Perennial Seller: Summary Review & Takeaways

This is a summary review of Perennial Seller containing key details about the book.

What is Perennial Seller About?

How can we create and market creative works that achieve longevity? The author of Perennial Seller reveals that the key to success for many perennial sellers is that their creators don't distinguish between the making and the marketing. The product's purpose and audience are in the creator's mind from day one. By thinking holistically about the relationship between their audience and their work, creators of all kinds improve the chances that their offerings will stand the test of time.

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Who is the Author of Perennial Seller?

Ryan Holiday is an American author, public relations strategist, bookstore owner, and host of the podcast The Daily Stoic. He is a former director of marketing for American Apparel.

Book details

  • Print length: 256 Pages
  • Audiobook: 7 hrs
  • Genre: Business, Nonfiction, Writing

What are key lessons and takeaways from Perennial Seller?

Takeaway #1: Execution Over Ideas

Being consistently and persistently hard-working in your creativity is the key to a perennial seller. Work hard to come up with that outstanding idea, product, or business.

Have you ever heard of the Apple Pippin? In the 1990s, Apple attempted to break into the gaming industry in the US. The Pippin was considerably more expensive than the Nintendo and PlayStation alternatives, and only sold 42,000 units in the US. Apple used this and their other failures to develop one main product: the iPhone.

You can put all the marketing you want into a dud idea; it’ll still be a dud. You need to develop that perennial seller, something people will want to invest in for years to come.

Furthermore, eureka moments are great, but they don’t bring home the bacon. This is where a lot of creative people founder. Time and time again, there are perfectionist inventors and writers who are always creating, but never producing. You can’t grow on ideas alone.

As Jack Welch, American business executive, says so eloquently: “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate that vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

Takeaway #2. Motivation + Readiness = Success

Thousands of people strive for fame. They may be driven by money, success, or being recognised. Whatever it is, that drive alone won’t get you anywhere. With any hope or dream, you need a solid purpose.

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Adding purpose to your work gives you incentive. It provides you with a reason to persevere through the obstacles. Imagine you work with individuals with special needs, and one day you come up with a product that could really help them day-to-day. You’ll be determined to overcome every obstacle, as you know you will eventually make a difference to people’s lives. As Zig Ziglar, American author, salesman and motivational speaker said: "If you believe your product or service can fulfil a true need, it’s your moral obligation to sell it”

There are many factors that can give you purpose. Often, desperation works wonders. If you’re desperate for something, you tend to work harder for it. You’re also more willing to prioritise, to sacrifice the less important.

Careersmart found that farming was the most time-consuming job in 2018, with farmers racking up an average of 118 hours worked per week. But farmers are driven by a heavy purpose: feeding the nation. They cater to one of the most basic human needs.

Similarly to farming, sports require sheer determination to achieve the goal. Ice Hockey is an intense sport that requires complete physical engagement. Players must be ready for 45-second shifts of high-intensity effort and direction change, as well as hard hits
Your goal may not require the same extent of physical sacrifice, but the same level of commitment is essential.

Takeaway #3. Being Your Own CEO

If only success was solely dependent on creativity. Unfortunately, you need more than that.

Imagine a writer who doesn’t have the skills nor the resources to find a publisher. Here, knowledge is power. They can use their sense of purpose to learn the required skills themselves.

The same applies to scientists. They can’t just come up with a theory and claim that it’s correct. They identify how to test it, and go through months if not years of hard graft. Even then, if their work is unsuccessful, it may not be published to the wider world.

It’s the same with business. You have to become your own CEO, as there’s no-one better to help you succeed than yourself.

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That being said, you can often benefit from an editor. All creatives can profit from including an editor in their process; someone who will analyze and criticize their work so that it appeals to their desired audience. Being a creator, sometimes you get tunnel vision. A professional editor helps to break through that.

The development of the first Star Wars movie is a perfect example of the importance of editing. The film fell behind schedule and the special effects department failed to see George Lucas’ vision. He was forced to split his crew into 3 units. Then editors Paul Hirsch and Richard Chew were brought onboard. They pulled Lucas’ idea out of the rubble, and constructed the film we all know so well as “A New Hope”.

Takeaway #4. Test, Test, and Test Again

People often get complacent when their product nears release, putting in less effort. This sets you up to fail.

Have you ever run a race and experienced that sudden burst of energy when you reach the last 100 metres? That’s what you need here - speed up at the finish line. Even after the finish line you’ll need more energy, because developing a product or business is ongoing. Be prepared for lots of tests and minimal rests.

A key element of testing is quality control. We only need to think about the 1986 Challenger Space Shuttle explosion to understand the importance of quality control. Jeff Forest, in his extensive report, identified NASA’s misrepresented risk and failure to communicate concerns around quality assurance. NASA had been warned that cold temperatures could have adverse effects on the ‘O’ rings. They were recommended to wait for the external temperature to increase before launching, but ignored this.

Holiday’s book, "Perennial Seller" suggests the "One Sentence, One Paragraph, One Page" method. This is about going back to the root of your idea, and questioning what you initially hoped to achieve. Does your product reflect this? Is it what you hoped it would be? The method is simple. Write your initial aim in one sentence. Now broaden this into a paragraph. Once you’ve done that, write a page. Through this, you gain a better understanding of what it is you really hope to create.

Sir James Dyson honed his product ideas by testing them over and over again. For 15 years, Dyson developed prototypes that failed. He depleted his savings, and rejected a total of 5,126 unsuccessful prototypes. Through perseverance and incessant testing, Dyson built his empire.

Takeaway #5. Be your own marketer. Push your product, and maintain humility whilst doing so

It’s difficult to be creative when you’re racing against other creatives. You may discount yourself from the off, thinking it’s impossible to provide something different.

Here’s a little secret: it’s all in the marketing. This can only be from you. You must be the one to put in the hours, to work hard, to push the product. Remember, you’re the one who is driven by the underlying purpose. Others won’t be.

Beatrix Potter is a world-famous children’s author. She originally had to self-publish her book ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’. In 1902, when she published the book, women were largely discriminated against. It was believed that women were unable to write books, so they were told to publish them under a male name.

When no-one else has your back, you need to be there to toot your own horn. In the words of well-known American hip-hop group Salt-N-Pepa: “push it, push it real good." That’s it, the secret to successful marketing is pushing the product. This requires humility. Humility is having a modest, or accurate (not inflated or deflated) view of your importance and capabilities.

Researchers Bradley Owens and David Hekman found that humble leaders are driven to improve. They don’t believe success is inevitable, so conduct constant testing. They revise plans, and take time to learn new information and ideas. It has been found that humble leaders achieve more motivation and hard work from their followers/employees.

Takeaway #6. The Wonders of Word of Mouth

Marketing has many avenues. There are endless ways of getting your product out there, so you’re sure to find a novel solution. As a creative, you’re at an advantage. Creativity is key in marketing.

Think of Coca Cola’s “Share a Coke” marketing campaign, one of the best in the business. This applied personalization like no brand before. Coca Cola has always been innovative, but in 2011 it introduced the “Share a Coke” campaign, where its consumers could personalize their drink. They could have their name printed on the label of the bottle on the website, or they could pick it up at a local gas station or supermarket. It went viral. Everyone was posting their personalized bottle of Coke. This was an ingenious technique that silently encouraged consumers to market their product for them.

Nielsen found that 92% of consumers choose recommendations from friends and family over other forms of advertising. Furthermore, Word of Mouth Marketing Association and American Marketing Association’s recent study identified that 64% of marketing executives believe word of mouth to be the most effective form of marketing. Only a shocking 6% of those believed they had mastered it. Word of mouth guarantees a perennial seller. Take tips from Coke and develop something that will be shared between homes, at work, and on social media.

Takeaway #7. Use a platform as a ‘back-up’

If your product fails to begin with, don’t stress yourself thinking there will be no coming back from it. That being said, you do need a back-up. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. You need a way of advertising yourself, not your product. This is called a platform. It puts your skill and fans in one place, creating a network of followers interested in you and your creative ideas.

For example, Robert De Niro, a famous American actor, producer and director, doesn’t just make his fortune from showbiz. In 1994, he partnered with chef Nobu Matsuhisa, opening the Japanese restaurant ‘Nobu’. This expanded to hotels, then condos.
According to Crunchbase, he also co-founded Tribeca Enterprises, a media company with an current estimated annual revenue of just over $17 million.

A platform is a ‘back-up’ as it helps you out in difficult times. If you put 100% into only one project, you’ll be in trouble if that project fails. It is also just for you. You don’t have to rely on anyone else, and no-one is censoring you. It’s a chance to express yourself in the exact way you wish.

Many do this through social media. Take Leonardo DiCaprio, the American actor who starred in popular films such as The Wolf of Wall Street and Titanic. DiCaprio doesn’t use his social media to market himself. Instead, he uses his fame to raise awareness on issues close to his heart: politics, global warming, and racism, to name a few. This way, he benefits from educating his fans on worldly topics, and also increases the breadth of his follower base. He guarantees his success, even if one platform takes a hit.

Takeaway #8. It’s Who You Know. Build your mailing list.

Start building your mailing list right from when your idea is in its infancy. You want followers for when the idea launches. Building up a mailing list of supporters helps in the long-run, especially for creatives.

Start-up companies send out thousands of emails to potential customers. Think about when you do any online shopping. What’s the first thing that comes up on a company website? Usually, it’s an offer, which can only be unlocked if you sign up to the mailing list.

Another prominent quote from Zig Ziglar: “You don’t build a business, you build people, then people build the business” Similarly, Instagram influencers set up fan email accounts, to give their followers a way of contacting them. This also increases the influencer’s popularity.

What are the chapters in Perennial Seller?

Part I The Creative Process: From the Mindset to the Making to the Magic
Part II Positioning: From Polishing to Perfecting to Packaging
Part III Marketing: From Courting to Coverage, Pushing to Promotion
Part IV Platform: From Fans to Friends and a Full-Fledged Career

What are some of the main summary points from the book?

Here are some key summary points from the book:

  • Perennial sellers are timeless and have the potential to generate long-term value and revenue.
  • Creating a perennial seller requires a deep understanding of the target audience and their needs.
  • Quality is paramount in creating a perennial seller. It should be exceptional in terms of content, craftsmanship, and overall experience.
  • Perennial sellers require a combination of art and commerce. The creator must strike a balance between their creative vision and the market's demands.
  • Promotion and marketing play a crucial role in the success of a perennial seller. It's not enough to create something great; it needs to reach the right audience.
  • Creating a platform and cultivating an audience is essential for long-term success. A strong relationship with the audience can help sustain a perennial seller's popularity.
  • Perennial sellers often require persistence and resilience. It takes time for them to gain traction and establish themselves in the market.
  • Continuous improvement is necessary to keep a perennial seller relevant and appealing to the evolving audience.
  • Understanding the business side of creativity is crucial for building and maintaining a perennial seller. It involves making smart decisions about pricing, distribution, and partnerships.
  • A deep passion for the work is a driving force behind the creation of a perennial seller. It fuels the dedication and commitment necessary to overcome challenges and setbacks.

What are good quotes from Perennial Seller?

"People claim to want to do something that matters, yet they measure themselves against things that don’t, and track their progress not in years but in microseconds. They want to make something timeless, but they focus instead on immediate payoffs and instant gratification." (Meaning)

"A critical test of any product: Does it have a purpose? Does it add value to the world? How will it improve the lives of the people who buy it?"

"From sacrifice comes meaning. From struggle comes purpose. If you’re to create something powerful and important, you must at the very least be driven by an equally powerful inner force...

"You must be able to explicitly say who you are building your thing for. You must know what you are aiming for—you’ll miss otherwise. You need to know this so you can make the decisions that go into properly positioning the project for them.

― Ryan Holiday, Perennial Seller Quotes

What do critics say?

Here's what one of the prominent reviewers had to say about the book: “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 summary points above have been concluded from the book and other public sources. The editor of this summary review made every effort to maintain information accuracy, including any published quotes, chapters, or takeaways

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Chief Editor

Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.

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