In every creative industry, there are certain creations that can be described as “perennial.” Meaning, regardless of how well it may have done at its release, these perennial products have continued to be successful and are still consumed by people decades later. The James Bond series, Citizen Kane and Pac-Man are still selling to this day and will likely continue selling for the next few decades.
The Great Gatsby continues to sell tons of copies more than half a century later. Certain products become timeless and classic, and Ryan investigates what makes perennial sellers unique.
The book is split into four parts. The first talks about the creative process and the magic and mindset needed to create a perennial seller. Part two teaches how to polish, perfect and package your creation. The third discusses marketing, which involves PR and promotion. The last part focuses on building a platform of fans to develop a long-term career.
1) Great Art Requires Purpose & Sacrifice
Every creative person has a dream to write the next great novel or blockbuster film, but it’s the need to create something great that is vital in creating a perennial seller.
Here are a few examples of a good purpose: to uncover a truth that has been unsaid for too long, it will make the world a better place, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime moment, it will help a lot of people, because the excitement you feel cannot be contained.
If you want to create something to satisfy your ego, make money, or gain fame, be careful of this mindset. If the reason you want to create something is similar to the lines of, it’s your life’s work or this is what you were put on the planet to do, then you have the correct intent and are moving in the right direction.
After purpose, the next step is sacrifice.
The famous writer George Orwell said he would never write a book unless he was “driven by a demon he couldn’t resist.” The famous entrepreneur Elon Musk compared starting a company to “eating glass and staring into the abyss of death.”
Sacrifice will consist of pain and long hours of work. However, from sacrifice comes meaning, and from the struggle comes purpose. During this step, the fake innovator will be self-confident, while the real one will be scared to death. This is good, fear will keep you on your toes and alert during the process of creation.
2) Make Every Piece A Masterpiece
It is often said that getting through the last mile is just as hard as getting to the last mile. Before the product can be released, it needs to be polished, improved and properly positioned. Each piece of the product must be perfected in order to make it into a true masterpiece.
This step can be done only by the creator.
The creator is the CEO of your work. All responsibility and leadership falls on their shoulders. Chances are they’ll work with an editor, publisher or publicist–and they will help–but they will not take care of everything.
People will give feedback on how to improve your script or novel, but only the creator will be able to separate the helpful from the harmful suggestions.
Keep in mind, this process may last a long time. When Harper Lee submitted her manuscript, the editor told her it would require significant changes. Lee listened and after two years of rewrites, she created her famous book To Kill a Mockingbird.
Chances are that the first prototype will not be a masterpiece. Even The Great Gatsby was rejected several times. Similarly, WD-40 name comes from the forty attempts it took for its creator to nail the working formula.
3) Even a Masterpiece Must be Marketed
If you are the person who has created the product, it is up you to market and sell it. No one knows the product better and no one is more invested in it than you.
The first step to marketing your product is to make people care. This means being ready to sell at any time or place. When you meet someone, you should see it as an opportunity to make them care about your product. Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, sold his running shoes at track meets. Jay-Z sold CDs out of his car on the streets of New York City.
Author Ryan Holiday goes on to say that the one of the most important things that matters is word of mouth.
He calls it the single most powerful force in the life of a product since an organic, natural recommendation makes up between 20 and 50 percent of all purchasing decisions.
Not only is word of mouth more effective at converting potential customers than traditional advertising, it is also of little to no cost to the creator.
To increase word of mouth about a product, it is important to create excitement and gather momentum around it. One of the best ways to do this is by giving away the work for little or no cost to a select group of people.
Ryan has partnered with BitTorrent, one of the biggest piracy tools in the world, to give away music and books on several occasions. Author Robert Greene gave away a free supplemental eBook which helped make his paid book a number one New York Times bestseller. This freemium model builds trust, interest, and awareness of your product and if your work is good, a percentage of those people will be willing to pay for your product and support your work. This will help build a group of early adopters that will spread the word about your product to others. If you’ve gotten this far and want to learn more, you can get the book here.
To create a perennial seller, one must have a deep purpose and be willing to sacrifice a lot for their work. It must be revised over and over again until each piece is a masterpiece. Once completed, the product must be marketed correctly in order for it to become a true perennial seller. Ryan Holiday is a great writer and although this book isn’t his best work, it is worth reading if you’re in the creative space or wish of creating something that will continue to last for decades.
- Book: “Perennial Seller” by Ryan Holiday
- Pages: 256
- For: Creative people who are looking to make their work last decades or longer
- Lesson: Learn how to create creative work that succeeds in the market for the long-term
If you're interested in reading another book by Ryan Holiday, here's an article on "Ego Is The Enemy."