Beth Anderson

Beth Anderson

Beth Anderson has been with Audible.com since the beginning. Beth, Executive Vice President and Publisher, describes what it’s like behind the scenes at the world’s largest creator of audiobooks. She was the company’s 11th hire back in 1996 and today, Audible boasts a staff of close to 1000 worldwide.

Transcripts

Sandi:                       I’m Sandi Klein. Welcome to another addition of The 51%, Conversations with Creative Women. Who hasn’t heard of audible.com? Headquartered in New York, New Jersey, the company is the world’s largest producer of audio books. Its catalog is comprised of a million plus hours of spoken audio, or one hundred thousand plus titles. Audible was founded by journalist and author Don Katz in 1995. The CEO heads a nine person leadership team which includes only one woman; Beth Anderson, who happens to be my guest today. The executive vice-president and publisher, Beth has been with Audible since 1996, basically the beginning. Beth came to Audible after fifteen years in college text and trade book publishing at Simon and Shuster, Macmillan, and Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. She has served on the board of the Audio Publisher’s Association since 2000, in various capacities; a graduate of Cornell, Beth is a member of the Universities Library Advisory Board and Council.

                                 Beth. Welcome.

Beth:                         Thank you Sandi. I’m glad to be here.

Sandi:                       So, let’s start with this important question to me. How did you get to Audible?

Beth:                         [Laughing]

Sandi:                       And, at what level?

Beth:                         Well, you know, they say, it’s who you know that’s important. I had just edited book for Simon and Shuster on direct marketing by a woman by the name of Lois Geller. Lois was not only one of the experts in direct marketing, but also one of those women who knows everyone. So, when I was getting a little uncomfortable at Simon and Shuster, as they were constricting lists and getting rid of editors, I reached out to Lois and said I think I want to do something different. I think I want to explore new media and she called me about two weeks later and Don Katz, who was starting audible.com, had reached out to Lois because she was an expert on direct marketing, and said who do you know, come in, teach me something about direct marketing, and then by the way, who do you know in publishing. Lois was kind enough to say, well there’s this woman Beth Anderson, she just edited my book, she has marketing, sales, and editorial experience. I was on the phone with Don later that week and in that very first phone call he asked me for references. So, it moved pretty darn quickly.

Sandi:                       But here’s the thing. I wouldn’t call her kind, I would call her, smart.

Beth:                         That too. That too.

Sandi:                       It was right in her face.

Beth:                         Yeah. Absolutely.

Sandi:                       How long did it take before you and Don, or Don made a match for you?

Beth:                         Oh, I think it was probably within a week or so.

Sandi:                       What did you think he was working on? I mean, direct marketing of what?

Beth:                         Well, I knew; he spelled out the vision for me and because I had begun my career in sales, driving more than a thousand miles a week selling college text books in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.

Sandi:                       You’re territory?

Beth:                         Yeah. I knew how important it was to, I knew about audio books and I knew how they could make a long commute or a lot of time in the car easier to bear.

Sandi:                       So, this was personal?

Beth:                         Yes. Absolutely.

Sandi:                       That you listen to audio books.

Beth:                         I had listened to a few. I certainly was not somebody who bought a lot of them or rented a lot of them. I don’t think I knew they could be rented at that time.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Beth:                         I had been familiar with them, and as a kid, I had a Winnie the Pooh record album that I listened to non-stop, so I was familiar with the idea of spoken audio. So, Don laid out his idea, I knew absolutely next to nothing about the internet, and he made it all sound very, very exciting and new and cutting edge and like a terrific opportunity. So, I went in, met Don, and a few other of the people who were starting the company, and signed on.

Sandi:                       So, from meeting Don to working with Don was just a matter of

Beth:                         A couple weeks.

Sandi:                       A couple weeks.

Beth:                         A couple weeks.

Sandi:                       Where did this vision of his come from?

Beth:                         It’s interesting. Don has a, Don was a, is an author, also wrote a lot of magazine pieces and in the early days of the internet, he would find his magazine pieces on the internet, being distributed free, generating no revenue so not buying orthodonture or shoes for the kids. Sometimes not even attributed to him, sometimes with somebody else’s name

Sandi:                       Oh yeah.

Beth:                         attached as a byline.

Sandi:                       That was allowable?

Beth:                         No, not allowable, but [Laughing]

Sandi:                       That’s a stupid question isn’t it?

Beth:                         So, Don was a writer and he was seeing his work being available on the internet. He had a daughter who had some learning disabilities and so she got one of those giant reel-to-reel tape machines from the Library of Congress, which was of course, very awkward and hard to use. Don was on assignment to write a book for Random House on the information super highway and was going out and doing some interviews with people and thought, they’re having more fun doing this new technology than I’m having writing about it and Don had a college roommate who was an engineer. So, all; oh. And the last thing was that as an author, he found that not everybody had had an opportunity to read his books and he knew from his daughter’s experience and from his own experience with audio books, that if his books had been available in an audio format more people would have been able to experience them.

Sandi:                       Now, was he a non-fiction writer.

Beth:                         Yes.

Sandi:                       Basically.

Beth:                         Yes. Yes.

Sandi:                       So, were they how to books?

Beth:                         No. No. No. They were more of business biographies. He did a book about Nike, he did a book on home fires, which was a National Book Award Nominee.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Beth:                         I believe.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Beth:                         And I’m blanking out on what the third one was.

Sandi:                       Would you describe him as a visionary?

Beth:                         Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. He had the vision for making audio books available through this new technology, though in the early days we thought it might be somehow through the telephone.

Sandi:                       Huh.

Beth:                         One of the important things to think about is we invented the very first mp3 player. There was no digital audio player. We were years ahead of the iPod. Our audible mobile player, which was 4 MB of memory and cost more than $200.00 is in the Smithsonian.

Sandi:                       Wow.

Beth:                         I don’t think it’s on display, I think it might be in a basement or an attic somewhere, but

Sandi:                       But it is there.

Beth:                         But it is there because it was the very first mechanism for taking audio away from your computer. We used to refer to it, or help publishers and other partners that we were trying to work with, by comparing it to a printer and saying the same way you can look at a printed document on your computer and take it away by using a printer, you’ll be able to do this with this magic device that we’re inventing. If you think back to 1996 when I joined the company, people just didn’t know how any of this worked. You use a word like download, no one knew what that meant. When I left Simon and Shuster as an editor, we had just gotten computers as editors but we weren’t allowed to accept manuscripts on floppy discs, we weren’t editing manuscripts online. I think we basically used our computers for letters and maybe PNLs, financial statements. Many editors used them as places to scotch tape pictures of their children.

Sandi:                       Were you nervous about going over there? Did you think on some level, even though you knew from direct marketing, maybe this is the female in me thinking, oh my gosh, am I going to be in over my head?

Beth:                         It certainly felt like a departure from what I was doing and a whole new sphere, but I guess I looked at that as, yeah, kind of risky, but a wonderful opportunity.

Sandi:                       Exciting.

Beth:                         What I remember about the very second day I was there, was that Don had an investment counselor come in and talk to us about investment planning and I thought, whoa, this is a different world. This is no longer publishing. But, this was in the early days of internet companies when people were getting large stock packages, it seemed like Confederate money to me

Sandi:                       [Laughing]

Beth:                         Because you know, it had no value but that on day number two in my new role felt like I had entered a new planet.

Sandi:                       Well, day two in your new role was what? What was your title?

Beth:                         I believe I was Director of Content Acquisition, so I was trying to do deals with audio publishers. With publishers who had produced audio books or speeches or lectures or some sort of audio content to get them to license Audible; at that time our name was Audible Words; Audible Words the right to distribute it in our download store. So, we were doing deals with Random House, Simon and Shuster, Blackstone, record-a-books companies that were producing audio books to sell on cassette.

Sandi:                       Right.

Beth:                         No CDs.

Sandi:                       Right. Right.

Beth:                         Cassette and licensing the rights to distribute them through download.

Sandi:                       You were not procuring talent at that point?

Beth:                         No. No. No. Strictly materials that had already been recorded. We were also working with some radio stations, mostly public radio, to get things like Fresh Air, Car Talk, This American Life,

Sandi:                       To be able to be downloaded?

Beth:                         Yes. The first productions that we recorded were the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Sandi:                       And who recorded them?

Beth:                         We used radio personalities.

Sandi:                       That’s funny.

Beth:                         People that knew, that had access to a studio, that were awake in the middle of the night, so they could record the newspaper as soon as it, for instance with the New York Times, as soon as the fax edition was available.

Sandi:                       Oh, that’s wild.

Beth:                         They not only had access to studios and were working in the middle of the night, but they knew how to pronounce names of people and places and newsworthy terminology that other people wouldn’t know.

Sandi:                       So, this is what, in 96-97, around then?

Beth:                         Yeah. Late 90s.

Sandi:                       Was that basically in New York City?

Beth:                         No. We used Mark Moran, who I believe is in Arizona, didn’t need to be in New York because they would, I guess FTP the audio to us. FTP was a technology then.

Sandi:                       Oh. That’s crazy. I had no

Beth:                         But we had an editor working overnight at Audible to receive that, and then load it up into the system, so our guarantee was to customers, we’d have the daily New York Times and Wall Street Journal Editions available by 6 a.m.; we also did the L.A. Times, we did a few other newspapers.

Sandi:                       The entire paper?

Beth:                         No. We’d do about forty-five minutes, an hour. If you remember back to the New York Times fax edition, which was an edition that they would fax to offshore resorts and cruise ships, it was sort of a boiled down, condensation, here’s the most important things you need to know about today’s news.

Sandi:                       What was that like?

Beth:                         And you have to remember, that was before podcasting.

Sandi:                       Right.

Beth:                         The fact that we could do Fresh Air or Car Talk and make, all things considered, make them available anytime of the day or night that you wanted it, or you could go back and listen to last week’s edition, that was brand new.

Sandi:                       That’s crazy.

Beth:                         You couldn’t do that. We would describe ourselves as the VCR for radio. So, a customer would come to our website,

Sandi:                       Right.

Beth:                         Register.

Sandi:                       Right.

Beth:                         And choose what he/she wanted to listen to and download it to his or her computer, and then could listen to it from the computer, though I don’t think most people did; transfer it then through a cable, nothing was wireless, to our audible mobile player, which as I say, the first one was 4 MBs and then we developed one that was 6, 16 MBs.

Sandi:                       So, we had to buy that, lease it, or rent it or whatever.

Beth:                         Oh. And we were the only, because we’d invented it

Sandi:                       Right. The only game in town.

Beth:                         Yeah. We sold it. Yeah.

Sandi:                       What was it like for you to be on the ground floor in addition to being, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, exhilarating, was it unnerving and scary?

Beth:                         It was very exciting. It was fast-paced, it was challenging, it was exhausting at times. I felt as if we were inventing every step along the way. I remember sitting with colleagues and saying I don’t know, where should the search box be? Should it be on the top, should it be on the bottom, should it be on the left, should it be on the right? We had no idea, there were no conventions, there were no rules. We were creating a service, a brand-new type of service with a brand new technology for a brand new audience. We weren’t doing something that anybody had done before.

Sandi:                       Why didn’t that unnerve you, in the sense that, that’s not where you came from? I mean, publishing has been around for a quadrillion years.

Beth:                         Yeah. Yeah.

Sandi:                       And it’s not that its status quo, but, and how wonderful that you could be, again, on the ground floor of something.

Beth:                         I guess one of the things that occurred to me early, in those early days, was in many jobs, in many positions, I’ve had in my life, I have always felt as if I was trying to get around the rules or break the rules or say, let’s play it by a different set of rules. In this company, at that point, and even to this day, there’s a value to breaking the rules or creating the new rules. So, I didn’t feel as if I was bucking the trend, I felt as if I was setting the trend or helping to.

Sandi:                       That’s pretty exciting.

Beth:                         Develop what we were going to do. Yeah.

Sandi:                       Instead of just sort of pushing. Because that’s what publishing is. Right?

Beth:                         As a book editor, it was very, very exciting to take my mother or take a friend into a book store and pull a book off the shelf and say, see, that’s my name in the acknowledgements.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Beth:                         Or I helped that author make a stronger argument in chapter two or that author wanted to put chapter seven at the beginning of the book and I knew it would be better; you know, helped to re-organize it. I had some concerns when I came to Audible Words that I wouldn’t have that tangible thing to pull off a shelf and say I helped to make this what it is. But what I realized shortly after arriving is, I was helping to make something much, much bigger. I was helping to develop a whole new service.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Beth:                         That would both inform people and entertain them. I still think to this day that the idea of bringing books into people’s lives and allowing them to absorb more books is a really noble profession and I can’t think of anything that I’d rather be doing.

Sandi:                       That’s excellent. So when the company started, it wasn’t procuring any talent or any,

Beth:                         That’s true.

Sandi:                       Making matches between talent and books.

Beth:                         Exactly. We got into the publishing business many years later when we realized we just didn’t have enough content. So, we needed to supplement what audio publishers were already producing by creating our own. By licensing the rights and producing our own.

Sandi:                       When you signed on, when you were hired, how many people were you?

Beth:                         I was employee number eleven.

Sandi:                       You were eleven.

Beth:                         Yes.

Sandi:                       I think you told me there are close to six hundred employees?

Beth:                         We’ll have six hundred employees in New York by the end of this year and probably a thousand worldwide.

Sandi:                       What else is there beside New York?

Beth:                         We have offices in the UK, we have an office in Berlin, we have some customer care facilities in the Caribbean. We have a small office in Boston, one in California, and some technology in India.

Sandi:                       What was it like for you to be the only woman among these me back then, for something that was so new and innovative? Did that even register with you?

Beth:                         There were certainly other women. When I joined Audible there had been other women throughout

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Beth:                         And women in influential and important positions, so no, I never felt like the only.

Sandi:                       Okay.  And how long did it take you to wind up having the title of Executive Vice President, and what does that mean, Executive Vice President at Publisher? What do the two together mean?

Beth:                         I guess Executive Vice President is my level in the organization.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Beth:                         Publisher is more a description of what I do and my range of responsibilities.

Sandi:                       So, describe those.

Beth:                         I am responsible for the content that we have in our store. I’m responsible for helping to identify content that we want to add to our store, both to satisfy our current members and customers and to bring in new customers. I have a team that’s responsible for producing the audio that we are producing in house. Running our studios, running our partnerships with outside studios. I’m responsible for a team that’s actually ingesting our content, the metadata team that’s responsible for getting our programs in the right categories in the right sections of the store so that people can find them. I’m responsible for our ACX project which is another, it’s a system that we developed a year and half ago to help bring authors and actors together to produce more audio books, so I get to play around in our content, which I think of as the heart and soul of the company.

Sandi:                       So what determines what book will be an audio book? Can everything be an audio book?

Beth:                         Well, no. Cookbooks don’t work very well.

Sandi:                       Good point.

Beth:                         Picture books don’t work very well.

Sandi:                       Touché.

Beth:                         Dictionaries, reference books don’t work very well. What we look for is a book with a strong narrative flow. Something that will carry a listener from chapter one to the end of the book. There are books that are great in print or as e-books that one dips in and out of. Could be a recipe book, could be a reference book, could be a book on parenting.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Beth:                         We looked at a parenting book recently and I thought, you’re only going to look at the chapter on colic when colic is the issue.

Sandi:                       Good point. Right.

Beth:                         You’re not going to sit down and listen to a book on addressing issues with your child just sort of in preparation. You’re going to want to dip into that when you need that information, so that’s not as good an audio experience. That’s a better experience in print.

Sandi:                       Have you even made mistakes

Beth:                         [Laughing]

Sandi:                       In terms of

Beth:                         A few. Sure. Sure.

Sandi:                       Give some examples of that.

Beth:                         On occasion, we work very hard to match the right actor or actress with a book.

Sandi:                       Are you involved in that process? Would you

Beth:                         I’m not, but I have some excellent team members who do that. So, what they’re looking for is, what’s the age range of the main speaker of the book? Is it a young child?

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Beth:                         Is it a cranky teenager, is it an older person, is it an adult?

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Beth:                         Does that person have an accent? Does that person need any kind of special vocabulary? It could be somebody who needs to know the name of a lot of fancy French wines or somebody who maybe is a medical examiner and needs to know medical terminology and how to pronounce those words properly. So, we spend a lot of time trying to figure out what are the characteristics that will make for an excellent presentation of the audio book and then, who is the right actor or actress to do that. One of the challenges of producing an audio book or narrating an audio book is that an actor needs to be all of those characters.

Sandi:                       That’s crazy.

Beth:                         So, you can be a young girl, and an old man, and a couple of other people all in one performance. Some actors love that challenge because they don’t get to play other genders, other ages, other ethnic types necessarily on stage or in the movie or on TV, but they can do that in our studio and so it’s a huge challenge for them as an actor. They also don’t have to worry about their hair and make-up.

Sandi:                       [Laughing] Touché. Exactly. I can’t imagine what it must be like to sit for hours on end doing War and Peace.

Beth:                         Yeah. Yeah. It takes real discipline. It takes a lot of preparation to think about what’s the flow of the book, what are the dramatic points, how are you going to build to that, what do the different voices sound like? Some actors will actually record a voice and keep almost like a memo pad on their phone to say, this character sounds like this, this character sounds like that, so that if they come up against a character only every two hundred pages they can remind themselves in just a minute of how they voiced that particular character before. Others, I think, associate oh yeah, this character sounds like my next door neighbor and that character sounds like my mother-in-law and that character sounds like my fourth grade teacher, so they have images in their head of what a character sounds like.

Sandi:                       How much direction does an actor get during the course of reading a book?

Beth:                         It depends. Some actors work on their own and do their own direction and editing. Others work with an engineer/director who will say, hey, you swallowed the end of that sentence.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Beth:                         Or hey, you transposed a few words or you miss pronounced that, or I just heard your stomach growl, let’s take that sentence again, or you, I heard too much breathing in that sentence, let’s take that again. So, they work closely with somebody who’s listening to every word, watching the script.

Sandi:                       Have there been, and I’m sure there have, mistakes in terms of matches, where you thought that this would be perfect?

Beth:                         I’ve heard stories of actors coming in who are dyslexic, and therefore aren’t prepared to read an entire novel. They manage fine on TV and movies because somebody is feeding them sentence by sentence.

Sandi:                       Wow.

Beth:                         So, that’s just a bad match for the profession. I heard one story about a celebrity who was doing his, recording his autobiography, and at one point during the recording, he said, wait we can’t say this, we can’t say this, who wrote this?

Sandi:                       [Laughing]

Beth:                         Not only had he not written his autobiography, he hadn’t even read it until he was sitting at the mic.

Sandi:                       Oh my gosh. Wow.

Beth:                         [Laughing]

Sandi:                       Gosh. There was a recent New York Times article about Audible, and one of the very interesting quotes from Don Katz was his thought that, or his guess that Audible is the largest employer of New York Area actors and actresses. That’s crazy.

Beth:                         It really is crazy. It really is crazy but I’m sure it’s true. We’ll probably hire at least a thousand actors this year for our audible studio productions and then through ACX we’re bringing together actors and authors to produce audio books, we’ll hire another couple thousand, so easily more than two or three thousand.

Sandi:                       But, what hasn’t been recorded? How much stuff is there to record?

Beth:                         Publishers are very good now about doing their front list, their top titles, the titles that they think will sell more than ten, fifteen thousand copies in print. But that still leaves a lot of mid-list titles that aren’t being done, or backlist. Books that were published more than a year ago. So, if you think back in the huge growth in the audio book industry over the last couple of years, you don’t have to go back very far where publishers were doing fewer books in audio or they were doing them as abridgements, not recording every word, but condensing the book to a three or six hour abridgement. They could keep the price point down for customers if they were doing a short work. If you’re doing a full Steven King book for twenty, twenty-five, thirty hours, it’s got to be a lot more expensive and a great big package for bookstores to try to fit on their shelves.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Beth:                         So at that point, in the early days of audio, and I’m talking about the 80s and the 90s, that just wasn’t commercially feasible. So one of the advantages that Audible offered was to say, we’re going to unabridged books, packaging smackaging, you know, it doesn’t matter to us. We’re not talking about cassettes, we’re not talking about CDs, we talking about downloads. We, even when we had the small mp3 players that didn’t hold a lot of content, a customer could load on as much as he wanted and then keep reloading as he continued to listen.

Sandi:                       What about, well, porn?

Beth:                         There’s a lot of erotica recorded.

Sandi:                       Oh, that’s a good way to describe it, erotica.

Beth:                         Yeah. I mean, Fifty Shades of Grey was a huge, huge, huge success in the audio world as it was in the print world. I think one of the things about erotica is it’s got a plain brown wrapper. You can be listening to erotica on your iPhone or your

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm, and no one’s the wiser.

Beth:                         No one knows what you’re listening to.

Sandi:                       Is there a big market for that? Do you do a lot of that?

Beth:                         We do a lot of it.

Sandi:                       Is erotica the same thing as a bodice ripper?

Beth:                         Sure. Sure.

Sandi:                       Okay

\Beth:                        Or can go beyond that.

Sandi:                       Okay.

Beth:                         There are all different grades. We’ve had a partnership with Harlequin for years and years and years, where we’ve been recording a lot of their books. But I think there’s material that gets more erotic, more sexy than Harlequin.

Sandi:                       Okay.

Beth:                         Even Harlequin has different gradations and different flavors.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Beth:                         Of erotica and romance.

Sandi:                       Right. To move away from erotica and romance to dollars and cents. In 2008, Amazon bought Audible. What, can you tell us something about what the genesis of that was, or did it make perfect sense for that to happen?

Beth:                         Sure. Sure.

Sandi:                       And were you involved in that decision?

Beth:                         I can’t say I was involved in the decision. I was involved in helping to make the deal happen.

Sandi:                       Okay.

Beth:                         Providing information when Amazon was reviewing us. We’d worked with Amazon for years as marketing partners and had kind of grown up with Amazon. Amazon started their store about a year before we started our store. If you think way, way back, I remember the first time that I looked at the Amazon.com best seller list was filled with books on C++ Programing and lisp programing.

Sandi:                       What does that mean?

Beth:                         They were programing books. They were tech manuals because that’s who was buying books.

Sandi:                       I see.

Beth:                         Online. They were engineers, they were computer scientists. So the amazon.com best seller list didn’t look anything like the New York Times best seller list, the USA Today best seller list, the Barnes and Noble list. It was for tech people. That was how early they were, we were following behind them, as we were trying to figure out where to put a search box on our site, of course we’d look at them, we’d look at other places. So, we’d grown up together, some of our senior executives knew their senior executives. We had a marketing partnership where we worked together for years and so when they approached us to buy us, it wasn’t as if it was a stranger coming to court us. It’s been a very, very happy relationship. I like to think of them as the rich step-parents. They’re step-parents because they don’t live with us,

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Beth:                         They’re parents because they’re bigger, they’re older, they know a lot more about certain things and they’ve got resources to share with us.

Sandi:                       Does the Audible leadership team as well as the employees, is that kind of very much a group effort?

Beth:                         We believe in creativity. We believe ideas can come from just about anywhere.

Sandi:                       And do you also feel, considering this show is about women, that Audible is, not women friendly, that’s not what I mean, women encouraging?

Beth:                         I think one of the things that I’ve noticed in working at Audible, is we just have so many different kinds of expertise. In publishing, my sense was, we all had kind of the same education.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Beth:                         We were doing the same things on the weekends.

Sandi:                       Were there more women in publishing back then?

Beth:                         Yes.

Sandi:                       That was

Beth:                         Yes.

Sandi:                       That was a field for women.

Beth:                         Yes.

Sandi:                       That’s like teaching.

Beth:                         Yeah. It didn’t pay well.

Sandi:                       Right. Right. Uh Huh.

Beth:                         Whereas at Audible, we’ve got engineers, we’ve got people who are expert in marketing, we’ve got experts in retention, we’ve got this huge customer care team. So, we’ve got different kinds of employees at Audible and I’m thrilled to say that we’ve senior women and really productive, efficient, brilliant women in aspects of the company. Lots and lots of women in software design, and engineering and product management and the technical sides.

Sandi:                       Now, you have studios in New York.

Beth:                         Our offices are in New York, New Jersey, for a reason. We had been out in Wayne New Jersey, which is a little bit farther west, a little bit more suburban, and had outgrown that building. We wanted to be closer to New York City because as we were building studios and wanting to record books, we knew we needed to be closer for actors.

Sandi;                       Why didn’t you go to New York?

Beth:                         Cost and because we knew New York was a city that was trying to have a renaissance and we wanted to be part of that. We work with a school in our neighborhood bringing in kids as interns. We’ll be doing mentorships with them. We do a couple different big community service projects in New York, a food drive, a big holiday, Christmas/Hanukah program with a couple youth centers. We do blood drives, we really try to be active supporters of the businesses in New York. We bring in local restaurants to cater lunches in our offices.

Sandi:                       Is that one specific part of the company who’s responsible for that?

Beth:                         No, it’s, really goes throughout the company.

Sandi:                       And everybody gets involved on some level.

Beth:                         Yep. Absolutely.

Sandi:                       So, it’s incredibly proactive.

Beth:                         Yeah. Yeah. And we really feel as if we have an obligation and a responsibility to try to make New York a better place to live and work and play.

Sandi:                       So, let’s kind of end on the gossipy part, just in the sense of like, oh my God, look who’s just come through the elevator.

Beth:                         [Laughing]

Sandi:                       So, let’s share some of that stuff.

Beth:                         Ah, Susan Sarandon came in to our office to record The Member of the Wedding.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Beth:                         I know one day I walked out of the office and down the elevators and through the lobby and I thought, that guy looks familiar. I realized it was Alan Cumming sitting on the bench in our lobby waiting for, I guess, somebody to pick him up.

Sandi:                       And they’re there doing thirteen hours, fifteen hours,

Beth:                         Probably six hours in a given day, but be back day after day to do it.

Sandi:                       So, there’s casting in that also? Oh, we think Alan Cumming would be perfect for that, and assuming that he agrees to it.

Beth:                         Right. And what he did for us was a novelization of Macbeth.

Sandi:                       Oy!

Beth:                         And then, shortly after that, he was doing his one man show of Macbeth in Lincoln Center.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm. Right. Right. Wow.

Beth:                         We got there first.

Sandi:                       [Laughing] How, what’s the ratio of really famous names to regular actors and actresses? Does it make a difference?

Beth:                         The really famous names are a small percentage of what we do. We have stalwart actors who do this for a living. Do audio books for a living or might also do some TV.

Sandi:                       Mm Hmm

Beth:                         Some commercials and music or other things, but they’re not household names. Some of the become very famous among the audio book fan base, people like Scott Brick, people like Kitty Kellgren, Johnathan Davis,

Sandi:                       Who are repeat offenders.

Beth:                         Yes. Absolutely. They have loyal fan bases. This year we won a Grammy for Janis Ian’s performance of her autobiography, her memoir, called Society’s Child.

Sandi:                       She read it herself?

Beth:                         She not only read it, she sang it. She sand parts of her songs at the beginning of every chapter.

Sandi:                       Any other kind of antidote in that light, about somebody reading a book or that might have been a disappointment, like I can’t believe

Beth:                         No, we won audio book of the year this year, I am pleased to say with Colin Firth’s recording of Graham Greene’s book.

Sandi:                       Well, we’re almost out of time. Anything that I left out?

Beth:                         I don’t think so. You’ve covered it.

Sandi:                       Well, no. You’ve covered it.

Beth:                         [Laughing] I guess I’d say to your listeners, if you’re listening to this, you must like spoken audio of some sort. You must have some sort of inquisitive mind and you must listening to new information. So, if you haven’t tried an audio book, come to audible.com and try one.

Sandi:                       It makes it awfully easy, there’s not a whole lot that you have to do.

Beth:                         There isn’t. No.

Sandi:                       So, you’re going to be an Audible person for a long time to come, right?

Beth:                         I hope so, yes.

Sandi:                       You’re going nowhere.

Beth:                         That’s my plan, yeah.

Sandi:                       Excellent. Well, thanks a lot for stopping by. I really enjoyed meeting you, Beth, and learning all about

Beth:                         Thanks Sandi, this was fun.

Sandi:                       Audible and your life at Audible and everybody should read and listen.

Beth:                         And listen. Thank you.

Sandi:                       And thank you. Beth Anderson, Executive Vice President, publisher, audible.com. Join us next time for another Conversation with The 51% Conversations with Creative Women. I’m Sandi Klein.

 

 

Chad Dougatz
Chad Dougatz
Chad Dougatz brings more than 20 years of radio and media experience to the show. Before working with Sandi Klein, Chad was a Senior Producer on numerous nationally syndicated radio programs, including The Rosie O’Donnell Show, The Governor David Paterson Show, and Mornings on Air America. Chad is also the owner of The Hangar Studios, an NYC audio production company, where he provides multi-media marketing and production solutions for authors, small businesses, and entrepreneurs.
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