The Paths

(excerpt from Your A Game by Damon Suede & Heidi Cullinan)

A-game careers don’t trudge forward in parallel lines; they zigzag and spiral, mutate and evolve.

We want Your A Game to stack the deck in your favor, whether you’re dealing with an immediate PR crisis or laying the foundations of a first-time promotional strategy. Technically, you can open this book to any section and find advice or a practical solution to your current challenge, but we’ve created paths tailored to your interests and goals. Some of these will be links (or page numbers for print readers) within the text, and some will appear as a hub page with several branching options.

Each chapter (and most sections) will end with links to several possible next steps on your journey. From these, we will point you toward the information, checklist, or advice most likely to appeal to your current predicament, career point, and area(s) of focus.

At any of these topical crossroads, we’ll offer you a range of forking paths. You can choose to:

  • turn the page and read forward (if you’re actively interested in what comes next).
  • jump directly to distinct sections currently of interest, either directly or via a table of contents for that section (if you’ve thought of a tangential question you want answered immediately).
  • answer an “adventure” question that will point you in an appropriate topical direction (if you’re looking for guidance on a particular dilemma or situation).
  • follow your current play style (as identified above) through the book. If your current goal and interests are clear, look for the path bars (illustrated below) and travel the play-style links to skip over details less relevant to your immediate interests.
  • choose the paths based on your current experience level (novice, apprentice, expert, cynic).

In the path bars, you can also track the experience links to access material that may appeal and apply to your career at the moment. This book can be read in any order. Sometimes the way forward is to double back or wander off on a cool tangent to find answers to your questions. You can proceed in a straight line if you’d like, although the volume of info may become overwhelming, especially in areas not relevant to your current situation.

Playing through this book in different contexts will deepen your understanding of the unique challenges of working in genre fiction. The more you understand the moving parts of your career, the more you can fine tune for maximum impact. And FYI, for anyone who’s feeling frisky or rowdy, we’ve hidden a couple cool secret areas that don’t appear on any path that you can only find by rummaging through the book.

Nobody fails at promoting their work; people simply give up before they are successful.

We’re hoping the information in this book can help you over time. Ideally, you can use it to solve the problem you’re working on now, then come back later with a different set of problems and pick a different adventure. As long as Your A Game sparks you, entertains you, informs you, or inspires you, we’ll feel like we’ve given you a challenge worthy of your time and talent.

Let’s play.

What kind of genre-fiction game are you playing right now? Follow the path that best represents what your interests, style, and goals are at the moment.

Performer Path

Does showcasing your talent or eclipsing your peers push your buzzer? Are you angling to be Queen Bee or Alpha Predator in your genre? Are you in it for the fame or cold, hard cash? Have you got a knack for public display or political maneuvering? Can you name the book that knocked your last release off the lists? Do you need to outshine others to feel like you won?

If you follow the PERFORMER path through this book, your pass will include:

  • an understanding of how to form a career plan, killer author bio and tagline, and use a targeted style sheet and SEO-optimized website to get yourself noticed.
  • the secret of how media training, social media presence, physical wardrobe, and online press kit will help you use your personal archetype to custom design an authorial presence crafted to weather the highs and lows of a career in fiction—and come out on top.
  • the means to attract an influential network of colleagues, industry professionals, and readers who will help you trumpet your work and expand your influence.
  • an effective, practical strategy to build and package your individual projects in sales campaigns, which helps you push boundaries and deliver the career of your dreams.

If an A game built on action and showmanship sounds like the perfect fit for you, follow the Performer path.

Achiever Path

Do you crave glory, recognition, and awards? Do you pine for your place on the New York Times list and check your Amazon rankings every two hours? Do you track your sales receipts and media appearances religiously? Do you crow about rave reviews and share monthly updates in your alumni mag? Do you salt your website with honors, gushy quotes, and contest badges?

Playing as an ACHIEVER will give you:

  • a rock-solid brand plan designed to help your bio and website not only represent your accomplishments but distinguish you from the rest of your genre.
  • a better understanding of your unique traits and skill set so you can use your game face to avoid career traps and aim yourself squarely at your goals.
  • tips on reading your niche and harnessing your most powerful readers to achieve the marketing strategy that will help you beat the game.
  • insight into how the right campaign style can get you past the walls blocking your success and use your unique skills and advantages to win not just for this project but the long haul.

If an A game focused on earning praise and public recognition feels like the best option, follow the Achiever path.

Socializer Path

Does great one-on-one with your fans and potential readers feed your soul? Do convos with trusted colleagues inspire and direct your decisions? Would you join a community of like-minded dreamers who just want to play in your imaginary sandbox? Do you remember reader birthdays and anniversaries? Do professional and fan relationships give you the most joy?

Playing as a SOCIALIZER will:

  • help you use positive peer pressure and healthy A-game relationships while using your ideal personal statement to carve out the perfect brand to represent you and your work.
  • identify your player archetype and the right peer connections to help you communicate and collaborate persuasively.
  • show you how to use reader communities and peer networks to reveal the perfect audience for your work.
  • develop reader loyalty and peer partnerships by exposing the unique appeal of your novel and inspire them to help spread the word.

If an A game built on engaging with fans and colleagues feels inspiring for you, follow the Socializer path.

Explorer Path

Curious about the possibilities and forgotten corners of your genre market? Do you spend hours studying bios and analyzing what makes the industry tick? Do you collect insider know-how and career hacks that give you an edge? Can you name all the organizers and players at a genre event? Do you seek out exploits and come to life when sharing expert tips and tricks with your colleagues?

The EXPLORER path will:

  • scrutinize the roots of advertising to help you develop a unique brand and high-impact website.
  • craft a public author persona based on strategic archetypes supported by detailed press kits, mindful messaging, and a canny online footprint.
  • investigate how marketing has changed over the years and use this knowledge to build sales strategies tailor-made for the modern arena.
  • show you how to unpack the experience economy and use your knowledge of niche to best present your projects.

If you’re curious about the possibilities of an A game learning how the industry works and people tick, follow the Explorer path.

Skill Paths

Another way to navigate the challenges of promo is through the lens of your current challenges and dilemmas.

Novice Are you a promo greenhorn anxious and overwhelmed simply opening this book?

If you’re an unpublished first-timer or an old hand baffled by the marketing process, we can give you the foundation of a genre promo strategy. Choose to follow the Novice path through Your A Game and you will discover:

  • your unique personal brand with step-by-step instructions for assembling the basics: your niche, professional name, bio, and website.
  • the tailored avatar for your authorial presence both online and in person, including your archetype, headshot, affiliations, and social media platform.
  • strategies to access your distinct market by working with your bookshelf neighbors, genre events, and public presentations.
  • tools to customize your projects to help them shine: a sure-fire bestseller recipe, the number-one thing agents and editors look for, the most critical piece of book promo, connecting with powerful colleagues.

If you’re someone just starting out in genre fiction and wanting to get their ducks in a row before their career gets too nutty, take the Novice path through the book.

Apprentice

Are your sales so-so and you want to make them go-go?

Maybe you’ve assembled part of your marketing plan but haven’t been able to connect all the dots. If you’re an author who needs help playing your way to the next level, you might want to follow the Apprentice path, which will give you:

  • strategy for standing out with personalized promo language, a style sheet for brand assets, and a dynamic website that does more than just get the job done.
  • tips to turn your flaws into fuel for your career, a way to harness the power of a personal archetype, and a kit for the single most important page on your website.
  • the keys to unleashing your market through the power of word of mouth, the trick to creating bestsellers through energizing the right readers, and the secret of hosting dazzling events and parties.
  • ways to project your latest release in the right direction with a killer hook, baited blurbs, unforgettable swag, and essential endorsements.

If you’re an experienced professional with a few marketing strategies in place but are looking to level up, take the Apprentice path through the book.

Expert

Already have a solid promotional strategy working for you but want to develop mastery over your career by turning theory into practice?

Whether you’re looking for new ideas, brand washing, or unpacking your knowledge of the playing field, this route will help you polish rough spots and sprinkle in enough gunpowder to make things pop. If you take the Expert path through Your A Game, you will discover the following:

  • strategies to delve deeper into the core of your brand and gild the lily with your brand assets, savvy partnerships, and little extras that make your website unique.
  • powerful messaging to fine-tune your authorial presence, tips and tricks to navigate the media, and sanity-saving guidelines for working with assistants.
  • a clear sense of your unique market, tactics for getting publisher support, best practices for online marketing, and how to host a killer party and bring down the house at your public readings.
  • a secret sauce for making your books unforgettable, the best release strategies for your book, and a chance to write a book that rewrites the rules.

If you’re an old hand interested in what makes promotion tick and want to shake the promo snow globe, you can take the Expert path through the book.

Cynic

Have you been to the promo rodeo so many times you’re saddle-sore?

Discouragement is real, and genre fiction can feel like a boot in the face. Do you feel resigned to ruin and stymied by the entire industry? If any kind of promotion feels like insta-failure or hopeless busywork, this path can lead you toward the light...or a triage unit. The Cynic path will give you:

  • techniques to get out of your own way and use your unique gifts to attract your audience, healthy relationships, and a brand that reflects your energy and passion.
  • a makeover that turns your negatives into positives, a formula for attracting an amazing A-gang, and an overhaul of your message to make you media ready.
  • a map to help you navigate the pitfalls of taking your book to market, guiding you toward your ideal audience while avoiding the people who want to see you drown.
  • a bag of tricks to get your books noticed, including the free prize for your cereal box, a revealing snapshot of your corner of the bookshelf, and a letter of introduction to the supportive network of peers you deserve.

No matter what stage you’re at in your career, if you’re an author who feels discouraged by the chore of promoting their work, you can take the Cynic path through the book.

© 2016 Damon Suede & Heidi Cullinan, All Rights Reserved

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