Illustration of all the components of making audiobooks including: a producer directing a reader in the studio, sound editing, researching an actor and having a meeting about upcoming recordings, through to the consumer plugging in their headphones to listen to the latest audiobook.
Getting published

Job roles in audiobooks

Are you an audiobook lover keen to get into the publishing industry? Or an aspiring author figuring out where audiobooks fit into the publishing process?

Here, our audio teams answer all your questions, with insights on their day-to-day work, responsibilities, and what skills they think are needed.

Editorial

The editorial team work alongside the studio production team to create award-winning, market-leading audio editions of books from all over Penguin – everything from a picture book through to a literary novel.

"They decide who will be the best voice to bring the words to life and be as faithful to the text as possible."

The role of an editor in audio is quite different to that of a book editor. Although they also act in a similar project management role, rather than shaping the story itself, they decide who will be the best voice to bring the words to life and be as faithful to the text as possible. They also lead on the creative direction an audiobook can take to give the reader a sense of space and place.

Working closely with authors, agents, editors, publishing operations, sales and the studio, the audio editorial team are involved in a lot of collaboration outside of the company, as well as in. Experts in their field, they act as consultants in the all-important acquisitions meeting.

If you fancy a job in audio editorial you’ll need to be:

  • an excellent communicator and collaborator
  • creative, with original ideas
  • organised and good at multitasking

Editorial Assistant

Similarly to other editorial assistant roles at Penguin, my role is a general assistant to the team, completing admin tasks such as coding invoices, booking taxis for talent and organising and minuting meetings. An additional and important part of the role is organising the 'buying-in' and selling of audiobooks to libraries and publishers in other parts of the world.

As the audio department works across all our publishing houses, the role also provides a broad insight into every division at Penguin which makes the position extremely varied.

The role requires strong administrative and organisational skills, as well as communication and personability. We work with multiple teams and divisions, as well as with agents and actors, so having good interpersonal skills is central. Passion and creativity are also key parts of the role – audio continues to grow, and having original ideas about casting choices and how we can develop audio as a format is really valuable.

Rachael Hughes, Editorial Assistant

Assistant Editor

As assistant editor in the audio team, I look after the production of the audiobook edition for a range of titles across the company. A key part of my role is working closely with the author and their print editorial team to decide who will be the perfect voice for each book, whether that is the author themselves or an actor. Then, it’s my responsibility to schedule the recording – coordinating with our brilliant in-house studio team as well as our network of external studios to ensure productions are completed on time and to budget.

One important aspect of the role is building connections with voice agents, producers and narrators, so clear communication skills are crucial. Excellent organisational and time management skills are also imperative. The next step would be at editor level taking on increased responsibility for divisional relationships and leading on more complex or higher profile audiobook productions.

Lottie Chesterman, Assistant Editor

Editor

A lot of my day-to-day in audio editorial involves reading – although there are different types of reading. The two big ones are for the acquisitions meeting and for casting readers. We read acquisition material (a manuscript), as we aim to have an audio presence and view in every acquisition meeting. This is where the decision is made on whether or not a book that we’re purchasing as a company is adapted for audio. Casting also involves reading the book, to get a sense for the right voice(s) when casting!

Apart from the immediate audio team, I work very closely with two of our publishing houses, Vintage and Penguin Press, as I'm responsible for all of the audiobooks from those 2 divisions. I also work very closely with external people such as voice and acting agents.

I’d say to work in Editorial, you’ve got to be organised, creative, a good negotiator, and very patient. Next step career path-wise would be a Senior or Commissioning Editor.

Nile Faure-Bryan, Editor

Commissioning Editor

As the Commissioning Editor for BBC Audio, I develop proposals to commercialise BBC radio material as highly curated new audiobooks.

I research archive programmes and new broadcasts on a daily basis, with a view to identifying potential publishing opportunities. I also project manage signed-off titles, which involves writing copy, briefing covers and scripting contextual material.

I work closely with colleagues in sales, publishing operations and marketing, as well as key stakeholders at the BBC. This role requires strong research, analytical and copywriting skills. Attention to detail, organisation, prioritisation and teamwork are also important.

April Peake, Commissioning Editor, BBC Audio

Senior Editor

I oversee the production of audiobooks from start to finish, working across multiple divisions. I will decide what kind of voice best suits the book and our production approach (choice of studio, any adaptions, post-production etc) and ensure it runs smoothly, sticking to schedule and budget.

I work closely with a variety of wider teams in print and audio (including publishing operations, design, marketing and publicity and the in-house studio team). I also work closely with agents, authors and narrators.

My role requires a real eye (and ear) for detail, and the ability to juggle multiple projects at once. Good people skills are essential, alongside a real passion for reading and listening.

Tom McWhirter, Senior Editor

Head of Audio Content

My job involves line-managing a small team of editors and overseeing the audio publishing for four Penguin publishing houses. This could include supporting and advising the editorial team as they make casting decisions for many of our audio titles, projecting managing some of our major audio publications such as My Favorite Mistake, Unruly and Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before, and giving audio support to colleagues in the print teams.

On any given day my job could involve going into the studio to listen to a recording, writing casting briefs for agents, ensuring projects are kept on budget, or writing copy for audio pitches. My role requires me to juggle multiple projects, so organisation, a calm head and problem-solving skills are key.

James Keyte, Head of Audio Content

Head of Audio Content, BBC Audio

My role is responsible for leading the commissioning and delivery of collections of BBC Radio programming. I manage an Editorial team and work closely with the BBC as well as overseeing our processes, as our team works with designers, copywriters, and colleagues in audio sales, marketing and publishing operations. A large part of my role is commissioning new releases, which involves archive research, lots of listening to radio programmes, and a knack for editorial curation.

Someone in this role needs to be a good multi-tasker, an effective leader, and have strong commercial awareness with an understanding of our financial goals and how to ensure the profitability of new releases. In terms of career progression, the next role might be Editorial Director.

Ania Duggan, Head of Audio Content, BBC Audio

Publisher

I’m responsible for the creative and commercial performance of our audio publishing.

That means setting the overall direction and strategy for the audio team and making sure that colleagues in audio have the best possible working environment, both in terms of our production facilities (we have six world-class audio studios at Embassy Gardens) and in terms of our working culture and how we collaborate across a small, busy team.

Day-to-day it might mean working with our editorial team on decisions about which audiobooks we publish and the creative direction we take with them; working with our sales and marketing teams on how we drive sales of key audiobooks; or working with our production and operations teams to ensure that we’re delivering the best possible quality to listeners and to retailers.

Richard Lennon, Publisher

Marketing

"...They reach everyone from new readers to established fanbases to generate conversation and sales."

The marketing team are key in spreading the word about audiobook releases through multiple channels. Housing campaigns, design and digital marketing expertise, they reach everyone from new readers to established fanbases to generate conversation and sales.

As well as working closely with marketing and publicity teams across the publishing houses, they also spend time with talent, whether that be an actor or author, to publicise their recording ‘moment’.

If you’re keen for a job in audio marketing you’ll need to be:

  • plugged into trends and news
  • analytical with data
  • an excellent communicator and collaborator

Design Assistant

As design assistant within audio, my day-to-day tasks are very specific to the job compared to other design roles. The bulk of my work involves 'squaring' – editing book jackets to fit the square thumbnail format used by audiobooks – working closely with the publishing operations assistant. My role also sits within the marketing department, and my responsibilities include producing marketing assets for titles in various formats for digital distribution as well as the occasional print material (postcards, tote bags etc). In addition, my role works with BBC audio as well as Penguin. I work with their team of editors on new artwork for archival and radio titles, attending covers meetings and presenting multiple options from which a final approval can be refined.

More than anything the role requires a good visual sense, as well as a familiarity with image and video editing software. I have no formal training in graphic design – I started in the field as a hobby, and this background prepared me better than anything for the challenges of the job. In addition, technical skills in design (such as formatting, exporting, and colour management), proofing experience, and a marketing background have been very useful.

Tom Double, Design Assistant

Campaigns Executive

As campaigns executive, I handle marketing and publicity for bestselling audiobooks across the business. My team works closely with each publishing division to ensure audio is integrated into their marketing and publicity campaigns – such as using multi-format creatives where the audiobook appears alongside the print and eBook. For the biggest chart-toppers, we also run our own campaigns to drive audiences straight to the audiobook.

Every day is different - I might be capturing content in the studio with an author/narrator, briefing a designer to create assets, pitching for review coverage (e.g. The Guardian's Audiobook of the Week), or running social ads. Key skills for this role are prioritisation, communication, and creativity.

Natalie Chapman, Campaigns Executive

Senior Digital Marketing Executive

As senior digital marketing executive, I oversee digital campaigns for audiobooks, from our catalogue list to the newest titles, handling planning, activation, and optimisation across various paid social channels and display ads.

I mostly collaborate regularly with the marketing and publicity team within the audio, but this role also allows me to work with other marketing teams from different departments. My previous work experience in a marketing agency equipped me with the skills for this position.

Marta Matzeu, Senior Digital Marketing Executive

Head of Campaigns

I work across marketing and publicity, aiming to connect our biggest audiobooks with listeners by running impactful, attention-grabbing campaigns that drive sales and create conversation about audiobooks. This could be booking a paid marketing campaign, developing creative content from the recording studios, or securing PR with our brilliant narrators: there’s a wide variety of ways we can champion an audiobook and make it feel utterly unmissable.

I work closely with the audio campaign executives, overseeing their own campaigns and advising them where needed, plus the audio editorial and studio teams. I also work with the marketing and publicity teams working on the print editions of our books to ensure that campaigns for hardbacks and audiobooks are fully aligned.

This role requires an ability to flex across marketing and publicity, experience working with high-profile talent (whether authors or actors), and a track record of delivering successful campaigns. The next role progression wise could sit in either Marketing or Publicity Director roles.

Helena Sheffield, Head of Campaigns

Audio Production

"Audio production, sometimes known as the studio team, create the final, polished audiobook you listen to through your headphones."

Audio production, sometimes known as the studio team, create the final, polished audiobook you listen to through your headphones. From studio management to producers and sound editors, they work closely with a wide range of other teams to create best-selling and award-winning audio content.

The producers start work on a book by reading the manuscript and prepping the text for audio – that might mean researching pronunciations and becoming familiar with the text. They then direct the reader in our world-class studios – looked after by the studio management team. Once the audiobook is recorded, the sound editors take the audio to sculpt it into a perfect audio experience. That can mean anything from taking out pauses or incorrect takes to creating soundscapes and adding music!

If you’d like a job in audio production you’ll need to be:

  • an excellent communicator
  • detail driven
  • organised and calm under pressure

Studio Manager

As Studio Manager my job is to schedule audiobook recordings into our studios.

I take bookings from audio commissioning editors, who cast our readers, and I assign these to our pool of producers, who direct and engineer the recordings. In studio management you need to strike a balance between being proactive and flexible - ready to react as schedules shift.

To be an effective studio manager you have to have good organisational skills, be patient, calm and, at times, thrive under pressure. The project management aspect of the role is a great transferable skill that could appear in many guises across the publishing world.

Zoe Dale, Studio Manager

Producer

As an audio producer, I work closely with actors and authors to bring the text of the books we publish to life off the page.

For the most part, our books have a similar journey through production. Firstly, I work to prepare texts for recording. This involves reading the text, making notes on characters, accents, locations and pronunciations, so we can maximise time in the studio once we begin recording and use it effectively. In the studio, we aim to record approximately 100 pages per day – in 6 hours of recording, we aim for 3 - 4 hours to be usable audio for the final audiobook.

The pre-production stage often involves conversations with the author or actor as well as the sound editor and commissioning editor to make sure we have a clear understanding of the brief, and whether we will be adding sound design or additional features. During production, I collaborate and work very closely with the reader, producing, listening and marking up the text for the sound editor. In post-production, I am in regular contact with the sound editor, and subsequently, the proofer, who produces a proof report on the audio.

Attention to detail, listening skills and sensitivity to the text are all skills I find important for the role. Most vital, however, are people skills, as studio recording is often a long time spent working one-on-one. We want the recording experience to be positive, creative and collaborative for everyone involved.

Producers who love the technical side of things, including music composition and sound design might choose to move into a more senior role in sound editing. For those who prefer the studio side, the next role progression might be as senior producer.

Rosie O’Dowd, Producer

Producer and Composer

I got into audio producing via the operations team in our audio department. I’d had a background in live music, and worked at a start-up, running lots of day-to-day operational bits of the business and had lots of transferable skills. My job involves researching pronunciations, thinking about how texts can be adapted to audio, tracking character’s backstories and story arcs, and then working in the studio with actors and authors to bring their books to life in audio. Even though my role involves sound engineering as well as directing, you don’t need a degree in sound engineering to do it (I have a history degree, but you don’t even need a degree at all..!)

The other part of my job involves writing and composing music for any of our audiobooks that need it; mostly children’s books but also some true crime and drama work. Outside of work, I’m a musician and have built this into my role over the years as our productions have become more complex. As a job, it's amazingly creative, wonderfully different every day, and I get to work with some of the most exciting writers and actors in the biz, all of whom are very inspiring. My most surreal moment to date has to be engineering and directing a recording from inside Tyson Fury’s house!

Kate MacDonald, Producer and Composer

Senior Producer

As a producer, we are involved in some way at each stage of production: before recording we may do a call to get the reader/author ready for the session or be prepping the text for audio. While in studio, we direct the best possible performance from the reader while also ensuring the best audio quality and accuracy to text. After production, we liaise with the audio editor and proofers to ensure the delivery is as high quality as possible. In between all this, we may be monitoring other productions, or working with our freelance producers.

We collaborate with the entire audio department – whether liaising on a future production with the commissioning editors or discussing delivery schedules with publishing operations team. Within the studio team, we would work with the studio manager when scheduling the next month’s recordings, liaise with the editors about any audio edits or sound effects work they may be doing on our projects, and work with the other producers on book prep or direction questions.

People skills are hugely important – being able to read a room and know how to encourage the best possible performance from a reader. Having language skills, audio technical skills and a general love of literature also helps!

Michael Pender, Senior Producer

Sound Editor

After I graduated from university I was looking for roles where I could put my skills to good use. I’d been listening to audiobooks for years at this point, so when I saw an advertisement for a role as a freelance audiobook editor, I knew I had to go for it!

When I’m starting a new book I try to check in with the producer to see how the previous day of recording went. I’ll have a listen to one small section to decide how best to treat the raw recording. After that I start editing the dialogue, removing any mistakes and adjusting the pace.

I’d say the most important skills for sound editors are the ability to maintain aural focus, strong understanding of music tech and a genuine interest in audiobooks.

Kyle Gabbidon, Sound Editor

Senior Editor

I started out at an indie audio production company, where I worked on a range of audio projects such as documentaries, radio, film and TV post-production and audiobooks. Audiobooks became more in demand, and I found myself working on more projects with a range of publishers, everything from casting, adapting, producing, editing, sound designing and mastering.

The average day for me involves liaising with the rest of the audio department – producers, commissioning editors and operations, plus external proofers. This could be everything from discussing sound design ideas for upcoming productions, editing and mastering audiobooks, being briefed on a current recording, assessing proof reports, and delivering final productions.

Audio editing skills are massively important in this role and being able to seamlessly edit sentences together whilst retaining a natural and smooth pace. Specifically for sound design projects, being able to merge, balance and select appropriate sound effects is very important – whilst taking producer notes and feedback into account.

Tom Rowbotham, Senior Editor

Head of Audio Production

I spend a chunk of my time managing the production team, ensuring all the different sections of the studio cohort are working well with one another (from production management to audiobook producers, sound editors and audiobook proofers), as well as with the wider department – the editorial and marketing teams in particular.

In parallel, I direct my own productions – prep scripts, produce recording sessions and feed into the postproduction of my titles.

Chris Thompson, Head of Audio Production

Publishing Operations

The Publishing Operations team are the colleagues who ensure you are able to find, download and listen to the very latest audiobook that's been in your wish list, from your favourite retailer.

"[They] ensure you are able to find, download and listen to the very latest audiobook."

Working with multiple internal teams in both audio, our print publishing houses and external teams such as streaming services and international publishers, they are brilliant communicators and project managers.

"Responsible for managing schedules, coordinating cover art and populating the all-important metadata... they keep the whole show running!"

Being involved in many stages in the lifecycle of an audiobook, they are responsible for managing schedules, coordinating cover art and populating the all-important metadata that catalogues the title for both publishers and retailers, which in turn helps consumers access the audiobook – essentially, they keep the whole show running!

If you’d like a job in publishing operations you’ll need to be:

  • a brilliant problem-solver
  • a great multi-tasker
  • have excellent relationship management skills

Publishing Operations Assistant

The function of operations within the audio division at Penguin is best understood as project management, with each of the almost 1000 yearly titles passing through our hands — giving us a holistic understanding of all aspects of the production process. As the publishing operations assistant, I am primarily concerned with managing the bibliographic metadata for our titles, from acquisition through to retailer distribution and beyond! I work with editorial, marketing and publicity and sales to coordinate announcements, the design teams to adapt the print covers for audio editions, and of course my pub ops colleagues oversee the production process as a whole.

Working on a complex, ever-evolving schedule, you need a sharp eye for detail and excellent critical thinking skills. Foresight underpins my daily responsibilities, striving to think five steps ahead, anticipating my colleagues' needs and being ready to lend an extra pair of hands or ears to whoever may need them! The nature of this role requires you to be agile, responding to challenges in a fast-paced environment. No two days are the same, so prioritisation skills are a must to be able to categorise and re-organise ad-hoc tasks as they appear.

As a Publishing Operations Assistant in Audio, your next steps might be Publishing Operations Executive. The grounding knowledge gained in this role also puts you in a perfect position to pivot towards other roles within the audio division in editorial, marketing, or the studio.

Bridie Lonsdale, Publishing Operations Assistant

Publishing Operations Executive

As Publishing Operations Executive for BBC Audio, I primarily work with the BBC Audio Editorial team by project managing BBC Audio titles through our master schedule and sending them to freelancers for mastering and proofing. I’m also responsible for preparing titles for delivery by checking chapter metadata and audio files once they’ve been returned by the proofer, and liaising with the Digital Distribution team to send the files to retailers. Once titles have been delivered, it’s then my responsibility to solve any Audible or general retailer queries and supply new files if necessary.

I work across a number of different titles, all working to important and sometimes tight deadlines, so organisation, prioritisation and time-keeping are key skills to have. As I also work with many different teams, both inside and outside of the company, on the day-to-day, it’s crucial to have great communication skills to build up those key relationships that are vital to my role. Also, as I spend quite a lot of my time putting out fires (metaphorically of course!) problem-solving is a necessary skill that I’ve developed a lot throughout my time in the role, and having the ability to work well under pressure is key when solving these problems, as some can be very time sensitive.

The progression for Publishing Operations Executive for BBC Audio is really interesting because there isn’t necessarily a straight-line upwards, but the role gives you important skills and experience that could lead you onto many different paths. Our pub ops team is very small but there are multiple places to move within the audio team, such as studio and editorial, which would be well suited to the transferable skills.

Holly Roff, Publishing Operations Executive, BBC Audio

Publishing Operations Executive

As well as working closely with the Publishing Operations Assistant and Manager to bring together all the moving parts in the publishing process, I also work with the audio editorial and studio teams, the digital distribution team, and our contacts at Audible to help guide the audiobook through its critical path; from acquisition to publication and any aftercare post-publication.

Good communication skills and being a critical thinker are essential as you are often bringing lots of teams, people and moving parts together to collaborate and create a publishing plan that works for everyone. Audio is an incredibly fast-paced environment so being able to clearly communicate what you need as well as listening and taking on board the needs of others is vital to a smooth publishing process.

The typical next step would be moving up to Publishing Operations Manager. However, doors are open for many roles in audio and publishing because being in operations not only gives a wide understanding of publishing, but also lots of transferable skills. Jobs in production, sales operations and digital distribution are an option, as well as other jobs in the audio team.

Amber Kassianou-Hannan, Publishing Operations Executive

Publishing Operations Manager

The Publishing Operations Manager is responsible for overseeing our publishing schedules and timelines, and works heavily on process creation and maintenance, ensuring all our audio publications are hitting key dates on the critical path, as well as working within the audio senior team on wider audio strategy.

My role leads the operations team, who are working with multiple internal teams in both audio and the print divisions on a daily basis. The team are responsible for managing publication schedules, coordinating the creation of audio cover art, populating metadata, supporting on master sales agreements with US publishers and other retail partners.

This is as well as working with our in-house studio team to manage the flow of audiobook files into the business, and subsequently ensuring the components of every audiobook are delivered to retailers on time and to the appropriate specifications and industry standards.

Working across a complex and very changeable schedule, the role requires great communication skills as well as a keen eye for detail. Organisation and time management are key, as is creative problem solving and a solutions-focused attitude!

Shannon Ellis, Publishing Operations Manager

Want to find out more about roles behind-the-scenes in publishing? Take a look at our Careers site for more.

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