The #audiobook world is chock full of narrators, has a fair sprinkling of #studios, a plethora of #producers, an enigma of #editors and a panoply of #proofers. We are all here, heads down, creating amazing audiobook adventures. Noses to the audio grindstone, pickaxing our way through the veins of invaluable words. As a producer, I’ve written about some of the things I have had to deal with when working with narrators, and I’ve given oodles of advice regarding the dark arts of editing and mastering. But there’s a mysterious presence that looms above us all…an audiobook deity that blesses us with its beneficence. This almighty being (in fact it is a pantheon of such beings) chooses who shall live and who shall perish, who shall be showered in riches and who shall be left a pauper on the shores of audiobook deliverance. They are…THE PUBLISHERS…and they are an experience unto themselves.
So, let’s have a little run through a few things that I, as a producer/studio owner/narrator hope the publishing gods already know, and if not, don’t mind being told about!
 Working 9-5
Ah, the dream of a salaried life, 5 days a week, a monthly pay-packet…or is it a nightmare? For the majority of us on the creative side of the industry, the freelance and small-business life is the day to day reality. We have all the fun of working for ourselves, and all the hell of trying to schedule multiple clients, titles, jobs, etc… When hiring us, even though we will do and say almost anything (really, try me!) to get the gig, publishers should remember that we aren’t selling our souls 24/7. We will agree to a schedule, but it would help if that schedule understood that we will be working on other jobs as well, we have lives, families, cats, etc… We don’t work all day every day. Weekends aren’t to be expected. We want to hit the deadline, but maybe publishers could get in touch a wee bit earlier…give us a squidge more time to prep…not leave the delivery of the final manuscript until the day before recording.
 Always Be Prep-ared
You know who knows the most about a specific title? The author! And then, presumably, the book editor. So, when planning an audiobook edition of a wondrous new release, would it not be the simplest of tasks for the publisher to ask the author/editor to knock up a quick one-sheet containing useful info for the narrator. You know, things like character info (names/pronunciations, accents, key info), place names (again, pronunciations), language (yes, again, pronunciations for those odd words, made-up languages, etc…) and important plot info (e.g. don’t reveal that character A at the start of the book is actually the murderer!) This is especially handy when a new narrator is brought in mid-series. They simply don’t have the time to go back through previous audiobooks to find out which accents/pronunciations were used. But you know who DOES know this info…yup, it’s those wonderful authors and editors.
 Time (Changes Everything)
Not working in a publishing office, I’m not sure how time works there, but in audiobook creative-land, time is a linear resource, one with a set of finite parameters. Prep takes time…no, really, it does. Hiring a narrator to read a 700 page book and giving them just one week to prep it really doesn’t lead to good audiobooks (or healthy narrators!) For a start, they are almost definitely working on another title (or more), so that week in advance of the recording dates are probably not free days just waiting to be filled by prep. Also, if there are questions that need to be asked of the author/editor, then time is needed for that process to take place. I’ve had narrators staying up until 3am prepping a title they are recording the following week, and arriving at my studio like zombies, making Herculean efforts to bring their A-game to the session that day. There will always be last-minute jobs, of course, but could more time for prep be built into the publishing schedule…possibly a standard 14 day window?
 It’s Only Words (and Words Are All I Have)
“Could you prep from this version of the script and then record from the final version later?” – and my heart drops through my body, out my shoes and oozes away into the gutter. Why? Why does this have to happen so often? Here’s an honest question…how fast is a book physically manufactured and delivered to shops? Audiobooks seem to be expected to be prepped and produced in terribly short amounts of time. Are the physical books turned around in equally short times? They very well may be…and I’ll shut up (honest!) But really, I know deadlines and schedules are complex beasts to tame, but couldn’t publishers ensure that the ONLY version of a script we work from is the final signed off version, and that we get it in good time…surely it must be possible (and yes, I did just call you Shirley!)
 Typing My Way Back To You, Babe
I call them opto-scans, but there may be some more official term for them. You know what I mean, pdfs based off of old titles, where someone has scanned in the pages. They are ‘muddy’ and covered in small blemishes. The font is fuzzy and requires 10th level paladin squinting skills. How I dream of a business, a company with experts in typography and layout…a magical place where people have the time and expertise to re-type such manuscripts into beautiful, modern documents, with easy-to-read fonts and double-spaced text. If only such companies existed….hint hint, nudge nudge, know what I mean?
A.K.A. please help us save our eyesight…no more opto-scanned pdfs!
 No Means No!
No…we can’t and won’t record from the print copy. No. Just stop it. Walk away and have a good long think (and a coffee…we’re not monsters here!) You are a publisher…you MUST have an electronic copy somewhere.
 Obeying Orders
Could we do something about the whole Purchase Order thing? Does it really need a small army of geographically disparate accountants, working to some arcane law in multiple time-zones, invoking the Dark Lady of Invoicing (and Aggravatingly Precise Email Requirements) to get us a PO for the job we’ve just done? And with titles where we’ve agreed a fixed fee, can we not get the PO (or multiple POs if a series) in advance…that way saving time invoicing at the point of delivery…saving publishers the hassle of us pestering them for that oh-so-desperately-needed-moolah! We need it…soooo badly. We have mortgages to pay, kids to clothe, cats to buy toys for (which they will ignore and play with the packaging box instead). Anything publishers could do to ease the process of POs and invoicing would be likened to a cooling balm on a nasty sunburn! Oh, and it shouldn’t take 60-90 days to pay…especially if the money is owed to a studio, who in turn owes money to the producer, editor and proofer!
 Please DO NOT Ask For Credit, As Refusal Often Offends
Start at the start, and end at the end…wise words for all of us working in the audiobook world. Starts and ends are key moments, and need special, thrilling, often-legally required words. We are talking credits (or billboards if you prefer to be all trans-Atlantic about it)…say it loud, say it proud…WE MADE THIS! So when booking a title in for production, publishers should definitely think about what credits need to be recorded. Having standardised templates is always a fantastically useful thing for studios and narrators to have on hand, or supplied at point of booking. And with that said, why do UK credits rarely, if ever, name the producer, studio or editor? Many US credits at least name the producer/director and studio. Surely in such a creatively co-operative industry we should name those involved in creating the end-product? We seem to have somehow adopted the odd BBC theory that listeners aren’t interested in hearing the names of those behind-the-mic. Well, maybe now would be a great time to do as our US cousins do, and add a few additional names in those sexy closing credits? We can even add in an Executive Producer credit for our lovely publisher – they are as important as we are, after all!
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And, to be fair, that’s it…for now! Now any publishers reading this might be feeling a little punch drunk from all that, but you know what? Publishers are amazing! They are the source of all opportunity and income. They choose the titles, they fund the titles, they release the titles (they might also write the theme tune and sing the theme tune!). Without THE PUBLISHERS, we have nothing to produce, nothing to narrate. So whilst the list above might feel a little ‘pointed’, it really is just a list of things to have in the back of publishers’ minds when working with us creative types. The best managers are those who truly understand their employees, and the best publishers are those who treat their audiobook team as partners and colleagues. All we want to do is help publishers make amazing audio adventures…so forgive us our wee stresses and peccadillos…the freelance/outsourced/small business life can be draining and anxious. But throughout it all, we look to the publishers to feed our need to be creative, to help us pay our bills and live our lives. Publishers help us all to lead this magical audiobook life, and they are amazing. And you know what? Publishers should feel free to pop in to a studio session every now and again and see what’s going on…they will always be welcome, and I promise we won’t pester you about PO numbers (well, maybe every now and again!)
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Neil Gardner is the managing director of leading UK audiobook production house Ladbroke Audio, and independent audiobook publisher Spokenworld Audio. He has 30 years experience in radio and audio, is an international award-winning producer/director/writer and loves nothing more than making audio for all ages. He is also an Earphones Award-winning audiobook narrator, as well as a sound designer and author. In summer 2018 he founded the Audiobook Creators Alliance.
www.ladbrokeaudio.com / www.spokenworldaudio.com