What Are Author Ecosystems?
An overview of the five Author Ecosystems archetypes.
The Five Author Ecosystems archetypes are something thatand have been chatting about internally at Writer MBA for the last several years. After decades of experience and working with hundreds of authors on turning their love of writing and publishing into a sustainable career, we have observed five clear and unique archetypes of marketing and sales styles and figured out the strategies and tactics that make them successful in a variety of scenarios.
We’ve mapped each archetype onto the five ecosystem biomes on earth to provide a clear metaphor for each type and customized the archetypes to the publishing business specifically. We’ve also mapped healthy and unhealthy habits of each type and provided guidance on how to both work with other types’ styles and filter well-meaning advice from other types as well to see what will work for you.
We’ve been able to pull this framework across multiple aspects of publishing, including craft and the many different platforms, but our focus remains on sales and marketing, and this is where we think we can help people create individualized plans for themselves the most.
Some of the questions that the Author Ecosystems archetypes can answer for you include:
Why am I struggling to make this into a career?
What advice should I take (and what can I filter out)?
What am I missing in my author ecosystem to make this a career?
Before moving on, we highly recommend that you take our quiz to learn about your ecosystem. Once you’ve done that come to this page and continue.
Next, we highly recommend you watch this video which will bring you up to speed on everything we have learned so far.
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Below you will find a brief synopsis of each ecosystem.
The Five Ecosystems
We’ve gone deep on each of the five ecosystems to help you build a business that lights you up. To learn which of the five archetypes best fits you, make sure you take the quiz!
Here’s a rundown of each archetype:
Deserts are pliable creators who are good at writing to market and audience. They can make unemotional business decisions and can also ride a trend by delivering a solid experience. When they find a trend they want to ride, they are usually very good at hitting the market at the right time and place. They also do a good job of doubling down on things that seem to be working, and tend to put all their chips on one square.
Because Deserts are good at riding trends, they need to have a few different skill sets, including strong research skills, ability to produce quickly, and willingness to detach—both to double down on what’s working well, and to cut activity on anything that’s not working. Deserts tend to put all their sustenance in one cactus and build a highly profitable pathway of readers to sales. This brings more money in the short-term, though it can put their business at risk if any aspect of their system—audience, money, or market forces—dries up. Many Deserts balance this risk by having multiple pen names or by maintaining a freelance career on the side that they can always fall back on.
Healthy Deserts maintain a camel hump (or several) where they can store away their “riches in the niches” to get them between oases where water is plentiful. They watch the warning signs that the market is changing and they pivot when necessary—to another genre, to another source of readers, or to another platform. Unhealthy Deserts stray too far from a water source and end up thirsty when one or several of their money makers dries up. Because this type is focused more in the short-term, it’s extremely important that they feel confident in their ability to figure it out, though in their unhealthy versions, they fly too close to the sun.
Are you a Desert? Take the quiz to confirm it and read more about Desert here.
Grasslands are focused, deep delvers that seek out popular topics that align to their interests. They plant grass to feel out a plain, but when they find something that takes root with a large potential audience, they quickly go extremely deep with it—deeper than anyone else has the energy to do! They tend to consider every angle of their genre, niche, or topic, so when they put something out, it tends to blow people’s minds and rise to the top. In nonfiction, they tend to be correct about whatever their thesis is. Grasslands are capable of becoming the absolute best-in-class at whatever they do, which is why they need to choose new potential projects carefully!
Because Grasslands are intense and obsessive about their chosen topic, they must stay focused to see the fruits of it. It does not serve them well to have multiple projects going at once because they don’t have the energy to devote to each one. It also doesn’t typically work for them to cross over audiences between two different interests, unlike some of the other types.
Healthy Grasslands find fertile soil to take root in and grow the tallest, most epic tree in the garden. They also dedicate so much of their energy to one area that they become above reproach. Unhealthy Grasslands plant a lot of seeds but never gain momentum in any one area, and struggle to deliver on deadlines they’ve set for themselves.
Are you a Grassland? Take the quiz to confirm it and read more about Grasslands here.
Tundras love to build cool things and launch them, and they are extremely well-versed in turning a ton of attention to themselves and their project for a short period of time. They are the type to study the platform and see what trends they can tap into to make their next launch bigger, and they are most likely to know how they are going to market and sell something before creating it. Once done with a project, they wipe their hands free of it and rarely think much of it again—the launch is over!
Because Tundras survive on a feast and famine cycle, they need to be able to peel as much meat from the bone as possible. Tundras become stackers—stackers of trend, stackers of value, stackers of audience. They are comfortable with having a lot of one-off projects and comfortable with building a diverse audience that only likes a portion of their catalog—though they welcome superfans who enjoy everything, too!
Healthy Tundras have a firm understanding of their seasons and build safeguards to make sure there’s never a point of starvation. They also learn to connect their body of work—usually somewhat disparate projects—under one banner so that every launch offers a bigger feast on their backlist. Unhealthy Tundras struggle to create enough feast to get through the famine periods, leaving them burnt out and under-resourced before the next launch.
Are you a Tundra? Take the quiz to confirm it and read more about Tundra here.
Forests are often marching to the beat of their interests and putting their own unique spin on everything they do for their readers. They have a close relationship with their fans largely because they inject so much of their own personality into all their books. They could write a murder mystery, a sweet romance, and cozy comedy, and readers will gobble it up because it’s [insert name here]’s take on the genre!
Because Forests are multi-passionate, they tend to have multiple pen names going at once. Whereas this might overwhelm other types, Forests are good at watering each of their trees every year on a consistent schedule so everything grows steadily. They are extremely competent and tend to stack an impressive number of skills to deliver high-quality work across everything they do. Forests are good at being top of the class and being part of the conversation. To do this, Forests must be consistent, hard working, and patient, as it takes time, energy, and money to stand up each of their trees. (And they still need to do so one at a time to get a bit of momentum in one area before moving on to another!)
Healthy Forests survive by cross-pollinating their work across all their interests. The key connection is their personality, and their fans gravitate toward them for who they are rather than what they do or write. Unhealthy Forests chase trends, explore too many interests at once, and don’t pay close enough attention to the marketplace to ensure enough others will share their interests.
Are you a Forest? Take the quiz to confirm it and read more about Forests here.
Aquatics are excited about everything and want to create an immersive experience for their readers. They know exactly what their fans want and this dictates both what they create and how the market and sell. If their fans won’t follow them to this or that platform, they don’t go there! If their fans want to see their bestselling novel as a comic book, they create it for them—even if they have no idea how to do a comic book. (They’ll learn!)
Because Aquatics build their business horizontally and have their hands in many different formats as well as merchandise, they must be competent at many skill sets, like building large stories and worlds, delegating, building a functional team that understands the bigger vision, maintaining a strong connection to fans, and expanding slowly and as time, energy, money, and other resources allow.
Healthy Aquatics survive by creating cool new things that both service their current audience and help them grow a larger audience. Unhealthy Aquatics create too many things with disparate audiences, spreading themselves too thin and losing momentum across everything.
Are you an Aquatic? Take the quiz to confirm it and read more about Aquatics here.
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