LYSA WILLIAMS: “It’s an auction!”
Craig Black, the owner of Blackstone Audio, was honored at this year’s Audies. One of the things that struck me in his introduction was how he has always made room for great literature, even if those books might not be great sellers. I love how Lysa talks about this from her point of view.
KW: What is your job title and what are your responsibilities?
LW: I am an Acquisitions Associate for Blackstone Audio, Inc. I meet with agents and publishers to take a look at their upcoming lists to choose the titles that will appear on our list in audio formats. Naturally, I read a lot.
KW: Can you tell us about a typical day?
LW: A typical day involves either starting or continuing in auctions for literary properties, accepting queries on submissions, reading several excerpts a day from various titles, and perusing periodicals and papers for current issues and any associated literature with those issues. I meet with agents outside the office during the week at either their offices or over lunch and usually fall asleep at night reading.
KW: What’s your work zone like?
LW: Since Blackstone’s offices are located in Ashland, Oregon, I work out of my apartment in New York. I receive maybe twelve to twenty galleys a week – not including electronic manuscripts- so my little office is definitely stacked with reading material. It can be difficult to weed through the stacks so they don’t totally encroach on my living space, as several of the titles will be pubbed three or four months in the future. During the time from when I receive the galley to when it pubs there could be a terrific publicity burst which will call attention to a title I might not initially be interested in, so I do like to hang on to quite a few of them until they near the pub date.
KW: Does anyone share your workspace?
LW: My office is similar to Blackstone’s offices in that there are dogs and cats lollygagging on the floor and furniture, other than that, I work alone.
KW: Hmmm. I have similar office mates. How did you end up working in the audiobook industry?
LW: My sister works in Acquisitions as well. She brought me into the company for a different position and I migrated over to her neck of the woods.
KW: What is your dream job?
LW: I have to say, my job pretty much is a dream job though I would like to do a little humanitarian work – which is partly fulfilled by getting books on issues that are so important to the world such as Mighty Be Our Powers by Leymah Gbowee and It Get’s Better by Dan Savage. Other than that, playing the banjo at The Grand Ole Opry would be pretty sweet.
KW: Do you have a nightmare job?
LW: Anything that deals with bureaucracy in a Kafkaesque manner drives me insane.
KW: What was your major in college?
KW: What do you love most about the work you do?
LW: Getting books for free!! Finding an author that you really believe in and giving him an audio leg up even though you know this one might not sell how you’d like it to! Winning a fantastic book in an auction that you really battled for! Getting to lunch with some really great people over the period of several years, seeing them get married and have babies or comparing notes on our own grown children. I really love my agents.
KW: What’s your pet peeve?
LW: Putting in an initial offer with an agent I haven’t worked with before and having them come back to me and tell me someone out bid me so they let it go. You’re supposed to come back to me! You’re supposed to come back to me!!!! It’s an auction!
KW: What’s your favorite day of the week?
LW: Friday, of course, what’s yours?
KW: Actually, I’m rather fond of Wednesday. Do you listen to audiobooks while you’re working?
LW: I don’t because I am often reading or making decisions on manuscripts, but the best time for me to listen to audio books is on a cold winter’s evening while I knit, or at the gym on the treadmill. Really makes that treadmill disappear when I’m in the middle of a great story. Which it would do the same for the pounds.
KW: Do you have any favorite audiobooks?
LW: Well Shantaram is pretty darn awesome, I think everybody in the company listened to that one. I love our Trollope’s and the Bond series and of course Grover’s fantastic Inspector Montalbano in the Camilleri series. Gerard Doyle doing the Adrian McKinty series also swept the company from the mail room to accounting, Grace Conlin reading the Anne of Green Gables, there’s just so many great, great performances, but if I had to choose…Bonfire of the Vanities read by Joe Barrett. An outrageously fantastic performance. I was on the subway listening to scene where the mayor is getting heckled and I laughed hysterically.
KW: Favorite narrator?
LW: Sorry I’m going to just say it, everybody knows I’m in love with Ralph Cosham. One of the first books I listened to was Fair Stands the Wind for France because it was one of Craig [Black]’s favorite stories, Ralph was reading it and he won my heart.