Ears on the Odyssey

Interview: Orli Moscowitz of Penguin Random House

As the award-winning producer for Penguin Random House Audio, Orli Moscowitz ‘s name blesses some of the finest audiobooks for children and young adults. The high quality and dedication to the details of the craft can be heard in for example the 2017 Odyssey award winner Anna and the Swallow Man narrated by Allan Corduner and the 2008 Grammy award winner Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows narrated by Jim Dale.  Enjoy Orli’s insights into audiobook creation.

How did you get started in audiobooks and find your niche in audios for youth?

When I first began considering a career in publishing, I was focused on finding employment in the book editorial side of the business because as far as I knew, publishing consisted of book publishing. Period. The headhunting firm I was working with informed me of an opening in the then Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio division (subsequently Random House Audio, then Penguin Random House Audio). 

I had never listened to an audiobook, and wasn’t completely clear about what audiobook publishing entailed, but I was (and am) a strong believer in the idea that if you’re looking for employment you never pass up an opportunity to interview. So I interviewed. 

The interviewer described audiobook publishing as an amalgam of book publishing and the entertainment industry, which sounded fascinating, so I gave it a shot. And I haven’t looked back since!
As a producer, I have the privilege of shaping a creative product, and audiobook production is a perfect marriage of two of my passions – book publishing and the entertainment industry. I have the opportunity to work closely with authors and book editors, as well as actors, agents, and directors.
I produce a wide array of author and genres – J.K. Rowling, Philip Pullman, Kate DiCamillo, Dan Brown, John Grisham, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, and many others. Every book is different and requires unique considerations. This variety helps keep my job endlessly interesting, challenging, and entertaining.
 
What do you wish librarians/ reviewers knew about creating audiobooks? 
Holding ourselves to stringent quality standards is incredibly important to all of us at Penguin Random House Audio, BOT and Listening Library. Every production is an opportunity to get more listeners hooked on audiobooks – if your first experience with the format isn’t a great one, we have lost that opportunity.  To that end, we take great, personal pride in producing the most thoughtful, subtle, well-researched, engaging recordings possible. No two recordings are the same — we mold each production according to the unique needs and demands of each book. 
As an audiobook producer, I am responsible for all aspects of transforming the written word into an audio experience, but my most important responsibility is to curate the best team around each production. The author and I work together to cast the actor (or actors) who will be the truest reflection of the book’s narrator, the person in the book who’s relating the story. I hire a director whose particular expertise and interests will connect strongly with the text and allow them to guide the actor through its subtle shifts. On the more mundane side of things, I work with our operations team to make sure my productions run according to schedule so we can publish simultaneously with the print edition. I work with our post production team and our quality control technicians to ensure the program is in the most pristine condition when it reaches listeners.
 
I am only able to produce audiobooks of the highest quality because I surround myself with the most talented actors, directors, editors, operations managers, publicists, marketers, the list goes on and on.
 
How do you choose which titles would make successful audiobooks? 
We have a dedicated editorial staff who acquire audio rights for our titles – with the growth of the audiobook market, the majority of books now have an audio edition, which historically wasn’t the case. There are a few exceptions for books that don’t translate well to the recorded format, like cookbooks or other highly visual titles. We’re typically very selective about which picture books we record. I’ve produced only a handful of picture books over the years, including some Tad Hills titles. 
Can you describe the process of selecting a narrator to match your book?
When I read a book it speaks to me. Frequently I hear the voice of a particular actor I’ve worked with before. If not, I reach out to agents for suggestions and auditions. Once I find an actor (or a small selection of actors), who I think will do a great job bringing a book to audio life, I send voice samples to the author to confirm that we’re in agreement. 
As an audiobook producer, what is your relationship to the author? 
I’m passionate about the authors I work with and the worlds they create. Authors are experts of the written word, audiobook producers are experts at translating the written word to an audio experience. I work closely with each author to ensure that my productions are accurate and engaging reflections of their intentions.
Why are you so talented and lovely?!!? Thank you ! PS: Where do you keep your Grammy??!! 
You’re too kind!! And I keep the Grammy I received for my production of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on my mantelpiece.

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