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Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday.
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1-Page Summary 1-Page Book Summary of Perennial Seller

To have lasting influence, aim to create works that will stand the test of time, lasting for decades instead of months.

The most important requirement is to create a product that is so good it spreads by word of mouth.

  • Word of mouth is the only marketing channel that really endures in the long term, long after the PR and ads have stopped.
  • People share when they believe it helps others or themselves.

Works that speak to universal, timeless truths last longer. They don’t chase trends.

  • Chasing trends is dangerous because 1) the competition is high (because the strategy of copying competitors is easy); 2) it’s not clear the trend will last.
  • Jeff Bezos: “Focus on the things that don’t change.”
  • Books that solve timeless problems last for a long time (like social relations and How to Win Friends and Influence People)
  • Works that cover timeless archetypes, like the hero’s journey (Star Wars, Harry Potter), or speak to timeless human emotions and experiences (The Alchemist)

Creating for Longevity

First, examine your motivation for creating. It should be because you have something you desperately need to say or are burning to solve a problem. You can’t not do this.

  • If you’re doing this only out of curiosity or to become rich/famous, you won’t have the willpower to drive through the darkest valleys of the creation process. And you’re competing against people who are pouring their soul into their works.
  • Once you define your mission, you must forsake all other missions. Creation is so difficult that you need to avoid watering down your efforts with other projects.

Next, you actually need to do it.

  • Don’t dream about it or talk about it. Ideas are cheap. There are oceans of people who “know they could be big hits, who have brilliant ideas, if only [their excuse].” These are people who want to have a success; they don’t want to create a success.
  • Don’t think about being “the idea person” and leaving the cruft work to others. No one cares more about the creation...

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Perennial Seller Summary Introduction

How do you create something that lasts for 10 years? This is a question most advice today don’t dare to ask. The Top “thought leaders” and experts are focused on shortcuts to success - social media marketing, raising capital, hacking bestseller lists, chasing today’s trends.

As a creator, longevity is worth aiming for. Having a perennial seller maintains your influence over years, possibly decades.

Perennial sellers are the kinds of products we return to over and over again; that we recommend to others, even if they’re no longer trendy.

The book gives these examples as perennial...

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Perennial Seller Summary Part 1: The Creative Mindset

Perennial Seller begins with qualities of an effective creative process, and expectations to have as a creator.

Why Are You Creating?

Examine your motivation for creating. Ideally, it should be because you’re burning to solve a problem; have something you desperately need to say; believe the world will be better for it; seeing someone else take and enjoy your work; to do something meaningful. It should be your calling. You should need to do this - you can’t not.

Why is this important? Creating inevitably brings setbacks and crushed expectations. You will have existential crises: “Is this even worth it anymore?” Wanting to be rich or famous aren’t enough to push you out of the valley of despair. Other people competing against you are driven by a need to create, and they will push past you if you don’t feel the same way.

Making great work is incredibly hard. It must be your primary focus. You will have to endure sacrifices. But from sacrifice comes meaning.

Continuing to produce good work is like a marathon in which you cross the finish line, then you get picked up and walked back to the starting line and you have to do the whole thing over again.

If...

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Shortform Exercise: Examine Your Mindset

Think about why you create.


What is your reason for creating? What do you want to achieve at the end of it? What would you do if you weren’t creating?

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Perennial Seller Summary Part 2: Creating and Polishing

Now that you know why you need to create and what to create, you actually need to do it. This is a deceptively hard barrier for many. If great work were so easy to create, then a lot more people would do it.

Actually Sit Down and Create

Don’t dream about it or talk about it. Actually do it.

There are oceans of people who know they could be entrepreneurs/writers/musicians, who have brilliant ideas, if only this one thing weren’t in the way. They think that the wanting, instead of the work, is what matters. These are people who don’t want to write a book - they want to have a book. (Pity them - they’ll never get what their ego wants.)

Casey Neistat, to someone pitching an idea: “I don’t want to hear your idea. The idea is the easy part.” Executing is the hard part.

Expect a Struggle

Want to avoid a lot of hard work and just be “the idea person?” Too bad. There is no assistant or investor or editor who will take care of the things you need to handle.

You need to take control of your fate. You need to be the one who cares about the painstaking details that separate the memorable from the mediocre. You need to be the one who articulates how your...

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Shortform Exercise: Create Your Work

If you want to create something great, you actually need to do it.


Do you feel that you spend more time thinking about doing what you want to do, than actually doing it? If yes, what’s holding you back?

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Perennial Seller Summary Part 3A: Positioning

Now that you’ve created your work, you need to convince other people to receive it. This consists of two things:

1) Positioning: communicating your work in a compelling way.

2) Marketing: reaching your target audience and gaining customers.

The book has a lot of suggestions for both, so see what resonates with you most.

Positioning

Beyond creating a great product, you have to communicate it in a compelling way for the world. Audiences don’t know that something inside will change their lives. Someone has to tell them.

  • Taking time to do this is important. Don’t let it be an afterthought. Don’t choose a title because your kids like it.
  • Amazon requires managers launching new products to write a press release about it.
  • Tim Ferriss AB tests his book’s branding and chapter titles to see what resonates most with his audience.
  • Wealthfront changed its name from KaChing to better target its audience.

Your positioning is how people will introduce it to their friends. Make this as easy as possible to say - do the hard work for them. Don’t make them feel stupid saying it.

Example:

  • Harvey Weinstein to Errol Morris when promoting his film _The Thin...

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This is the best summary of How to Win Friends and Influence People I've ever read. I learned all the main points in just 20 minutes.
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Shortform Exercise: Position Your Work

Think about who you’re targeting with your work.


For your work, fill in the blanks: This is a _ that does _ for _ (target user).

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Perennial Seller Summary Part 3B: Marketing

Marketing is any act that gets or keeps customers.

Marketing isn’t the final goal of your product. The final goal of your product is to be good enough to inspire word of mouth - without this, even with the biggest burst of marketing, your product will die. Think of all the failed products that launched to massive hype - a burst of PR/paid marketing clearly is not sufficient.

  • Why is word of mouth so powerful? Because it’s often the most trustworthy factor in our buying decisions. We all find certain people credible, and their recommendation carries a lot of weight. In essence, their experience of having researched and tried the product is more reliable than what the creator can tell you.
  • What makes people share something they like? People share when they believe it helps others or themselves. They won’t do it just to help you (the creator).

But marketing is important because it provides the initial critical mass of people to refer to their friends, adding fuel to the growth fire.

Principles of Marketing

Resist thinking “if it’s a good product, people will come” or “marketing doesn’t matter if in the long run the good product will win.” This is...

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Perennial Seller Summary Part 4: Platform

Once you create one great work, what do you do? Create another.

Each additional great work lifts all the other work you’ve created. People who liked your first work have more to enjoy; people who discover you with your new work can enjoy your back catalog.

  • Would the Hobbit be as famous without Lord of the Rings? Would we care about Shakespeare’s sonnets were it not for his plays?
  • More great work is the best way to market yourself.

Steve Jobs: “If you do something and it turns out pretty good, go do something else wonderful. Don’t dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.”

Benefits of a Loyal Following

The ideal situation to have is a loyal following of people who love your work and will buy every single thing you produce. This community kickstarts word of mouth for each additional work you produce. This way you don’t start from nothing, like you did with your first work.

Examples:

  • Lady Gaga has her “Little Monsters.” Star Wars has a following of loyal diehards that will consume anything Star Wars related.
  • Contrast this to the average romantic comedy or otherwise famous actors like Charlie Sheen. They get some draw based on...

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Table of Contents

  • 1-Page Summary
  • Introduction
  • Part 1: The Creative Mindset
  • Exercise: Examine Your Mindset
  • Part 2: Creating and Polishing
  • Exercise: Create Your Work
  • Part 3A: Positioning
  • Exercise: Position Your Work
  • Part 3B: Marketing
  • Part 4: Platform