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The Perennial Seller

Ryan Holiday

If you want to create work that sells for a long time to come, this book is a must-read.

Video Summary

My Summary/Outline

  1. How to create something lasting
    1. 80/20 marketing to work ratio doesn’t work
    2. People who are thinking about things other than how to make a great product never make a great product
    3. Powerful work is a struggle and it requires great sacrifice
    4. The difference between a great work and an idea for great work is all the time, sweat, effort, and agony that go into engaging that idea and turning it into something real
    5. YOU must do the work YOURSELF
    6. Art is the kind of marathon where you cross the finish line and instead of getting a medal placed around your neck, the volunteers roughly grab you by your shoulders and walk you over to the starting line of another marathon
    7. It doesn’t matter what the deadlines are or who is breathing down your neck — in a year, will the extra two days you spent seem ecxessive? In ten years, will spending ten extra days, or even ten weeks, seem like a long time?
    8. You have to shift your “goal timeframe” and make tough choices.
    9. Hemingway rewrote the ending of A Farewell to Arms 47 times, and the first part of the book 50 times.
    10. Just like good wine has to be aged, an idea has to be given time and space to develop.
    11. Test your ideas small and use the MVP framework when possible.
    12. Decide who you’re creating for. If you’re creating for everyone, it’s the same as creating it for no one. You can’t wait until after you’re done to figure out who you made it for.
    13. Imagine or find one ideal audience member and write/create for them/to them.
    14. Just as you should know who it’s for, you should also ask “what does it do” for your audience?
    15. Create your own category. Being the only one category is better than being the best in another, especially if you’re trying to compete in a competitive market.
    16. If your idea is original, you’ll have to ram it down people’s throats.
    17. Work is unlikely to be layered if it is written in a single stream of consciousness. Deep, complex work is built through a relentless, repetitive process of revisitation.
    18. It takes time, effort and sacrifice to make something that lasts.
  2. How to position, package, and perfect your work
    1. Audiences can’t magically know what is inside something they haven’t seen. They have no clue that it will change their lives. You can’t be the self-conscious wallflower in the corner, hoping that people will seee through the act and just know how great you are. Someone is going to have to tell them. (Dish presentation and taste.)
    2. Even though it’s hard, you HAVE to take full responsibility for everything here. Just because you have help doesn’t mean they’re going to take care of everything for you, or that it will all turn out for the best.
    3. You need an editor. The final decision is on you, but more often than not your first draft will be terrible.
    4. When people tell you something is wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
    5. Getting feedback requires humility. It deamnds that you subordinate your thoughts about your project and your love for it and entertain the idea that someone else might hvae a valuable thing or two to add.
    6. One sentence, one paragraph, one page. This is a _____ that does____. This helps people _______.
    7. You must understand which conventions of your genre you’re observing, and which ones you’re taking a risk on.
    8. A creator can’t magically inherit the audience of another. There’s no convention for Malcolm Gladwell fans.
    9. You must be able to explicitly say who you are building you thing for. You must know what you are aiming for– you’ll miss otherwise.
    10. Service the core audience first and then expand.
    11. You must create room for the audience to inhabit in and relate to the work so they see themselves as the hero and see their friends as the heros so they recommend it to them.
    12. You’re not just competing with current published work. You’re also competing against the other greats that came before you. EX: New TV shows compete with Breaking Bad. New books with Harry Potter or Shakespeare. New films with the classics.
    13. Of course you can judge a book by its cover– that’s why books have covers.
    14. 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 entirely unrelated
  3. How to market it
    1. You can cut back on a lot of things as a leader, but the last thing you can ever skimp on is marketing. Your product needs a champion.
    2. You must apply the same creativity and energy into marketing as you put into making. Marketing is an opportunity for you to distinguish yourself, to beat out the other talented folks whose entitlement or laziness holds them back.
    3. Accept that nobody cares about what you have made (right now) and work from there.
    4. Word of mouth is key because you can’t keep advertising forever.
    5. Just because you’re playing the long game doesn’t mean you shouldn’t focus on creating an explosive launch.
    6. While a launch date is artificial, it helps create momentum, and customers tend to choose what appears to have momentum.
    7. Do a lot of work in advance so it seems like you’re everywhere on the day of the launch.
    8. The problem for most artists isn’t piracy. It’s obscurity.
    9. Think about all the stuff you haven’t checked out even though most of it is really cheap. There is so much out there that you couldn’t possibly consume it all in your lifetime. So we ignore a lot of it, especially the stuff that looks expensive.
    10. Try to find people least likely to get a request from someone like you, and aproach them first, instead of going where everyone else is going.
    11. Much of the press that people chase is ephemeral and innefectual, yet expensive and time consuming to get. Media outlets have trouble getting people to pay for their own product — what makes you so sure they’re going to be able to convince their readers and viewers to buy yours?
    12. While other creators waste their time chasing media that doesn’t work, there are plenty of PR strategies that do work– and, better yet, are easier and often costless.
    13. Do things that create media opportunities for reporters. Cut thorigh the noise, make a statement, and do most of the legwork required.
    14. Platforms come and go like the wind. It’s always better to focus on the bigger picutre, on the things that don’t change.
  4. How to build a lasting audience
    1. Becoming a perennial seller requires more than just releasing a project into the world. It requires the development of a career. It means building a fan base both before and after a project, and itmeans thinking differently than most people out there selling something.
    2. Networking isn’t about going to networking events and handing out business cards- that’s flyering. It is intead about forming, developing, and maintaining real relationships. It’s about being valuable and being avaialble so one day the favor might be returned.
    3. Creating more high quality work will help you market your previous work.
    4. It’s not enough to make one great work. You should try to make a lot of it. Very few of us can afford to abandon our gift after our first attempt, convinced that our legacy is secured. Nor should we. We should prove to the world, and to ourselves that we can do it again… and again.
    5. It doesn’t matter how popular your product is or how long you’ve been doing it. To the majority of people you and your product will still be new.
  5. Luck is polarizing. The successful like to pretend it does not exist. The unsuccessful or the jaded pretend that it is everything. Both explanations are wrong.