Performers: FlexibleImage & theatrical

Players who take charge by showmanship and persuasion, advancing via influence and maneuvering their fans and colleagues. They enjoy the stimulation and excitement of the game, and they’ll claim center stage through charm, confrontation, and interpersonal politics. They can be sweet as pie or psychopathic, but they’re in it to win it and they will run the show.

Action: Impacting (choose / make / control) Impression: Commands attention
Social impulse: Express Solution: Performance
Bait: Influence and celebrity Goal: Authority
Mode: Tactical Principle: Power
D&D class: Rogue Keirsey type: Artisan (SP)

As a Performer, you are going to always look for new ways to express yourself, claim attention, and influence others. Take time to consider intangible benefits. When faced with any opportunity, remember that the flashy or enjoyable rewards may not be readily apparent. Even if something seems boring or difficult at first, look for ways to own it and use it to showcase your unique power.

You’re probably emphasizing attention, influence, interpersonal politics, and establishing authority. Your progress depends on the balance of subtle maneuvers and aggressive action that maximize your impact on other players in your genre.

Check out our Game Plan for Performers.

Achievers: competitive & practicalImage

Players who want to impress others by winning public challenges while developing their prestige, skills, and renown in structured, measurable ways. They enjoy the social status acquired by completing tasks and winning badges and titles; they view these prizes as reward for diligence and proof of mastery.

Action: Striving (win / prove / compare) Impression: Earns attention
Social impulse: Compete Solution: Persistence
Bait: Prestige and awards Goal: Accomplishment
Mode: Logistical Principle: Security
D&D class: Warrior Keirsey type: Guardian (SJ)

Achievers advance logically. When faced with a possibility, establish a measure of success immediately so you have a clear criteria for all your decisions. Take time to map out a strategy, breaking the overall campaign into manageable tasks. Don’t be afraid to color outside the lines and step beyond the well-worn path. Try not to expect proof (and praise) before you’ve taken the necessary steps. Generally, you’re going to look for the sequential steps you need to climb the hierarchy, so make sure you’re pointed up the right ladder.

You’re goal-oriented and focused on competing for status and ranked recognition in your public pursuit of mastery. Every step you take climbs in the professional hierarchy and advances you toward tangible proof of your accomplishments…

Check out our Game Plan for Achievers.

Socializers: poetic & personalImage

Players who focus on connecting with their cohorts, building relationships that extend beyond the confines of the game. Socializers seek to help their community and transform the world. They enjoy discussing the conduct and accomplishments of themselves and others. Empathy fuels their work and they thrive in trusted groups with emotional connections.

Action: Relating (meet / join / connect) Impression: Shares attention
Social impulse: Collaborate Solution: Persuasion
Bait: Fans and contacts Goal: Cooperation
Mode: Diplomatic Principle: Guidance
D&D class: Cleric/Mystic Keirsey type: Idealist (NF)

As a Socializer, relationships are your lifeblood so use your diplomatic skills to create the right kind of support and access the necessary resources. Cultivate moments of detachment so you can ask the hard questions. Abstract causes may exhilarate you, but consider the logic and specifics necessary for a real world payoff. Even if someone you trust convinces you a plan is an E-Z no-brainer, keep your eyes peeled for flaws and traps. Call upon your formal and informal networks for facts, advice, and clearheaded support.

You love to stay engaged with colleagues and the community, forging bonds, building bridges. Your best moves will emphasize relationships and ways to connect with others that expand your network with fans and pros.

Check out our Game Plan for Socializers.

Explorers: abstract & experimentalImage

Players who prefer to investigate their environment, discovering hidden rewards and accumulating knowledge about the way the genre works as a niche and an industry. They enjoy solving puzzles, improving the status quo, and often learn more about the game than the folks in control because they never stop searching for answers and solutions.

Action: Thinking (know / learn / discover) Impression: Invests attention
Social impulse: Explore Solution: Perception
Bait: Insight and predictions Goal: Immersion
Mode: Strategic Principle: Wisdom
D&D class: Wizard Keirsey type: Rational (NT)

Explorers dig for treasure, testing and probing the possibilities of the genre community. While their discoveries are invaluable, they can also lose track of the personal connections that hold the industry together. Try not to dissect your gut instincts and emotional links. When someone suggests an opportunity, don’t let your prior experimentation or preconceptions about the genre get in the way of the human element. Credentials, research, and statistics count, but they aren’t infallible.

You probably like to gather intel and inside scoops that give you an edge, learning the lay of the land and pieces of the puzzle. Your moves may veer off on tangents as you dig for treasure and peel back the industry curtain…

Check out our Game Plan for Explorers.

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The A-game Rules

MEASURE UP: Define clear goals which you have the power to achieve.

Before you get into the game, decide what matters most and what it’s worth to you with a tangible measure of success. Success is a homonym; we all use the same sounds, but we mean different things. Decide on priorities and limits. Define your terms and state your intentions in clear language (“in order to”) before the fact. If you fail to plan, plan to fail.

Different projects and campaigns will have different objectives. Their measures of success should resonate and complement each other on a macro and micro level. Allow small wins to coalesce into large ones. How do smaller projects (and their measures) cohere under your larger goals?

Establishing a gauge frees you from dependence on outside validation, so you can’t fudge the numbers or fool yourself in the final analysis. Specifying a clear goal in advance will inform every decision you make and will skew any project toward triumph.

PAY ATTENTION: In your career, every detail counts. Get in where you fit in.

In your career, every detail counts. We all come to the table with unique assets and liabilities. Every game is different: no two authors, two books, two brands are the same. Due diligence pays insane dividends.

Authenticity matters more than almost anything else in your marketing arsenal. Remember who you are, and bring it to everything you do. Learn your industry and choose your path. Instead of parroting what everyone else is doing, learn your own strengths and weaknesses, and build an A game that works for you.

FORGET SHORTCUTS: Take every step. Overnight success is a myth.

You get exactly what you pay for. That’s true whether you’re paying money, time, or energy. Don’t be seduced by bargain-bin offers with anything lest you damage your perceived value. That doesn’t mean you should bankrupt yourself, but rather that you should find the ideal balance of price, value, and access you can. When you’re paying for basics and laying the foundations, shoddy craftsmanship and half-assery have no place in your A game. Your career is the best investment you can make.

There is no single event or experience that will grant you the career you want. Your success is the summary of your experiences, your mistakes, your efforts, your wrong turns, your triumphs that create the career you need to have. The jealousy that people have of success is a convenient mask for laziness or inattention; they want a quick bypass for all the hell between them and what they want.

The best way to become a success is to work like hell every day till it happens. Anything that seems like a quick, easy solution to a complex problem is almost certainly a trap. Overnight success is a myth that ignores years of crushing strain and sleepless nights. This lie tends to pop up whenever someone’s private networking and strategy finally pays off. You don’t know what others have done to get where they are.

PLAY FAIR: The buck stops with you. Respect the game and fellow players.

Games are defined by their rules; fair play and friendly interaction are assumed. As an author, you will meet a chattering mob convinced they’ve spotted various substitutes for hard work and paying attention. These people are either lying or delusional, and though they may not wish you harm, they can’t do anything but. Cutting in line and elbowing ahead will never produce the same results as earned success. The buck stops with you. Honor counts.

Essentially, cheaters refuse to play by the rules but insist on playing the game anyway. They may encourage you to cut corners, and the reasons rarely hold up to scrutiny. Trashing a colleague, rigging a contest, planting fake reviews, or manipulating Amazon stats will never turn anyone into John Grisham or Nora Roberts. Worse, when the misdeed gets exposed, and it will, you look like a loser and a jerk.

There is no way to game the system when you know the system is a game. Winners play fair.

WORK HARD: Invest in your own success rather than whining and waiting.

Being a professional genre author requires energy, patience, and unbelievable tenacity. Authors can only fail through apathy and inaction. Take action. Whining or waiting have no place in any A game. Chop wood, carry water.

Traditionally, Russian families taught their children to play chess because of its insistence on action. Every turn a player must make a move. No player can be passive or pass the buck. The same holds true for your professional A game. Remember: choosing not to act is an action. Passivity is a choice, and inertia can run you off a cliff. Refusing to make moves will put your game at the mercy and folly of others. Play the game you choose or others will make moves for you.

Every day you should do one thing to further your career: a letter, a post, an email, a call, a submission…365 times a year without fail. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take breaks, but that consistency is the root of long-term success. Your daily action can be as simple as accepting an invitation or leaking your cover art or checking your website to make sure it’s up to date. As Damon’s grandfather said, “Luck is opportunity plus preparation.” Make time to invest in your own success. If not you, then who?

MIND MANNERS: Become the author you wish to see in your genre.

All boats rise together. A-game promotion means creating authentic relationships with your audience and colleagues that grow over time. At every opportunity, you should model the kinds of behavior that you hope to see in others, and when in doubt, always opt for grace, generosity, and gratitude. Save the griping and pettiness for your inner circle; your public face is yours to make.

In an industry driven by enthusiasm and word of mouth, your conduct colors every interaction with colleagues and fans. By helping other authors in your stretch of the genre shelf, you are helping yourself. Paying it forward will produce exponential benefits down the line.

Professionalism counts, but you cannot necessarily expect it from everyone you meet. Just because you know how to behave, never assume that people will follow suit. Embody the virtues you’d like to see in others, and be willing to tolerate gaffes from colleagues trying to do better. Cut slack to other people when they make mistakes and also cut the chronic slackers out of your own professional life.

Instead of bitching, try pitching in. By the same token, when you spot abusiveness or toxicity, don’t walk, run for the nearest exit. Surround yourself with gracious, generous people who challenge your preconceptions and inspire greatness.

AIM HIGH: Cheap is expensive. Make sure your reach exceeds your grasp.

Your reach should always exceed your grasp. If you are able to meet your goals easily and quickly, your standards are too damn low. Push yourself! Level up! Bringing your A game means you have to help folks do their jobs by doing yours to the best of your ability at the limits of your time and energy. Hold yourself to a high standard and then exceed it.

If you aren’t willing to invest time, energy, and resources in your career, why should anyone else? If writing every day, improving your craft, promoting your work, and interacting positively with your fans all sound horrible, then you may be in the wrong business. If you expect your agent to collect 15% of the money and do 95% of the work, then you’re delusional, masochistic, or mathematically challenged.

You should always be the MVP or you aren’t pulling your weight. No one will work as hard as you to guarantee your success. No one else feels the same incentive or enthusiasm. Instead of griping about that agent, publicist, or vendor, ask yourself what you would do differently and then do it.

If you need to change up your team, you can, but complaining without taking action is pointless. Don’t be an extra in your own life. If you aren’t playing to win, you’ve only shown up to lose.

HAVE FUN: Don’t postpone joy! Embrace the tasks that make you happy.

If promotion bores, scares, or frustrates you, you’re doing it wrong. To have any impact at all, promo needs to be personal, interactive, and fun for all parties involved.

A game is something you play by choice which requires concerted effort. Every player and prize is unique. Like promo, games inspire passion but follow clear rules. They reward engagement, skill, and creativity. They encourage players to weigh odds and take smart risks to court success. They have teams, rules, strategies, and goals. The danger is limited and the prizes are real.

All that sounds like a career that will keep any of us entertained and on our toes.

Look for the tasks that make you happy, and embrace them. Any game should push your limits and test your mettle, or you’ll get bored. While all of us get frustrated by delays and disappointments, we need to take pleasure in some portion of our responsibilities or we’ll never meet them. Savor the blessings. Help your colleagues. Plant many positive seeds because a few of them will sprout.

Don’t postpone joy!

Player faqs

Why do you want to pigeonhole authors with these goofy play styles?

We don't! If anything the play styles were our solution to the problem of different authors needing different kinds of information. No two people share identical career paths or notions of success. Genre fiction promo requires creativity and flexibility and so we wanted our book to do likewise. We included the play styles to help folks focus on what mattered most to them at this moment. In six months, your goals may have evolved, but focusing on what's important is never a bad idea.

What if none of the play styles fit me perfectly?

We're glad to hear it! None of us are clones or insects. Your complexity is what makes your writing special, and people rarely fit into tidy categories. The purpose of the play styles is not to dictate your behavior, but to help you identify the goals that excite you at the moment. Think of your play style as a lens, not a box; it's only there to help you look at your career efforts.

Should I worry if my writer buddies and I use different play styles?

Not unless you feel compelled to work in lockstep with them. Embrace the unique spark that makes your writing stand out and let them do the same. Most people tend to look for complimentary relationships...people whose play styles supplement their weaknesses and vice versa. That's true of any group you encounter (and every ensemble story too, natch.) The key to a great A-gang is finding a balance of goals and strengths so you can all rise together.

What if I decide to change play styles partway through the book or a promo campaign?

Go for it! Again, your play style simply identifies what you seek out in your career. Deciding you want something different means you've evolved. On the flip side, if you find you're jumping around, then the play styles aren't helping you focus, so their benefit will be minimal. As always, we want you to use what works for your A game.

I feel like I might be a certain play style, but I want to read through the whole book first before I commit. Is that okay?

No sweat! Just bear in mind this beast makes for some tough chewing and might feel dense once you've ingested a healthy portion in one sitting. Don't hesitate to take a break and let things break down a bit before diving in for another round.

Okay, just between us...which is the best play style?

Anyone who tells you they know the one true way for you to pursue your career is likely a shyster or a con artist. Each of us has operated with all of these play styles at different points in our lives, varying by year and sometimes minute to minute. The truth is, the best play style for you is the one that will let you go after the rewards you value in a way you enjoy.

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