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.