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Richard Lennon is the Audio Publisher at Penguin Random House UK. With years of experience working in audio production and publishing at PRH, Richard has been at the forefront of the audiobook industry as it has evolved and grown in popularity over the last decade. He heads four teams in the creation, distribution and marketing of PRH’s audiobooks, and he has led many innovative projects on the cutting edge of audio production today.
Can you tell us about your work as the Audio Publisher for PRH, and why you decided to work in audio?
My job is to head up four teams at Embassy Gardens. Editorial, who set the creative direction for the project and work with the author to cast it; the in-house Production team, who produce, direct and engineer audiobooks, usually in our three studios; the Operations team, who deliver recordings to retailers and partners and our Marketing and PR teams working on campaigns.
How has the audio production industry changed since you first began working in this field?
There are definitely more listeners. And a bigger market generally, so we can produce more and create a broader range of audio content. What people want to listen to is continuing to evolve too. We’ve seen huge growth in non-fiction particularly. And the bar for how creative we can be in defining the listening experience has been set higher. We’ve started to incorporate more music and sound design, and found authors thinking more about the audio version of their book when they start writing. Over the last five years, what used to be a product created once a book had been written has become something authors such as Malcolm Gladwell think about throughout the creative process.
What impact do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the audiobook industry, and do you believe this impact will be long-lasting?
Well, initially it closed all the studios, not least our own, which meant that we rapidly had to find good narrators with home studio facilities or start sending people kit to set themselves up from scratch. There was a positive side effect which was that suddenly there were some great actors who’d stopped working on TV or films who became free. Initially we were uncertain about the potential impact on listening of fewer people commuting, but we haven’t seen a negative effect. We know that there is a hard core of audio listeners who will keep downloading no matter what and also people for whom audio is an integral and preferred part of their daily entertainment intake.
Where do you think the audio production industry might develop from here, and what trends do you see on the horizon for the future of audiobooks?
I think it isn’t so much about technological development as what you do with it. We’re definitely using new technologies like 3D audio more frequently, as with the recently remastered Wimpy Kid children’s series. So rather than imagining great leaps in advances in tech, it feels more like creative authors and producers will feel liberated to try more innovative approaches.
Can you talk a bit about one of your favourite audio projects that you have worked on, and what made it interesting or innovative?
We’ve just released five audio adaptations of classic 2000 AD graphic novels. It’s the most ambitious thing we’ve ever done – 350 characters voiced by forty narrators including Joseph Fiennes, Sheila Atim, Colin Morgan, Richard Armitage and Nina Sosanya, with loads of original music and immersive sound design. It took about forty-odd recording sessions, in four different countries, to tape, and then there are 800 minutes of original sound design and composition underpinning that. It’s an amazing listen – the whole thing is lifted verbatim from the original comics with almost no additional narration or script changes, so they’re completely faithful audiobooks, but the listening experience is really cinematic and immersive.
To learn more about how Richard and his team adapted the 2000 AD graphic novels to audio, watch the video on their production process here.