He is the author of a new book we’re gonna talk about today called “Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work That Lasts.” Ryan is also involved, what’s this, like sixth or seventh book I think, and a lot of other marketing areas. John J: And then obviously you’re back with another marketing book. But then there’s also the launching of it, the marketing of it, that does make it that. We’re gonna stop and we’re gonna sit here and we’re gonna take as much time as it requires to get it right.” Other times the author has to be the person who’s rushing forward and being the energy. John J: So how do you keep up with, so the idea behind the “Perennial Seller” is that maybe there’s not a whole lot of stuff in it that in five years from now we’re not even gonna be talking about. So, is there kind of a process for … again, obviously you’re trying to help them create the best possible book that’s gonna sell the most, but is there kind of a step one, step two kind of approach? I want to make sure that people have acquired an email list or a brand or a platform that they can launch their work from. John J: Do you have would-be authors pitching you ideas that you kind of have to say, “Look, go home and come back when you’re serious about this, or that you can build a platform and that’s work.” Ryan H: Yeah, yeah. And I thought, one day I’m gonna want to produce my own book and I’m gonna need an email list to promote it. John J: … but he’ll recommend three books that all sort of relate to each other.
John J: The vast majority of revenue in the creative industries, from publishing to music to Hollywood, comes from content that’s over a year old. That’s right. We all get excited about the launch, about the new glitzy thing. But the fact is, most businesses rely on that thing that sells over and over and over again, year, after year, after year. after year. In this episode I visit with Ryan Holiday, he is the author of “Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work That Lasts.” He’s also a brilliant guy. Check it out.
Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Ryan Holiday. He is the author of a new book we’re gonna talk about today called “Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work That Lasts.” Ryan is also involved, what’s this, like sixth or seventh book I think, and a lot of other marketing areas. So, we’re just gonna go all over the place. So, welcome Ryan.
Ryan H: Thank you for having me.
John J: So, which is it? Sixth book?
Ryan H: This is six.
John J: Yeah. So you’ve certainly touched in some marketing areas. You took on the world on online PR. You have probably established yourself as one of most current experts in the world of stoicism. Is that the best way to say that?
Ryan H: I guess so.
John J: And then obviously you’re back with another marketing book. So, how do you keep it all straight?
Ryan H: I don’t think they’re separate in the sense that one requires one mind and the other requires some totally different mind. I think … What I’m trying to do with book is explain what you and I both know about the publishing industry, which is most books are published and they don’t last. Same is true with most blogs, most podcasts, most movies, most television shows. They come out, they do a big blitz of marketing, and then they don’t go anywhere. I’m actually more interested … obviously you’re using the phrase “Duct Tape Marketing” in one sense, but I’m more interested in the business that’s duct-taped together but it keeps going and going-
John J: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Ryan H: … than the one that looked pretty and fancy, and had its celebrity endorsements and a big advertising campaign but ultimately didn’t resonate with people and didn’t stand the test of time. I’m fascinated by the things that endure and particularly as an author I’m interested only in writing books that have a chance to last.
John J: So, let’s start with … You kinda defined what it wasn’t, so let’s have sort of a succinct, what is a perennial seller?
Ryan H: Perennial seller, each industry has its own sort of metrics. In publishing, for example, a book is considered back list after one year. In the music industry, an album is considered a catalog album after 18 months. Movies tend to really be judged on their opening weekend. So a movie that performs at the theater for five weekends in a row is more perennial that obviously one that didn’t perform at all. So, it’s somewhat of a vague term. But basically it’s defining things that sell for longer than the standard shelf life of products in that space, anything that year in and year out becomes kind of a dependable resource that’s always finding new customers, new clients, new fans, new audience. That’s what I’m obsessed with, that’s what I try to make around work. And I think it also the most under-explored part of the creative industries.
John J: And what’s interesting when I read this book, because you talk about the creative industries and I’ll touch on this in a minute, but I think it applies to a lot of things, a lot of businesses, noncreative businesses.
Ryan H: Sure.
John J: I think what you talk about in this book really touches on that, because really there’s kind of two big elements. There’s the creating something with a perennial mindset. But then there’s also the launching of it, the marketing of it, that does make it that. Would you agree that there are some books out there that just they didn’t have the right approach in marketing them, so they didn’t turn into a perennial seller, but it wasn’t really a reflection on the quality of the content.
Ryan H: Oh, absolutely! I would say that there are probably more undiscovered brilliant works of art than there are discovered brilliant works of art. So I would say the shelves groan under the weight of geniuses or genius masterworks that we don’t know about because the author or the screenwriter, or the musician, or the producer believed in that old myth that “If you build it they will come.” I would say there’s probably and to a more dangerous, self-destructive myth out there. A lot of creative people really identify with that label, “I’m the creator. I’m the creative person.” And then they think the marketer is this other person that they hand it off to. I say that ideally that should be two minds in the same body. Because, think about it, if you’re not willing to hustle and promote and market your own work, what does that say about the quality of that work or your belief in it?
John J: Yeah. So what about the pressure that some creators, you probably feel it a little bit, probably less than some, to produce the next thing. Does that sometimes weigh on producing something that shouldn’t be produced?
Ryan H: Oh, that’s a good question. Yeah. I do think we can mistake quantity for quality certainly. And we can rush out something before it’s ready. I’d say like, and you’ve probably experienced this with your publishers as well, sometimes the author has to be a big enough jerk to say, “No. We’re gonna stop and we’re gonna sit here and we’re gonna take as much time as it requires to get it right.” Other times the author has to be the person who’s rushing forward and being the energy. So I do feel like every time I make something I want to get it out into the world as soon as possible and I often have to stop and remind myself, is this as good as it can be? Am I talking enough time to get it right? If this thing is gonna hopefully sell for 5 years or 10 years of 100 years, what’s one more week to stop and think about the cover? Or what’s one more week to really get the copy right? Or what’s another 5000 dollars to spend on advertising, or marketing, or testing?
So, I think you have to stop in that sense. And then also you have to make sure that you’re not falling into the creator’s trap of just getting so off into the weeds and obsessing about every small detail that you never end up shipping.
John J: Do you find that you ever, formula might not be the right word, but do you find, in hindsight now, in trying to write a perennial seller, that you write to a certain approach or process as opposed to maybe what really kind of drives you and kind of the fire in your belly. I don’t know if I asked that right. Do you see what I’m getting at?
Ryan H: Yeah. It’s like, are you chasing what’s in your heart or are you chasing what you think is gonna sell better.
John J: Right, right.
Ryan H: Yeah. There’s certainly that temptation. I mean, look, Hollywood is in that trap. It’s why they make franchise movie after franchise movie, and they don’t take risks. And that can be a problem I think. I’m a big believer in the concepts in blue ocean strategy, you know, the idea of going where there’s no competition. So I’m always a little bit afraid each time I put something out and that, in a weird paradoxical way, that fear is reassuring because it means I’m doing something new. So, even with “Perennial Seller” my last three books have been about philosophy and history and they’ve sold really, really well. So, obviously, a more expected move would be to continue that series, and this is a bit of a detour. But I really couldn’t get these themes out of my head, I really believed in it.
On release day, which was a couple of weeks ago, I sat there and I’m chewing my fingernails. Did I make the right call? Is this going to be an embarrassment? Is this gonna turn out wrong? So, I think chasing that fear a little bit is important.
John J: So how do you keep up with, so the idea behind the “Perennial Seller” is that maybe there’s not a whole lot of stuff in it that in five years from now we’re not even gonna be talking about. For example, could you write a “Perennial Seller” about social media?
Ryan H: Well, when I wrote “Growth After Marketing” that was very much a trend of the moment, the idea of the Silicon Valley growth hacker. But as I was writing it I was trying to, Jeff Bezos has this idea of focusing on the parts of a business that don’t change. And so, people, what I decided to end up focus on, and this was a very conscious choice before I wrote a word, was everyone was talking about the specific hacks. Hey, here’s what so and so’s doing on Facebook, or here’s what so and so has managed to do on Reddit or with this ad platform, or this service. And I…