My new book is out. It’s the second book I’ve written and it’s non fiction. It’s called The Merchant of Stories and it follows my journey as a creative entrepreneur–a voyage where I juggle the dual hats of living in this world as a creative as well as navigating the marketplace in which my work is published and distributed.
Over the past year and a half since I started Mith Books, I’ve found myself struggling with two worlds that couldn’t be more different–the world of commerce and the intangible aspirations of the artistic community.
Most artists that I know of don’t get into it for the money. They’re looking for a sense of joy and fulfilment that comes from creating something in this world that is uniquely theirs. They’ve created something that they want to send into the world which they hope an audience will appreciate. They’re seeking to inspire the soul.
How does one even begin measuring this in tangible commercial terms?
I’ve attended startup meetups and events, had chats with people in the business community and given talks about the creative industry as a business. I’ve also been on the flip side as I encouraged authors to be more open to seeing the creative process as a collaboration–as opposed to a solitary journey.
But is anyone listening? The creatives seemingly want nothing to do with the business side of things–to the point of considering it soulless and dirty–and the business community is stunned and almost confused at how in the world the creative industries even function.
How does one begin to do market research on what will fire the human imagination? How do you replicate the work of someone’s soul?
A few months ago, I had the misfortune of sitting through a meeting where someone asked me, “Can you create five JK Rowlings?” I honestly didn’t know whether to laugh or to answer his question seriously. Truth be told, I wasn’t even sure if it was a serious question. It took me a few moments to realise that it was.
Only JK Rowling can create JK Rowling. An artist’s style is as unique as a fingerprint. Try doing a replica of the Harry Potter series and see how fans react. It is not as simple as setting up shop and selling a product that is only slightly-differentiated from the store down the road. If that were the case, all artists would have to do is keep making the same hit song over and over again and expect the same results.
But we all know that that is not how it works.
The Creative Marketplace
To be a creative is to create something that the market has not created yet. To do that, you first have to know who you are as an artist. You need to hone in on your own unique voice as well as develop all the skills it takes to gain mastery in your field–and then you have to go on doing that for the rest of your life. Your work is never complete. And in the midst of all of that, your work enters the marketplace–where it will have to find its voice amidst all the chatter and noise that is already there.
From the business perspective, what are the odds of anyone actually making it? It sounds risky–investing in something as volatile as human talent and public imagination.
But creatives do it. They risk it all. They invest years of their lives not knowing when or if things will pan out. They accept failure, defeat and rejection and keep going. What spurs them on? What keeps them going? What keeps the fire in their hearts shining brightly while the rest of the world tells them that they can’t make it?
In The Merchant of Stories, I answer those questions through my own journey. It is the tale of the rise of an artist as well as the emergence of an entrepreneur. The journey was tough and at many times lonely. But it was the journey that made me who I am today. And because of that, it is one that I will always cherish.