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Upskilling Dictionary: Audio Department

By Sukhpreet Chana, Misha Manani and Joe Pilbrow


The audio department is important in the publication process because the demand for audiobooks has grown in the last three years. They have taken off on platforms such as Audible and Spotify, and publishers are recognising that this is a key way of connecting with different types of consumers because audiobooks are inclusive and accessible. If you love being creative, collaborative and organised, this is the team for you! Here is our list of words and definitions to help to demystify the department so you can use them with confidence in applications, interviews and on the job.


Audiobook: A recorded narration of a book that has been integrated by an application or device.


Audio Rights: A legal right to use or make audio adaptations of a written work which is typically acquired by the publisher. A contract agreement would state a clause to confirm it.


Budget: There are many costs involved with producing audiobooks, including hiring a narrator, renting studio time, sound engineering and designing a cover image. The audiobook department of a large publisher may have a separate budget for the production of audiobooks, whereas a smaller publisher might not be able to portion off a large budget for audio projects.


Casting Process: This is the initial stage when creating an audiobook. The comparison titles are a key part of this, which includes looking for narrators who can do certain accents or roles. The narrator can play a big part in influencing consumers and reviews.


Comparison Titles: These are books that have similar genres, audiences, themes, plots and sometimes even structure, e.g. a dual point-of-view (POV). These have been published in the last three years and are used to research suitable audio narrators.


Cover Image: Sometimes a unique cover design will be created for the audiobook version, which will usually include extra information like the narrator’s name.


Digital Price List (DPL): In digital audiobook publishing, this is the price the publishers charge for a copy of their content.


Extra Material: Some audiobooks might have additions such as author interviews, a podcast advert, a free first chapter or a special intro. This varies depending on the budget.


Foreign Language: Certain genres, e.g. fantasy, have particular worldbuilding language connected to the species, magical systems or tools which are not familiar to the narrator, so the author may have to collate a list of technical words and how to pronounce them.


Intro: When the narrator introduces the title and author of a novel before they start reading the text. It is incorporated at the beginning, which is also known as opening credits, as it makes it clear what the reader is reading.


Master: The last step of the audio production where sound effects are added and the volume is made consistent. This is done by using tools such as compression and other sound controls to achieve the final result.


Narrator: The person or people who read the book aloud. Sometimes, a celebrity narrator is used if the budget allows, like Helena Bonham Carter or Stephen Fry. This can also happen if it is a celebrity book as they might want to narrate their own.


Pro-reader: This tends to be someone who has a minimum of fifty unabridged audio narrator credits on Audible. However, this threshold can vary depending on the publisher. They are selected because of their experience.


Received Pronunciation (RP): The accent most commonly associated with British English, sometimes described as “typically British.” A lot of audiobooks produced in Britain will use a narrator who speaks in this accent as it is clear and easily understood.


Sound: This dictates how the narrator reads the book. For example, is the tone upbeat, thoughtful or sad? It’s important that they capture the emotion of the book because that is an important part of the listening experience.


Sound Effects: Extra audio effects are usually added in post-production to add atmosphere and sometimes tell an aspect of the story that can’t be told in words alone. They are used sparingly to not distract from the narration.


Sound Engineer: Also known as an audio or recording engineer, they are responsible for making sure the recording sounds as clear and professional as possible. They are present at the recording to guide the narrator and take care of the technical aspects, including microphones and recording equipment.


Studios: Some publishers like Penguin Random House and Hachette have their own recording studios in-house, but smaller publishers will typically hire time in a cheaper local studio. Celebrity narrators are sometimes treated to a private, external studio.

Thank you for reading issue eighty-four! Join us again for issue eighty-five where we will cover Upskilling Tips for the Contracts Department.

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