Scribe Media on the Rocks
“Ghostwriting and publishing services firm Scribe Media abruptly shut down yesterday, laying off its staff,” reported Erin Somers today on Publisher’s Lunch, summarizing an apparent sudden change of fortune for the venture.
Scribe’s approximate 100 employees were apparently notified by email Wednesday night that “Based on unforeseen business circumstances and faltering business based on unavailability of additional capital, Scribe is forced to shut down its operations and layoff employees at our Austin location on May 24, 2023.” Access to both employee email accounts and health insurance were abruptly terminated as of yesterday, too, with no severance offered.
Many freelancers had received no notification as of this afternoon.
Scribe’s Origin Story
Founded in 2014 by Tucker Max and Zach Obront as Book in a Box, the Austin-based company’s promise was helping aspiring authors speak their books into existence primarily through transcribed interviews.
Scribe’s transcript-based approach differs from other ghostwriting firms, which rely more on ghostwriters to help produce a manuscript through a tailored information-gathering process. Rather than converting straight transcripts into chapters, firms such as Gotham Ghostwriters and Kevin Anderson & Associates pair experienced ghostwriters with authors to collect and curate relevant material. In many cases, that involves supplementing author interviews with archival research and secondary interviews.
The company changed its name to Scribe Media in December 2021 and changed hands, with JeVon McCormick taking the helm as president, CEO, and “majority co-owner,” while Max and Obront stepped back from full-time involvement.
Scribe’s publishing packages, which include ghostwriting and an a la carte offering of other editorial and marketing services, range from $24,000 to upwards of $135,000 according to Max on the company’s website.
A Turning Point
McCormick took over at Scribe Media in 2021 which, at that point, boasted 900+ books published in its seven-year history, and a 94-person workforce, supplemented by 350 freelancers, according to Max. There was also an impending move to a new 20,000-square-foot headquarters. More recently, those numbers continued to increase, with more books published, more bestsellers, and more staff.
Yet less than two years later, it appears Scribe Media is closing its doors. According to industry insiders, after multiple years of attempting to grab market share through lower pricing, the strategy caught up with the venture and funding simply ran dry.
Although the shutdown seems sudden, according to Publisher’s Lunch, employees may have been tipped off that something was amiss following a recent issue with payroll.
Despite its sudden shuttering, Scribe’s situation appears to be an anomaly in an industry that has been growing steadily for the last 10+ years. Multiple ghostwriting agencies and professional ghostwriters report continued growth and profits even during a shaky economic period, suggesting that Scribe’s challenges were due more to its business model than the market in which it operates. Book ghostwriting services continue to thrive, confirm other agency CEOs.