Your A-gang

Who should make up your A-gang?

Publishing is a contact sport and the people you include can decide the difference between success and delay. Always bear in mind the skills, temperament, and gaps baked into your team. Largely you'll build your A-gang by instinct, but here are some points to consider if you feel your personal Scooby crew could use some fleshing out.

  • What's the biggest weakness of your author archetype? What other archetype has that skill? Seek out a like-minded individual with that strength and offer your strengths to make the relationship reciprocal.
  • How varied is your natural A-gang? Are you a clutch of Friends with no outgoing members? Are you a pile of Politicians constantly vying for the top-dog position? Look for the holes in your whole network as well as the assets missing from your personal archetype.
  • What are your current goals, and what archetypes would help you achieve them? If you want to expand your reader base, seek out a Networker. If your aim is to break onto a list, seek the counsel of an Achiever. If you need market insight, buy lunch for a Scientist or Pioneer and let them share what they've observed.

How do you build your personal A-gang?

Colleagues come in a wide range of shapes and sizes; the more you can attract collaborators whose skills compliment your own, the better. For some of us (hello, Networkers and Friends) making connections comes naturally, but for the rest of the archetypes, bearing in mind these pointers will help guide the way. Hunt down your desired A-gang members in the following places:

  • Online. Network on Twitter, Facebook, and any mailing list or forum where authors gather. Look for people whose approach compliments yours.
  • At genre conventions. When looking specifically to build your A-gang, you might attend a genre convention as a general attendee, not a promoted author, or you could seek out a smaller con where you're freer to make personal connections. Sit at the bar and buy people drinks, strike up conversations at lunch or even in the elevator. Study the archetype you're seeking and work out where they're likely to appear at an event, and make sure you're available there.
  • At local events. Public readings, local writing clubs or chapter meetings—anywhere authors gather, be present and aware of potential A-gang members.
  • At your agency, publisher, and in your professional organizations. Anywhere you've been pre-sorted for interest, goals, or career level is an excellent hunting ground for A-gang members. Your instincts and goals are more likely to be aligned and partnerships will form more naturally.

How do you give to your A-gang so they can give back to you?

Healthy A-game relationships require all members to be cognizant of group and individual needs, as well as aware of when it’s time for maintenance. Learn to gauge the advantages/traps of different partnerships. Here are some rules of thumb to bear in mind when assessing how well your A-gang is playing together:

  • Are you aware of each other’s goals? They’re unlikely to always be exactly the same, and even when they align, they’ll have nuance.
  • Are you aware of each other’s needs? What each member needs will be different even when your end goals align.
  • Are you aware of one another’s strengths and weaknesses? Once you’ve identified those, check them against goals and needs and see where you could help out or aim them in a better direction.

The more you prepare, the more you can take advantage of the twists of fate and crazy breaks meant for you and you alone. At the same time, don’t get too stuck on expectations. Remember: luck is opportunity plus preparation. Don’t wish for a fairy godmother to grant you a favor. Be the spire that draws the lightning. Generate your own storm. Build your own net that makes other people want to fall in with you.

What opportunities are already available for you and your projects? Where might you find similarly fertile ground? What have you done to make sure you're ready when lightning strikes, and what have you done to draw its power to you?


Your Game Facegeneric persona icon

How do your readers and colleagues see you?

While you can establish your authorial presence without consciously examining and claiming an archetype, harnessing universal symbols offers you a perfect tool for managing how you appear to others. Archetypes are not a mold but a lens through which you can more easily see yourself and reveal yourself to others. They shouldn’t dictate but calibrate how you behave.

By definition archetypes are high concept because they are hardwired into the human consciousness, helping us make sense of what we see and establish symbolic relationships that allow us to interpret the world quickly.

When we talk about your play style, we are dealing with broad categories of behavior. We’d like to dig deeper into Richard Bartle’s analysis of the way different types of players connect. Instead of looking inward, we’ll be using archetypes to look outward based on the kind of social activities you enjoy. In the same way writers might be plotters or pantsers, your professional presence reflects an intentional or impulsive vibe because each of us presents a public persona based on the experiences we enjoy.

  • Intentional fun requires acting with purpose. Intentions create examinable, data-driven enjoyment with measurable effects. Players who dig intentional fun appreciate expectation over surprise, order over disorder. Folks who prefer intentional fun tend to plot their interactions.
  • Impulsive fun involves acting on instinct. Impulses can defy logic or explanation and may be unconscious. These players love surprises. They operate more on whim than plans. They favor idealism over realism. People who dig impulsive fun generally fly by the seat of their pants in their interactions.

The beauty of Bartle’s system is that it explains why and how people behave in groups, which is useful for looking at literal games, but also for any simulated struggle with risks and rewards…like publishing. Happily, because these archetypes arose from research into gaming, they come without cultural or historical baggage. If you want to consider more traditional archetypes, we've compiled a brief overview here.

As a public figure, you always embody your brand, and you occupy imaginary space in the community’s consciousness based on your tastes. Do you tend toward intentional or impulsive fun? Are you more methodical or improvisatory with other people? Regardless of how you write your books, are you a plotter or a pantser when you promote them?

We want to help you find your archetype so you can pinpoint the best way to present yourself to others as an embodiment of your brand.

PoliticiansPolitician archetype

Politicians aren't always running for office, but they run the show. They act strategically upon folks they encounter, using influence to achieve their ends and emphasizing their acknowledged authority and contributions to the community.

  • Spectrum: leaders to busybodies
  • Goal: positive prominence

In terms of play style, Politicians are Performers who act on other players intentionally. Aware of their goals and the path they need to take to achieve what they want, they will dominate other players for better or worse. They’re the leaders in their field, the ones in the spotlight, but they’re operating with an agenda. Even if their rule is metaphorical, it steers their peers and expresses their worldview writ large. They act deliberately and manipulate subtly, contributing meaningfully to the community to acquire and maintain a big, positive reputation.

RebelsRebel archetype

Rebels push against the grain, challenging status quo and courting strong reactions often with an instinctive need to express themselves and draw attention even if they can’t explain (or control) the urge.

  • Spectrum: mavericks to bullies
  • Goal: powerful notoriety

Though Rebels are also Performers, they act impulsively on other players relying on instinct rather than careful planning. Their ultimate goal is compelling notoriety, because they seek less of a leadership role and more of a proud label. Whether rock stars or revolutionaries, bon vivants or bad asses, Rebels confront the status quo on gut instinct. Systems just give them something to push against and restrictions are only a problem for other people. While both Politicians and Rebels prefer influencing others, Rebels can be in-your-face in ways they can’t always explain, although they may rationalize their choices and their actions for effect. They’re experts at reading a room and instinctively take the temperature of situations.

PlannersPlanner archetype

Planners compete for rank and accomplishments in measurable contests with their eyes on the prize, often taking small, logical steps toward a larger scheme and working around obstacles with dogged determination.

  • Spectrum: champions to braggarts
  • Goal: public prestige 

Planners are Achievers who act on the world intentionally. Like Politicians, they have concrete, measurable goals, but their spreadsheets and blueprints for those schemes show far more detail and aim for personal glory rather than public influence. They’re methodical in the pursuit of status and measurable accomplishments. If you put an obstacle in their way, they relish the challenge of uncovering a way around it. Their focus is always beating the system, so the other players can seem incidental. They pursue their objectives with a resolve bordering on compulsion. While they do love individual wins, when pressed most would admit they love the pursuit itself almost as much as the prestige they earn.


Gambler archetype

Gamblers risk to win and seek out opportunities without a clear plan, taking chances to earn recognizable rewards and drifting between options as the mood takes them. When faced with obstacles, they often lose interest and change direction.

  • Spectrum: daredevils to charlatans
  • Goal: lucky jackpots

Gamblers are also Achievers, and they love a good trophy shelf or badge for achievement unlocked the same as their Planner kin, but because they act on the world impulsively, they do not have color-coded spreadsheets and cause-and-effect charts at the ready to help navigate their path. Gamblers are spontaneous risk-takers, and they’re excellent with a game of chance. Their instinct guides them, but it also distracts them. They often don’t know what they want to do until they’re doing it. Obstacles aren’t a delicious challenge; they’re annoying and a sign Gamblers should switch directions in search of a shinier opportunity.

NetworkersNetowrker archetype

Networkers gather allies with a clear role to play in their career, assessing the value of relationships and learning from those connections. They familiarize themselves with the players so that they can engage effectively.

  • Spectrum: ringmasters to gossips
  • Goal: win-win relationships

Surest sign of a Networker? They’re the ones who can’t cross a hotel bar at a convention, because they want to talk to everyone, and everyone wants to talk to them. As intentional Socializers, Networker authors don’t merely interact with people, they actively seek allies and forge bonds. Like courtiers, their power is with people. They know everyone, and anyone who doesn’t know them is angling for an intro. They’re constantly connecting readers and industry pros…and the hotel concierge, and the woman in the mailroom they met when picking up a package. They hold court to learn what people know, passing it on when they meet someone who needs it. They keep track of the good eggs and the bad apples—and have the knack of charming both.

FriendsFriend archetype

Friends associate primarily with people they know and enjoy already and build on that intimacy with sharing and collaboration. They cultivate personal closeness and tolerate follies and foibles.

  • Spectrum: advocates to leeches
  • Goal: affectionate rapport

While Networkers are enthusiastically connecting all the players, Friends are sitting in a quiet corner of the hotel bar, having one-on-one, meaningful conversations, uniting a small, intimate group who feel understood and engaged in a way no other author type could begin to replicate. They interact impulsively with people, so they engage their public on instinct, rather than strategically. They’re very accepting of faults and follies because they process conflict collaboratively. Friends connect instinctively, investing most of their time with people they know because they prefer to deepen existing relationships. They may never build the tangled net of a Networker, but they inspire a whole other level of intimacy and loyalty in others because of their authentic, persuasive presence.

ScientistsScientist archetype

Scientists experiment in their environment to form theories and systems, testing them against experience with methodical precision so they can catalog and explain phenomena. They crave logical analysis and proof that support categorization.

  • Spectrum: geniuses to nitpickers
  • Goal: inside information

As intentional explorers, Scientists love to experiment in order to form theories. They adore data and method, and their ultimate pursuit is the knowledge that will help them attain their goals, though when pressed they’ll admit that pursuit is as sweet as the end result. Whether they present more as dogged detectives, mad inventors, or scholarly sorcerers, they test their theories against hard evidence and can’t wait to explain phenomena in ways that map systems. The game’s the thing, yes—but most Scientists would also explain to you why this is the case and all the possible variables in play.

PioneersPioneer archetype

Pioneers intuit meaning and possibility in their world and blaze trails where their vision takes them. They inspire and invent the future by eurekas and zigzags without needing systems, proof, or accurate measurement.

  • Spectrum: visionaries to crackpots
  • Goal: brilliant insights

Pioneers love to experiment, as all Explorers do, but they interact with the world impulsively rather than with planned experimentation, because they crave meaning, not data. They want to crack the underlying code, so they can bend it. As mystics, engineers, or innovators, they intuitively understand the worlds they create and the ones they inhabit. They don’t need to test their ideas systematically, because they can sense the truth. They go where the spirit leads them and love to seek new phenomena. They can be a bit arcane, and they love an open field, because to them it’s brimming not with weeds but possibility.

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Archetype FAQs

How did you come up with this archetype and play style stuff?

We both have a lifelong love of studying archetypal systems, but we owe the greatest influence on our A game play styles and archetypes to Richard Bartle. You can learn more about his game theory player types on the web and in:

What’s the difference between an archetype and a play style?

Both are abstract ways of categorizing patterns of behavior for the purposes of analysis and strategy.

For our purposes, play style is determined by your personal goal as a genre professional, and archetype is determined by what you enjoy about being an author in a public setting.

  • A play style is your game piece on the board, your lens through which you view and comprehend marketing and promotion.
  • An archetype is your game face, the public role you take on while actively promoting your work and your brand, the persona you adopt. It might be an extension of your play style, but it might be something entirely different.
How many people should I have in my A-gang?

As many as you need. When you’re first starting out, you might have only two or three, but as you progress through your career, you'll discover the people you can trust in any circumstance to support your A game. Over time, your network is likely to become quite vast, but your A-gang will be the close-knit, die-hard support network that keep you sane and safe. Rather than asking if you have enough people, we suggest you ask if you’re A-gang feels complete. If not, use the questions above to identify who you’re missing and seek them out.

What if my play style and archetype don’t match up?

No worries. Remember, play style represents your current approach to promotion and marketing as a task, and archetype is the role you take on when you enter the arena. Play style is internal, whereas archetype describes your external impact, how others see you.

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.

Can I change archetypes?

There are no hard and fast rules about how your career evolves, but generally coherence and consistency have way more impact than brand-new-cherry-flavor trendhopping.

  • If you’re asking if you can be someone you’re not (try to be a Gambler even though you know it’s not who you are), then no.
  • If you’re asking, though, if you might naturally drift from one archetype to another as you and your career evolve, then the answer is absolutely.

What are your archetypes?

  • Damon is a full-on, died-in-the-wool Networker. Because he's extroverted and rowdy, he’s often mistaken for a Rebel, and he definitely borrows some nuance from that archetype when need be, but his heart and soul align when he’s making connections and working a room.
  • Heidi is a Pioneer. She’s worked a Politician archetype in the past, and she still pulls out that persona at times, but she’s learned she’s so much happier when she’s off exploring. Part of the reason she borrows the Politician persona is because if she had her druthers, she’d never leave the house.

This line of inquiry was one of the most illuminating discoveries of our writing process, because of what it revealed about our careers.

So you’re in each other's A-gangs?

Absolutely. Heidi relies on Damon for connections, and Damon taps into Heidi’s love of studying the market and assessing events and organizations. At an event together, Heidi is the one surveying the room, and Damon is the one weaving through and shaking hands. We have some overlap in our individual A-gangs, but they aren’t exactly the same.

No one A-gang should be entirely closed off. Overlapping networks improve everyone's professional efforts.

Some Archetype Quizzes

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