April 19, 2018

Q&A: Kevin Colebank, CEO, Tantor Media

Kevin Colebank (CEO), his wife, Laura (consulting partner), and his brother Allen (publisher) are the owners of Tantor Media, an audio company founded in 2000. The publisher’s original vision was to deal strictly with audio downloads, but downloads were not in a developing stage at the time, so they were forced to change their business plan—for the time being.

What’s the origin of your company’s name?

Tantor is the elephant in the first audiobook that we produced, Tarzan of the Apes. He was chosen to represent us, as we like to think of our titles as unforgettable—elephants never forget—and of course for their great listening ability (those big ears aren’t just for decoration).

What process do you use to select your books?

We developed software strictly for the audiobook industry that allowed us to record and edit efficiently to create high-quality digital masters. This, coupled with our high-capacity production on-demand model, has enabled us to take a title from concept to the bookstore rapidly—so rapidly that it has helped us to secure rights for some very hot titles that would have otherwise missed their peak sales period. Properly matching award-winning narrators with great titles is the final piece in building a great audiobook. Our popular narrators have enabled us to win numerous awards, including Library Journal‘s Best Audio Picks of 2007, Publishers Weekly‘s Listen Up Awards, Audio Publishers Association Audie awards, and AudioFile® Magazine’s Earphones awards.

You have an impressive list of popular titles. How do you achieve this feat?

We attribute our impressive list of titles to our great relationships with all of the top hardcover publishers. Of course, there is a lot of research and reading to be done, but in the end it is those relationships that allow us to find the best titles and bring them to the audiobook market. While we do represent all genres well, we are most known for our solid nonfiction titles, particularly those like Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin’s Three Cups of Tea and Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time.

How many audiobooks do you produce per year, and what are your projections for 2008?

We currently have over 600 titles, each in three formats (trade, library, and MP3-CD packages), and we plan to produce an additional 370 titles in 2008. An exciting new product that we [introduced] in February is an ebook in PDF format that will be included with each of our new classics. The PDF will allow the listener to search the text quickly for research, use the text for reference, or read along with the audio. The popular PDF format is suitable for computers as well as the new ebook readers. Our initiative for 2008 is to introduce ourselves to libraries that are not aware of us or our titles. We began expanding our library sales staff at the end of 2007, and we plan to continue this expansion through the end of the year.