I recently had quite a health ordeal, and for some reason it reminded me of writing and publishing. Probably because everything does. Bear with me on this one.
A month back, while in the early days of my new job, I bit into a piece of toast and felt a sharp pain in one of my molars. I didn’t think that much of it — I’ve had some jaw/tooth aches in the past that didn’t amount to much — and I went about my business, planning to check with my dentist if the pain didn’t go away. Then, a week later, I proceeded to get immensely sick, coming down with a 104.5 fever. (Spoiler: I survived!)
On top of that, my tooth still hurt like crazy whenever I accidentally bit into something, so as I was recovering from that illness thanks to the miracle of antibiotics, I went to the dentist. Sure enough, I had a broken tooth beyond repair and an infected root. It’s probable that my illness was connected to the broken tooth, as a point of entry for some bacteria or another. Annnd I had to have the tooth extracted. Which I really didn’t want to do. But I had to.
Now, thankfully, I’m on the other side of everything. My tooth is gone, my gum is healing, I can finally eat normally again, and I’m back to 100% health. Win!!
So why am I telling you this?
Last night as I was eating a delicious crab sandwich without any pain, I got to thinking, “You know what? Having *no* tooth is better than having a broken tooth.”
Indeed. And then I saw a commercial for Entourage, which reminded me of agenting, and then THIS BLOG POST WAS BORN.
There are so many times in your publishing life where it’s tempting to hold on to something that’s broken. Maybe you have an agent who you kind of realize is not a good agent, or you are presented with a publishing deal from a micro publisher you’re not totally sure about. But, having an agent is better than having no agent, right?
Just as my broken tooth wound up getting me sick, a bad agent can do immense damage to your career if they send your manuscript around badly. It’s harder to find another good agent to take you on, and publishers may not reconsider your manuscript if they’ve already seen it. They can also set you back from looking for a good agent. And unscrupulous “publishers” out there can take advantage of you financially.
Having *no* agent is better than having a bad agent.
Having *no* publishing deal is better than having a bad publishing deal.
You may worry about the appearances of losing something that felt hard-earned, and no doubt it’s painful in the short term, but you have to think of those bad actors like a broken tooth that you need to extract in order to restore yourself to publishing health.
You will heal. You’ll get back on track. And you’ll realize you’re better off. Good riddance, broken molar.
Art: The Toothpuller by Carvaggio