personal brand will still likely dominate the charts. Apart from outliers, ChatGPT will generally just lengthen the long tail of books that sell a few copies a year. As Amy Woods, CEO of Context 10x said at the YouPreneur Summit in 2019:

“Connection is the most important currency online.”

So, relax. Yes, some individuals will abuse ChatGPT’s capabilities in the short term. But many more will use it ethically to help them produce high-quality work from which we will all benefit. Objectively, ChatGPT isn’t an author, just as a 3D printer isn’t a sculptor; it’s a tool. Without intensive prompting, its work is full of cliches and lacks emotion. Don’t expect us to reveal here that AI wrote this article because it couldn’t. ChatGPT can’t synthesis context and emotion like a human yet. Will that change? Perhaps, but for now it’s best suited to helping authors with supplementary publishing tasks, much like the five we will explore in today’s blog post.

Prompting You

Much fearmongering surrounds the idea that authors can “prompt” ChatGPT to produce flawless work in any style they choose. The truth, though, is that it struggles to produce good long-form content at this point. Instead, what it can do is prompt its users with inspiration. No, it doesn’t come up with ideas, but it does crawl multiple webpage sources to produce responses that help you think laterally. Say, for example, you wanted to write a scene about a dragon breeder hatching eggs. Without ChatGPT, you might use the cliché of simply having them place eggs on a pillow under a lamp. However, the following prompt could help you be more original:

“If dragons were real like other reptiles, how would I hatch their eggs?”

When tested with this question, ChatGPT explained how hobbyist reptile breeders use the commercial product HatchRite — a crystalised substrate that maintains the right amount of humidity — to keep reptile eggs heathy. This isn’t something a non-reptile enthusiast would even necessarily encounter when manually jumping between blogs. What’s more, say you wanted to adapt a passage from your usual style to one that middle graders can read with ease. It can filter tricky words and help you cater to that audience. Using these strengths, it can make you a more original writer that can write more closely to market, despite it lacking original thought.

Training Assistants

The media would have you believe that ChatGPT could do the job of a Virtual Assistant (VA). The truth, though, is that it can’t operate other softwares or think strategically. Nor can it organise a newsletter ad stack or schedule Facebook ads and Amazon ads to maximise stickiness in a bestseller list. What it can do is help teach actual VAs to oversee those tasks. How? By crawling internet tutorials and writing step-by-step guides to train them. Admittedly, it won’t get every detail correct and may include outdated information. However, what it will deliver is a first draft of a living manual you can tweak and develop with your VA over time.

What training can it cover? That depends the tasks you want to outsource from the extensive list VAs can manage. Almost every publishing and marketing technique is documented on the internet somewhere. That means ChatGPT can find it. And once it does, it’s perfectly calibrated to turn that information into brief guides for you to inspect before handing to your VA. Just some potential tasks it could outline include:

  • Story bible creation
  • Keyword harvesting
  • Promo applications
  • Newsletter writing
  • Influencer pitching

It doesn’t matter if your VA struggles to write copy to your high standards for ads, newsletter or influencer pitches, either. Using ChatGPT, you can quickly create approved templates for them to complete and send.

Search Engine Optimisation

ChatGPT isn’t just good at writing manuals and templates. Designed to interpret written information, it’s a master at codifying text and explaining patterns, which is a useful skill for indie authors. Say, for example, you wanted to write a search-optimised blog post that ranks well for certain keywords. Using ChatGPT, you can create a first draft over several stages that serves your purpose. You can optimise the process with the following prompt string:

How do I optimise a blog post for search?

What is the ideal length of a tech-related blog post?

What questions do people commonly search on the topic of XXX?

Write me a X,XXX-word blog post about XXX that includes a single Heading 1 and three Heading 2s. Optimise the introduction to include the following keywords: XXX, XXX and XXX. Ensure each sub-heading answers the following three questions about XXX….

The blog post ChatGPT creates will be totally unique and meet all your requirements. Just remember, though, that it doesn’t question sources, nor does it consider broad context. Undoubtedly, you’ll need to check facts and re-draft. That said, it will give you a framework that’s easier than a blank page to raise to a publishing standard. The same goes for blurbs. Ask it to write a blurb based on your story elements, matching current bestseller product descriptions, and it’ll deliver a clean first draft that’s tailored for search, saving you hours of time.

Marketing Another Language

When many of us first begin publishing, we often start small, managing one pen name, one series and a single language. As we grow, our businesses complexify and so do our outsourcing practices. While you can outsource tasks to save time, however, in some cases outsourcing delivers diminishing returns. Say you manage eight routine tasks that require different knowledge bases. Outsource one and you free up mental bandwidth. Outsource seven, on the other hand, and two things happen:

  1. You start spending a lot of time managing people.
  2. You replace the tasks you outsourced with new ones.

Your income may expand exponentially, but your free time doesn’t. It simply becomes more valuable as you juggle pen names, series, formats and languages. ChatGPT can help here, however. Take the languages, for example. Sure, you’ll want a professional translator to translate a whole book and a native-speaking editor to refine it. But will translators want the piecemeal work of translating launch tweets and finding relevant hashtags for a German audience? And will you want to manage these microtasks? Probably not. In many cases, it’s faster to run them through ChatGPT then get a native proof-reader to check them for typos and cultural faux pas.

Tech Support

Running a publishing empire often requires authors to do more than just write books and run Facebook ads. At times, you need to create web pages, fix laptops, hire freelancers and conduct bookkeeping. You may even need to fix your car on your way to a speaking gig. As the CEO of a one-person business, you are the programming department, HR, accounts and maintenance. And learning those skills well enough to operate smoothly isn’t easy. You know what significantly slows your progress, though? Manually trawling tutorials, connecting solution snippets and delving into jargon rabbit holes, each term exposing another you need to define with a search.

Play with ChatGPT and you’ll discover it’s adept at helping you solve problems. Not only can it read 3+ articles faster than you can read a paragraph, but it will also summarise them and define industry-specific jargon. It can help you fix a code snippet and explain why it works or suggest terms for hiring a freelancer. It can break down a balance sheet or talk you through changing a tyre, all with infinite patience. Will it always be 100% right? No. But 80% is often good enough when you need a quick fix. In the early days of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg used the mantra, “done is better than perfect.” Use that in this context and you won’t be disappointed.

Admittedly, ChatGPT has its faults. Like a toddler, it’s still learning about reality, logic and ethics. The tech rolls out faster than we can discuss it and the law isn’t gaining ground. Sometimes, it exposes itself as a biased, unfeeling robot that lacks the ability to process context or be truly creative. It also has a questionable moral role in the modern world. Arguments, aside, however, if you only ever use it to produce work that you would otherwise never pay for, and that you double check and heavily re-write, it is a remarkable tool for book-adjacent author work. It has the capacity to provide ethical assistance and benefit us all.

Daniel Parsons

Daniel Parsons

Dan Parsons is the bestselling author of multiple series. His Creative Business books for authors and other entrepreneurs contains several international bestsellers. Meanwhile, his fantasy and horror series, published under Daniel Parsons, have topped charts around the world and been used to promote a major Hollywood movie. For more information on writing, networking, and building your creative business, check out all of Dan’s non-fiction books here.