BEYOND THE BOOTH with Cassie McNeil
Written by Karen White:
Welcome to Romance Narrators new blog series, Beyond the Booth. As I wrapped up my Newsletter series on audiobook production, I decided to shift the focus of my column to those folks who are not narrators, who help get audiobooks to listeners’ ears.
Of course, it all starts with the words, and it is a collaborative effort to get stories from an author’s imagination to the page – whether it’s on paper or screen. To create an audiobook from those words, takes a village as well. Every six weeks, I’ll be sharing interviews with individuals who take part in the process, in the worlds of both traditional and indie publishing.
My first blog post for Romance Narrators back in May, 2017 tackled the subject of marketing and casting, so for the first interview in this series, I decided to circle back to the subject and talk to an expert in the field, Cassandra McNeil, Marketing Manager for Tantor Audio.
Some authors and listeners might not know that Tantor is a dedicated audiobook publisher. That is, they don’t publish in print or ebook; instead obtaining audiobook rights from print publishers and/or authors to produce and publish in the audiobook format. Tantor was a pioneer in making home studio narration possible, and the majority of its product is still produced by professional narrators recording in their own studios, before Tantor’s post-production crew does its magic. There are other stops along the chain, but today we’ll be finding out how the word gets out about all the award-winning audiobooks that they’ve created. For more on Tantor, check out their website at Tantor.com.
And now on to my interview with Cassandra McNeil, who doesn’t like to have her picture taken but sent along this adorable shot anyway.
KW: What was your first job in the audiobook industry?
CN: I joined Tantor Media in early 2008 as an Editorial Assistant. The main reason for my position was to create title sheets for all upcoming releases, basically an informational page that we send to distributors. It lists cover image, synopsis, bios, reviews, and marketing points. The second task I picked up was book prep for titles before they were narrated, it probably sounds like a bigger job than it was back then. We did a lot of scans of books, so mainly I was rereading the text to make sure words weren’t changed when they were scanned in and added in breaks so that narrators had a visual when to pause at certain sections. And eventually I helped with editing copy for the website and book covers.
KW: What got you interested in audiobooks?
CN: I’ve always been interested in books in general. I started reading at a very young age and devoured books within hours of getting them. I had majored in writing in college with the plan of writing my own books, but I also had an interest to work in the publishing industry in some manner. A friend from roller derby mentioned to me that there was an opening for an Editorial Assistant where she worked and that’s how I learned about Tantor Media.
KW: Wait! We must get some details – maybe a picture? – about your roller derby team. Is someone else at Tantor still on your team?
CN: Haha, she no longer works here she moved on to another industry. I play for the Connecticut Roller Derby All Stars, I’ve been playing since January 2007, so just over a year longer than I’ve worked at Tantor.
KW: What did you want to be when you grew up?
CN: My entire life I only ever wanted to be an author or journalist, I can’t really pinpoint a time when that wasn’t a goal of mine. I had a couple of moments where I considered being a teacher or professor but it would have been in the writing field somehow. Books have always been my passion.
KW: What did you study in school?
CN: I have a BFA in Writing from Green Mountain College (sadly I just learned that this semester will be the last for the college). I was able to take a ton of general electives due to my major and I focused a lot of my time on science and mythology classes.
KW: What is your job title now?
CN: I am now the Marketing Manager for Tantor Media, I also oversee the marketing for HighBridge Audio.
KW: What does a typical day look like for you (or sound like)?
CN: When I get into work, I start off checking all social media and email accounts for anything I may have missed overnight. I check my calendar and to do list for the upcoming week and check in on the others in the Marketing Department to make sure we are on the same page regarding work and deadlines.
I get a ton of emails (surprise) and spend a good chunk of my day getting materials together for distributors, authors, narrators, reviewers, and various other individuals in the industry. This can be title lists for upcoming promotions, covers, or audio samples.
After work I either have roller derby practice or powerlifting training. Depending on the day that gets me home with enough time to relax for a little bit and then it all starts over again!
KW: Do you work from home or do you go into an office?
CN: While I do have the option to work from home on occasion, I currently prefer to be in the office for most of my workday, as I feel more efficient. I suppose it’s because I have a keyboard and two monitors instead of just a laptop. Maybe if I upgrade my home setup, I’d be happier to work from home.
KW: How long have you been working in audiobook publishing? What’s a significant or unexpected change that’s happened since your early days?
CN: I am coming up on 11 years in the industry, all with Tantor. When I originally started working at Tantor there were maybe 25 employees and we were producing 20-25 titles a month. Both of those numbers have grown exponentially over the years and somehow, I morphed from an Editorial Assistant to a Marketing Manager - a position that I wouldn’t have envisioned for myself.
KW: What do you wish that listeners understood about your part in the production of audiobooks?
CN: That we don’t have control over the territory rights for our titles 😊
KW: What’s the part of your job that you savor? (And does that mean that you do it first, or save it until last?)
CN: Hmmmm, this is a rough one. I honestly can’t think of any aspect of my job that I don’t enjoy doing. I would have to say that the part I savor is the interactions with various people and helping them learn more about our catalog or promote their own audiobook.
KW: What’s your poison?
CN: A really good whiskey or craft beer, especially a really well done sour.
KW: How do you wind down after a long or stressful day at work?
CN: I workout a lot, so I usually hit up the gym or go for a run. Sometimes I’ll read a book or do some writing. Depending on the time of day I may even head to the beach for a walk to look at the stars.
KW: What is most stressful about your job?
CN: I guess drop-in requests that have quick turnaround deadlines. Although it doesn’t really feel stressful to me, but I feel I can provide better quality work if I have a bit more time to go over it.
KW: What gives you a sense of accomplishment?
CN: Having a task completed and seeing it pay off in the end. Such as when we draft up lists for our distributors to use for sales and seeing the titles featured in different promotions. Or seeing an ad turn out exactly as I pictured it when pitching it to our Graphics Department.
KW: What’s the most creative aspect of your work?
CN: Being able to craft up ideas for an ad or social media piece. Unfortunately, I don’t have the opportunity to do that as often as I’ve had to move much of that work to other members of the Marketing Department and focus more on the broad picture. So, the few times I get to pitch something is a good change of pace.
KW: I’m curious to hear about your writing – is there anything you’d like to share about it? Fiction or non-fiction? Genre? Is it something you’re still pursuing?
CN: I focus on fiction writing: poetry, short stories, screen plays are what I mainly seem to do. I have had an idea for a fantasy series for many years now that I haven’t been able to get around to writing mainly because I haven’t set up the time to do the research for all the groundwork. I do still write I have a bunch of notebooks all over the house with different things started in all of them, I’ve always been more of a paper and pen writer versus a typewriter or computer person.KW: We will keep an eye out for your fantasy series in the future; I’m sure there will be narrators clamoring to record your work!
Thanks to Cassie for giving us a peek into her world Beyond the Booth.
Here’s where you can follow her online:
Connecticut Roller Derby
My Social Media
Listeners and authors, please let us know in the comments if there are other roles in or aspects of audiobook publishing you’d like to hear more about.