13th July 2021

My life as… an audio assistant

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Welcome to our brand new series, providing an insight into life and careers in the publishing industry. For the opening instalment, and to mark LoveAudio week – a celebration of the accessibility, innovation and creativity of the wildly-popular format – we’re speaking with audio assistant Alex Schmidt.

I’m in charge of… Broadly, assisting the Bonnier Books audio department, which means I do a lot of admin work, this includes updates to Biblio (a piece of software that helps run the company’s publishing processes), submitting titles for promotion or awards, and – of course – working with audiobook retailers. I also help with the project management side of things like casting, scheduling studio space, and then checking final files and distributing to retailers. It’s a small team and so there’s a lot of collaboration on projects – I can take point on a project but I’m never fully alone. It’s nice to always feel supported and like there’s someone around to share ideas with.

My first task of the day… Checking the inbox. It seems obvious, but we do a fair amount of work with our library partner based in Australia and so I often have queries or CD covers in my inbox that needing checking first thing. From there I’ll look through my ‘to do’ list and calendar, which is where I’ll have my tasks for the day all lined up in order of priority. Throughout the day I’ll be uploading audiobook samples to Soundcloud, updating metadata for pre-orders, helping narrators with script questions, and attending meetings with other departments like marketing, rights, and editorial.

The thing I look forward to the most… Well, it has to be the moment I hear the finished audiobook. As a team we spend so much time casting and prepping the script and answering questions, but at a certain point we hand over to the studio for recording and (particularly during the last year or so of the pandemic) we don’t always get to be in studio hearing the book come together. So it’s always fun to get to hear the finished sound once we have the audiobook back.

What nobody else knows about my job… I don’t spend all day listening to audiobooks! In fact, most of the audiobooks I work on I won’t listen to in their entirety at work. We have post-production editors that proof and hear every part of the audiobook before it goes to retailers, but the checks in-house are more like spot checks in case any background noises or errors have crept into the final cut. Though I’ll admit that when it’s an audiobook I’m really excited about sometimes my ‘spot checks’ turn into listening!

The project I’m proudest to have worked on… It’s hard to choose just one because I’ve had my hand in a lot of great projects. I was really happy with how Justice for Helen by Marie McCourt with Fiona Duffy turned out. We had a wonderful narrator, Sue Jenkins, who brought so much emotion to her performance and it is such a powerful story of motherly love and the long battle for truth and justice.

How I got the job…. I did a Publishing MA and after graduating I worked at a small publisher as the editorial assistant for about a year. When the opportunity arrived, I volunteered to start their in-house audio list. I didn’t know what I was doing but I made some connections with a few studios and learned as I went along. In the end, I just found I liked the audio work more than the editorial side of my job (though in many ways they go hand in hand), so I applied to all the audio jobs I saw going, and got an interview with Bonnier!

My advice for anyone breaking in… Publishing internships and work experience are great, but the truth is any working experience is relevant experience. You’ll end up needing to learn things on the job anyway. Just be engaged in the book world and tailor your application to fit the roles you’re applying to.

The path I might have chosen… I trained in ballet for 15 years and through university before deciding to pursue publishing… So dancing professionally was on the table.

 

Take a look at some of the books Alex has been working on, and hear her recommendations for the audiobooks to soundtrack your summer.