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Hidden from view for the
vast majority of the public—buried mid- way through a little page that explains the complicated methodology behind the famous New York Times Bestseller list—is an unusual phrase. It says, with matter-of-factness, “among the categories not actively tracked at this time” are so-called “perennial sellers.”
It’s an industry term for
perhaps the most important type of book in publishing, one that is responsible for the vast majority of the revenue for the $70 billion dollar book industry: the titles published long ago that keep selling without fanfare and without attention.
In their purest form, every
writer, musician, entrepreneur, designer, journalist, producer, filmmaker, comedian, blogger, pundit, actor, investor—anyone doing any kind of creative work—is attempting to do one thing: make something perennial—something that has impact and survives.
All my life (and career)
I have been studying these kinds of perennial sellers. Not just because it’s what I do for a living as an advisor to writers, musicians, and entrepreneurs, but to incorporate them in my own writing. What follows are some of the lessons we can learn from the creators who have made things that last—not for months but for years.
Making Something That Lasts •
The Work Is What Matters: The first and most essential step of a perennial seller is creating something truly great. It starts by wanting to create a classic. • Think Long Term: As you are deciding what to make, it’s essential that you root it in what is timeless. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how great it is in the moment—it won’t last. • Seek Out A Blue Ocean: Can you redefine or create a category, rather than compete in one? • Know Your Audience: It’s important to “scratch your own itch” as the saying does, but are you actually sure people share your itch?
Marketing Something That Lasts •
Marketing Is Your Job: If you don’t care enough to market your work, why should an audience buy it? • The Rule You Can’t Forget: start by acknowledging a blunt but important truth: Nobody cares about what I have made. Humility always works harder than ego • Only One Thing Matters: Word of Mouth • Free. Free. Free.: Free is one of the best ways to get fans. The more you reduce the cost of consumption, the more people will be likely to try your product. • Find Your Champions—The More Influential, the Better: When a real person, a real human being that many others trust says, “This is good,” it has an effect that no brand, no ad, no faceless institution can match. • Getting Media Attention: Media is a seller’s market. Focus on what’s unique and special, Don’t be afraid of controversy, Start small and trade up the chain, and keep your platform in mind
What’s Luck Got To Do
With It? • It would be dishonest to talk about creating a classic, perennial seller, and pretend that luck has nothing to do with it. Because luck matters a lot. No matter what we have heard from our parents, hard work does not trump all. • But, the more you do, the harder you work, the luckier you seem to get.
Success isn’t something you’re after
for a month or two. You want to be evergreen. To sell for decades. To be classic. To make the backlist. To be a perennial seller. Because that’s where the impact is, in reaching people, and lasting.