Industry Insights: Alessia De Silva
In this issue, we spoke to Industry Insights’ very own Alessia De Silva who is an Editorial Assistant at Penguin Audio.
Tell us about your journey into publishing...
Like most people in publishing, I’ve always adored books and knew I wanted to work with words. This led me down a slight detour into the world of law, which I read at university. It was during a legal secondment that I realised I had to take some time out and find out how to break into publishing. I went to Australia on sabbatical, travelled for a few months and whilst there, started applying for publishing roles.
COVID-19 then happened, and I had to return without a job or any immediate prospects. I reached out to local publishers to volunteer instead of sitting around, and somehow got lucky enough to copy-edit my first book for Hornet Books. I joined The Publishing Post too, and in November 2020 (after many applications), Penguin Audio took a chance on me!
How does working in Audio Editorial differ from Editorial in print publishing?
I haven’t worked in a print team before, but audio differs in the sense that the book is (mostly) already written, so we don’t necessarily read submissions or shape the book. I see it more as project managing, as you fit the pieces of the puzzle together to bring the audiobook to life. This includes licensing or selling a title from/to an overseas publisher and liaising with Operations to ensure files are received/delivered promptly, or casting narrators and liaising with agents and studios to book in the recording. There’s lots more to it, but I think that’s the main difference!
What’s your favourite part of working in Audio?
I absolutely love how I’m able to work on such a vast array of titles. I look after Penguin General, Cornerstone, Michael Joseph and Children’s, but also work very closely with the Editorial Assistant in my team who oversees the other four divisions, and sometimes we overlap. One minute I can be knee-deep in spreadsheets in an attempt to know the status of all the titles we are buying in or selling, and the next I could be working with a design agency on a children’s audio artwork project!
Do you work with voice actors and do you have any influence in selecting who voices an audiobook?
Yes! I’ve actually just been assigned my first casting project and have been reading the book to get an idea of voices and accents that would match what the author is looking for. As I’m still quite new I haven’t had much correspondence with actors yet (plus the office is currently closed), but I’m really excited to get involved with this aspect of the job and definitely didn’t imagine the opportunity would present itself so soon! I’m very keen to find some new diverse narrators to add to our pool too, and we always need people with assorted language specialities to master certain pronunciations.
Are there any transferable skills you feel are key to have as an Editorial Assistant (in Audio and more generally)?
It sounds generic, but you really do have to be able to balance competing priorities and manage your time exceptionally well, as there are so many moving parts. This goes without saying, but attention to detail is vital – we work with a lot of Google docs, invoices and systems where it’s imperative to make sure all the metadata we’re inputting is exactly right! If you can also show a proactive attitude, even better; often there are internal processes you can improve that would really benefit the team.
What advice would you give our publishing hopefuls? What was the most valuable piece of advice you received?
Don’t. Give. Up.
Write a cover letter without looking at your previous templates. Looking with a fresh pair of eyes can help to add a sense of authenticity to your application!
Make every sentence in your cover letter count. Link back to the job description wherever possible, using examples of where you have utilised a specific skill and how it would enable you to perform the task efficiently and confidently in the job. The same goes for interviews!
As interviews are currently online, you can have a document open next to your Zoom window with some prompts. I included some questions I’d prepped with references to some articles I’d read on audio, which I thought I might forget under the pressure!
The best piece of advice I received was to be concise in interviews, making sure to demonstrate why I was the best person for the job in every answer.
You can find Alessia on Twitter @alessia_reads