THE NAKED TRUTH With Noah Michael Levine (Vol. 5)
This week, The Naked Truth gets up close and personal with the Audiobook world’s very own … Michele Cobb. I met Michele in 2016 at my first APAC/Audies events in Chicago. Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure to get to know her a little bit, and now, you can too. She’s pretty awesome!
Noah Michael Levine: So … hey. How’s it going?
Michele Cobb: Good. Busy.
Noah: No doubt. But before we get into what you’re doing now, let’s get into how you became the busiest person in showbiz. What did you do before you worked in audiobooks?
Michele: I’m trained in directing theatre. I toured across North America directing children’s theatre and living out of a suitcase for years, then worked at a theatre on a military base in Germany for a few years.
Noah: Living out of a suitcase … um … kinda like you do now.
Michele: Was that a question?
Noah: Nope. Haha. But that does sound very cool. So, then you made the leap into audiobooks. How did that happen? What was your first job?
Michele: I moved to Los Angeles and started directing showcases and working a number of theatre jobs, including selling tickets for L.A. Theatre Works (a non-profit that records plays live in performance and then makes them available in the audio format).
Noah: I love L.A. Theatre Works! I’ve only been there a few times, but I didn’t realize they were so audio-oriented.
Michele: Totally. They asked me to work in the audio department (packing cassettes in those days) and soon I was working there, full time, focused on becoming the sales and marketing expert for their audio collection.
Noah: I’m guessing with all your travel time, you probably listen to an audiobook or two. What’s your pleasure?
Michele: I’m a big fan of literary fiction in audio and I listen to much more nonfiction than I read with my eyes. And, who doesn’t love a good celebrity autobiography when they narrate it?
Noah: For fiction titles, do you have a preference for Solo, Dual, Duet or Full cast?
Michele: I like all the different styles. But, coming from the world of theatre, I really love a full cast recording with every character having a different person reading. It always feels the most intimate to me and I enjoy the filling out of the recording with sound effects and music.
Noah: It’s like a movie in your ears. So, what makes a great performance for you?
Michele: When the narrator helps me become lost in the story. They integrate themselves into the text so well that I almost get integrated with them.
Noah: Let’s take a quick break from audiobooks. Give us a Michele Cobb fun fact.
Michele: I’m a Fitbit junkie who tries to reach a daily goal of 16,000 steps and really appreciates being in contests…
Noah: Wo, wo, wo. Hold up there a second. Did you say SIXTEEN THOUSAND STEPS? A DAY?
Michele: I did!
Noah: Seriously, I’m lucky to get 5000. You must go through sneakers like I go through a wedge of goat brie. Like … once a week!
Michele: Well, you’d better get moving! I love it. It motivates me, especially since I spend so much time on my computer, to get up and get moving. We became a one car family nearly 2 years ago and I like that sometimes I have to walk 10 miles roundtrip for an appointment. I can walk and listen all while I get some exercise. And I can win that week’s contest for the most steps!
Noah: I hope you get Frequent Walker miles! Speaking of which … with all your air travel, how many Frequent FLYER miles do you have?
Michele: I hit a million miles on United 2 years ago, working my way towards 2 million. If only someone had told me when I was living in Europe – always fly the same airline or at least the same airline alliance. I would be at 2 million now.
Noah: So … where are we going on vacation? I’m packed. I’m ready!
Michele: Haha. Um … yeahhhhh – No.
Noah: Okay – let’s get serious. The audiobook industry has been booming for several years now. Where do you see the industry heading?
Michele: We’ve been experiencing exciting gains for years now. In fact, double digit growth in dollars and units for the past 6 years. With more publishers adding the format and more retailers coming into the market the future continues to look bright. In 1997, audio publishers recorded about 2500 audiobooks. In 2017 there were 46,000 audiobooks published. That’s an amazing leap that we continue to build on as a group.
Noah: That’s great news. SO that double-digit growth is still happening?
Michele: The Audio Publishers Association is collecting sales data now, but all indications are that the double-digit growth continues.
Noah: Since we romance narrators have a particular fondness for matters of the heart, body and soul, how do romance titles measure up in sales, versus other genres?
Michele: Romance is one of the top 3 audiobook genres when it comes to sales. So, take heart – people love them!
Noah: You produce some of your own romance and erotica titles. Tell us about that?
Michele: I run two small imprints, Insatiable Press [Romance and Erotica], and Vibrance Press [everything else]. As a small audio publisher we focus on picking titles that we like and working with a wide variety of voices to bring the titles to life. Then we make them available across the globe to library and retail vendors. Since I have a few day jobs, it’s honestly my hobby, so I’d better have fun doing it!
Noah: That’s great. And yes – you have to have some fun. But seriously … SIXTEEN THOUSAND STEPS? A DAY?
Michele: You’re still hung up on that, huh?
Noah: I’m humbled. I’m impressed and my feet hurt thinking about it. Okay – enough of my problems. What do you do for fun? Do you have any pets? East Coast vs. West Coast rap?
Michele: For fun – I publish audiobooks, travel, enjoy good food and get massages! I enjoy walking to the theater to do a movie marathon day with my husband whenever I get the time. Pets? Just my iPhone. And for rap – it depends on the season. I, of course, prefer West Coast in the winter.
Noah: With as much as you work, do you get to take some time off? Go on vacation?
Michele: I’m all about the working vacation so I like to go places where I can eat well, get a good massage, have time to keep up with my email and do something fun and active. I’m lucky to have friends and family across the globe so wherever I go there are people to give me not just a taste of a tourist experience, but a taste of daily life in that place. Over the recent holidays my husband, daughter, nieces and nephews, siblings, their spouses, and my parents spent 7 days together in Dorchester, MA. 15 people – I made a lot of strategic restaurant reservations to get us fed well.
Noah: Haha. That sounds amazing! Let’s switch gears a little. One thing I noticed, straight away, when I started working in audiobooks, is that there seems to be a higher percentage of women in upper-level positions as compared to all of publishing and other sectors of entertainment (not to mention, pretty much every other industry). Which is so great. Do you think that’s true?
Michele: As long as I’ve been in the industry, I’ve always been impressed with the fantastic women I’ve met, many who hold senior positions at their companies.
Noah: So many amazing people. A really welcome change from the largely male-driven structure that’s been in place forever.
Michele: I briefly worked in manufacturing about 6 years ago and what surprised me the most wasn’t how few women were in senior positions, but how those women (including myself) were treated and how much education I had to give to those around me to let them know certain behaviors and words were not appropriate in the workplace. It was eye-opening and I was happy to make that sojourn into something else be short. In the end, I started my own consulting company in part so I could ensure I was treated with the respect and so I could choose the people with whom I work.
Noah: I’m glad you did. And I hope that young women, everywhere, will be encouraged to follow in those examples. I think we need a lot more of that. Let’s talk about The Audies. I heard a lot of great reactions to this year’s gala. I know you worked really hard getting it all together. How do you feel about the results?
Michele: I think people had a really good time. Our goal was to raise the profile in the press, and we did it. Plus, it was amazing to have so many people from outside the industry who were there provide extremely positive feedback. I love that Ron Charles from the Washington Post said that the Audies were FUN. That’s a big endorsement in my book.
Noah: Wow – I didn’t know we got a plug in the Post. That’s great! So, what’s up next for you?
Michele: Conferences in London, Atlanta, Bologna, and Chicago. Speaking of frequent flyer miles….
Noah: Um … yeah! But seriously … SIXTEEN THOU …
Michele: Okay – stop.
Noah: Just sayin’.
Michele: I suggest you up your game, Mister.
Noah: Roger that. Well – thank you SO much for taking some time to chat, Michele. It’s always a pleasure. I’ve listed some of your social media links below if anyone wants to find you.