Book Reviews

The Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday -Book Notes, Summary, and Review

11. The Perennial Seller - Ryan Holiday

Get it on Amazon

Rating: 8/10

Date of reading: 1st – 5th of March, 2018

Description: Smokey and the Bandit beat Star Wars in their opening weekend. Yet, nobody knows what Smokey and the Bandit is today and Star Wars is a multi-billion dollar franchize. Perennial Seller is all about playing it for the long game and not just for the opening weekend, whether it’s a book, movie, song or any other creative piece of work. 

My notes:


“Is that not the kind of lasting success that every creative person strives for? To produce something that is consumed (and sells) for years and years, that enters the “canon” of our industry or field, that becomes seminal, that makes money (and has impact) while we sleep, even after we’ve moved on to other projects?” ( :8)

“Take The Shawshank Redemption, for example. As a movie, it underwhelmed at the box office— never playing on more than a thousand screens and barely clawing back its production budget in gross ticket sales. But in the years since release, it has brought in more than $100 million. There are minor actors in that movie who receive $800-plus checks every month in residuals. Turn on your television this weekend and you will probably find the movie playing somewhere on some channel.” ( :9)

“1924 (it famously doesn’t even have locks on the doors). Known simply as the Pantry to its devoted regulars, it has amassed over 33,000 consecutive days (and over 792,000 consecutive hours) of selling breakfast food and the occasional steak. Most mornings there is a line outside to get in. The only thing that’s changed in ninety-three years are the prices, grudgingly increased due to a century of inflation.” ( :9)

“drummer playing Zildjian cymbals? If you’ve watched Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters and Nirvana), Keith Moon (The Who), or Phil Collins, you sure have. That company was founded in Constantinople in 1623. Zildjian has been making cymbals for four centuries.” ( :9)

“1649. The high-end candle company Cire Trudon has been around since the seventeenth century. Trudon may have made its name supplying candles to the court of King Louis XIV and later to Napoleon, but it’s still a growing company— Trudon opened its first New York City retail location in 2015.” ( :9)

“Or as the investor and writer Nassim Taleb has put it, “If a book has been in print for forty years, I can expect it to be in print for another forty years. But, and that is the main difference, if it survives another decade, then it will be expected to be in print another fifty years. . . . Every year that passes without extinction doubles the additional life expectancy.”” ( :9)

“loss. In fact, it was one of the most brilliant moves in the history of the entertainment business.” ( :10)

“Turner kept MGM’s film library and the television rights to classic films that included blockbusters like Gone with the Wind but was largely made up of a block of solid films like Network, Diner, Shaft, and The Postman Always Rings Twice. Combined, these films would produce more than $100 million a year in revenue,” ( :10)

“Robert Greene, whose historic masterwork, The 48 Laws of Power, didn’t hit the bestseller lists until a decade after its release.” ( :10)

“The first book I worked on was I Hope They” ( :10)

“Serve Beer in Hell, by controversial blogger Tucker Max. It received a $7,500 advance from a small publisher after being rejected by almost every other imprint in the business, yet went on to sell an upwards of 1.5 million copies and spend six consecutive years on the bestseller lists.” ( :11)

“but I humbly submit that longevity has been the aim of my work. I’ve tried to model my own books on the perennial mindset and have started to see the results of those efforts. You wouldn’t know it from the New York Times bestseller list, but in the years since they’ve been published, my books have sold more than four hundred thousand copies in more than twenty-five languages and continue to sell steadily day in and day out. These works may go out of print someday, but every morning that they stick around increases their chances through another evening.” ( :11)

“How to make something that can stand the test of time How to perfect, position, and package that idea into a compelling offering that stands the test of time How to develop marketing channels that stand the test of time How to capture an audience and build a platform that stands the test of time” ( :12)

“(not a bad industry to study, by the way, with over $70 billion a year in revenue). But the ideas put forth in this book are in no way limited to authors.” ( :13)

Part I

“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” ( :16)

“Microsoft has made in the last decade—from the Zune to Bing. That poor company seems resigned to spending billions on marketing products that inevitably lose money. Meanwhile, Microsoft Office is still a cash cow after two and a half decades. I’m editing this book with it.” ( :17)

“”People [who are] thinking about things other than making the best product never make the best product.”” ( :17)

“The actress, writer, and comedian Sarah Silverman is often approached by aspiring writers asking for career advice. “I want to be a writer,” they tell her. Her response isn’t to encourage them or tell them how great they are or to ask to see their work. Silverman doesn’t say “You can do it!” or “How can I help?” Instead, she’s blunt. “Well, write!” she says. “Writers write. You don’t wait to get hired on something to write.”” ( :18)

“An aspiring creator once wrote to the filmmaker Casey Neistat about whether he could pitch him about an idea he had. Casey’s response was swift and brutally honest: “I don’t want to hear your idea,” he said. “The idea is the easy part.”” ( :18)

“The difference between a great work and an idea for a great work is all the sweat, time, effort, and agony that go into engaging that idea and turning it into something real.” ( :18)

“In my work with authors, I’ve met with no shortage of smart, accomplished people who, I’ve realized, don’t actually want to write a book despite what they say. They want to have a book. We find these types in every industry. We should pity them—because they’ll never get what their ego craves so desperately.” ( :18)

“”Lots of people,” as the poet and artist Austin Kleon puts it, “want to be the noun without doing the verb.” To make something great, what’s required is need. As in, I need to do this. I have to. I can’t not.” ( :18)

“It also matters. It can make a difference. It can change people. Sure, it can make a lot of money too. It can even make you famous. But these last two benefits are secondary.” ( :19)

“It also matters. It can make a difference. It can change people. Sure, it can make a lot of money too. It can even make you famous. But these last two benefits are secondary. The question is: Why are you creating? Why are you putting pen to paper and subjecting yourself to all the difficulties you will certainly face along the way? What is your motivation? Because the answers will determine how likely you are to be successful.” ( :19)

“making and more about what it can do for him (make money), and another who, upon sitting down, says, “This is my life’s work” or “This is what I was put on this planet to make.” Who would you bet on?” ( :19)

“”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.”*” ( :20)

“So that’s what I told her. I said that to become a writer takes everything you have. I quoted that Orwell line too. “You should only be a writer,” I said, “if you can’t not be a writer.” Afterward, my wife told me that I’d probably scared the kid. If I did, I’m not exactly sorry about it.” ( :20)

“So that’s what I told her. I said that to become a writer takes everything you have. I quoted that Orwell line too. “You should only be a writer,” I said, “if you can’t not be a writer.” Afterward, my wife told me that I’d probably scared the kid. If I did, I’m not exactly sorry about it. Because once you get past the lack of saccharine encouragement, there is real inspiration in the more honest explanations of what it takes to make it.” ( :20)

“From sacrifice comes meaning. From struggle comes purpose.” ( :20)

“Matthew Weiner mused on the idea for Mad Men for years after first writing it down. Even finishing the first episode was not the end—or even the halfway point— because no one wanted the show. He called the show his mistress and carried it with him in a bag for years as he worked on other projects, watching it get critiqued and rejected time and again. From the time he started until production on the pilot began some seven long years later, very little visible progress occurred along the way (it was another year after that before he was able to film the second episode).” ( :21)

“December 2009. Cameron revolutionized 3D motion-capture filmmaking, and Avatar went on to capture the all-time worldwide box office record by more than half a billion dollars over the” ( :21)

“second-place film—Titanic—which was also his!” ( :22)

“Zappos and Amazon offer to pay employees to walk away from their job at the end of a ninetyday trial period. They encourage them to take a onetime payout of $5,000. Why? Because not everyone is right for the job—and it’s better to realize that sooner than later.” ( :22)

“If you’ve ever caught yourself in some peculiar situation in modern life and then told your friend “It’s like that episode of Seinfeld where George . . .” or “It’s like that one where Kramer goes . . .” or used the phrase “double dip” or accused someone of “regifting” or of being a “close talker,” you’ve experienced some version of this.” ( :23)

“focused on what was timeless about timely events.” ( :23)

“first-time writer too. “Literature is a wonderful profession,” the friend explained patiently, “because haste is no part of it. Whether a really good book is finished a year earlier or a year later makes no difference.”” ( :23)

“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.”” ( :23)

“Lucas’s most profound source material was the work of a then relatively obscure mythologist named Joseph Campbell and his concept of a “hero’s journey.”” ( :24)

“Frank Darabont, the director and writer of The Shawshank Redemption, was offered $2.5 million to sell the rights so that Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise could be cast as the stars. He turned it down because he felt this was his “chance to do something really great” with his screenplay and the actors of his choosing.” ( :25)

“As Hemingway supposedly said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”” ( :26)

“Young aspiring writers like to point to Jack Kerouac, who supposedly wrote On the Road in a three-week drug-fueled blitz. What they leave out is the six years he spent editing and refining it until it was finally ready.” ( :26)

“The answer, of course, is that it was not created by them, it was created by the process.” ( :27)

“The gangster Frank Lucas called this “backtracking.” He’d lock himself in a room, pull the blinds, and tune everything out. He’d look forward and inward and outward and just think. That was where he finalized what became known as the Cadaver Connection—an operation importing heroin directly from Southeast Asia in imitation coffins smuggled onto U.S. Army jets, which cost a tenth of other methods.” ( :27)

“(I pivoted to a book against ego instead of writing a defense of humility.)” ( :28)

“Creative people naturally produce false positives. Ideas that they think are good but aren’t. Ideas that other people have already had. Mediocre ideas that contain buried within them the seeds of much better ideas.” ( :28)

“A book should be an article before it’s a book, and a dinner conversation before it’s an article. See how things go before going all in.” ( :28)

“In my library I have a little book called Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof. Unless you’re a permaculture nerd, there’s no reason you’d have heard of this book. That’s the whole point—the book is only for permaculture nerds, or at least aspiring ones. While most people haven’t heard of the book, this indie-published engine-that-could has gone on to sell some 165,000 copies (more than most books will ever sell) and is still in print some thirty-five years after its initial publication.” ( :29)

“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.” What audience wants that?” ( :30)

“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.”” ( :30)

“It’s a dangerous trance that has sent many talented creators down hopeless dead ends. An editor once told me, “It’s not what a book is, it’s what a book does.”” ( :31)

“”very entertaining” or “extremely practical.”” ( :31)

“What does this teach? What does this solve? How am I entertaining? What am I giving? What are we offering? What are we sharing?” ( :32)

“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.” ( :33)

“An essential part of making perennial, lasting work is making sure that you’re pursuing the best of your ideas and that they are ideas that only you can have (otherwise, you’re dealing with a commodity and not a classic).” ( :33)

“As Goethe observed, the most original artworks “are not rated as such because they produce something new” but because they are saying something “as though it had never been said before.”” ( :33)

“Srinivas Rao, a writer and podcaster, put it well: “Only is better than best.”” ( :33)

“”It’s like ______ but with ______.” I’m wary of it not only because it’s inherently unoriginal, but also because, again, it forces the creators to compete with the very dominant entity they are supposedly improving on.” ( :34)

“What sacred cows am I slaying? What dominant institution am I displacing? What groups am I disrupting? What people am I pissing off?” ( :34)

“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.”” ( :34)

“cryptocurrency. No, these groundbreaking innovations were unconventional in just a few particular, targeted ways, and that was enough.” ( :35)

“This allows us to be both exotic and accessible, shocking but not gratuitous, fresh without sacrificing timelessness.” ( :35)

“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.”” ( :36)

“The screenwriting guru and story legend Robert McKee told me that he isn’t sure a person can write something great on purpose. But he is certain that we need to do our best on every component part. “I don’t think anyone can actually set out consciously to produce a masterpiece,” he said. “I think what we do is to tell the best story we can, the best way we can, and produce it in the best way possible, and then see how the world reacts to it.” Ignore what other people are doing. Ignore what’s going on around you. There is no competition. There is no objective benchmark to hit. There is simply the best that you can do—that’s all that matters.” ( :36)

Part II

“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.” ( :40)

“Except that’s not how it goes. Not now, not ever.” ( :41)

“Ask the Dust was entrusted to the publisher Stackpole and Sons, which didn’t have the resources to properly prep and publish Fante’s manuscript due to the fact that the company was in the middle of a legal battle with Adolf Hitler. The publisher lost—having published Mein Kampf without the proper copyright—and Fante, who was totally dependent on them, watched his greatest work simply disappear into the ether because the publisher ran into financial trouble and couldn’t market it.” ( :41)

“It could have been the West Coast Great Gatsby. Instead, it was almost entirely forgotten.” ( :41)

“appeals to the audience. (“A moving exploration of the grieving process that will help readers in their most vulnerable moments” or “Great clothes that will make you look fantastic—and we don’t exploit or lie in order to sell them to you.”)” ( :41)

“You can’t be the self-conscious wallflower in the corner, hoping that” ( :41)

“people will see through the act and just know how great you are. Someone is going to have to tell them. It has to be obvious!” ( :42)

“The studio chose the title. I didn’t want to release it in the summer—that was their idea. I wish I could have . . . They shouldn’t have . . . Next time I’ll . . . Adults create perennial sellers—and adults take responsibility” ( :42)

“Adults create perennial sellers—and adults take responsibility for themselves. Children expect opportunities to be handed to them; maturity is understanding you have to go out and make them.” ( :42)

“Nobody wants the hassle of cultivating a diamond in the rough. If you want to be successful, you’d better be cut, polished, set, and sized to fit.” ( :42)

“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.”” ( :43)

“Anyone can give notes on a script or suggest ideas for improvements to a product. But who can separate the helpful from the harmful? Only you.” ( :43)

“So much in the history of art and culture hinges on moments like this. Faced with soul-crushing feedback or rejection, how does the creator respond? With petulance and anger? With openmindedness and interest? With obsequiousness and desperation? Or careful consideration that parses the signal from noise?” ( :44)

“Fortunately for all of us, Harper Lee was wise enough to listen. Over the course of several rewrites that took more than two years—essentially an entirely new cast of characters and a new plot, while retaining her unique and essential perspective—Lee created To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the great works of American literature.” ( :44)

“Some fifty-five years later, Lee’s original manuscript was published as Go Set a Watchman. Despite the initial fanfare, it proved that Lee’s editor was right. The book is just not that good—the characters are not fully formed, their attitudes make them hard to relate to, and the book has a muddled message.” ( :44)

“This is the power of bringing in the perspective of a second person. It’s the difference between a lifeand world-changing classic and a disappointing flop.” ( :44)

“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.”” ( :45)

“As my team and I worked to explain this to him, presenting a number of solutions to the obvious issues and advising that he seriously consider holding off on the launch, I received an abrupt email: He no longer wished to work together and was forfeiting the rather large retainer he’d paid.” ( :45)

“Conversely, I look to the mercurial but incredibly successful author and entrepreneur James Altucher as a positive example of how to respond to feedback. When we worked on his book Choose Yourself, he came to us with what he thought was a complete manuscript and an aggressive release schedule. He was self-publishing, so all the advice was optional—he was free to do as he liked. But when we came back with clear feedback that he was not ready to launch, he listened. We subjected him to some sixteen rounds of edits over a six-month period, including a complete restructuring, the removal of four chapters entirely, and the addition of two new chapters at his editor’s request. He never complained—even when it probably hurt. The result was a seminal self-improvement book that USA Today has called one of the twelve best business books of all time, with 600,000 copies sold, and it still moves 50,000 copies per year.” ( :46)

“Nobody creates flawless first drafts. And nobody creates better second drafts without the intervention of someone else. Nobody.” ( :46)

“We have to have this kind of discipline. The discipline required to hit pause and return to our prospective studios until the work meets the standards we’ve set for ourselves and that the fans have for us. We need to have our own test:” ( :47)

“”OK, what was I trying to make here? Did I get there? What do I need to change or fix in order to successfully do so?” Again, I don’t think just thinking about that question is the way to do it. Amazon has developed an internal culture that encourages physically writing out ideas, policies, suggestions, problems, and solutions—write to think is their belief.” ( :47)

“Put the website or the beta version of your app or your manuscript aside and grab a piece of paper or open a blank Word document. Then, with fresh eyes, attempt to write out exactly what your project is supposed to be and to do in . . . One sentence. One paragraph. One page. This is a ______ that does ______. This helps people ______.” ( :48)

“Jon Favreau once explained in an interview that as” ( :48)

“he was beginning to put together the pieces for the movie Iron Man he decided that his vision depended entirely on Robert Downey Jr. receiving the starring role. The rest of the decisions—the other actors, how to shoot the movie, the gear they’d need—would be clear if that happened. You could say his one sentence was: “Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man.” (Or perhaps in longer form: “We’re doing a big-budget superhero movie, but it all hinges on Robert Downey Jr. being an unconventional but badass Iron Man.”)” ( :49)

“”Here’s what I’ve been aiming for. Do you think I am close? What do I need to change with my [writing, design, music, art, etc.] to get where I’m trying to go?”” ( :49)

“The intended audience is the final blank in the “This is a ______ that does ______” exercise. It’s what ties the rest all together: “This is a ______ that does ______ for ______.” I’ve asked a lot of people that question over the years, and the list of wrong answers would fill volumes. A few particularly egregious ones are common: “Everyone” “You know, smart people” “The kind of people who read Malcolm Gladwell” “Myself”” ( :50)

“everyone” either—not even the Bible is for everyone. For yourself? I know you’re not going to be satisfied selling just one copy.” ( :50)

“”I don’t know. I haven’t thought much about it.”” ( :50)

“”I don’t know. I haven’t thought much about it.” If you haven’t thought about who you are trying to reach, then what have you thought about?” ( :50)

“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.” ( :50)

“The Blue Collar Comedy tour (with well-known Southern comedians), the Three Amigos tour (with well-known Latino comedians), the Original Kings of Comedy tour (with well-known African-” ( :50)

“American comedians), and the Axis of Evil Comedy tour (with well-known Middle Eastern comedians) were all aimed at very specific ethnic and social groups.” ( :51)

“developed a series of family sitcoms that target discrete segments of their overall viewership. Modern Family (since 2009) is about a mixed family featuring different types of modern relationships. The Middle (since 2009) is about a struggling Midwestern working-class family. The Goldbergs (since 2013) is a nostalgic show about family life in the 1980s. Blackish (since 2014) is about a suburban, upper-middle-class black family. Fresh Off the Boat (since 2015) is about an immigrant Asian family trying to make it in suburban Florida.” ( :51)

“For my first book, Trust Me, I’m Lying, I knew I was specifically targeting media folks, publicists, and a new generation of social media employees. Here’s the exact language I laid out in that proposal:” ( :51)

“For creators, it’s typically easier to reach the smaller, betterdefined group. If you reach the smaller group and wow them, there will be many opportunities to spread outward and upward. (In many cases, your fans will do this for you, recommending your work to people like them, but not exactly like them.)” ( :52)

“For books, the superagent and publishing entrepreneur Shawn Coyne (Robert McKee, Jon Krakauer, Michael Connelly) likes to use ten thousand readers as his benchmark.” ( :52)

“”Ryan, all your stories are from nineteenth-century white guys. That’s not going to work.” He wanted a diversity of examples in his work so that every reader would feel included.” ( :53)

“I came to realize about his brilliant approach was that he wanted every single reader to find someone they could relate to in his books. He wanted them to see themselves across his pages. (There is nothing more badass for a reader than to see themselves as the hero.)” ( :53)

“Are you really sure that you have features and scenes and material that are relevant to your core audience? And to your potential audiences? And to your audience’s potential audiences? If you don’t have this, then you need to fix it now, or may God help you.” ( :53)

“Not too long ago, we used to care about who was making something—what studio was releasing a project, what publisher was behind a book, what label was behind an album. It meant something to be signed by Death Row Records or to star in an MGM picture. This reputational weight reduced some of the burdens of marketing. But as production costs plummeted over time, the number of people who could form a charity, write a book, produce a short film, or start a company skyrocketed. The democratization of production was great news—it empowered people like you and me. The bad news is that it empowered millions of other people too.” ( :53)

“Positioning is what your project is and who it is for. Packaging is what it looks like and what it’s called. The Pitch is the sell—how the project is described and what it offers to the audience.” ( :53)

“” How could they be expected to understand if they haven’t tried it yet? That’s why it’s critical that you be able not only to clearly and concisely explain who and what you are, but also to show it, too.” ( :54)

“That saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover”? It’s total nonsense. Of course you can judge a book by its cover—that’s why books have covers.” ( :54)

“One of my clients, Tim Ferriss, spends hundreds of hours rigorously testing everything from his title to his cover ideas to his chapter titles. This process produced the title for his first book—the runaway mega-bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek—and set him up with perfect branding for an entire franchise (The 4-Hour Body, The 4-Hour Chef).” ( :54)

“Another client, Neil Strauss, spent nearly a year agonizing over whether to title one of his books Game Over or The Truth—both titles had advantages and disadvantages, and he knew it would take time and brainpower to figure out which was best. I remember shouting in exasperation at one point, “Neil, just choose!” But he’s the multimillionbestselling author for a reason.” ( :54)

“ (for five dollars) or had a friend (or some person they knew) make their website for a few dollars. I cringe when I see these projects. It’s clear the creators have taken a shortcut or settled. “Why’d you choose that name?” “My daughter liked it.” “How do you like your cover?” “It’s good enough.” “The design of this feature is confusing.” “I know, but we’ll fix it later.”” ( :55)

“I find myself recommending that the creator take the time to consult the book The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.” ( :55)

“Charity:water is an organization that excels in this regard. I’m not simply talking about its unusual name—which is unique and attention-grabbing—but rather its unusual structure, which helps it stand out and attract donations. Following Law 2 to the letter, Charity:water invented its own category of charity—in which every dollar you donate goes directly to people in need. You see, Charity:water split itself into two “separate” organizations: one that builds wells in developing countries and another that handles the administrative costs for the charity. This clever positioning trick allows the organization to claim that 100 percent of your donations goes to building wells (thus differentiating its structure from most other charities).” ( :55)

“A great package on a great product is what creates an explosive reaction. For instance, J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye sold decently when it was first published in hardcover, but then sold over 1.25 million copies in its early pulp paperback edition. The provocative cover, designed by James Avati (“the Rembrandt of Pulp”), had a lot to do with it. In his version, Holden Caulfield is standing outside a strip club and the blurb reads, “This unusual book may shock you, will make you laugh, and may break your heart—but you will never forget it!”” ( :55)

“It’s not easy to change your name or hire a new design firm midway through a project. But it’s far better to feel the pain now instead of later, when despite all your efforts the marketing just isn’t working.” ( :56)

“Will they feel stupid saying it? It’s a ______ that does ______ for ______. Have you made filling in those blanks as easy and exciting as possible? Have you done the hard work for them?” ( :56)

“Speak in short one-sentence answers and don’t go in with all the legalese. Talk about the movie as a movie and the effect it will have on the audience from an emotional point of view. If you continue to be boring, I will hire an actor in New York to pretend that he’s Errol Morris. . . . Keep it short and keep selling it because that’s what is going to work for you, your career and the film.” ( :56)

“Q: What is this movie about? A: It’s a mystery that traces an injustice. It’s scarier than NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. It’s like a trip to the Twilight Zone. People have compared it to IN COLD BLOOD with humor.” ( :56)

“Who this is for Who this is not for Why it is special What it will do for them Why anyone should care” ( :57)

“My “book about Stoic philosophy,” for example, had to become “a book that uses the ancient formula of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius to teach people how to not only overcome obstacles but thrive because of them.”” ( :57)

“In this way, you must be willing to be a big enough jerk—ahem, enough of a perfectionist—to say: “No, we’re not moving on from here until we get this right.” Because you know that nothing else will matter—the quality of your product, the strength of your marketing—if the premise and the pitch of the product are wrong.” ( :57)

“Why Are You Doing This? What is it that you want? What is truly motivating you? What are you trying to accomplish with this project? The answer should be clear by now: I am making a ______ that does ______ for ______ because ______.” ( :57)

“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.” ( :58)

“There are many different missions. Whatever yours is, it must be defined and articulated. Once that has occurred, there is one last thing you must do. You must deliberately forsake all other missions.” ( :58)

“Nothing has sunk more creators and caused more unhappiness than this: our inherently human tendency to pursue a strategy aimed at accomplishing one goal while simultaneously expecting to achieve other goals entirely unrelated.” ( :58)

“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.”” ( :58)

“When the CEO of Snapper lawn mowers famously said no to selling cheap versions of his products to Walmart a few years ago, it was because the company had a firm understanding of its own goals (and the connections those goals had with their brand and audience). It wasn’t just turning down the millions of dollars in the short term that would have made this decision difficult; it was that everyone else in his industry did business with Walmart. You’re supposed to play ball with them. But what if your entire company is based on the support of local, independent retailers and having a stellar reputation for quality? What influence are you going to side with—what everyone thinks you should do or what you know is your real mission? He knew what he was trying to do, and that allowed him to make a tough decision.” ( :59)

“This will help in a number of decisions, some minor and some major. Consider: If you’re looking at two different deals, one of which is for a lot more money and the other of which is with someone who can’t afford to pay as much up front but who genuinely understands what you’re trying to accomplish, take a pass on the money.” ( :59)

“two names—one that feels trendy, cool, and safe and the other risky but fully expressive of what you know in your heart is the truth of your project—go with the latter.” ( :59)

“one theme: his unwillingness to leave well enough alone. His products had to be perfect; they had to do what they promised, and then some. And even though deadlines loomed and people would have to work around the clock, he would regularly demand more from his teams than they thought they could provide. The result? The most successful company in the history of the world and products that inspire devotion that is truly unusual for a personal computer or cell phone.” ( :59)

“This is a trade-off that every artist struggles with. Bruce Springsteen had this inner struggle too— to be big but to produce great work—and in wrestling with it he created Born to Run:” ( :60)

“My heroes, from Hank Williams to Frank Sinatra to Bob Dylan, were popular musicians. They had hits. There was value in trying to connect with a large audience. . . . [But] artists with the ability to engage a mass audience are always involved in an inner debate as to whether it’s worth it, whether the rewards compensate for the single-mindedness, energy and exposure necessary to meet the demands of the crowd.” ( :60)

“As Chuck Klosterman wrote, even the most pretentious and elitist artist would not be satisfied if no one saw what they were making—if he was, “he’d sit in a dark room and imagine he wrote it already.”” ( :60)

“Nabokov, a writer’s writer if there ever was one, said it best: “Literature is not only fun, it is also business.”” ( :60)

“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-driven. Who do you want to be? Which will propel your work the furthest?” ( :60)

“”Selling out” is the label that so many creatives are afraid of being branded with. That’s absurd —as though there were some single standard of what artistic credibility and audience should be. You alone are the judge of that. Perhaps to you success is a RAV4, whereas to someone else it’s a Bentley. I bought my wife a RAV4 with the income from my books. I like to drive it sometimes. It’s actually pretty nice. You know what that says about my work? Absolutely nothing. It’s a car.” ( :61)

“Don’t let that inner hipster critic hold you back either. You cannot expect to sell unless you’ve put the work in and made the sacrifices and decisions that allow success to happen. You have to be ready for what comes next: the real marathon that is marketing.” ( :61)

“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-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-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.” ( :61)

“No better words about the creative process have been produced than when he described starting a project as an adventure. “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.”” ( :61)

“The artist’s life is hard. The road to a perennial seller is long—and it may seem, at times, that you’re heading in the wrong direction and that the sidewalks are lined with hostile faces. No matter.” ( :61)

“that the sidewalks are lined with hostile faces. No matter. What we spent the first half of the book making—the effort we expended there—was intrinsically valuable. It was honorable, noble work. Whether the world immediately appreciates it bears no” ( :61)

“reflection on that. Be proud of yourself.” ( :62)

Part III

“”Who will enjoy what I have made?” Marketing is the solution. It’s not only how you ensure your work finds its audience when it launches, but also how it will continue to find and have one as time passes. Marketing is both an art and a science, and must be mastered by all creators who hope their work will find traction. Without it, how is anyone going to hear about what you’ve made?” ( :65)

“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.” Gun to my head, I might choose the former over the latter too. Better still would be to avoid that false dilemma altogether. To have work that lasts, you can’t have a mediocre product or be a moron. You have to be brilliant at all of it.” ( :66)

“In an interview, the novelist Ian McEwan once complained lightheartedly about what it was like to go out and market a book after spending all that time creating 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.”” ( :66)

“”If you don’t see any salespeople, you’re the salesperson”” ( :66)

“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.” That can’t be what you want!” ( :66)

“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.”” ( :67)

“When I work on a project—with clients, but particularly with my own writing—I start by acknowledging a blunt but important truth: Nobody cares about what I have made. How could they? They don’t know what it is. And if they do know, still the average fan cares a lot less than I would like them to care. This too is undeniable—how can they care much about something they haven’t experienced the benefits of yet? They haven’t spent years living and breathing this thing like you have —not yet anyway.” ( :67)

“He interrupted, “I’m busy. Can’t I just get them all on the line at once and record all the interviews together?” No, I said. These people aren’t here for whatever scraps you’re willing to throw them. You may be important in your world, but they are important in theirs. We have to treat them with respect—we have to respect their audiences, just as you respect yours. Thankfully, he agreed to do it right, and we reached several million people with an investment of just a few more hours of time.” ( :68)

“A recent study found that when you visit the Facebook News Feed, more than 1,500 pieces of content are vying for your attention. There is, in other words, a 1-in-1,500 chance of even seeing a desired customer.” ( :68)

“en Horowitz: “There is no silver bullet. . . . No,” ( :68)

“we’re going to have to use a lot of lead bullets.”” ( :69)

“What did Steven do? He had the idea to pay to print approximately eighteen thousand copies of The Warrior Ethos in a special “Military Edition” that was not for sale. Then he gave those copies away through contacts he had in the armed services. Eighteen thousand print copies! That’s harder to do than you think: to find all those people, convince them to be an early reader, and deliver the copies to them. The shipping and delivery logistics alone would be a nightmare. (I know—I gave away more than a thousand copies of one of my books to marketing students and it was exhausting!)” ( :69)

“In the first month, as the advance copies made their way into readers’ hands, the book sold twenty-one hard copies and thirty-seven ebooks. It took five more months until the book sold five hundred copies in a single month. But it was all heading in the right direction. Within five years of publication, the book had sold roughly sixty thousand copies. On Amazon, its rank remains consistently better than ten thousand (it is occasionally number one in various categories) and the book has around 350 reviews.” ( :69)

“if the Lindy effect holds true, we should see that The Warrior Ethos will still be selling that many copies.” ( :69)

“ow did you find your favorite book of all time?” ( :69)

“If you’re like most people, it’s not from advertising or even from PR. It’s because people you listen to, trust, or respect talked to you about it. We discover things by word of mouth.” ( :70)

“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.” ( :70)

“Find one person who trusts you and sell him a copy. Does he love it? Is he excited about it? Excited enough to tell ten friends because it helps them, not because it helps you? Tribes grow when people recruit other people. That’s how ideas spread as well. They don’t do it for you, of course. They do it for each other.”” ( :70)

“sell in the short term. Put differently: Selling in perpetuity and launching strong are not mutually exclusive.” ( :71)

“John Maynard Keynes so accurately expressed it, the market “can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.”” ( :71)

“Cass Sunstein observed in his fascinating study of how Star Wars became the sensation it is. “Whenever there is a big fuss, most of us want to know what it is all about.” That is the reaction our marketing is aimed to create.” ( :71)

“artillery barrage of marketing*—that is, press, interviews, news coverage, social media buzz, preorders from your hard-core fans, strong store placement, and everything else. I know it’s possible because I’ve done it and I’ve helped other people do it too.” ( :71)

“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.” ( :72)

“I saved the following tweet from a fan named @SteveCronk during the campaign, since it sums up why launches matter:” ( :72)

“Fine, I’ll buy your book @jamesaltucher. Now stop being EVERYWHERE ON THE INTERNET like you have the past two weeks” ( :72)

“Relationships (personal, professional, familial, or otherwise) Media contacts Research or information from past launches of similar products (what worked, what didn’t, what to do, what not to do) Favors they’re owed Potential advertising budget Resources or allies (“This blogger is really passionate about [insert some theme or connection related to what you’re launching].”)” ( :73)

“Hey, as many of you know, I have been working on ______ for a long time. It’s a ______ that does ______ for ______. I could really use your help. If you’re in the media or have an audience or you have any ideas or connections or assets that might be valuable when I launch this thing, I would be eternally grateful. Just tell me who you are, what you’re willing to offer, what it might be good for, and how to be in touch.” ( :73)

“The other asset you have—that every good product has—is the product itself. If you’ve actually succeeded in solving a problem (or problems), then what you have in your hands right now is worth a lot to a significant number of people—ideally, to a significant number of many different types of people. When that happens, the product can do double duty at the center of one of the most powerful and counterintuitive marketing strategies I have ever seen.” ( :74)

“Before he was one of the biggest, bestselling rappers in the world, 50 Cent was a crack dealer on the streets of Jamaica, Queens. One of his strategies was to pay his crew to rob rival drug dealers, take their stash, and then give those drugs away for free as samples around the neighborhood. Then, as the only game in town, with a number of clients hooked on his product, he captured the entire market.” ( :74)

“A smart business friend once described the art of marketing to me as a matter of “finding your addicts.” That’s literally what 50 Cent was doing, and figuratively what every creator is attempting to do at launch. Have you seen the lines outside an Apple store the week of an iPhone launch? Or the line outside a multiplex the week before a Star Wars release? Or the mob outside a Niketown the day the new LeBron James shoe drops? Those people are not bargain shoppers or casual fans. Those are addicts.” ( :74)

“The publisher and technologist Tim O’Reilly puts it well: “The problem for most artists isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.”” ( :75)

“In addition to the actual cost, there’s also the cost of buyers’ time to consume the product—there are all the things they’re missing out on by choosing to consume your product (what economists call opportunity costs).” ( :75)

“There’s another cost that creators tend to miss too: How much does it cost for people to find your work? To read the reviews or read an article about it? How much time does it cost to download, wait for it to arrive, or set up? These costs—transaction and discovery costs—exist even when your work is free!” ( :75)

“The more you reduce the cost of consumption, the more people will be likely to try your product.” ( :75)

“Tim Ferriss has posed an interesting related question: “If TED charged for their videos from the beginning, where would they be now?” The answer is probably closer to “obscurity” than “ubiquity”—the conference has racked up billions and billions of views since the first videos went up. Why should our work be any different?” ( :75)

“Grammy nomination. Starting with his first album in 2006, Pretty Lights has given all eight of his albums and EPs away for free on his website. “I knew I’d probably have to support myself and my music through live performance, so I wanted to get it through as many speakers as possible,” he told Fast Company. Starting in 2008, his music was available for paid download on iTunes and Amazon, while still being free for anyone to download from his website.” ( :75)

“3,000 paid album downloads, 21,500 single downloads, and three million paid streams on” ( :75)

“platforms like Spotify.” ( :76)

“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.” ( :76)

“Authors can give away whole chapters, excerpts as articles, or a free preview—or they can give the whole thing away for free to a select audience, or have events or sponsors buy copies that are in turn given away for free.” ( :76)

“My books are often uploaded to pirate sites (you may be reading a pirated copy right now),” ( :76)

“The stories in Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell were all available online—and still are today—but that certainly didn’t stop the book from selling over a million and a half copies.” ( :76)

“The author Paulo Coelho didn’t freak out about piracy—he actively pirated his own books on torrent sites in countries like Russia. Why? Because he didn’t have a marketing budget and found that it was the fastest and most effective way of driving legitimate sales in those hard-to-reach regions. Coelho sold around ten thousand copies of one of his novels in Russia in one year. The next year—driven largely by the piracy—he sold one hundred thousand (which surely calmed his originally angry publisher).” ( :76)

“on Facebook of a young boy selling unlicensed copies of his books in the streets of India. He didn’t post the photo to shame the boy but to thank him, writing, “I know that people call this ‘pirate’ editions. But for me this is an honor, and an honest way for this young man to make money.” Coelho has sold an almost unheard-of 165 million books; it’s a strategy that’s clearly working.*” ( :76)

“On campaigns in the past, I’ve partnered with BitTorrent, one of the biggest piracy tools in the world, to give away music and books and other content for precisely this reason.” ( :77)

“”Although it’s hard to turn fame into money in the arts, it’s impossible to turn obscurity into money in the arts. It doesn’t matter how you plan on making your money—selling books or downloads, selling ads, getting sponsorship, getting crowdfunded, getting commissions, licensing to someone else who’s figured out how to make money—you won’t get the chance unless people have heard of your stuff.”” ( :77)

“freemium, where you give away a chunk of the product and then create extra awesome features on top of it that people want to pay for. That’s the essence of a paywall, when you think about it: You get ten articles from the New York Times for free each month, but if you want more, then you have to give them your credit card. Here are just a few of the services that have hooked me (and probably you too) in a similar fashion: Spotify. Dropcam. Basecamp. Amazon Prime. Some of these were thirtyor ninety-day free trials. Others were introductory versions of more advanced products. Regardless, I was hooked like 50 Cent’s early “clients” and now I pay for them—but only because I discovered it for free first.” ( :77)

“By contrast, humor writer George Ouzounian, also known as Maddox from, has given away almost 100 percent of his writing for free—without” ( :77)

“ads—online for twenty years. Those pieces have been read some five hundred million times in the last decade and a half. When I spoke to him, I mentioned his “free content” and he stepped right in to correct me: “Having content that is free and shareable is an important part of the equation, though it’s important to emphasize that it’s only free to the reader. My writing costs me a lot to host and maintain because I don’t monetize it with ads. I make that clear on my website, so it communicates to the reader two things: 1) that I’m sacrificing for my writing, which means that I write because I have something to say, and 2) I’m sincere with my message.” ( :78)

“Earlier I mentioned one of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles: Clifton’s Cafeteria. The venerable downtown dining institution with the tree rising up through the middle of the floor and the neon sign that’s been glowing since Franklin Roosevelt was president? It was once a sprawling restaurant chain across Southern California. Its downtown location, Brookdale, featured a waterfall and taxidermy and even a mystic chapel (if that sounds familiar, it might be because it was all mentioned in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road). Seventy-five years later, the location is still open, having been purchased, remodeled, and updated for a new generation in 2015. As its new owner, Andrew Meieran, reminded us earlier, much of Clifton’s success as a cultural institution resides in its sense of timelessness. But I think we can attribute its seven decades of success as a business to something else, something simpler: They kept the food cheap. Not only was it cheap, during the Great Depression it had a “pay what you can” policy. As Meieran described it to me, “This fostered a sense of community and belonging that created a very loyal guest base that encouraged generations of repeat customers.” Authors like Ray Bradbury and Charles Bukowski were a part of that community—they enjoyed the free lemonade and cheap food while they were poor, and when they became successful, they came back and paid. Bradbury, for his part, celebrated his eighty-ninth birthday there.” ( :78)

“Amazon has some pretty great pricing and sales data for books. According to their data, the cheaper a book is, the more copies it sells (and, counterintuitively, makes more money than if it were expensive). Economists call this price elasticity.” ( :79)

“One writer recently told me that she declined to put her book on Amazon—where 70 percent of all book sales come from—because she made more money on each copy selling on her own site. Understandably, she wanted to make as much as she could per sale, but this is not long-term thinking. Any extra revenue she makes per copy is coming at the cost of being in front of only a fraction of her potential audience. That’s holding her back from establishing her book as a definitive classic in her space.” ( :79)

“) prices for ebooks on Amazon—and then celebrated when the sales of print books went up. This is moving food around on the plate when they should be focused on bringing more people to the dinner table (i.e., reaching people who otherwise wouldn’t be reading books in the first place).” ( :80)

“in lists of the greatest marketing and PR stunts of all time. It is humbling, though, that the single most effective campaign I did for any of my books was discounting The Obstacle Is the Way. The publisher reduced the price of the ebook from $9.99 to $3.99 and ran a promotion in a newsletter that specializes in cheap ebooks.” ( :80)

“As a general rule, however, the more accessible you can make your product, the easier it will be to market. You can always raise the price later, after you’ve built an audience.” ( :80)

“I know that I heard about Fante from another one of his fans, the writer Neil Strauss, who in an interview had called Ask the Dust his favorite novel. In turn, I have become a champion of Fante and helped sell thousands of copies of his work to my own fans. The power of champions is that they can bring art back from the dead.” ( :81)

“The first step is the hardest: making something really awesome that exceeds the expectations even of busy, important people with exacting taste.” ( :81)

“Johnny Carson didn’t boost Drew Carey’s career out of altruism—he wanted to” ( :81)

“Creators often forget that—that influencers are typically hyperfans (Carson was a comedian; he loved comedy),” ( :82)

“discover great new comics. He wanted his show to be a place where the hottest and best talent came and made their mark. Creators often forget that—that influencers are typically hyperfans (Carson was a comedian; he loved comedy), and” ( :82)

“Nobody at Ray-Ban asked Don Henley to mention Wayfarers in the song “The Boys of Summer.” It just happened. Because the glasses were exactly right for the mood and the message of the song. I can promise you, no one at American Apparel asked Kanye West to rap about us. (“I need more drinks and less lights / And that American Apparel girl in just tights.”) But don’t let those beautiful, iconic accidents let you think that these things can’t be encouraged.” ( :82)

“perfecting what he called the “swag bomb”—a perfectly tailored and targeted package to the person he was trying to impress. His first influencer was a popular New York City DJ named Kool DJ Red Alert. Marc was addicted to his weekly show, which often featured the latest and coolest trends in hip-hop. To get attention for his company, Marc would camp out in Kinko’s and fax in special drawings he made to Red Alert’s station fax machine. Then he started sending airbrushed hats and jackets and T-shirts. He never asked for anything—he just made great work and sent it to select influencers he knew might appreciate it. Eventually, he got his first shout-out on the air, and the brand was never the same.” ( :82)

“The only time I’ve ever explicitly asked an influencer for anything—”Would you post this for me?” or “The book is out next week; we should be able to share?”—I was able to say it the same way I might have asked someone to water my plants while I was out of town. Because we were friends and we do stuff like that for each other.” ( :83)

“Authors are inundated with requests for blurbs from other authors; meanwhile, generals, academics, and CEOs are asked much more rarely. Who would be better to go after, then? Try to find the people least likely to get a request from someone like you, and approach them first,” ( :83)

“instead of going where everyone else is going. Be bold and brash and counterintuitive not only in how you create your work, but also in who you use to” ( :84)

“In my experience, the most effective use of influencer attention is not simply in driving people to check you out, but instead as a display of social proof. A blurb on the back of a book isn’t bringing new fans to the book; it’s there to convince an interested reader, “Hey, this thing is legit.” Katz’s Deli has photos of the owner with all the celebrities who’ve eaten there—but they’re hanging inside the restaurant. It’s to reaffirm to the customers: You’re in a special place. Special people eat here. In the middle of the restaurant there’s also a sign hanging from the ceiling that reads, Where Harry Met Sally . . . Hope You Have What She Had!” ( :84)

“This story was told to me independently by more than one college basketball coach. All of them were in awe of a move pulled by University of Kentucky coach John Calipari. Typically, when a coach is named into the College Basketball Hall of Fame, he gets up to speak for a few minutes, thanking friends, family, and colleagues. In 2015, when Calipari was inducted to the Hall of Fame, ever the brilliant recruiter, he decided to use his speech as an opportunity to make a statement to high school players who were thinking about what team to play for. He invited more than sixty of his former players, many of whom had gone pro, to attend the ceremony and join him onstage (and in many cases, he paid for their flights out of his own pocket). Instead of talking about all his accomplishments, he thanked them and made the speech about them and what they do on the court. The other coaches marveled at the subtle message Calipari was sending: Play for me and you can end up like these guys.” ( :84)

“I once did a radio show that required me to wait on the phone for north of ninety minutes to do a three-minute segment that sold precisely zero books. And then what happens to an interview like this? It disappears. It’s like a firework—it looks pretty but ends up being mostly noise and then smoke.” ( :85)

“In 2014, I started getting emails from coaches in professional sports telling me that they’d read my book The Obstacle Is the Way and that it was helping their teams win. I had a hazy vision of what this might one day mean: Wouldn’t it be amazing if Sports Illustrated or ESPN did a piece about how my book was a cult sensation in football, basketball, and baseball? I’d seen it happen for other authors, so I knew it was possible. It was also a long reach for me at that point, however much I might have wanted it. What I did next mattered, but first I’ll tell you what I didn’t do: I didn’t immediately call up those outlets and beg them to anoint me with a trend piece.” ( :86)

“That article—”How a Book on Stoicism Became Wildly Popular at Every Level of the NFL”—sold so many books that the publisher ran out of copies for nearly a month.” ( :87)

“When my company works with musicians, we start by finding the most obscure and specific outlets you can think of. That’s how we get buzz going—we want to create the appearance that interest is bubbling up organically (which, because of our approach, it is).” ( :87)

“hen my company works with musicians, we start by finding the most obscure and specific outlets you can think of. That’s how we get buzz going—we want to create the appearance that interest is bubbling up organically (which, because of our approach, it is). We know that these sites feed into the bigger ones, which feed into bigger ones still. The hard work there is finding the influencers of the influencers—and that can be done only with real research by people who actually care about the market they are trying to penetrate.” ( :87)

“that it’s interesting and compelling, and likely to do well for them— do most of the talking for me. (I don’t assume it should be interesting to them because it’s interesting to me. I make it interesting, period.)” ( :88)

“He wrote a deeply moving and inspiring book called Hope After Faith documenting his” ( :88)

“The most newsworthy thing to do is usually the one you’re most afraid of.” ( :89)

“During the 2016 election, I didn’t sit in my house hoping that someone in the media would ask me my opinion about the candidates. I wrote an open letter to my father titled “Dear Dad, Please Don’t Vote For Donald Trump.”” ( :89)

“Don’t be afraid of pissing people off either. I’ve made a lot of people mad over the years—I’ve been through it all, and it’s not as bad as you’d think. It can actually be fun, as long as what you’re doing is consistent with the principles of your work. So create a stir. Make some noise. With the timeline we’re considering—years and years of relevance—in the end no one will remember being “offended” by something. The world will just remember having heard about it in the first place.” ( :90)

“Not every newsjacking attempt needs to happen at such a grand scale. One of the things we did when James Altucher launched Choose Yourself was announce that James was accepting Bitcoin payments for the book. He was one of the first authors to do it, and so he got press because outlets and the public were desperate for any bit of Bitcoin news they could find.*” ( :90)

“(or a customer’s LTV—lifetime value) and knowing how much it will cost to acquire that customer via the advertising you intend to use (or CPA—cost per acquisition).” ( :92)

“The only advertising the publisher did for The Obstacle Is the Way—now approaching four hundred thousand copies sold—was to support the Sports Illustrated article, which showed the book’s popularity in sports.” ( :93)

“But maybe you do have some money to burn. In which case, here’s a crazy idea: Actually put it in a giant pile and burn it, then post the video online. Title it “Here’s What We Did with Our Advertising Budget.”” ( :93)

“I have a little personal experience in this regard: After I did an interview with NASDAQ in 2016, they featured the cover of my book Ego Is the Enemy on their six-story billboard in Times Square for a few minutes as a thank-you. I got a great picture of it—and my parents thought it was awesome—but as I scanned the crowd around me, you know what I saw? Complete and total indifference. Even though there were thousands of people around, I didn’t see a single one of them look up. When the ad disappeared, the only thing that remained was my fleeting memory and a pretty cool Facebook post. I certainly didn’t see a sales spike.” ( :94)

“”Dear Teachers of Granite Bay High School, Thanks for Not Believing in Me. Look at Me Now.” It’s the kind of thing that would get picked up in the local press and then online and people would talk about it forever.” ( :94)

“Another recent example from our friend Paulo Coelho: With the help of his Brazilian publisher, Coelho ran a series of print and outdoor ads that featured the entire text of his famous novel The Alchemist. It’s a giant block of text in 4.1-point font, so it’s basically impossible to read, but it’s still a stunningly clever and brazen move. The brilliant ad reads in part, “Thanks to the 70 million who read the book. If you are not one of them, read this ad.” The result was immediate coverage in outlets like Adweek and, of course, much love on social media.” ( :94)

“”Tell me what to do!” the student says. Epictetus corrects him, “It would be better to say, ‘Make my mind adaptable to any circumstances.'”” ( :95)

Part IV

“Since 1975—that’s forty years and counting!—Iron Maiden has defied every stereotype, every trend, every bit of conventional wisdom about not just their genre of heavy metal but the music business as a whole.” ( :99)

“Iron Maiden performed for 250,000 people as the headliners of the Rock in Rio festival —twenty-six years after the band was formed.” ( :100)

“they travel from sold-out stadium to sold-out stadium in a Boeing 757 piloted by the lead singer, often shuttling loyal fans and crew along for the ride. Is that not a model for every aspiring perennial creator?” ( :100)

“What’s most inspiring to me is that, despite the fact that a huge portion of the population probably has no idea that they’re still a band—and swaths of a generation has never heard of them—the band doesn’t care. They care about their fans and their fans only. Those are the only people they talk to, the people inside what we are going to talk about in this chapter: their platform.” ( :100)

“focused on one thing and one thing only: building a cross-generational global army of loyal fans who buy every single thing they put out. Other acts are dependent on promotion—PR, advertising, store distribution, artist collaborations, and big-budget music videos—to stay relevant and reach an audience, but Iron Maiden cultivated a direct and intimate connection with their fans that allows them to skip those tricks. The result is that the band is killing it.” ( :100)

“Since then, I’ve seen them live three times, bought countless albums, a box set, a live DVD, three T-shirts, two belt buckles, streamed a documentary, and God knows what else.” ( :100)

“author—in other words, anyone producing works of art—needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.”” ( :100)

“It’s a small empire and one that requires considerable upkeep, but an empire nonetheless.” ( :100)

“If I’d just randomly said “Up the Irons,” he’d have known exactly what I was talking about.” ( :101)

“In my definition, a platform is the combination of the tools, relationships, access, and audience that you have to bring to bear on spreading your creative work—not just once, but over the course of a career.” ( :101)

“Most people are unaware that Churchill made his living as a writer, publishing some ten million words in his lifetime across hundreds of publications and published works.” ( :101)

“periods in which he was exiled from public life. (During his infamous exile in the so-called political wilderness between 1931 and 1939, Churchill published 11 volumes and more than 400 articles, and delivered more than 350 speeches.)” ( :101)

“Stefan Zweig,” ( :101)

“his work lives on today, and his last two books are powerful, timeless indictments of chaos and authoritarianism.” ( :102)

“Casey Neistat was once an up-and-coming filmmaker destined to be the next go-to indie director. He’d created a successful show for HBO. He’d had a film at Sundance. He’d premiered two movies at Cannes. But he left that behind to distribute his work on YouTube. Why? Because the grind of making stuff and then hustling for funding and negotiating with agents and finally waiting for a distributor to get it to an audience was exhausting. It’s hard to be an artist when a middleman gets to decide which pieces of your art make it to viewers.” ( :103)

“He could line up subscribers. He could reach people directly on social media and via email. Online, he has a platform —one he owns and operates, no middlemen allowed. And you know what? It works to great effect.” ( :103)

“That’s a powerful—and powerfully counterintuitive—way to think about your work. And the reason more people don’t think in this manner is because they are afraid. They’re afraid of carving their own path and finding nothing at the end of it.” ( :103)

“The great Stoic Marcus Aurelius once admonished himself to be a “boxer, not a fencer.” A fencer, he said, has to bend down to pick up his weapon. A boxer’s weapon is a part of him—”all he has to do is clench his fist.”” ( :103)

“Build Your List. Build Your List. Build Your List. If I could give a prospective creative only one piece of advice, it would be this: Build a list.” ( :103)

“If I could give a prospective creative only one piece of advice, it would be this: Build a list. Specifically, an email list. Why?” ( :103)

“That list is a lifeline, one that can help you thrive when times are good and survive when times are bad.” ( :104)

“After the comedian Kevin Hart experienced several disappointing failures in a row, his career was at a crossroads. The movies he’d expected to make him a star hadn’t hit; his television deal hadn’t panned out. So he did what comedians do best—he hit the road. But unlike many successful comedians, he didn’t just go to the cities where he could sell the most seats. Instead, he went everywhere—often deliberately performing in small clubs in cities where he did not have a large fan base. At every show, an assistant would put a business card on each seat at every table that said, “Kevin Hart needs to know who you are,” and asked for their email address. After the show, his team would collect the cards and enter the names into a spreadsheet organized by location. For four years he toured the country this way, building an enormous database of loyal fans and drawing more and more people to every subsequent show.” ( :104)

“This asset is so unusual in Hollywood that it actually became controversial when Hart began to leverage it. Negotiations between the actor’s representatives and Sony Pictures Studios that leaked during the infamous Sony hacking scandal showed Hart’s ability to command higher paydays from the studio in exchange for his willingness to promote on his platform a movie they’d already paid him to be in. This infuriated Sony, who seemed to think it was entitled to what Hart built and controlled. One executive called him a “whore” when Hart’s production company explained that access to this audience wasn’t free. As Hart later posted, he’s not a whore—he’s the owner of a platform, and access to that platform is valuable. “I worked very hard to get where I am today,” he wrote. “I look at myself as a brand and because of that I will never allow myself to be taken advantage of.”” ( :104)

“for at least another month isn’t exactly encouraging given how busy we are and how important the success of our creation is to our career. Meanwhile, email is approaching its fiftieth birthday. Seriously. Email is almost fifty years old.” ( :105)

“Are there other valuable mechanisms? Of course. Seth Godin says that platforms (and thus lists) are built via “permission assets”—a larger bucket that would include everything from Facebook to Twitter to [insert popular platform of the day]. Basically, anything where people can opt in to hear from you.” ( :105)

“Chris Lavergne, the founder of Thought Catalog, once made the distinction for me between “a voice among a billion other voices” and an “authority.” An authority is backed by something—by a list and a platform. But of course, just as platforms don’t spring from the earth magically, lists don’t just happen. They’re made.” ( :105)

“But what about? I wasn’t important or interesting enough for people to just sign up based on my name alone. So I came up with an idea: What if I gave monthly book recommendations? (The thinking being that one day I might recommend one of my own books to this list.) Once a month for four years I sent this list out, and as a result it grew from ninety original sign-ups to the five thousand people to whom I announced my first book. By the time my next book came out two years later, the list was at more than thirty thousand, and today it’s at eighty thousand.” ( :106)

“Choose Yourself, James Altucher completely embraced selfpublishing and all it entailed. He built a podcast that he distributes directly through his email list. He then created an exclusive, high-ticket newsletter that gives financial advice through email. He created a members-only book club. He wrote several more books, selling many of them directly through his website and thus amassing not only hundreds of thousands of email addresses, but physical mailing lists and payment information for his fans as well. It’s now a huge platform that, by his estimation, grosses more than $20 million a year in revenue.” ( :106)

“Noah Kagan, the expert marketing mind behind the company AppSumo, calls this “amnesia marketing.” Because you keep forgetting your customers, you have to find them over and over again for each project. There is an impulse that is common to those who are prone to this mistake: paying someone to build your list for you. I urge you to avoid compounding one mistake with another.” ( :106)

“The best way to create a list is to provide incredible amounts of value. Here are some strategies to help you do that:” ( :106)

“Give something away for free as an incentive. (Maybe it’s a guide, an article, an excerpt from your book, a coupon for a discount, etc.) Create a gate. (There used to be a Facebook tool that allowed musicians to give away a free song in exchange for a Facebook like or share—that’s a gate. BitTorrent does the same thing with its Bundles—some of the content is free, and if you want the rest of it, you’ve got to fork over an email address.) Use pop-ups. (You’re browsing a site and liking what you see and BOOM a little window pops up and asks if you want to subscribe. I put such pop-ups at the back of all my books.) Do things by hand. (I once saw an author pass around a clipboard and a sign-up sheet at the end of a talk. It was old-school, but it worked. Also, at the back of my books I tell people to email me if they want to sign up, and then I sign them up by hand.) Run sweepstakes or contests. (Why do you think the lunch place by your office has a fishbowl for business cards? Those cards have phone numbers and email addresses. They give away a sandwich once a week and get hundreds of subscribers in return.) Do a swap. (One person with a list recommends that their readers sign up for yours; you email your fans for theirs.) Promise a service. (The last one is the simplest and most important. What does your list do for people? Promise something worth subscribing to and you’ll have great success.)” ( :107)

“That’s a pretty decent start, requiring very little effort. Make no mistake—this list you are building can become, over time, incredibly valuable. I’ve seen clients sell literally hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of products in a single day from a single email. I’ve seen authors sell their critical first hundred or thousand copies of a book. I’ve seen startups get traction right out of the gate, while their competitors struggled, because they had better access to a base audience for whom they had already created great value. So start building now. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing.” ( :107)

“Never dismiss anyone—” ( :108)

“Play the long game—” ( :108)

“Focus on “pre-VIPs”—” ( :108)

“Networking is not going to networking events and handing out business cards—that’s flyering. It is instead about forming, developing, and maintaining real relationships. It’s about being valuable and being available so that one day the favor might be returned.” ( :108)

“The comedian Marc Maron perfectly encapsulates how we feel when we see a peer or competitor snag some big opportunity or score a big break. In such moments of jealousy and envy, we say, “How did you get that?” The emphasis there on “you” is important, as in, “It should have been me,” and the “that,” as in, “You don’t deserve something so great.” We’re mad that others were more successful than us, that somehow everything seemed to break their way, perhaps bitter that people opened doors for them and not for us.” ( :109)

“You better make sure that you don’t overemphasize giving rousing speeches to your troops at the cost of shoring up relationships with critical allies.” ( :109)

“Developing the right relationships with the right people is the long game. This is how legacies are made and preserved.” ( :109)

“When we said the Lindy effect means that the things that last would continue to last, the exception to that rule is when owners undermine what made them great in the first place. Perennial sales are not guaranteed. Hard-won reputations can be undone.” ( :111)

“1962, the scientist Thomas Kuhn wrote a short book titled The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. His thesis was controversial—that scientific change doesn’t follow a line of steady linear progress. Essentially, he argued that scientists in every era have assumptions and beliefs that guide their work. Change happens as these beliefs begin to break down and bold new theories that change the way everything is seen are proposed in their place. This is what he calls a “paradigm shift.”” ( :111)

“It sold only 919 copies its first year. But fifty years later, it has sold more than a million copies worldwide.” ( :111)

“Or dead, if you’re among the impressionist painters who died penniless but whose work today hangs in the world’s finest museums?” ( :111)

“Monte Cristo replies, “You are quite right, Monsieur. On the whole, they have one great shortcoming, which is that they have not yet had the time to become old masters.”” ( :112)

“Christmas Day only to be surpassed a few short years later (some even sooner) by perennial favorites like Elf and A Christmas Story—movies watched only one month a year that keep chugging along like the proverbial tortoise racing the hare.*” ( :112)

“Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms was released on the day the markets crashed in 1929. Robert Greene’s The Art of Seduction came out shortly after the events of September 11, 2001. Neil Strauss’s The Game was scheduled for release the week after Hurricane Katrina hit. All the expected press for these authors, along with their precious launch windows, were obliterated.” ( :112)

“, “There’s no such thing as a great stand-up who was born great. Every one of them sucked when they started and worked their asses off to get great. I’ve been” ( :112)

“doing stand-up for twenty-five years and I do three hundred shows a year. That’s how I got great.” It’s also how he got big! No comedian is born popular or born with an audience—not a big one anyway. They earn it. On the road, on TV, in movies, and anywhere else they can be funny and get exposure.” ( :113)

“Stephen Hanselman what separated his bestselling clients from his smaller ones. He said, “Ryan, success almost always requires an unstoppable author.” Throughout my career, I’ve seen this played out not just in books but in all products.” ( :113)

“The best marketing you can do for your book is to start writing the next one. It is frustrating because it is depressingly, frustratingly true. More great work is the best way to market yourself.” ( :114)

“material or comfortable stomping grounds to start from scratch is a scary prospect because, as McPhee reminds us, “Your last piece will never write your next one for you.”” ( :115)

“The key is to know that there is a difference between something that services your audience and something that expands it. Call it the “One for Them, One for Me” strategy. In a good career, there’s room for both.” ( :116)

“Goethe’s maxim goes, “The greatest respect an author can have for his public is never to produce what is expected but what he himself considers right and useful for whatever stage of intellectual development has been reached by himself and others.”” ( :116)

“Elvis Presley, came up with the idea to sell “I Hate Elvis” memorabilia so that Elvis could profit from his haters too. Everyone should know who their detractors are and rile them up every once in a while just for fun.” ( :117)

“That notion of empire—expanding into adjacent industries, starting companies, building new brands, grooming protégés, growing bigger and stronger —seems to be a much more natural part of hip-hop than other creative fields.” ( :117)

“In the 1980s, artists and critics used to sneer at bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, and AC/DC who “sold more T-shirts than albums.” This was somehow supposed to be a slur because, coming from people who love music, if you’re not a big seller, you must suck.” ( :117)

“Johnson observed, “[Our] new environment may well select for artists who are particularly adept at inventing new career paths rather than single-mindedly focusing on their craft.” In other words, it’s favoring people who can move horizontally and integrate vertically, who can create innovative empires, not just produce work.” ( :118)

“Bruce Dickinson, the lead singer of Iron Maiden, has a radio show, has written a young adult novel, has led a successful solo career, nearly made the British Olympic fencing team, is a professional pilot, and has founded his own aviation company with revenues of $6 million per year.” ( :118)

“What I mean to say is that sometimes the best way to monetize your work—and we do have to make money to live—is not from the work itself, at least not in the short term. We know that perennial sellers can be immensely profitable over time, but they need room to grow, and what better place to grow them than in the fertile ground of your own budding empire?” ( :119)

“So don’t wait. Build your platform now. Build it before your first great perennial seller comes out, so that you have a better chance of actually turning it into one. Build it now so that you might create multiple works like that.” ( :120)

“Because you’re more than that. You’re an entrepreneur, an author, a filmmaker, a journalist. You’re a mogul. Don’t just make it. Make it happen.” ( :120)

What’s Luck Got to Do with It?

“Luck is polarizing. The successful like to pretend it does not exist. The unsuccessful or the jaded pretend that it is everything. Both explanations are wrong.” ( :121)

“As Nassim Taleb puts it, “Hard work will get you a professorship or a BMW. You need both work and luck for a Booker, a Nobel or a private jet.”” ( :121)

“He’d signed his major label deal several years prior, but he was still struggling to find success. Yet he stayed at it. In that sense, getting lucky wasn’t an accident. It’s that old saying: The more you do, the harder you work, the luckier you seem to get.” ( :122)

“Small-town kids chase their dream, hit it big, and never sell out, but at the end of the day have to get regular nine-to-five jobs like the rest of us? I was depressed for weeks after. I felt guilty, as if I’d messed up as a fan. Did I not support them enough? Was it because people just pirate music these days? Did the label screw them? I wanted someone to blame. I wanted some explanation that this was an anomaly and that it wasn’t fair.” ( :122)

“When Kevin Kelly put forth his idea about having one thousand true fans, he wasn’t saying you’d live like a king. He wasn’t saying you wouldn’t have to work hard, or that the struggle would be over. He was saying that you’d be able to make a living. He predicted that technology had made it possible to work and survive as an artist. Nowhere did he say that it would be easy or that you’d be filthy rich.” ( :123)

“This was the reason the owner had been excited—he’d heard his son listening to the music of a musician who’d once been to his store and gotten to impress his son in the way that all fathers ache to do. Mike, out for an ordinary afternoon walk, had bumped into the multigenerational impact of his work. He’d met a living, breathing embodiment of his perennial success. And I was lucky enough to be standing there and watching as these three people all experienced a tiny yet deeply personal moment that I can only imagine added meaning to the struggle that went into that success.” ( :124)

“After designing the right standards and assembling the right members for the team, Walsh explained that his goal was to “establish a near-permanent ‘base camp’ near the summit, consistently close to the top, within striking distance.” The actual probability of winning in a given year depended on a lot of external factors—injuries, schedule, drive, weather—just as it does for any mountain climber, for any author, for any filmmaker or entrepreneur or creative. We do know with certainty, however, that without the right preparation, there is zero chance of successfully making a run to the summit.” ( :124)

“Arthur Miller wrote in Death of a Salesman, successfully fulfilling our creative need is “greater than hunger or sex or thirst, a need to” ( :124)

“leave a thumbprint somewhere on the world. A need for immortality, and by admitting it, the knowing that one has carefully inscribed one’s name on a cake of ice on a hot July day.”” ( :125)

“”It feels nice for a moment, then surreal, then back to work.”” ( :125)

“Martin once explained that there were three levels of “good” when it came to a movie: “One is when it comes out. Is it a hit? Then after five years. Where is it? Is it gone? Then again after ten [to] fifteen years if it’s still around. Are people still watching it? Does it have an afterlife?”” ( :126)


“* It is interesting to think of all the academics who complain about Malcolm Gladwell “popularizing” their work. What they’re really saying is: “He knows how to reach people better than we do. He is better at articulating our findings to the world than we are.”” ( :156)

“One of the best books on platforms is Jackie Huba’s Monster Loyalty: How Lady Gaga Turns Followers into Fanatics. Check it out.” ( :173)

Check out more book notes at How I Read 90 Books In The Past 2 Years By Reading 20 Pages A Day

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