Chatbots in publishing and marketing books

Chatbots in publishing and marketing books

SnatchBot Team SnatchBot Team, 03/03/2020

Chatbots in publishing and marketing books

This month’s ‘Bot of the Month’ award goes to Paul Bellow. Paul is the author of the Tower of Gates LitRPG series and the publisher of LitRPG Reads and LitRPG Forum. In fact, it’s for two bots that Paul has created to promote his books. His helpful, 'how-to' response is a must-read for all independent, self-published or micropublishers. Even large publishers too, could benefit from using chatbots for engagement and providing title recommendations to their readers. We asked Paul to explain how his chatbots were built on the SnatchBot platform, to help other users wanting similar features.

A Facebook Chatbot for Publishers, Authors and Readers

The goal for this LitRPG Reads Facebook chatbot is to help introduce visitors to the LitRPG genre (a genre where the characters are in a game and where we see detail of their progress within the game), recommend new books, and most of all, be entertaining. As an online community, LitRPG Reads on Facebook is all about readers and fans of LitRPG books. While still in the beginning stages of development, I have big plans for the chatbot on the LitRPG Reads Facebook page, including making it able to “play a game” with people who chat with the bot. With over 13,000 fans on the Facebook page, this will lbe a great engagement tool, available 24/7.

A Website Chatbot for Publishers, Authors and Readers

The goal for the LitRPG Reads website chatbot is a bit different than the one for Fcebook. While I still want it to recommend books and be entertaining, another big goal is to get visitors to subscribe to my email  newsletter. Luckily, Snatchbot makes this easy to do, especially working with a service like Zapier or Integromat. Snatchbot has a lot of cool tools built-in, but the chatbot service becomes even more powerful when connected with other services on the web. My next project with this bot is to set it up to ask people if they want updates and store their email in a Google Sheet spreadsheet - or maybe hook directly to Aweber via Zapier. The possibilities are very promising for this blog chatbot.

Adding Subscribers to Google Sheets

Step 1) You will need two interactions. One to ask the person for their email (SUBSCRIBE) and one to actually send the information to Google Sheets (SUBCRIBE THX).

Adding Subscribers to Google Sheets

Step 2) Create spreadsheet on Google Sheets. Make sure to give it a unique name and label each column with data you would like to collect from your Snatchbot.

Create spreadsheet on Google Sheets

Step 3) Set-Up Automation on Snatchbot. I set mine up on the SUBSCRIBE THX interaction which sets a custom attribute using the RESPONSE TO tag for the SUBSCRIBE interaction previously encountered in the bot flow.

After clicking AUTOMATION on the INTERACTION, Choose Google Sheets.

Automation integration with Google Sheets

Next, we choose INSERT A ROW to store the data (in this case an email address).

INSERT A ROW to google sheets with SnatchBot

Next, choose the appropriate Snatchbot attributes and match them to named rows on your Google Spreadsheet.

choose the appropriate Snatchbot attributes and match them to named rows on your Google Spreadsheet

Step 4) Set-Up Custom Attribute - For this, I use one called “email” that is populated by the value of the response to a previous interaction (asking them for their email address).

Set-Up Custom Attribute

While the process looks complicated at first, it’s actually super simple. The AUTOMATION feature is one of the big reasons I decided to move to Snatchbot Pro.

Sentiment Analysis

This goes over how I set-up simple sentiment analysis with Snatchbot to gauge the user’s feelings when they’re interacting with the bot.

Sentiment Analysis

Next, the connections for the initial interaction branch according to whether the response is positive, negative, or neutral (caught by words like “ok” and “fine”.)

positive, negative, or neutral

This is the current message for a positive message.

positive message

And this is a response for a negative message.

negative message

The connections for each of the sentiments are slightly different as well, directing the chat participant to one or more other areas of the bot.

Main Navigation for the Bot

Here are some of the selections available for a positive response. Note that this interaction has all the options available while negative and neutral only have some.

Main Navigation for the Bot

GIFS - This is a Snatchbot plugin that allows a user to search GIPHY for relevant GIFs

RSS - This option allows the user to grab the latest nine stories from one of several RSS feeds, including some for communities online (Reddit), D&D memes, blog posts, and more.

LEARN - This option gives the user a basic definition of LitRPG and offers a growing glossary of gamer terms that are commonly found in LitRPG books.

READ - This option will take the user to a section to pick a sub-genre before getting recommendations for litrpg books to read.

LISTEN - This option displays litrpg audiobooks to the user.

Future Plans for the Bot

I am looking at using the JSON API interaction on Snatchbot to offer users of my chatbot access to even more relevant information. One project is to connect the Snatchbot to the Amazon Product API to pull recent and relevant LitRPG books from their store, including new books.

Interview with Paul Bellow, author about chatbots in the publishing industry

You are an independent author, publishing and marketing your own books. How important is reader engagement to you?

Very important! Whether it’s the algorithms at Amazon or Facebook, reader engagement is high on my list of priorities when it comes to publishing and selling books. One of the things I’m liking about chatbots is that I can have reader engagement even when I’m not around! It’s still not as good as human to human conversation or engagement, but the chatbot works tirelessly around the clock, even when I’m working on other things. This is one of the main reasons I’m so excited about getting chatbots integrated into my overall marketing funnel.

When you first heard of the idea of putting a chatbot on your author website and Facebook page, what did you think?

To be honest, I didn’t think it would be too hard, but I feared it would suck up a lot of my time. As an author and publisher, my time is valuable. Looking into Snatchbot, my fears were quickly cast aside as I realized it wouldn’t take very long at all to get my chatbots up and running. Yes, I do need to spend more time improving them, but it was simple and didn’t take very much time at all to get the initial, simple versions of the chatbots deployed on my websites and social media networks like Facebook. I’ll also admit I was a bit hesitant about the viability of a chatbot as I remember interacting with ELIZA back in the 1980s. However, to my pleasant surprise, chatbot technology has come a LONG way over the years.

What features does the chatbot have that help you as an author?

I’ve started off simple with very basic implementations of bots, but I plan to do more in the future. For now, I’m using the NLP sentiment aspect of Snatchbot to let me know how the person interacting with the bot is feeling. This way, I can massage the message to their mood better. I’ll be improving on this as I move forward. I’ve also added a simple GIF search feature that allows people to search up cool animated GIFs within the chatbot.

Yet to be added, but possibly even more important, are features to gather emails (from people who want to be updated) and even more ways to sell my books via the chatbot. The great thing about working with Snatchbot is that it’s super easy to modify existing bots and continually make them better based on feedback from users. I look forward to adding even more functionality to my chatbots over the coming weeks and months. There’s a good chance I’ll be using features like the RSS cards built into Snatchbot more in the near future too.

Does the chatbot help with reader engagement?

While I’m still setting up the chatbots and modifying them, so far so good! It’s been nice to be able to automatically interact with my communities even when I’m not around. That being said, I’m looking at new ways to use Snatchbot to improve reader engagement and keep people talking about my books and brand. I’ve got a bit to learn about setting up chatbots, but Snatchbot has made it easy to get things up and running quickly with the ability to improve in the future.

What other positives does a chatbot bring for an independent author?

One of the big things that I think will help me as an author and publisher is the 24/7 “always there” response from the chatbot. Even when I’m sleeping or writing my next book, the chatbot will be hard at work, interacting and engaging with my readers or those who might not have heard of my books before. Beyond that aspect, the fun and personality I can put into the chatbot is really neat. Creative types like authors should have no trouble coming up with amazing ideas on how to utilize chatbots. I know I’ve got more than a couple ideas floating around in my brain I hope to implement soon. With Snatchbot, this is going to be easier than I thought it would be!