Things have been a little quiet for me on the library front recently—periodic Twitter rants aside—as I've been working behind the scenes on refining the Panorama Project's focus for 2020 in light of recent events, identifying areas where we can have a measurable and actionable impact and figuring out how to implement the right initiatives. While I'm excited about what's in development for 2020, it's still too early to announce any of it, but two articles I wrote recently offer a glimpse of where things are heading.
The weirdest Summer of my professional career came to a surreal close this past weekend as I attended the Writer's Digest Annual Conference as a speaker and journalist rather than the publisher and marketing director who curated ~80% of the event before my departure in early July. I'm obviously still biased, but overall, it was an invigorating experience—from the amazing keynotes and insightful presenters, to the mini-reunion with some of my all-time favorite colleagues, all survivors of F+W Media's disastrous bankruptcy process that seems to have ended relatively well... for Writer's Digest, at least.
In a letter sent to “Macmillan Authors, Macmillan Illustrators, and Agents“ on Thursday, July 25th, Macmillan CEO John Sargent announced new lending terms and pricing for library ebooks, claiming library lending was “cannibalizing sales“ and impacting royalties as revenue from library sales are “a small fraction of the revenue we share with you on a retail read.” While the embargo is disappointing news for libraries, authors, and, most importantly, readers—it reinforces the need for a cross-industry initiative to identify ways publishers and libraries can continue to support their intrinsically related missions while delivering mutually beneficial outcomes.
I’ve officially launched Free Verse Media, a strategic marketing consultancy offering actionable solutions for businesses and brands who want to engage audiences across multiple platforms more effectively—in alignment with specific business goals and key performance metrics. I’m taking 25 years of hard-earned experience and going the freelance route (gulp!), looking to work with organizations that value developing genuine relationships with communities in service of a greater good, at least as much as they value generating revenue for stakeholders.
There are three types of people who survive in media: hard workers, sycophants, and the serial failures they both work for who somehow manage to continually find employment despite a reasonably public record of the wreckage they've left behind. Too harsh? Maybe, a bit—some sycophants are arguably hard workers too, and serial failure might not be as easy as the eternally mediocre make it look—but after my own 25+ years surviving in media (and currently in the final throes of a demoralizing corporate bankruptcy), I'm feeling a little cynical.
To be honest, my experience with consultants over the years has been mostly negative. Overpriced pundits promising more than they've ever actually delivered for anyone, who often knew less than the staff they were brought in to advise, offering templated solutions to complex problems, inevitably leaving behind incomplete work and unsatisfied clients. But I've also worked with a few amazing ones who not only delivered effective, customized solutions, they also left the staff they engaged with smarter and better equipped to implement and iterate on those solutions without them.
There was no announcement back in August because celebrating a new gig in that context felt wrong, and as subsequent events would confirm, it honestly wasn't all that clear how long it would last. WD is and always has been a strong brand, but when your parent company is headed towards bankruptcy, the path forward is anything but clear.
I've been fortunate enough to have had two great roles that explicitly embraced that overlap of marketing, technology, and social interaction--along with a history of that overlap benefiting me in more traditional roles. In both cases, it allowed me to take a holistic, strategic approach to integrated marketing, but neither title clearly communicates that on a resume, so I'm glad the Marketing question has been asked explicitly and I was able to address it head on.
Having spent the last 12+ years helping legacy print brands navigate the digital transition (excepting that 18-month run building DBW from scratch), I'm excited about the opportunity to jump into the digital present with both feet, no print crutch in sight. I still love the magazine industry and have a fondness for print that will never die, but I couldn't resist an opportunity to help build something in the digital book world that will challenge me in new ways and allow me to expand upon skills that have always been somewhat constrained in print-centric environments.
There are myriad ways to connect with readers nowadays, both directly and indirectly, but you can’t do it all, nor should you try. Whether you’re a novelist or journalist, poet or pundit, striking the right balance is critical to implementing and sustaining an effective marketing strategy. From websites to social media to live events, this presentation focuses on the value of owned channels, offline/analog engagement, and how to make sure you’re not wasting your time.