Beware False Comparisons

Beware anyone who is trying to sell you anything.  Including their personal view of the world.

This will circle back to writing in a moment, but first I’d like to randomly complain about today’s visit to Banfield with the pup.  I had the joy and privilege of sitting in a small little room for an hour with a nine-month old puppy waiting for someone to give my pup a shot.  Just one shot.

They wanted to give her two shots, but she didn’t actually need the second one.

This matters.

Because, the more crap they do for her, the more they can claim that being part of their annual wellness plan saves me money.

Does it?  Not likely.

My most recent bill tells me that they saved me $80 by being on their plan and that they’ve saved me $455 so far.

Problem is, the vet down the street would’ve given my pup the same shot for half the price.  And wouldn’t have run the exact same blood test on my pup that they’d run two weeks before just because it was “free” with the plan.

(I signed up for the stupid plan because the pup was sick and when I took her in with what turned out to be a UTI they told me it was going to cost $400 to test her for it.  TEST her for it.  It was a weekend.  I knew she was sick.  Signing up for the plan was still far too expensive, but it got her the treatment she needed right away.  My Colorado vet?  Probably would’ve charged me $100 for everything, including the medicine to treat her.)

So, I look at these Banfield “you’ve saved so much” statements and I think, yeah right.  You marked up the price and threw on extra services just so you could make it look good.

Nice false comparison there.

Or, for any of you in the States who still watch commercials.  You know how there are those commercials that mock people who “spend fifteen minutes and save fifteen percent” on car insurance because you can “spend seven and a half minutes and save money”?

Note what they aren’t saying?  How much you can save in that seven and a half minutes.  So, I can “be smart” and spend only seven and a half minutes and save, what?  Five percent?  Less?

Maybe that extra seven minutes is worth a few hundred bucks.  Worth it then, right?

Comparing the amount of time and ignoring the savings is another false comparison.

Now, let’s bring this back to publishing.  I just caught a quick glance of a post about all these horrible things about trade publishing.

And I don’t doubt that people have signed three-book deals and had book one do so poorly that books two and three were cancelled and they never saw the full advance.

Or that people have had an agent take them on and then not shop their book.  Or shop it so poorly that it was ruined.

Or been with a publisher that had crappy editing and no promotion and sold them less copies than a motivated self-publisher could’ve sold on their own.

No doubt that all of this is true.

But don’t trust people who take one person’s bad experience with one publisher, one agent, and one specific contract and extrapolate it to all experiences with all publishers, all agents, and all contracts.

(Or one person’s success with one book in one genre with one approach to publishing and extrapolate to everyone’s experience with all books in all genres with that same approach.)

Know the details.

Because a small e-only publisher is not one of the big 5.

A part-time agent/part-time writer new to the business with no real connections is not the same as a Russell Galen.  (He repped Marion Zimmer Bradley, so he’s my hero.)

One contract is not another.

So, if someone starts telling you “this is how publishing is,” beware of the false comparisons.

And set some standards.

If you don’t want to sign a crappy contract that completely screws you over forever then get a GOOD agent and sign with a reputable publisher.  Don’t just take any contract anyone offers you.

And know what you’re signing.

Know that if you sign a three-book deal that that lovely advance number is not going to be given to you on day one.

Know that if you don’t structure the contract right that even if book one earns out its portion of the advance, you may not see a penny until you earn out the entire advance for all three books.

(Sorry.  Little mini rant.  Don’t sign a contract you don’t understand.  Ever.  For anything.  In my professional career I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people who signed contracts they didn’t understand and then had some very unfortunate consequences from it.  And nothing we could do to help them.  If someone tells you it’s too complex or you wouldn’t understand all the nuance, WALK AWAY.  You’re smart enough to write a book, you’re smart enough to understand any contract you sign.  It might take some explaining, but the person insisting you sign, should be able to do that.  If they can’t, WALK AWAY.)

So, that’s my mini rant of the day.

When someone starts making broad sweeping generalizations or focuses on one little aspect of a situation, alarm bells should start going off.  Know what is truly being compared and realize that there are exceptions, both good and bad, in everything.

If you want to truly compare two options, focus on the average outcome and how wide the range of possibilities are.




About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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