JANET BENSON: inspired by the customer

I met Janet when she was president of the Audiobook Publisher’s Association (APA) and saw her speak at my very first APA Conference.  I was very impressed with her passion for the industry then, as I am now.
KW:  What is your job title and what are your responsibilities?

JB:  Vice President at Audio Editions, an audiobook retailer (via catalog and online at I was also an audiobook publisher, until we sold that side of our business 5 years ago.
KW: Tell us about a typical day:
JB:  I sell audiobooks, so most of my day is spent deciding which audiobooks to feature where – catalogs, online and in email.
KW:  Can you describe your work zone for us?
JB:  It’s a small-ish office over a large warehouse in small-town northern California (think foothills-of-mountains, not a beach setting).
KW:  Who works near you and what do they do?
JB:  Lots of great people who’ve been with our company for years. We specialize in real-person-on-the-phone customer service.
KW:  How did you end up working in the audiobook industry?:  In 1990 I moved to this town and found a local publisher (to my astonishment)… and learned about audiobooks.
KW:  What is your dream job?
JB:   It WAS to be a Shakespeare-only actress. Long ago. Now… what I do feels pretty dreamy!
KW:  What was your major in college?
JB:  A combination Theater/English Lit degree called “Perfomance Studies” at my alma mater, Northwestern (I’m a midwesterner).
KW:  What do you love most about the work you do?
JB:  We work with books – what could be better for a reader?
KW:  Do you have a pet peeve?
JB:  People who complain without trying to understand the other side’s point of view.
KW:  Do you have a favorite audiobook/genre and/or author?

  1. audiobook: different favorites every year… loved Graveyard Book, The Help, and most recently a funny one, I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella (read by Jayne Entwistle).
  2. genre:  mostly fiction
  3. author:  Louise Penny

KW:  Do you have any stories to share:
JB:  Here’s the story I tell would-be narrators, to demonstrate how little anyone can know about their ability to master audiobook narration. We recorded a title written by a college professor who was sure he could read his own book because he talked all day for a living. After an hour in the booth, having to start over every minute for a mis-speak or breath control or a cough, he realized how tough it was. We finished the project, but it wasn’t the funnest two days!
KW:  What inspires you?
JB:  Our customers inspire us every day. Their enthusiasm for audiobooks is unflagging. Also the privilege of being APA President for 2 years… the moment of standing at the Audies podium, welcoming everyone to an exciting evening… that’s inspiration, too. We work in a great industry filled with fascinating people.

KW:  What you think audiobooks will be like in 10 years?
JB: The biggest change (and challenge) to come is how to combine e-book+audiobook into one item that has a price point that’s acceptable to consumers and sustainable for the author+narrator+publisher. Wish I had a crystal ball.

One thought on “JANET BENSON: inspired by the customer”

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    This was great! I’m sure reading a book is not easy at all!

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