An Interview With Our Copyright Manager
Ever wondered who chooses what audiobooks are in our library?
Amy Flinders is the Copyright Manager for Listening Books. She has worked for the charity since 2014. Abigail Jaggers spoke to her about what a copyright manager does, how she chooses what audiobooks to buy for the library, and why there aren’t audiobook versions of every book.
Abbie: Thanks for chatting to me today, Amy! Can you tell us your job title and what you do at Listening Books?
Amy: I’m the Copyright Manager at Listening Books, and that job title might not necessarily give away a lot about what my job is and what it means! I do a lot of different things, but the main part of my job is buying in the books for the library, and setting up and maintaining agreements with publishers, which allow us to buy in the books in the first place.
What does the average working day for a Copyright Manager look like?
Well, there isn’t really an average day! I do a lot of different bits and bobs. Some of the main things I might do would be downloading books that have been sent to us by a publisher, uploading books to the catalogue for our members to borrow, researching new titles for the library and seeing what different things we can get in, and maybe contacting publishers to arrange or renew agreements, which is very important! Updating databases with new books, and sometimes I do bits of marketing like designing leaflets and posters, and I edit each issue of Connect as well, and put our annual review together. So, lots of different bits and pieces!
You said that a big part of your role is buying in the audiobooks we have in the library. Can you tell us a little bit more about how you choose which ones to buy?
A lot of it is based on requests from members. When anyone requests a particular book or author, I’ll always look into it and see if we can get that in. We’re very led by what the members want. I try and buy a mixture of what I know is popular with our members – like crime and general fiction – and also what I know we need more of. I know we need more sci-fi and fantasy! So, I go for books we have a lot of because they’re popular, because the reason we have a lot of them is because people really like them! Then also other books that are a bit different. Also, new books by popular authors who I know our members like or new installments in a series.
So, you buy in books that members request…what has been your favourite request so far?
There’s a been a few rude ones that I probably can’t repeat!
I like it when we get very specific requests. People have requested books about caravans.
I didn’t even know there were books about caravans!
Yeah, there weren’t any! It was just a general request, I think: Are there any audiobooks about caravans? Turns out there were not! So, sometimes the specific requests are quite interesting to research.
What are your favourite kinds of audiobooks to buy?
Autobiographies and biographies are always interesting! I usually end up reading the blurb and thinking ‘I don’t actually know that much about this person’ so I like finding out more about them and I end up learning something new. Non-fiction books are the same kind of thing. It might be about a particular period of history and then I’ll want to find out a bit more about it. That’s always fun – when it leads you to find out something new just because you’ve seen a book advertised.
Do you listen to the books before you buy them in or do you just listen to a sample?
I do listen to samples, sometimes. I don’t have time to listen to all the books before I buy them! Some of the books I may have read already, and if I like them and think they might be popular with the members that can be one reason why I’d get a book in. But mainly, I listen to a few samples before I buy a book in.
Are there any limits on what you can and can’t buy for the library?
There are in the terms of contracts we have with the publishers. At the moment we don’t have a contract with every single one and that means we won’t be able to buy in their books. So there are legal and contractual limits.
I think I’m right in saying that not all books are actually available on audiobook?
Yeah. That’s another limit, if it doesn’t exist! There aren’t audio versions of every single title, unfortunately. For all the bestsellers and big authors there will be, but if somebody wants something a bit more niche, or if it’s maybe a newer author, then there might not necessarily be an audio version. So then, obviously, I can’t get it in.
Is that why you think publishers don’t make audiobooks – because they’re a new author or a niche topic?
Possibly! I think the main reason why something might not be made into audio would be financial reasons. I think publishers will make an audio version of a book if they think it will sell. And if they think it might not because the author hasn’t got a big enough name yet, or it’s a topic that maybe enough people would buy in print but not necessarily audio, then unfortunately it might not get made. Which isn’t great, because as we know and lots of our members know, that’s the only way that a lot of people can access books. Really, everything needs to be made into audio. If it’s niche it’s not really an excuse, because there will still be people who want to listen to that!
I mean, it’s not so niche that there isn’t a book about it!
Exactly! And if there’s a print book there should be an audiobook.
One of the things that we do at Listening Books is record educational titles on audiobook so everyone can have access to them. How do you go about getting the rights for us to record an audiobook?
Well, legally we don’t actually have to ask permission to record a book in audio if there hasn’t already been an audio version. If it’s just in print, and we’re recording it to have in our library for our members, we don’t have to ask permission. I think the law says we can just record it and then offer a copy to the print publisher. But we do ask for permission, because we think that’s nice! So, I will send off an email to the publisher and ask if it’s okay for us to make our own version and most people usually say yes.
Only answer if you can, but have you ever had anyone say no to us recording an audiobook?
Only if they have their own version in the pipeline and they haven’t done it yet, which is fair enough. As part of the copyright law we can make our own version if there isn’t an audio version already. If there is going to be, then we can’t do it.
How do you keep up-to-date with what’s available and popular in publishing and audiobooks?
The usual ways! Reading articles, looking at social media – I follow quite a lot of authors, so I can see if they’ve got new books in the pipeline and I’ll look into whether we can get it. Book charts, catalogues I get sent by publishers – you! You tell me when you see things that you think might be good!
Yes, I am quite terrible for emailing you and saying ‘I think we should get this in because I just listened to it and it was great!’
That’s not terrible, it’s very helpful, because obviously I’m not going to have heard of everything! It’s always good to get recommendations. And of course, members telling me what they want as well if that’s new books. Just keeping an eye open – articles and social media mainly!
Another thing that you mentioned was that you create the member newsletter, Connect. What does that involve?
We do a lot of author interviews so I select which ones I think would be suitable for that particular issue, normally two or three authors who are quite different to each other. I have to transcribe the interview for the print version as well. And then, just making sure we’ve got enough other interesting bits and pieces in there like competitions, information about other charities which our members might find useful, any updates about Listening Books, and then obviously information about our new titles and book reviews!
We do a review of a book every six months for Connect. What’s your favourite book that you’ve ever reviewed?
I think I did a longer review of the audiobook of ‘Room’. The film was out a couple of years ago, and I remember being so impressed by that audiobook because of the narrator. Quite a lot of the time a good narrator won’t necessarily stand out too much independently from the story. They’ll just tell the story, and you get immersed in that and don’t think too much about the performance. They’re not supposed to get in the way of the story.
This narrator didn’t get in the way at all, but he really stood out for being able to do all the voices really well. He was very subtle in the way that he changed each voice to create their own character. Sometimes you listen to narrators where they do slightly silly things. If it’s a male narrator they talk in a really high-pitched voice for a female character, or a female narrator can do the opposite for a male character. But the narrator for ‘Room’ was doing lots of characters of different ages and genders. Just with very slight differences in his voice he was very good at creating those characters and I remember being really impressed by it.
Thank you very much to Amy for talking to us! You can find out more about Listening Books staff here!
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