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Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts Hardcover – July 18, 2017
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The book may find a cult following on Madison Avenue the same way his work on stoic philosophy, "The Obstacle is the Way," did in the NFL.
--Steve Rubel in AdvertisingAge
“How to create lasting success in a world of flash-in-the-pan hits and how to extend the proverbial 15 minutes of fame to a decade or even a century.”
—The Financial Times
“The book every entrepreneur should read this year.”
—Jeff Haden, Inc.
“Every artist aspires to create timeless, lasting work and this book is astudy on what it takes to do just that. Ryan Holiday has written a brilliant, inspiring guide to ignoring the trends of the day to focus on what matters and what will lead to real impact. If you want to write, produce, or build something amazing, read this book.”
—JAMES FREY, bestselling author of A Million Little Pieces and Bright Shiny Morning
“As a showrunner or any kind of artist, you have to know when to stick to your guns and trust your gut, when and whom to ask for help, and how to define and lean into your brand. This book gets to the core of each of those elements in an attempt to help creatives be successful for along time.”
—DAVID ZUCKERMAN, television writer and cocreator of Family Guy, American Dad, and Wilfred
“My first book took five years for it to become a bestseller. It sells more now than it did ten years ago. You won’t find a better guide to create something that lasts than Perennial Seller! Ryan Holiday is one of the great marketing minds of our time!”
—JON GORDON, bestselling author of The Energy Bus
"Ideas are a dime a dozen, but those who put them into practice are priceless. [In Perennial Seller], Ryan shows you how to become one of “those” through his simple and cutthroat strategy for what it takes to be a successful creative in the modern world. This book couldn’t be more timely!”
—JAKE UDELL, founder of TH3RD BRAIN; manager of Grace VanderWaal, Gallant, ZHU, and Krewella
“In an era of disposable hot takes, Ryan’s writing blends thoughtful and thorough contrarianism with delicious anecdotes to back it up. Perennial Seller continues that tradition.”
—RICKY VAN VEEN, cofounder CollegeHumor and Vimeo, head of global creative strategy at Facebook
“I said this about Ryan Holiday’s last book, but I’ll say this now about this book. This is his best book. This will be a perennial seller. Everything in here is so true and it is a guide to creativity in the real world.”
—JAMES ALTUCHER, author of Choose Yourself
"Ryan Holiday is more than a marketing genius—he is an extraordinary thinker whose instincts deliver him deep into the human condition. I’ve been lucky to work with Ryan, and his goal is unwavering—to help creators make work that lasts. Perennial Seller is the perfect distillation of his ideas, and that rarest of gifts—a road map to success and an insight into life.”
—ROBERT KURSON, New York Times bestselling author of Shadow Divers
"Autodidact extraordinaire Ryan Holiday strips away the ridiculous obsession with contemporary bestsellerdom and gets to the heart and soul of individual genius, creating timeless classics that change people’s lives year after year after year. For those of us who wish to summon the courage and forgo instant validation in favor of deep and original creation, this book offers not just the Why, but the How. A must-read for creators of all persuasions.”
—SHAWN COYNE, cofounder of Black Irish Books, author of The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know
“Fashion, like most industries, is all about what’s popular right now, yet at the same time the best designers and creators aspire to make and sell things that will last more than just a single season. Holiday’s new book is the ultimate road map to making your work and your message stick.”
—AYA KANAI, chief fashion director for Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, Redbook, and Woman’s Day
"At this moment, it’s easy to think of music as no more than ephemeral content. For this reason, it’s more important than ever to make work that stands the test of time. This book is a complete and current handbook for writing classics. Perennial Seller clears a path through the noise. If you are interested in creating work that stands the test of time, then Perennial Seller is a must-read.”
—JUSTIN BORETA, The Glitch Mob
“Every artist who wants to create a thriving career that outlasts fads, trends, and technologies needs to read this book. It’s a formula for becoming a classic and legendary.”
—MICHAEL RAPINO, CEO and president, Live Nation
About the Author
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1) Creating (and positioning and marketing and promoting) creative work that lasts is very hard…
2) But it is not impossible.
I also have the sinking suspicion that I now know how to start doing it—if I’m willing to put in the (immense) time and effort.
Using his characteristic approach combining deep research with rich personal experience, Ryan outlines every step of the process of bringing a meaningful project into the world and THEN doing the work to (maybe) make it last.
To some, his account may be discouraging because of how hard he makes it seem. He offers no shortcuts. There are no hacks and there are no tricks.
There is just the challenge to reach deep into oneself and produce the absolute best thing one can—and then to almost kill oneself in the attempt to deliver it to where it may be valued.
Sometimes I’d rather someone lie to me and tell me it will be easy. Then I go back to people like Ryan. Your reaction to this book will tell you how serious you really are.
I, for one, am still unsure. But at least I now know what serious looks like.
Holiday is an exception to that rule, and everything he has written so far is always original and in his distinct voice. For this book in particular, I have read a lot in the genre of book creation/marketing. I helped run a small publishing company at one point and for part of my learning, I bought and read as many books on the business of books as I could. While Perennial Seller is not focused exclusively on books, authors will find more here that is useful than other creatives. Of all the books I have read on writing, this one stands out as my top recommendation moving forward. It succinctly covers Creation, Positioning, Marketing, and Platform and wastes no space in doing so. Some highlights include:
"While many dream perennial-selling dreams, they think that the wanting–instead of the work–is what matters."
"The difference between a great work and an idea for a great work is all the seat, time, effort, and agony that go into engaging that idea and turning it into something real. That difference is not trivial."
The two best things to focus on as a nonfiction writer are enjoyability and utility.
"At a very basic level, if you're not amazing in every facet, you're replaceable. To publishers, studios, investors, and customers alike."
The one sentence, one paragraph, one page exercise to make your product clear is invaluable.
". . . nothing has sunk more creators and caused more unhappiness than this: our inherently human tendency to pursue a strategy aimed at accomplishing one goal while simultaneously expecting to achieve other goals we've specifically deprioritized."
Only one thing matters in marketing: word of mouth.
Bottom line: This is an extremely practical and enjoyable book, both original and drawing on the wisdom of many other creatives. If you are at the idea stage and haven't been able to break through to do the work, buy this book. Reading it gave me the push I needed to start working on other things that have been in the idea stage for too long. Highly Recommended.
Holiday cites the sales patterns of books and other products with staying power and advocates editing, building a platform, and focusing on perfecting your craft.
While this book is partially a manifesto devoted to quality over quantity, it is also full of practical and actionable advice for authors, entrepreneurs, or makers of any kind. Well worth the price and the time to read.
Before reading Perennial Seller, I really didn’t know much at all about the long tail of book sales and how to plan for it. Although I’m a marketing professor and former marketer, I had no domain knowledge about the publishing industry and I guess I thought some books get lucky and keep selling forever. Not so. I highlighted the bejeezus out of this book, and both the content suggestions and the marketing suggestions were enlightening. Plus, as with all Ryan Holiday’s books, the well-researched stories are fascinating and pull you along. I wanted to write a perennial seller but didn't know how. And now I'm on it.
And I’m going to read this book again.
Top international reviews
by Ron Immink on September 14, 2017 in Blog
Selling is hard. Creating long term value is harder.
The obstacle is the way
Ryan Holiday is the author of “The obstacle is the way”. One of my favourite books. Stoicism as the entrepreneurs’ operating system.
He was also the assistant to Robert Greene, the man behind “33 strategies of war”, THE book on strategy.
His latest book is “Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts”. A “Loveability” approach to selling.
“Lovability” brings more of those strings together, including the attitude of entrepreneurs and start-ups to business. Why focus on pivoting, PR spin, fundraising, valuations and exits? Why not just focus on customer delight? On building on relationships, quality, and real value creation. And why not build something that lasts?
Long-term thinking is the new black
It may be just me, but there is a wind of long-term, sustainability and quality starting to blow. I think it is a response to the fluidity of social media, climate change and the speed of change. Why build something quick and mediocre, when you can create something slow and enduring. With long-term value.
Forget the hacks, the quick tricks, flash in the pan approach. Focus on mastery, longevity and perennial. On lasting impact and relevance.
Ryan Holiday brings the “Mastery” approach from Robert Green and combines it with the no nonsense Stoic philosophy, and it is refreshing and honest. There are no magic bullets. Graft, grit, deliberate practice and a focus on excellence.
The Lindy effect
The book mentions companies that have been around for hundreds of years. Companies such as Zildjian (founded in Constantinople in 1623, Fiskars (founded in 1649) and Trudon (candle makers since King Louis XIV). In that way, it feels a bit like “The hidden champions of the 21st century.”
Again, the Lindy effect. Named after a famous restaurant where showbiz types used to meet to discuss trends in the industry, it observes that every day something lasts, the chances that it will continue to last increase. Or Nassim Taleb has put it, “If a book has been in print for forty years, I can expect it to be in print for another forty years.
How to create something that lasts for hundreds of years? That is the question. Creating lifelong value and thus lifelong, or even multi-generational, income. And that is hard, hard work. Making great work is incredibly hard. But it must be your primary focus. While many dream perennial-selling dreams, they think that the wanting—instead of the work—is what matters. “Lots of people,” as the poet and artist Austin Kleon puts it, “want to be the noun without doing the verb.”
Once you realise that there is no quick fix and are willing to put in the hours, the blood, the sweat and the tears, you can start thinking about other success factors. Again, no magic there.
The first success factor is segmentation and definition of the target market. Picking your beach head. An audience is not a target that you happen to bump into. Instead, it must be explicitly scoped and sighted. It must be chosen. Having no specific user in mind is one of the major mistakes that kill startups.
Some question to consider:
Does it have a purpose?
Does it add value to the world?
How will it improve the lives of the people who buy it?
Is it either very entertaining or extremely practical?
What does it teach?
What does it solve?
How are you entertaining?
What are you giving?
What are you offering?
What are you sharing?
What sacred cows are you slaying?
What dominant institution are you displacing?
What groups are you disrupting?
What people are you pissing off?
Is it the best you can do?
What feedback did you get?
It’s not “promotion” we’re talking about here—that comes later. Instead, prior to release, considerable effort needs to be spent polishing, improving, and, most critically, positioning your project so that it has a real chance of resonating with its intended audience. Who is buying the first one thousand copies of this thing? Who is coming in on the first day? Who is going to claim our first block of available dates? Who is buying your first production run?
There is there is no publisher or angel investor or producer who can magically handle all the stuff you do not want to handle. Nobody has a reason or the time to give you the star treatment. What does that mean? At a very basic level, if you’re not amazing in every facet, you’re replaceable to publishers, studios, investors, and customers alike. Nobody cares. Get over it.
Therefore you need to take control of your own fate. You are the CEO. Taking responsibility for yourself. For marketing and selling. Get ready for the real marathon that is marketing. Marketing is your job. It cannot be passed on to someone else. There is no magical firm who can take it totally off your hands. And if you don’t see any salespeople, you’re the salesperson too.
The pitching question
And to help you with that, start with this question “This is a ______ that does ______ for ______.” Consider how someone would describe your book, movie, restaurant, campaign, candidacy—whatever—at a party. Consider someone trying to tell someone else about it in just 140 characters. What would they say? Will they feel stupid saying it?
It’s a ______ that does ______ for ______. Have you made filling in those blanks as easy and exciting as possible? Have you done the hard work for them?
Who is this for?
Who is this not for?
Why is it special?
What will it do for them?
Why should anyone care?
Word of mouth
No one has the steam or the resources to actively market something for more than a short period of time, so if a product is going to sell forever, it must have strong word of mouth. It must drive its own adoption. Over the long haul, this is the only thing that lasts. Your marketing efforts, then, should be catalysts for word of mouth. Which is hard work.
Take inventory of everything you have at your disposal:
Relationships (personal, professional, familial, or otherwise)
Research or information from past launches of similar products (what worked, what didn’t, what to do, what not to do)
Favours they’re owed
Potential advertising budget
Resources or allies
Champions—The More Influential, the Better
Lists and platforms
A “high-impact recommendation”—an emphatic endorsement from a trusted friend, for example—converts at fifty times the rate of low-impact word of mouth
Call to arms
Create a“Call to Arms”—a summons to your fans and friends. I been working on ______ for a long time. It’s a ______ that does ______ for ______. I could really use your help. If you’re in the media or have an audience or you have any ideas or connections or assets that might be valuable when I launch this thing, I would be eternally grateful. Just tell me who you are, what you’re willing to offer, what it might be good for, and how to be in touch.
The other parts of the marketing mix
All other means are at your disposal. PR, social media, advertising, etc. However, when it comes to creating a perennial seller, the principle to never lose sight of is simple: Create word of mouth. And if you are clever, you build a list (not building a list is know as “amnesia marketing”) and a platform of loyal fans. The platform is not a stepping stone. It is the finish line. Read “Machines, Platforms, Crowds“.
Create events, rile your detractors (if you don’t have any, you are doing something wrong), swap your list, engage, be authentic, be nice, create relationships, do crazy things, explore and experiment. Again, no quick fix. Hard work.
You need to settle in for the long haul. Remember, the best and most valuable things that do not find their echo immediately. In other words, it is far better to measure your campaign over a period of years, not months.
Why are you doing this?
It is hard work. It is hard work. It is hard work. Just to repeat again. Hard work. You need to commit and you need to focus. If you’ve committed to doing something incredibly difficult that countless others have failed at before, you probably also shouldn’t be juggling five other projects at the same time. You’ll need to put 100 percent of your resources toward this one. A person on a singular mission can’t be distracted; he can’t chase every coloured balloon he comes across.
No nonsense, hard work
This is a book in the style of “Do-it Marketing”, “Be obsessive”, “The navy seal art of war” and yes “The obstacle is the way”. Read this books and add “Mastery” by Robert Greene and you will have a complete no-nonsense approach to long term success.
To summarise that approach in 3 words: Bloody Hard Work.
I adore Ryan's writing style, which is direct, without fluff, and does that rare thing of giving you rich and tangible ways to take meaningful action. This book is a gorgeous blueprint for success, and critically, it is authentic in the sense Ryan is the walking and talking exemplar of what he preaches (I am currently re-reading Napoleon Hill's book, Outwitting the Devil, which further reminded me of the irony when writers preach without practice!)
I can make no greater recommendation than I will be applying the principles of this book. Even after one week, I am seeing positive results from applying Ryan's methodology and meditations. Thank you Ryan for another masterful book. Benjamin, Co Founder at gaggle, indiGO Volunteers, and Showing Up.
I agree with others that this is his best book so far.
I have read it twice in the last week.
It brings together a wide range of valuable insights (often uniquely presented) to provoke thought and action.
It has a great notes section that is worth stepping through line by line.
All in all this is tremendously inspiring and highly recommended.
The Kindle version is also great value - slightly more than a cup of coffee.
The last 40 odd pages took me a while to get through but the later section of the book i thought i really focussed in on -
My admiration for Ryan Holiday grows daily! - The Daily Stoic has been truly impactful on my life, i liked growth hacker marketing and this is another book i am glad i have read
Great tips about how to position and market the end product.
A good book with several tips to take from, which can be adapted not just to Perennial sellers but to achieve success professionally in general.
I've read "The Obstacle is the Way" and "Ego is the Enemy" both of which were very good but for me this is my favorite of Ryan's books.