The Digital Squeeze

The Digital Squeeze Episode 4: Jennifer Rubins

Dec 05, 2019

Jennifer Rubins, the Marketing Director for Books On Tape, shares some marketing tips to increase the use of audiobooks in libraries.

Julie Twomey: Hi. This is Julie Twomey and we're excited to bring another episode of the Digital Squeeze. This episode represents our last interview from attending the American Library Association in Washington.

Julie Twomey: In this program, we chat with Jennifer Rubins, who is the marketing director for Books On Tape. My company, EBSCO, partners with Books On Tape and we provide mobile audio book solutions for audio books for libraries and school marketplaces. So stay tuned to hear Jennifer share some marketing tips to increase the use of audio books in libraries.

Julie Twomey: And I'm here with Jen Rubins.

Jennifer Rubins: Hi.

Julie Twomey: And she is the associate director of creative marketing for Books On Tape. Thank you for joining me.

Jennifer Rubins: Thanks for having me! This is fun!

Julie Twomey: Oh, you're welcome. It's great to be here. Yeah. Are you enjoying ALA?

Jennifer Rubins: Yes, I always enjoy ALA. It's one of the highlights of my years quite often.

Julie Twomey: So let's get into some of your background. I know you do a lot with audio books. It's one of the fastest growing segments right now in publishing, which is amazing.

Jennifer Rubins: Yeah.

Julie Twomey: So, why do you think that is the case? Why are audio books resonating with audiences?

Jennifer Rubins: So, it's so funny. I always say I've been an audio book listener my entire life. I mean, not to age myself, but when I was a kid, I had a cassette deck, and I listened to audio books all the time. When I was in college, I was studying theater and I would check out audio books with Shakespearian plays on them. So to me, it always, and as someone who always wanted to be an actor and a storyteller, it was a format that always made sense to me.

So when I looked to get into publishing, it was, to me, the perfect fit. And I've been in this role in this department for almost nine years now.

Julie Twomey: Wow.

Jennifer Rubins: And what's so amazing is seeing so many more people come to the party now. And I'm like, "It's always been a party in my opinion." And I think a lot of people felt that way. But I do think, I mean obviously, the shift in technology, and people realizing how much spoken word is really something that can appeal to everybody. I think that for a while people thought perhaps, "Oh, I'm not an audio book listener. I love books," or, "I love reading," or, "I love radio." But I think that that connection's becoming more seamless when people are like, "Oh, why not try it?" I mean I think that intimidation factor, or the fact that people think it's for only a certain type of person or reader, is going away. And whatever stigma there was, or whatever intimidation or whatever technology barrier, is going way more and more, and just opening more people up to it with -

Julie Twomey: Yeah, and I think for me, when I read your biography, you wait for the ding, and then you turn the page. I totally remember those when I was a kid.

Jennifer Rubins: It's nostalgia, that audio. Yes.

Julie Twomey: They are, they are. And I think, naturally, storytelling should be vocal, right?

Jennifer Rubins: Right.

Julie Twomey: That's how we shared back in the day so...

Jennifer Rubins: I know. And I love when you talk about audio books, I think once people open themselves up to it, it's so easy for people to fall in love with it, because if you love books and stories, you can love audiobooks. You just have to find the right one, or just try it. So it's really fun to talk about with people.

Julie Twomey: Good. I'm glad. I think that's great. I love audio books.

Jennifer Rubins: Oh good.

Julie Twomey: And so being in marketing, and you have acting background, you have all this experience, how do you get new listeners? How do you attract new people to audio books? Like you said, some people are like, "No. I'm not an audio book person." What are some things that you do to move them along?

Jennifer Rubins: It depends who your audience is, first of all. I think I've spent a lot of time working with teachers and librarians. And that's really fun for me, because I think because I started young listening to audio books, it's such a passion for me. And I recognize what it can do for both reluctant readers, and I also think voracious, even gifted readers, because they can't get enough books. And audio books just gives you more reading time.

Julie Twomey: It's so true, because you can multitask. That's what I love about it.

Jennifer Rubins: Yes. And then I think, well, you segued perfectly into, I think, when it comes to talking to adults or more consumers about audio books, and you're taking away perhaps the need for an educational literacy factor, that then there's just the practicality. I mean, so many people are like, "Oh my gosh. I clean my bathroom while I listen to audio books.".

Julie Twomey: I agree.

Jennifer Rubins: I do jigsaw puzzles. You can do so many relaxing things and necessary things, you know.

Julie Twomey: Like commuting. That was huge for me. I had an hour commute, and audio books just really made that time go by. So Like you said, there's so many benefits to it.

Jennifer Rubins: Yeah, and we did a whole thing on crafting with audio books, cooking with audio books.

Julie Twomey: Oh, fun.

Jennifer Rubins: And It's so much fun when we come up with a new thought, and then somebody will undoubtedly be like, "Oh, I've done that for years.". And It's like you find your people, and people get so excited when they have that spark of an idea.

Julie Twomey: I agree. And I think narration is a big part of it, right? So for me it's like, when I listen, if I don't like the narrator, that has an impact.

Julie Twomey: But if I do, it's amazing. One of my favorites, and I'm sure you'll hear this a lot on the podcast, I love Scott Brick. He's one of my favorites.

Jennifer Rubins: I could guess you might say...

Julie Twomey: He is phenomenal.

Jennifer Rubins: He is, he really...

Julie Twomey: And he just draws you in. And there's so many people like that. And so, yeah, I think...

Jennifer Rubins: And what's cool about that too is, I think that beyond when you're looking at books and you want to read a book by the same author, I think you can find more things to listen to because you're willing to try it because of the narrator.

Julie Twomey: Totally.

Jennifer Rubins: And so you might open yourself up to a new author that you never would have found because of the narrator.

Julie Twomey: I totally agree. And on that same note, because I liked him so much, I clicked on him, and I started ... And I'm not a sci-fi buff, but he likes sci-fi, so he does a lot of that content. So I listened to some sci-fi.

Jennifer Rubins: That's awesome. That's so great to hear.

Julie Twomey: I know. It really opens up, I think, a lot of opportunities, which is very, very cool. And so, you talked a little bit about literacy, which I think is super important when it comes to young listeners. Have you seen audio books being used in the classroom at all?

Jennifer Rubins: I hope so. I've seen it in different ways over the years. And I think for a lot of people it does become that question of, well, how do I give access to my students? How do I share them? Of course, encouraging them to use the local library or the school library if they're lucky, and hopefully have that available to them. But we've seen listening stations in classrooms, which is amazing. And I think, depending on technology, obviously, sometimes that can be a barrier. But I've seen very creative ways that teachers incorporate that into their classrooms.

Julie Twomey: I love the listening station. I think that's a great idea.

Jennifer Rubins: Yeah. Or even just playing a clip and making it a discussion. So even if a kid doesn't listen to the entire audio book, but just opening their world, and making them listen to a portion of it in a group setting, I think, can spark a whole dialogue amongst a group of students. And takes away that intimidation factor of everyone has different levels at which they understand the material and I think it can be a real equalizer.

Julie Twomey: I agree.

Jennifer Rubins: And also opens up, I mean, if there are certain dialects or accents in the book or words that somebody might not have known to pronounce. And what's so funny is that even adults have a struggle with that and you don't even realize they're words that you didn't know how to say until you hear the audio book. And there's no shame in that. But it's so fascinating to be like, Oh, I never know, that's how you say that.

Julie Twomey: I totally agree. And I have had that happen, where I was like, I've been saying that wrong my entire life.

Jennifer Rubins: And that's so incredible. So you're smarter for listening to audio books.

Julie Twomey: Love it. I think that's great.

Jennifer Rubins: And also, I should add that kids can listen above their reading level. So that can be great for, I think...

Julie Twomey: Oh my God, that's a great point.

Jennifer Rubins: ...both struggling readers, where it's so important, and even gifted readers, where they just want more and they want to read above their reading level and it really can open that up to them even more than they already were.

Julie Twomey: I think that's a great point. Yeah. And those are some of the benefits that I think really bring it home for kids. I struggled with reading, I had some attention issues. So that's why I did the cassettes.

Jennifer Rubins: Yeah! And that helped you focus?

Julie Twomey: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Jennifer Rubins: That's so amazing.

Julie Twomey: So I think that's really great and very important. So I want to switch a little bit and talk about some marketing. Obviously librarians aren't natural marketers.

Jennifer Rubins: That's not always true.

Julie Twomey: Not always true, but I mean I think it's not their main role, so it might not come naturally to some of them.

Jennifer Rubins: They have to wear so many hats quite often.

Julie Twomey: Absolutely, Absolutely. Social media is an evolving animal, right? Do you feel social media is an important part of a library's marketing approach and strategy?

Jennifer Rubins: I mean, if they have the man power to...

Julie Twomey: To be able to facilitate it?

Jennifer Rubins: Yeah, it is a lot of work and I recognize that. But what's really fun about sharing audio is that I think it gives people such an immediate taste of a book. Whether or not they plan to listen to the full book or read it, or if they're on the holds list or if they're like, "Oh, I hear this person has a new book that's out". Being able to share a clip, which social media enablelizes in such a powerful and pretty easy way.

Julie Twomey: Yeah. In minutes, and really less.

Jennifer Rubins: And people can just click right on it and get an immediate taste of a book. And I think that being able to listen to that clip is so powerful. Like I said, no matter how you plan to consume the entire book, anyone hopefully has the attention span to at least listen to a few minutes and be like, "Oh". And then they can get the tone and the feel for what that book's about. And I think that can be a great readers' advisory tool and also helps librarians. It's so hard to be able to feel you can confidently recommend all the time, I mean their TBR lists are so long that being able to just listen to a few minutes of multiple books in a short amount of time I think could be really helpful to everybody but...

Julie Twomey: Yeah. That's great. And that's something easy that they can do.

Jennifer Rubins: Yeah, on our website we make clips available for all of our audio books. So they're embeddable, they're downloadable. It's very easy, which is...

Julie Twomey: That's great. And I'm in marketing and I work with EBSCO, so we also do audio clips on our social media pages and we get a lot of good engagement on those. So, they definitely prove to be popular and effective. So I think that's good. So I'm going to switch a little bit. I know you've done some audio book narration, which I think is very cool.

Jennifer Rubins: Thanks.

Julie Twomey: It's really a growing profession, it feels like. I'm starting to see classes about it. Yeah, which is...

Jennifer Rubins: Oh yes. And we've been around for a while now, but growing in popularity, for sure.

Julie Twomey: Oh yeah. I'm just seeing it more. It's just become more of a career path, which I think is interesting. Because acting, obviously not everybody can be on TV and there's limited roles so I think this opens up a whole...

Jennifer Rubins: It really does. It's really incredible to have the opportunity to speak to so many actors. I mean, I studied acting and I was a theater actor and that's always been part of my identity. I get that connection to all these narrators. And I love talking to them about it. And some of them have told me that narrating audio books is their favorite job because they get to play parts that they never would have been cast for otherwise.

I mean, it's so freeing to have that creative, imaginative opportunity. It is to say that you can take on all these different characters and roles that you would never get to play. So I think once certain actors fall into this, they really fall in love with it. And it's obviously not for anybody. It takes so much discipline to sit in a room and not make any noises that you're not supposed to make and to have the patience and the dedication to get through a book. But the people who do it well are so dedicated and it's really fun to talk to them about their passion for it and their acting approach. I really love that part.

Julie Twomey: I think it's great. Yeah. And I've even considered it myself because I've done some act... Just very lightly, I did some training videos, they were silly. But it was fun.

Jennifer Rubins: Yeah, absolutely.

Julie Twomey: Yeah, it's good. So obviously, your acting experience helped you with you're narration, right?

Jennifer Rubins: Yeah. Oh totally.

Julie Twomey: Yeah. Yeah. I think that's great. Now did you have to do any accents or anything like that? That's what I'm always curious about when I listen, how challenging that could be.

Jennifer Rubins: It depends. I mean, it's funny because, personally I had a very funny experience where I auditioned to read a part in an audio book and got the role. And then it wasn't until I got into the studio that they were like, "Oh, we actually want to have this kind of dialect". And I was like, "Oh wow!". But what's amazing is if you have a good director and you have... I mean we're so careful with our audio books to make sure they're done correctly and so everything is so rehearsed and planned and so I think that it depends. There are so many narrators that specialize in, and know exactly what they're capable of and what's in their back pocket as...

Julie Twomey: Yeah, I'm always impressed when I'm here. Some people that...

Jennifer Rubins: There are some people who are incredible. And I think what's so amazing now, like you say, it's such a growing field, is that there's such a need for more voices in the field, more diverse voices. We want to make sure that when we're casting books that you're getting the right voice. That's really going to do exactly what the author intended and be true to the background of that book and the true voice. And so having more people in the field only means that the stories are really finding that right reader and making it better for everyone.

Julie Twomey: No, that's a good point. Because obviously the author, they must play a role in choosing the narrator, right?

Jennifer Rubins: I mean it depends on whose producing it. Penguin Random House Audio and Books on Tape, we always have a close relationship with the author.

Julie Twomey: Okay. Yeah, I figured that would be the case, but yeah, that's interesting. So do you have plans to narrate any other audio books? I know you've only done one and it's the last letter.

Jennifer Rubins: I did a chapter within that, which was...

Julie Twomey: It was multiple narrators.

Jennifer Rubins: Yes.

Julie Twomey: Okay.

Jennifer Rubins: So there were two main readers and then a couple of guest voices. I've done little bits and characters here and there. So it's always a joy when I get a chance to step into the studio. It's really fun. Yeah.

Julie Twomey: Super fun. I love it.

Julie Twomey: And who are some of your favorite audio book narrators?

Jennifer Rubins: Oh my gosh.

Julie Twomey: I know I'm putting you on the spot.

Jennifer Rubins: That's hard to say. You are, you are! Oh my gosh. I love, I mean, January LaVoy is a really special narrator and just can do, I mean people have compared her to like Jim Dale with the kind of voices that she's done for the Diviners series by Libba Bray. But she can do anything and she's someone that I've had the joy of actually sitting in a studio and getting to watch what she does too...

Julie Twomey: Oh wow, so you got to see her actually...Yeah.

Jennifer Rubins: ...which is a rare experience. And it's just, it's really something else. But then you hear it, and I mean she's just wonderful. So she's one of my favorites and Jayne Entwistle is hilarious and also can do all these different voices.

Julie Twomey: Love it!

Jennifer Rubins: But I could go on, and on, and on. Because there are just so many incredible narrators out there.

Julie Twomey: No, those are good, I will definitely be checking them out, that's awesome! And you have such a diverse and creative background including writing, acting, audio book narrating and marketing. Can you describe your current role with Books On Tape?

Jennifer Rubins: Sure. So, like I said, I've been for, Oh my gosh, almost nine years. Which is, I feel very lucky to be part of such an incredible department and team. It's really an amazing group of people to work with. But I love working with librarian, so one of my favorite parts of my role is doing what I'm doing this weekend, which is talking to librarians. I also work on the newsletters that go out to libraries.

Julie Twomey: Oh okay. I get those!

Jennifer Rubins: Thank you for saying that! We didn't even plan that.

Julie Twomey: We didn't. I promise!

Jennifer Rubins: And we have a website and a blog. And so that involves both thinking about, okay, "What out there would be helpful to librarians?, What kind of collections can we help build on our website? What kind of resources do they need?". And also, "Oh, can we interview a narrator or an author and put that content on our website, make it available to them?". And that kind of stuff.

Julie Twomey: And where is the website? Where could people go to [crosstalk 00:15:40]?

Jennifer Rubins: Oh! Thank you for asking, Books On Tape.com.

Julie Twomey: Perfect. Yeah, there are a lot of resources there. I went and checked myself and I thought it was great.

Jennifer Rubins: Thank you.

Julie Twomey: Very well done though. Well, that concludes our interview.

Jennifer Rubins: So lovely talking to you!

Julie Twomey: Thank you for your time.

Julie Twomey: You can learn more about Books On Tape by going to Books On Tape.com. If your library's interested in offering audio books produced by Books On Tape, you can contact an EBSCO representative at EBSCO.com. Thank you for listening to the Digital Squeeze.

Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors.