January 8th, 2020

The 3 Levels of Trust in Publishing

by John Peragine


In a recent blog post on Writer’s In the Storm, writers provided one word for other writers to contemplate for the New Year. The word I chose was Trust.

I am a ghostwriter by trade and have years of experience writing and publishing books. When people hire me, they do so because I have a sense of the process.

Often (too often) people hire me and stop listening. They don’t always trust what I am saying to them, even though they hired me for that very purpose. I don’t know all the answers to publishing and writing questions. Luckily, for those times I don’t know, I have built a team of other professionals I trust to provide me those answers.

I've been thinking about my writing journey and that of others I know, and trust is a powerful determiner for a book, from concept to publishing. Trust is not something given lightly, but at times, we have to take a risk and place trust outside ourselves to move a book from our heads to the page.  

It's not always easy to do. We must ask questions for clarity.

There are many pathways to writing and publishing. Whichever one we choose, we must see it through and trust those guiding the way. We must rely on our inner voice and the advice of others throughout the entire process of writing, but I believe that it can be a methodical process in which we can increase our chances of success.

Important questions:

  • At what points do we rely on trust?
  • How can we reduce the risks involved with trust?
  • Is trust something blind, or is it strategic?

Christmas Morning Confession


Image by Bob Dmyt from Pixabay 

My family would tell you that I have a serious holiday problem. I can’t wait to open presents until Christmas morning.

The anxiety overwhelms me on Christmas Eve. Every. Single. Year. My family rolls their eyes at me. But by 6 pm, it is imperative that I know what’s in the boxes, and I must see other people open the presents I got them.

I know, I’m incorrigible. But it boils down to this: I don’t like not knowing the outcome of things, and I don’t like taking unreasonable chances.

In book writing and publishing, I don’t take too many chances either. When I decide what to write, or how to publish a book or article, I remove any doubts I can. I decrease risk while increasing trust.

How do I do this?

I believe there are three levels of trust: trust others, trust a process, and trust myself.

Trust Others


Image by KoalaParkLaundromat from Pixabay

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time we decide to write and publish something. There is a process, and a method that can be followed that will lead to a successful venture.

There are many people to connect within the publishing business and I follow a process. This process also works with agents, publishers, or other writers.

  1. A blank slate. When I meet someone new, I see them as a blank slate and trust what that person says and claims. I have no evidence to the contrary. I try to reserve judgment and keep their slate clean.
  2. Trust but verify. If someone refers an editor to me, I ask the person making the referral what their experience was with the editor. But their positive experience does not guarantee I will have the same experience. Maybe they just clicked, or were friends. Perhaps there is a finder's fee for referring to the editor. There are many unknowns and I try not to let them positively or negatively affect my trust in that editor.

I begin with trust and build upon it based upon performance. Questions I ask myself include:

  • Do I trust the person making the referral?
  • Have they referred me to other professionals in the past?

I build trust by beginning small. I might have the editor do one or two pages of editing to see how they perform. I follow these considerations:

  • Did they edit the way I asked them?
  • Was it on time?
  • Were they thorough?

I increase the size of the job, and with every success, my trust in them builds. Perhaps answer the following questions:

  • Do they return calls and messages?
  • Do they listen to me? Can they provide examples of past performance?
  • Can they offer me references of others they worked with?

The process of writing is a solitary craft, but the process of publishing is a team effort.

You need to trust those you work with, and you must decide for yourself, based upon the data you collect, whether you can trust an individual. Choosing the wrong person can cost you time, money, and credibility as a writer.

Trust the Process

A question I hear a lot: How do we write a great book and have success selling it? I share my process, but people often stop listening.

There is the social proof disconnect. Writers listen to friends and family, who mostly have the best intentions, provide them with advice about book writing. My question is, “How many books have they written and sold?

I provide people with the same process that helped me, and many others produce a successful book they are proud of that sells copies.

As a writer, we must trust others we are working with. If we believe they are an expert with valuable advice, then we must trust their process.

Trust Myself

Image by HAPPY NEW YEAR *** S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay

In the creation of a book, there is an important word on the front cover. More important than the title, and that is the author’s name. It is you.

This is your book. Your project. You call the shots, and you should never give away total control of your book. Nor should you stop asking questions, because even if you trust someone, and trust the process, you must trust your gut because it is your name on the spine.

I recently presented a manuscript to a literary agent I trust. She has an excellent track record, and I would love to work with her. I gave her my first ten pages to review, and she was excited about the premise, the characters, and the pace of the story. She deemed it a Middle-Grade Fantasy and I trusted her assessment.

As part of the process of selling a book in this genre, she recommended that I shift the POV from third person limited to first-person.  I rewrote those pages in the first-person POV as she recommended. It wasn't a bad attempt, and she liked it, but then I considered the rest of the book.

Would shifting the rest of the book to first-person work?
Was my book truly Middle Grade or was it more YA?

I sent out two versions of my first ten pages to other experts for their opinion. I received mixed reviews on the POV but there was a strong opinion that the book is YA, not Middle Grade.

Ultimately, I must decide what the book is and will be. I have people I trust, and I trust the process, but at the end of the day, I must trust the guy whose name is on the spine of the book.

This is the hardest form of trust but a smart one to learn: listen to the inner voice advising us

Ask the right questions, do your due diligence, and write the best, most successful book you can. Trust in yourself -- you are an author. Whatever you decide, it will be the right decision.

How have you trusted your own intuition in terms of your writing? Do you have advice you didn't take, but wish you had?

*  *  *  *  *  *

About John

John Peragine has published 14 books and ghostwritten more than 100 others. He is a contributor for HuffPost, Reuters, and The Today Show. He covered the John Edwards trial exclusively for Bloomberg News and The New York Times. He has written for Wine EnthusiastGrapevine Magazine, Realtor.com, WineMaker magazine, and Writer's Digest.

John began writing professionally in 2007, after working 13 years in social work and as the piccolo player for the Western Piedmont Symphony for over 25 years. Peragine is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. His newest book, The No Frills Guide to Book Marketing, will be released in Summer 2020. op photo credit: Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

12 responses to “The 3 Levels of Trust in Publishing”

  1. Terry Odell says:

    As an indie author, I have to trust myself when it comes to taking advice from readers, critique partners, my editor. Their input is invaluable, but as you rightly pointed out, it's my name on the book cover. It took a while to develop the confidence to 'reject' comments and suggestions, and to learn which ones to listen to. Admittedly, the first time I get suggestions to improve the writing, my gut reaction is, "No, it's fine the way I have it," but I learned to let these suggestions marinate a while so I can make a less emotional decision.

    • John Peragine says:

      I have been on both sides of editing and I still have that flinch reaction when I see changes. I do agree- you have to step back from it, and think it through and then make logical decisions. I also agree it is about confidence- you have to build that trust within you that you can make good decisions about your writing. You weigh all the facts and if need be, call in some other experts for their opinion.

  2. Jenny Hansen says:

    John, you're the first person I've ever seen cop to Christmas Present Anxiety. There are entire blog posts dedicated to this! https://chattanoogamoms.com/holidays-seasons/cant-wait-helping-kids-avoid-christmas-anxiety/

    I like how you break down the trust process, and I think you and Terry are correct -- the hardest, most important form of trust is to trust ourselves.

  3. Eldred Bird says:

    Sometimes I trust what other people say a little too much. The one I have trouble trusting is myself. I'm doing my best to learn how to deal with impostor syndrome. No matter how good I get at something, or how much I'm praised there's always that little voice in the back of my head...

  4. dholcomb1 says:

    I'll listen to what others say, but I have to trust my instinct. Intuition is a cue, and if I'm not comfortable, my work won't be its best. Of course, there are times when what I'm told (ideas and direction) is something I should do, but wisdom is knowing the difference.

    denise

    • John Peragine says:

      I agree wisdom born of learning and experience is a huge part of trust. It is something that takes time. I trusted too much too early in my writing career and gave a lot of my IP away. I kick myself now, but I had to learn the lesson. Better then, than now.

  5. I've been thinking about trust since I read your blog yesterday, John. I'm new in this industry, so I trust others with more expereince. But it's not a blind trust- I trust my gut, too. Like you said, mine (will be) the name on the spine, and I have to be happy with the finished product.

    • John Peragine says:

      At the end of it all- you being happy with the decisions of your book is what matters- there is a difference between sacrifice and compromise. You don't have to agree 100% but you don't have to stop listening either. To do so is sacrifice. Compromise happens when we listen and take the bits that work for us and let the rest go.

  6. Lisa says:

    Terrific topic!
    I've learned the trust issue the hard way by similar pov-switching based on my mfa cohorts feedback. All it did was confuse me to the point where I no longer recognized my own story! A waste of time and effort! Should have stayed with my gut instincts. They were right! Too many cooks in the kitchen kind of thing.
    😎
    Thanks much for this

    • John Peragine says:

      Still doing this today- the debate goes on. My gut unfortunately is agreeing my POV needs to be changed- time to sharpen pencils and bring out the red ink!

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