Summary and Quotes: Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts by Ryan Holiday


Ryan Holiday analyses what it takes to develop and market goods that withstand the test of time in his book “Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts.” “Creating” and “Positioning” are the book’s two primary divisions.

Holiday addresses the significance of producing original, classic, and real work in the “Creating” section. He stresses the importance of artists emphasizing quality over quantity and devoting sufficient time to honing their skills. Having a distinct vision and purpose for the work, as well as adhering to that vision throughout the creative process, is another important point he makes.

In the “Positioning” section, Holiday discusses the importance of marketing and positioning the work in a way that will ensure its longevity. He emphasizes the need for creators to think long-term and to focus on building a loyal audience rather than chasing short-term success. He also discusses the importance of building a strong personal brand and leveraging social media to connect with fans and build a following.

Holiday uses examples from a variety of fields and artists, such as writers, singers, filmmakers, and entrepreneurs, to illustrate his views throughout the book. Also, he offers helpful advice and tactics for producing and promoting long-lasting work.

Overall, “Perennial Seller” is a useful guide for anyone who wants to create and market work that will stand the test of time. Whether you’re an artist, writer, musician, or entrepreneur, the principles outlined in this book can help you create work that is truly timeless and build a loyal audience that will support you for years to come.


The more books we read, the clearer it becomes that the true function of a writer is to produce a masterpiece and that no other task is of any consequence. —Cyril Connolly

“You should spend 20 percent of your time creating content and 80 percent of your time promoting it.”

“To be great, one must make great work, and making great work is incredibly hard.”

As my mentor Robert Greene put it, “It starts by wanting to create a classic.” Phil Libin, the cofounder of Evernote, has a quote I like to share with clients: “People [who are] thinking about things other than making the best product never make the best product.”

Casey’s response was swift and brutally honest: “I don’t want to hear your idea,” he said. “The idea is the easy part.”

“Lots of people,” as the poet and artist Austin Kleon puts it, “want to be the noun without doing the verb.”

“Every project must begin with the right intent. It might also need luck and timing and a thousand other things, but the right intent is nonnegotiable—and, thankfully, intent is very much in your control.”

George Orwell, author of the classics 1984 and Animal Farm, warned prospective writers of the hazards of the profession in his essay “Why I Write.” He wrote, “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

“To actually give something up in the pursuit of your work is not only necessary but rewarding.”

“From sacrifice comes meaning. From struggle comes purpose.”

“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 the shoulders and walk you over to the starting line of another marathon.”

“. There are better, faster ways to make a profit: work on commission somewhere, start another fusion restaurant, get a job on Wall Street, open a marijuana dispensary. Creating something that lives—that can change the world and continue doing so for decades—requires not just a reverence for the craft and a respect for the medium, but real patience for the process itself.”

It’s better to do as Hamilton did, as Seinfeld did, and as Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, reminds his employees: “Focus on the things that don’t change.”

“Literature is a wonderful profession,” the friend explained patiently, “because haste is no part of it.

“Art can’t be hurried. It must be allowed to take its course. It must be given its space—and can’t be rushed or checked off a to-do list on the way to something else.”

The old idea that “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right” is at the core of great businesses. It certainly makes things a bit more intimidating, but necessarily so if lasting greatness is your intention. As Larry Page, the cofounder of Google, explained, “Even if you fail at your ambitious thing, it’s very hard to fail completely. That’s the thing people don’t get.”

As Hemingway supposedly said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

“What the poet John Keats called “negative capability”—the holding of multiple contradictory ideas in your head at the same time—is an essential phase of creativity: the part where your mind is a whirl of ideas.”

“In the way that a good wine must be aged, or that we let meat marinate for hours in spices and sauce, an idea must be given space to develop.”

“A book should be an article before it’s a book, and a dinner conversation before it’s an article.”

“Creating is often a solitary experience. Yet work made entirely in isolation is usually doomed to remain lonely.”

“You don’t have to be a genius to make genius—you just have to have small moments of brilliance and edit out the boring stuff.”

“There is no question that planning is really important, but it’s seductive to get lost in that planning—to hope that the perfect project simply floats your way instead of deciding that it’s on you to make it.”

“As Robert Evans, the movie producer behind films like Love Story and The Godfather, put it, “Getting into action generates inspiration. Don’t cop out waiting for inspiration to get you back into action. It won’t!””

“The absence of an intended audience is not just a commercial problem. It is an artistic one.”

The critic Toby Litt could have been talking about all bad art and bad products when he said that “bad writing is almost always a love poem addressed by the self to the self.”

Stephen King believes that “every novelist has a single ideal reader” so that at various points in the process he can ask, “What will ______ think about this?”

John Steinbeck once wrote in a letter to an actor turned writer, “Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death, and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person—and write to that one.”

An editor once told me, “It’s not what a book is, it’s what a book does.”

“Lasting resonance requires something more than novelty: It needs an earnest person attempting to find a solution to a common problem.”

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten as a creator was from a successful writer who told me that the key to success in nonfiction was that the work should be either “very entertaining” or “extremely practical.”

As Albert Brooks put it, “The subject of dying and getting old never gets old.”

“In short: What are these people going to be paying for? If you don’t know— if the answer isn’t overwhelming—then keep thinking.”

The Dead weren’t trying to be the best at anything, he said; they were trying to be the only ones doing what they were doing. Srinivas Rao, a writer and podcaster, put it well: “Only is better than best.”

“The Nigerian writer Chigozie Obioma has talked about the importance of audaciousness in making something that lasts. “Writers should realize,” he said, “that the novels that are remembered, that become monuments, would in fact be those which err on the part of audacious prose, which occasionally allow excess rather than those which package a story—no matter how affecting—in inadequate prose.””

“Stuff that’s boring now is probably going to be boring in twenty years. Stuff that looks, sounds, reads, and performs like everything else in its field today has very little chance of standing out tomorrow.”

As he recounted later, “I didn’t want to water down. The idea of watering things down for a mainstream audience, I don’t think it applies. People want things that are really passionate. Often the best version is not for everybody. The best art divides the audience. If you put out a record and half the people who hear it absolutely love it and half the people who hear it absolutely hate it, you’ve done well. Because it is pushing that boundary.”

“You want to provoke a reaction—it’s a sign you’re forging ahead.”

A famous scientist once warned his students not to worry about people stealing their ideas: “If it’s original, you will have to ram it down their throats.”

Orson Welles said that a movie “must be better to see the second or third time than it is the first time. There must be more in it to see at once than any one person can grasp. It must be so ‘meaty,’ so full of implications, that everyone will get something out of it.”

“A master is painstakingly obsessed with the details.”

As one agent I work with put it to me, “Spend three times longer revising your manuscript than you think you need.”

There’s a famous bit of advice from Stephen King to “kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

These words of Steven Pressfield in his wonderful book The War of Art are a haunting and humbling reminder: “The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”

The artist seeks contact with his intuitive sense of the gods, but in order to create his work, he cannot stay in this seductive and incorporeal realm. He must return to the material world in order to do his work. —Patti Smith

“There was a knock on my door. I opened the door, and there he stood, a telegraph boy. I signed for the telegram, sat on the bed, and wondered if the wine had finally got the Old Man’s heart. The telegram said: your book accepted mailing contract today . . . That was all. I let the paper float to the carpet. I just sat there. Then I got down on the floor and began kissing the telegram. I crawled under the bed and just lay there. I did not need the sunshine anymore. Nor the earth, nor heaven. I just lay there, happy to die. Nothing else could happen to me. My life was over.”

“There is so much more competition these days—the ocean is redder than it’s ever been.”

Seth Godin explains that “being really good is merely the first step. In order to earn word of mouth, you need to make [your product] safe, fun, and worthwhile to overcome the social hurdles to spread the word.”

When it comes to feedback, I think Neil Gaiman’s advice captures the right attitude: “Remember: When people tell you something’s 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.”

“Remember: Getting feedback requires humility. It demands that you subordinate your thoughts about your project and your love for it and entertain the idea that someone else might have a valuable thing or two to add.”

“There is a fundamental question of knowledge that goes all the way back to Plato and Socrates: If you don’t know what you’re looking for, how will you know if you’ve found it?”

“Contrary to what most people think about the viral content BuzzFeed is famous for, its founder Jonah Peretti has said that every article BuzzFeed publishes isn’t supposed to be read by millions of people. Yes, every post is supposed to spread socially, but it is supposed to be viral for its intended audience, whatever the size. Doing that requires knowing who that is while the content is being made.”

“With a concrete number in mind, it’s a lot easier to establish and empathize with what your audience is going to need.”

“Ryan, all your stories are from nineteenth-century white guys. That’s not going to work.”

“You might be ten times better,” he says, “but your customers may not even understand why it’s important that you’re better.”

“When Steve Jobs launched NeXT—his first company after Apple fired him—he spent something like $100,000 on a logo from one of the best designers in the world.”

Law 2, for instance, is about the art of categorization. “If you can’t be first in a category,” the law states, “set up a new category you can be first in.”

“A great package on a great product is what creates an explosive reaction.”

“Your investors, your publishers, your employees, your family and friends might push you to finish quickly and get it out into the world. They don’t understand that you may have only one shot at this. The choices you make here can’t be compensated for in the marketing later. In fact, they are the marketing.”

“Some of our reasons will be serious, some will be self-interested or seemingly trivial—“No one’s ever done this before, and I’d like to try”—but clarity of purpose and clarity of goals is essential.”

Seneca wrote that what’s required is “confidence in yourself and the belief that you are on the right path, and not led astray by the many tracks which cross yours of people who are hopelessly lost, though some are wandering not far from the true path.”

“With a perennial seller as your goal, the track is clear: lasting impact and relevance.”

“Another Jobs lesson: He didn’t think about what other people would do. He didn’t think about what he should do.”

“A friend of mine, Jeff Goins, makes the distinction between starving artists and thriving artists. One adopts all the tropes and clichés of the bohemians and supposed purity. The other is resilient, ambitious, open-minded, and audience[1]driven. Who do you want to be? Which will propel your work the furthest?”

“You have to be ready for what comes next: the real marathon that is marketing.”

“Most people are aware that Winston Churchill was both a politician and a statesman; fewer are aware of his brilliance as a writer or his passion for painting. He published his first book at twenty-three and his second at twenty[1]four, two works that made him an international celebrity at a young age. In his sixties, Churchill would begin a multivolume set titled A History of the English[1]Speaking Peoples, which took twenty years to finish and publish (he fought a world war in the middle of it). He would later win the Nobel Prize in literature. Though Churchill was not as talented as a painter, he found it to be a great source of personal satisfaction and expression—and he traveled with his brushes and paints wherever he went.”

“To begin with,” he said, your project “is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling it to the public.”

Customers will not come just because you build it. You have to make that happen and it’s harder than it looks. —Peter Thiel

In 1842, a character in one of Balzac’s novels, a journalist, observed that “the great problem for artists to solve is how to place themselves where they can be seen.”

Every creator faces the problem of “Who will enjoy what I have made?”

“This book began with a criticism of the notion that creatives need to spend more time marketing and selling than they do making.”

Herb Cohen, considered one of the world’s greatest negotiators, famously said, “You’re better off with a great salesman and a mediocre product than with a masterpiece and a moron to sell it.”

“I feel like the wretched employee of my former self. My former self being the happily engaged novelist who now sends me, a kind of brush salesman or double glazing salesman, out on the road to hawk this book. He got all the fun writing it. I’m the poor bastard who has to go sell it.”

As Byrd Leavell, a literary agent, puts it to his clients, “You know what happens if your book gets published and you don’t have any way of getting attention for it? No one buys it.”

As Peter Drucker put it: “[Each project] needs somebody who says, ‘I am going to make this succeed,’ and then goes to work on it.”

There is this great line from venture capitalist Ben Horowitz: “There is no silver bullet. . . . No, we’re going to have to use a lot of lead bullets.”

“According to a study by McKinsey, between 20 percent and 50 percent of all purchasing decisions happen from some version of word of mouth. And the study found that 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.”

Someone once lauded the Southern writer Padgett Powell for never having become a commercial author. Powell’s reply was simple and honest: “Nothing to admire.”

“Put differently: Selling in perpetuity and launching strong are not mutually exclusive.”

“A lot of creators are like that, especially when they are self-funded or self-published—they just want their thing out in the world. They don’t want to wait; they just want to go, go, go.”

“In order to sell over the long term, we knew the faster we hit critical velocity, the better our chances of making it would be.”

“From a marketing perspective, a proper launch is essential—much more than simply picking a random day to go live. Yes, “launch windows” are artificial. But just because something is constructed, as I once heard a wise person say, that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. In fact, the artificial notion of a launch is almost more important now than ever—customers have so much choice, they tend to choose what appears to have momentum. As Sunstein observed, people choose what others are choosing.”

“Fine, I’ll buy your book @jamesaltucher. Now stop being EVERYWHERE ON THE INTERNET like you have the past two weeks.”

A smart business friend once described the art of marketing to me as a matter of “finding your addicts.”

“The publisher and technologist Tim O’Reilly puts it well: “The problem for most artists isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.” In other words, we spend a lot of time insisting that nobody steal our work or get it for free . . . but we forget that being unknown is a far worse fate for an artist than being underpaid.”

“They’ve gotta do something to get an audience,” he’s said. “Free and cheap helps.”

“To go back to the TED conference for a second, remember: The videos are free to watch online. It still costs close to $10,000 to actually attend the conference and people are dying for tickets. One drives the other.”

“To these people [in publishing], literature is more or less the central fact of existence. Whereas, to vast numbers of reasonably intelligent people it is an unimportant sideline, a relaxation, an escape, sometimes even a source of inspiration. But they could do without it far more easily than they could do without coffee or whiskey.”

“Most endorsements are organic, accidental even. The question is: How do we draw influencers to our work and increase our chances of it happening to us? How do we increase the odds for these accidents?”

“What many creators fail to realize—and it becomes clear only when you’ve spoken to many reporters over a long period of time—is that the media is desperate for material.”

“What if you can’t think of an interesting stunt to pull? There is another way to attract earned media: a technique called “newsjacking,” popularized by the marketing thinker David Meerman Scott. He defines the concept as “the process by which you inject your ideas or angles into breaking news, in real time, in order to generate media coverage for yourself or your business.””

“If he can get it to move, the more he pushes the faster it will move and the more easily. But if he cannot get it to move, he can push till he drops dead and it will stand still.”

“Creative advertising is probably the least competitive sector of advertising, because most brands either aren’t creative or are afraid to be. If you had a billboard in Times Square with a picture of the cover of your book, it might make you feel great, but it wouldn’t move the needle.”

“A perennial product requires perennial marketing.”

I had acquired what, to my mind, is the most valuable success a writer can have—a faithful following, a reliable group of readers who looked forward to every new book and bought it, who trusted me, and whose trust I must not disappoint. —Stefan Zweig

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