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The Author's Cheat Code to Marketing: Your Archetype!
It’s true. Your archetype is your secret key to building an exciting author brand that readers will enjoy and you will feel good about.
Why? Because it all comes from deep in your identity. It’s who you are. It can’t feel fake, and you won’t be spammy about it, because it’s real.
Or at least, that’s possible.
If you’re still reading, you’re probably one of two people:
You know what archetypes are, and are curious how I connect it to author marketing
You don’t know what archetypes are, and don’t know where this goes
If you want a deep dive into the power of archetypes, I wrote a blog post here on the What are 12 Archetypes, and how do they help my writing? That post has some fantastic video resources and and great overview of what archetypes are.
Overview of archetypes
The archetypes tap into deep story-based themes of human identity, such as the Royal, the Outlaw, the Sage, the Innocent, the Lover, the Magician, and more. While most other tests are analytical, and give a snapshot of your current identity patterns, the archetypes are imaginal, like mythic characters.
Humans exist within a story that frames our identity. We act the way we do because see ourselves as a kind of person. This helps us get somewhere, do something, or be someone we want. Stories have an end, a goal, a purpose. It’s those endings that give meaning to our choices now. And its for those endings that we construct our personality.
That’s a key reason why we’ve chosen archetypes as our personality tool.
Personality tests are really valuable, and provide great windows into our patterns of action.
I want to reiterate the point between analytical vs imaginal.
Plenty of analytical tests out there give you a snapshot of who you are right now.
But imaginal tests are a different beast. Because they show who you are trying to be. And that instantly means a goal, a pattern of action, and steps to move forward.
That’s exactly what we love about novels, and why we read them over and over.
Aren’t archetypes like tropes? Won’t they box me in?
Nope. You’re thinking of a stereotype. Stereotypes shut you down, and assume you’ll never be more than what you are. They’re reductive, and sometimes insulting.
Archetypes get you going. They never stop acting, moving, pulling us to be better and greater. Check this article i wrote for several videos, such as a TED talk.
Let’s get into things a little more. This video is too helpful not to post again! He spells out each one, and provides clear examples from movies - which is awesome. He includes a motto for each, the kinds of things they do, and what they want from life.
It’s unbelievably helpful (on a personal level) to get a sense of your personal archetype. As you probably see pretty quickly, each archetype wants something specific out of life, and has a specific way of getting it.
That’s called a story.
And that’s your secret.
Because your readers are on a story too.
Building a brand
Most of us start out brand-building by making a list of our services, getting a nice logo, and trying to be consistent with our content.
I admit, this can be hard to do after a while. And if you’re like me, your tires are skidding on loose gravel for a long time, not knowing why you can’t gain traction.
Looking back, I can see that I was unfocused. I had too many interests, too many things going on, and I kept changing my goals.
Dialing into my archetype made a huge difference, because it gave me focus.
Each brand I create has its own archetype. And since I’m basically the same behind them, it’s that archetype tackling different problems.
DreamAgain is a Sage Rebel archetype. It’s all about sharing what I know, finding new things, and understanding them so that I can talk about them. But it’s also creating freedom for a community of quiet extroverts, and challenging the status quo with marketing.
LegendFiction is more of an Explorer archetype. It’s about discovery, and learning, and finding new things. Maybe to teach them, but that’s why it’s allied to the Sage. Mostly we explore to be able to keep exploring. To keep finding new frontiers - within ourselves, our imaginations, our taletelling.
SmartCatholics is a mix of the Sage and the Rebel. We're also about learning our faith, but there’s an undercurrent of freedom-loving and freedom-fighting that wants to push back against unjust, inappropriate, and abusive trends in faith formation.
For LegendFiction, I grouped the 12 archetypes into four houses, which also take direct inspiration from Carl Jung.
Warrior, Royal, Magician, and Lover. (or for LegendFiction: Excalibyrn, Chalimancers, Wanderies, and Visioneers.)
A healthy adult should be equally balanced in all four of these. But… most of us aren’t, and usually have a dominant and several secondary themes.
The warrior is capable of taking action, stepping up to fight and wield aggression, to be a hero or a savior, to risk resources, reputation, or maybe life to do something.
The royal is the organizer, the architect, the person who takes charge of a community and creates stability. These are the leaders and captains who marshall law and order and purpose.
The magician is the teacher, the sage, the person who learns the higher things like spiritual or academic education, and brings it to others. The ‘magician’ is so called because they seem to magically get things done, using tools no one expects.
The lover is the part of us that has reverence for reality, not just romance. The lover truly seeks to see people, and to be seen, to validate the individual, celebrate the unique, and create intimacy with things good, true, and beautiful.
All the twelve archetypes get divided into each of these.
And there are also shadow sides to each one - such as the royal becoming the tyrant. But that’s a different topic.
So now that we have an overview, what’s next?
Archetype means a story, and so does your brand
If you don’t yet know your archetype, you can try the LegendFiction quiz.
But since we’re brandbuilding, I strongly recommend the Brandality Quiz, one of my all time favorites, with a plethora of amazing resources to unpack and understand the genius of each archetype.
(No affiliate links here. The tool is just awesome.)
Now that you have a sense of your archetype, what’s next?
Well, now we have the beginnings of a plan.
Wielding your archetype
You already have a sense of who you are. But we humans are such a strange creature. We’re like chameleons with our identity. Deep down we’re something unique, but we put on different hats depending on the room we’re in, or who we’re with.
When you’re talking to your boss, you’re one kind of person. On your own doing your own hobby, you’re a different person. When you’re with your friends at a café you’re slightly different than who you are talking to a complete stranger, or hunting through a library.
Why is this?
Because each of these contexts requires a specific way of being. it only takes a split second, and you set for yourself a goal. Then you act in a way that helps you reach that goal. For examples:
Talking to a complete stranger: the goal is to perhaps flee, so you will be reticent, not ask questions, avoid eye contact, and generally do nothing to encourage the person.
Talking to a boss: you’re hoping this leads to a raise, so you are attentive, careful, insightful, and storing away notes from what they say. Perhaps you want to be seen as a good team player - even if you need to recharge in your car afterward.
Out with a good friend: the goal is to keep the game of conversation and the fun going, so you are free with stories, compliments, laughter, and being engaging in general.
In each case, you are acting toward a goal.
If you take any of these characters or identities you play, and use them in a different context, it would be weird. And you’d be uncomfortable, because you don’t know the outcome of the situation. And when you don’t know that, you don’t know what’s happening.
And when you don’t know what’s happening, you don’t know what you need to do about it.
This is why archetypes, from time out of mind, have been invaluable. For the longest time, they walked secretly through the reams of stories we shared across our cultures, and certain kinds of people want the same stories told again and again.
Soldiers want war stories about heroes and enemies.
Lovers want romances about conflict and resolution.
Explorers want frontier adventures in other countries or around the corner.
Magicians want discovery and learning about the world and the soul.
Orphans want to find a home and a place where they belong.
Notice how each once of these follows the central structure of a story: someone who wants something, and is prepared to do something about it.
Who wants something
And does something about it
You are that someone. You already are a specific kind of story in motion.
And your fans, or your readers, are too.
Why do you love certain kinds of stories again and again? For the same reason your followers do. You see yourself in the story. You like who that person is, and kinda wish or hope you were the same. You believe in the outcomes the characters do.
You want what they want too.
So knowing your archetype gives you an instant connection with your brand audience. And if you’re an author, you can spell out the kind of story that you’re in. And that they’re in too.
Heroes identify as action-taking warriors, who see problems and face them, and make the world better and safer through some sort of sacrifice.
Innocents believe the world can be beautiful and hope-filled, where people thrive when they’re at their best, and they might be prepared to go through hell and back to make it happen.
Jesters love fun, risk-taking, and rebellion, usually all three at the same time, because of their relationship to authority. Sometimes that’s needed, other times its dangerous. Either way, they assert themselves against things.
How do you build a brand with your archetype?
Name your archetype. This is either for yourself, or for your brand.
Find out what you want through that archetype. You don’t really have to search. Any personality test will spell it out for you.
Now comes the magic sauce.
You: how you go about fulfilling that mission is what makes you unique. If you’re a Sage, you’re like every other Sage out there, wanting the same thing. What’s the difference?
Your age, ethnicity, voice, stories, background, experience - all of that makes your take on things unique. But there’s one more that’s almost more important than all of them.
You’re actually doing something about it.
Most people will love things, and want to do things, and never begin. And so they will follow and attach themselves to people who are in motion. They might hope that being ‘near’ people who are like them, and taking action, they will absorb some of that motivation and do it too.
Don’t worry about that. Focus on the fact that you and your followers are already deeply connected, and whether they show up or not, you already believe in what you’re doing with your life. Or with your brand.
So let’s say you have a blog, or a YouTube channel, and an Instagram.
What kind of content will you post on there?
What kind will you avoid?
Now that you know your archetype, you can sketch out an answer.
A Warrior will never lead with the language of lovers and romance. That’s not what your audience is looking for, and it’s not the established outcome of that archetype. Solving problems through sacrifice is. So you’ll look for stories of heroism, tactics for becoming a better warrior, insights for finding and solving problems, workout routines, etc.
A Royal will not use the hilarious, provocative mic drops of the Jester, or the Rebel, because the goal is to create and establish order. Your content might be examples, stories, tips, insights, and ideas on better leadership in your niche, the call to step up and do good, ways to be more magnetic and influential.
A Magician would never use the raw and aggressive voice of the warrior. Their goal is to discover, elevate, break down, learn and share. Your content will probably be about the things you learn, sharing what you’ve unearthed, or presenting popular information in new ways.
And so on.
You can certainly blend the types. Or for example, there’s the Extrovert/Introvert flavor added to each of these. That creates a different story - same goal, different paths.
A personal example
So in my case, I’m trying to apply this to my own author brand.
I’m writing a novel, and putting the pieces in place to keep building a habit of writing every day.
So I’m thinking about my own archetype for my novels. In taking the LegendFiction quiz, I’m a Wandery. I love discovery and frontiers. And I notice a lot of my novels tend toward discovery of the warrior. My characters, like myself, are starting from a place of excitement and adventure, and have to learn the resilience to handle real life.
So my opening promise with my writing brand is the discovery of new things; new ideas, new worlds, new adventures. Mysteries, questions, open loops, and things to think about. Why? Because I love this.
I love science books, and secret societies, and encyclopedias, and YouTube rabbit holes… and so will my future readers.
I don’t plan to write romances, because they don’t call to me. That goal is not my own. The goal of the warrior to find problems and beat them is not central to me. The call of the leader to hold the line and make decisions that serve the all is ancillary.
My heart is the discoverer.
So what does that mean for my content?
Share my process, and what I’m learning
Share snippets and insights into the worlds, creatures, and characters
Share content and articles that inspire discovery and learning new things
Share things about me that are new or thought-provoking to me
Share new places I go to and why they interest me
And so on.
The Wandery/Magician is a quadrant of three types; the Explorer, the Sage, and the Innocent.
Deep down, the Wandery seeks to learn things and go to new places, because learning new things is good. And it’s good, because deep down, we believe in the goodness of things. If we didn’t, we’d collapse and shy away from new things.
The same goes for you.
Once you know your archetype, you can let it marinate.
And over time, you’ll start to notice certain kinds of content resonate with that, and others don’t. Now you’ll know why.
And if you’re able to lean forward and get intentional, you can always be starting with the end in mind.
Wanderies are fundamentally curious.
Chalimancers are fundamentally about community.
Warriors are about conquest.
Lovers are about closeness to people, places, and things.
The focus of a brand
There’s overlap, sure. Because a real human is all four of these.
But a brand is just one thing, because you - and your fans - have to count on a brand being consistent.
Why? Because a brand is a specific tool. It’s a specific respond to a specific problem, usually in a specific area.
That’s why brands change messaging when they move to different countries and cultures.
A brand is like the mask of a superhero, like Batman’s cowl. However personally complex Bruce Wayne is, once that mask is on, the world simplifies into a single focus, and a repeatable plan of action.
A human being can’t be a single identity in every situation. That’s called a psychopath - the same at a funeral as a birthday party. Humans must change and modulate and be flexible.
But a brand is not a person, just like a character in a novel is not a person.
They’re constructs that we create. They’re an identity.
And whenever your audience things about a particular problem, your hope is that you come to their mind as the best answer.
Why? Because you are clearly showing them that you are them, and their problems are yours, and you’re ready to help.
Plenty of brands out there are paper-thin, and they feel that way. They’re merely a logo, with a blog, and a team of completely interchangeable people. These brands don’t last long. They don’t have any depth. And it’s hard to ‘get’ them, because there’s nothing to get.
But the brands that stand out are the ones with an intentional personality.
An intentional goal. As soon as you set a goal, and a path, you start attracting the kind of people who want that in their lives.
That’s how the Kindle 100 book recommendations work.
That’s how fandoms work.
That’s how brands build diehard followers.
Just look at your own life, and the profiles you love to follow, the emails you love to get, the people you like to read.
I’m betting that you do all that because they matter to you.
They matter, because they are you, and you matter to yourself. You see yourself in them.
That’s why ‘knowing thyself is the beginning of wisdom.’
Your brand can be more than a vehicle to sell business.
It can be a way to build a community, connection, and friends who love what you want, want what you want, and get excited to join up with you to make it happen.
And the easiest way to begin is to figure out your archetype.