Book Summaries Business

Perennial Seller Summary (7/10)

“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.”

Perennial Seller is a book by Ryan Holiday that tries to teach you how to successfully market your creative work. Most artists don’t like the idea of selling, they see marketing as boring work that should be left for the sleazy, non-purist business types.

They don’t want to waste their time marketing their product, they want to create!

Unfortunately, no one cares about your work. People aren’t pushing each other in a line to get a first look at your latest masterpiece.

To understand Holiday’s point, consider the highly unequal distribution of income from books. A tiny percentage of authors make most of the money ( Pareto’s law). But because of our egotism, few of us are willing to accept this. We think that our work will sell millions of copies. We choose to believe that our work is special, that our work is different from all the rest. It might be debatable whether this type of thinking may be psychologically useful, but from a business perspective, it’s not.

Instead, focus on realistic gains, not unrealistic dreams. If you want to build an audience, you can’t just write a book and expect the world to discover it. You have to do the messy work of marketing it properly. You have to identify a niche audience to cater to. You have to find the appropriate distribution channels (how you will spread your message), you have to use traditional advertising methods, and you have to rely on the power of word of mouth.

But most importantly, you have to learn to be different. There are millions of books in the world. There are millions of authors, musicians, and entrepreneurs. Whatever you are trying to create – whether its a Youtube channel or blog, chances are that there are several people who have already done something very similar.

The only way for you to solve this problem is by not fitting in. You don’t solve the problem by finding out what already works and copying that. It isn’t that this strategy doesn’t work, copying works reasonably well, but too many people try to copy which makes the strategy minimally effective.

If you do something that’s bold, then you will at least grab people’s attention, and if you can do that, you may earn their interest.

It could be the book title, or it could be the way you market the book. If people perceive your work as “just another one of those…” then it will likely be shelved in the dark hole category of unwanted ramblings of a wanna-be artist.

Holiday’s message is the same as Godin’s. If you don’t risk standing out, then you’re taking the biggest possible risk. In a world where information is overabundant and attention is being scattered in every direction, those who manage to make their voice heard are those who

Your ideas aren’t going to be great every day. Sometimes, you’ll have bad ideas, even terrible ones– but even they could lead to amazing things. The trick is to always be alert to them and test them out. Write a blog post before a book, have a conversation before writing an article. Don’t over-commit.

”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.”

Anne Lamott

Find Your Niche

The goal isn’t to be the best – but to be the best in your category. This is one of the laws in the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. The idea is to own a niche. You don’t have to be completely new, but you must be different enough. That’s the idea of Blue Ocean Strategy. The businesses that have successfully followed the Blue Ocean principle and thrived did so because they introduced something that was familiar enough to be accepted, and different enough to be interesting. Many entrepreneurs and artists make the mistake of trying to either be too familiar or too different.

No one likes to do the marketing, unless of course – you’re a marketeer. But if you’re trying to make money – in whatever creative pursuit you’re in – you have to learn how to market your products. Otherwise, find someone who will.

Focus on positioning, packaging, and the pitch. All these variables feed into your marketing proposition. If you’re trying to market your work successfully, the least you can do is pay attention to how your work is going to be perceived. Holiday recommends that you spend half of your time building the product, and the other half marketing it. Too many entrepreneurs and creators allocate too little time to market their products.

Define your mission clearly and consistently work towards it. Nothing will throw you off track more than having a bunch of conflicting goals. Make sure your goals feed into other and are related. You only have so much energy. Then, set a launch date and stick to it.

Go Freemium

Give your work out for Free

Many artists have built careers out of giving their products away for free. It sounds counterintuitive to most people, but it’s often the most prudent strategy to follow. Some people have purposefully pirated out their music to build an audience. Authors give away free products on their website to promote their book, and game developers give away free versions of their product.

The reason is simple: too much competition. People are spoiled for choice, and no one cares about your work. If you are just starting out, you have zero credibility, and people will not waste their time on you. But if you give away your work for free, you slowly build trust with your customers. It’s your chance to prove to them that your work is valuable, and while this strategy might risk your short-term profits – it could be your best shot at long term success.

Don’t Rush

Finally, don’t follow the advice of anyone who tells you to rush your work. The reason why classics are classics is because they are really good. And to do good work, you need time. You need to spend countless hours perfecting your work. If your goal is to simply write a book or create an album, that’s easy. You can do that over the weekend. But if your goal is to create something valuable – something you can be proud of, then be prepared for a long journey.

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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