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Inside the Audiobook Studio Amy Huntley and Josh Adams

I hope you’re enjoying meeting members of the audiobook community here every Wednesday. The whole idea for “Inside the Audiobook Studio” was triggered by a great event hosted by Brilliance Audio at their studio in Grand Haven, MI. Tim Ditlow, Brilliance VP & Young Adult and Children’s Acquisition Editor, invited a few audiobook aficionados to tour the studio and chat with production staff, narrators, directors, engineers, and art directors. We even ended up at Cindy Dobrez’s home for a wonderful dinner and more audiobook-themed conversation. I was thrilled to meet Amy Huntley, author of The Everafter, along with Tavia Gilbert, narrator of Amy’s debut novel, and Josh Adams, Amy’s literary agent. It was so fascinating to visit the studio & talk to those who create great audiobooks, I had to find a way to allow you a peek into the process. So I asked Amy & Josh to take a seat here “Inside the Audiobook Studio” to share their roles in producing an audiobook. Plus, Amy will appear as the Audiobooker guest blogger on Friday, sharing her thoughts on audiobooks from her perspective as a veteran high school English teacher. Here’s a picture of Amy hearing her novel as an audiobook for the first time; you can listen along to a sample here:

Amy Huntley© Jamie Georges, 2009

Amy & Josh, tell us…

1.    What’s on your MP3 player?

Amy: I confess I listen to audiobooks on CD. My iPod is loaded with music to write by. As for audiobooks….I just started Labyrinth by Kate Mosse.  I love books that tie the past and the present together, and if they involve archeology and the sense that the past is somehow being unburied—all the better. This one does all that.  But since I’ve just gotten started I can’t pass judgment on it yet. I’ve also been listening to Focus on the Family Theatre’s versions of The Chronicles of Narnia. They’re excellent full cast radio show versions of the stories. My daughter and I just stretch out on the floor in the living room and listen to them. It’s sort of like getting to live in the 1930’s and 40’s when families gathered around the radio to share entertainment together!

Josh: We’re just back from our summer vacation, which involved hours of driving, so we listened to The Magic Tree House –a favorite of our 7-year-old daughter–several times. While we primarily listen to audiobooks by Adams Literary authors (we exclusively represent children’s book authors and artists), listening to an audiobook–any audiobook–is always a welcome respite from those times when our 2-and-a-half-year-old has her choice of what we listen to in the car!

2.    Tells us about your role in the audiobook community.

Amy: It’s a funny thing…I play a very small role here. I write the book, and then other people take it pretty much entirely from there. With Brilliance Audio’s version of The Everafter, I was given the right of refusal about the reader of my text. When the studio contacted me to say they thought Tavia Gilbert would make a great reader of my book and asked what I thought, I did a little research on her, listened to her online doing a variety of situations and fell in love with her as the voice for my main character. I think the only other role I play in this process is being conscious when I’m writing of how the language will sound when it’s read aloud.

Josh: My role involves licensing audio rights to audio publishers here in North America, as well as internationally, on behalf of the authors we represent at Adams Literary. This role primarily involves finding the best match for each author’s work, negotiating the advance and terms of the agreement, and assisting with securing the final text to be recorded, as well as with the marketing and publicity of the audiobook edition in conjunction with the book.

3.    What was your most interesting/embarrassing/hilarious moment in the audiobook studio?

Amy: I usually excel at embarrassing myself in public, so I was amazed that I made it through the entire studio visit without self-inflicted humiliation. The most interesting part of my visit, though, was watching the sound editors. To me, language is such an alive thing, so it was fascinating to see the way the sound editors tracked it in spikes and seconds on the computer then fixed missing or hard to hear words. When I’m listening to audio productions, they seem so natural—and yet a lot of work has gone into making them sound that way!

Josh: My recent tour of the audiobook editorial offices, recording studios and production facilities at Brilliance Audio was really eye-opening. It was great to see the care, dedication and passion that goes into each production. There is a true respect for each author’s work, and that’s vitally important to us as literary agents–and, of course, to our authors and artists. We always look for “voice” in the literary works we represent–and it’s both reassuring and inspiring to see the professionals behind the audio production help give life and texture–and a real voice–to our authors’ work. The highlight for me, of course, was listening to some of the recording session of The Everafter by Amy Huntley, meeting the narrator Tavia Gilbert, and seeing the final sound editing of Leaving the Bellweathers by Kristin Clark Venuti, two amazing debut authors we represent. Probably the funniest moment happened after the studio tour, when I was discussing our efforts to bring Alan Katz’s bestselling Silly Dilly books (Take Me Out of the Bathtub, etc.) to audio, and all of a sudden a noted children’s librarian began a rousing and animated rendition of “Stinky Stinky Diaper Change!” We may have to include this librarian in the recording! [Mary’s note: Was this Cindy Dobrez??}

4.    What future trends or changing technologies do you thing will have the greatest/worst impact on the audiobook production field?

Amy: There are an amazing number of formats right now for audiobooks. I think the electronic downloads will eventually win this battle, but I’ll miss going to the bookstore to pick something out. It’s nice to be surrounded by bookstore smells and to pick up an audiobook at the same time I’m picking up a hardcopy of a text. I love that flexibility.

Josh: Certainly all the talk is about “e-everything” and how it’s changing our industry. It’s definitely had an impact, but we’re still in the early stages in children’s publishing, and I’m hopeful these and new technologies will help expand the market for our authors’ books in different formats, rather than replacing formats–specifically physical formats–altogether. I’m interested, too, in how these technologies are not just changing the landscape in retail, but in the school and library markets as well–for example, some libraries around the country are moving to a subscription-type, pay-per-use model that allows simultaneous downloads. One hotly discussed issue recently has been the text-to-speech capability within e-books, which hasn’t been an issue for us, as we don’t grant those rights in our licenses. In the future, I’d expect and hope to see bundling of different editions of a book–for instance a physical book bundled with an e-edition as well as an audio edition–as publishers look to expand the market for different formats, and as authors look to expand their audience.

5.    What’s new and exciting in your part of the audiobook community?

Amy: My debut novel, The Everafter, is coming out as an audiobook. Brilliance audio is the publisher. Since it’s my first novel and my first audiobook, I’m thrilled. I haven’t gotten to hear the whole text yet, though. The narrator has told me about a couple of her favorite spots in the narration, so now I feel a little like a kid staring at a pile of presents waiting to be opened. People are telling me that the stuff inside is great, but I can’t open the gifts yet. The suspense is killing me.

Josh: In addition to the titles I mentioned before, I’m extremely excited about the audio edition of John Claude Bemis’s The Nine Pound Hammer (the first in The Clockwork Dark trilogy), which debuts this week from Random House and Listening Library simultaneously. This is a truly original and imaginative middle-grade fantasy adventure whose mythology is rooted in the legends of John Henry and the Ramblers, and was inspired by John’s love of folk music and stories. John is a musician, and some of his original music is included on the tracks of the audio recording, which really helps to set the mood for the mysterious Southern Gothic, steampunk style of the book.

Thanks so much, Josh & Amy!  Here’s a picture of John Mendelson of Candlewick (center) and Michael Winerip (gotta get those two in the interview seat!), with Tim Ditlow (right) and Lynn Rutan. Yes… another Booklist Blogger at the bash – we’re everywhere!

Brilliance bash© Jamie Georges, 2009



About the Author:

Mary Burkey is an independent library consultant in Columbus (OH). An enthusiastic audiophile, she has served on all four of ALA's audiobook award committees as well as the Audies. In addition to writing the "Voices in My Head" column for Booklist, she is the author of Audiobooks for Youth: A Practical Guide to Sound Literature (ALA, 2013). Follow her on Twitter at @mburkey.

3 Comments on "Inside the Audiobook Studio Amy Huntley and Josh Adams"

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  1.' Cindy Dobrez says:

    Mary, It wasn’t me singing. I wasn’t on the tour portion of the event this year. I’m guessing it was Walter Mayes. You know, shy, retiring, Walter the Giant Storyteller. 😉

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