It was a long street, lined with brightly lit houses on either side. Dusk was falling and a cold wind was blowing from the north. Though the curtains were drawn and the windows shut, he heard the sound of music and laughter at every house he passed. He paused and listened: scraps of surplus revelry tossed to a tramp.
After a while, he plucked up the courage to knock on one of the doors. A butler cautiously opened it, peering through the gap. Not unfriendly, but not hospitable either. ‘Do you have an invitation? In that case, I’m sorry. I suggest you try elsewhere.’
But everywhere, the answers were the same. ‘I’m afraid not…’ ‘Don’t be disheartened…’ ‘Perhaps further down the road…’ Some didn’t bother to come to the door.
Cold and hungry, he stood on the pavement, brooding. He was about to leave when someone tapped him on the shoulder. ‘Why don’t you go round the back? Here, follow me.’
They walked together down a narrow path, pushed open a creaky door, and found themselves in a long, dingy corridor. It was packed with shadowy figures, some leaning against the wall, others sprawled on the floor. There was barely enough room to move.
‘It’s not great, I know,’ his new friend said. ‘But it’s better than outside. At least there’s a bit of warmth. And sometimes we get a few crumbs. Why don’t you find a space, make yourself comfy? I know it’s not what you wanted, but you’ll get used to it…’
My question now: stripped of the fancy metaphor, is that a fair description of the writer’s dilemma? Either you trudge from door to door, getting turned away by agents and publishers, or else you go through the self-publishing back door and huddle in the dark with thousands of others. To Amazon it’s all the same: a single author selling 5 million copies or a million authors each selling five.
I don’t know. I’m reading contradictory reports. It is possible, apparently, with enough hard work and marketing savvy, for self-published authors to emerge, if only a little, from the obscurity. But how many do? And those that don’t – do they regret taking that option?
So far I’ve knocked on 13 doors with One Green Bottle. 8 refusals, 5 no answers. It’s not a lot, I know. Some people try a hundred or more. So I guess I’ll keep on knocking, displaying the same hopeful smile to every butler I see. But at the same time, maybe it’s worth taking a peek round the back to get genned up on the alternative.
I’m still at the start of my journey. So I’d be very happy to hear from anyone who’s ventured further than me 🙂