An accomplished audiobook narrator, Amy Rubinate has always been comfortable in front of the microphone, starting from her early days as a cabaret singer through her years voicing Tad on LeapFrog educational products, or other characters from children’s television shows, toys, and video games. But now she’s taking a leap of her own, launching Ideal Audiobooks, an enterprise that puts her behind the scenes of audiobook production as well as in the studio.
Ideal released its first four titles in June including a YA work, Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone, and the middle grade mystery Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick, both narrated by Rubinate.
Like many audiobook aficionados, Rubinate cemented her enthusiasm for the format during her work commute. While driving to voiceover jobs in the Bay Area, Rubinate “discovered books on CD from the library and they just became a passion,” she said. “Listening made every day fun; rush hour was no longer a problem.”
She continued to drive and listen, and Rubinate’s ear for other quality voices led to some work as a casting director for a toy company. But soon she realized that she wanted to learn the craft of audiobook narration and get in the game. That opportunity came in 2009 when she entered a “Share the Experience” contest for new talent sponsored by audiobook star Scott Brick to celebrate his 10th anniversary of being a narrator. Rubinate placed third, selected from more than 430 entries, and earned an even bigger prize: her first job in the industry, recording a title for Random House.
Though she’s coming up on the narration for her 200th title, Rubinate has never stopped educating herself about all aspects of audiobook publishing. “I was always thinking like a publisher,” she recalled. As for her decision to take that position head-on, she noted, “It was a long time coming, but once I realized what I was going to do, it seemed inevitable. It felt like it was sudden, but it grew out of a desire to have a larger role in audiobooks.”
With her own company, Rubinate can focus on publishing projects that have special meaning for her. “There’s a real need for positive books in the world, titles that add an element of hope and light. I created a list of quality books that have humor and heart.” She’s looking for works that “deal with deep issues and the complexities of human nature, but that also have a redemptive element, a sense of joy.”
At Ideal, based in Los Angeles, Rubinate works with a full-time engineer, several respected producers she’s met over the years, and a small team of advisers. One of those team members is Michele Cobb, a longtime industry executive and current president of the Audio Publishers Association. “The best decision I made was to bring on Michele Cobb of MLC Consulting as my business adviser,” Rubinate said. “Because of her experience in audio publishing and her wide knowledge of the industry, she was invaluable in guiding me through the aspects of publishing that were new to me.”
Plans are to roll out a core catalogue of 25 titles—a mix of quality women’s fiction, romance, literary fiction, young adult, and children’s audiobooks—over the next year, offering a few selections each month. On the horizon are more titles by Frederick, as well as books by L. Allison Heller and Lynne Branard. Narrators on the roster include Julia Whelan, Xe Sands, Shannon McManus, and Hillary Huber. Ideal titles are available as downloads only and can be purchased directly from idealaudiobooks.com, along with all the major distribution websites for retail and libraries, including iTunes, Amazon, B&N.com, and Audible.
Looking ahead, Rubinate has thoughts of expanding, but wants to do so prudently. “I want to keep that boutique feel, with the core 25 hand-picked by me,” she said. “I want to get us established, and we’ll see how it goes from there.”