Friday, June 24, 2016

WHAT MAKES A GOOD AUDIO BOOK by Brenda Whiteside

Do you listen to audio books? I've never tried one. I think they're a marvelous idea, and had they been popular when I had a job that required me to be in my car three to five hours a day, I'm sure I'd have taken advantage.

I saw some stats last week from The Association of American Publishers comparing 2014 to 2015. EBook sales dropped 10%. Print book sales increased 16%. And audio books surged 40%. I want to be part of that!

I emailed the marketing department of my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, and asked if they're pursuing audio versions...they do if you ask. So I asked. We've submitted the first book in my Love and Murder Series, The Art of Love and Murder. If chosen, we audition readers. I had a taker the first day. I was excited and downloaded a program so I could listen. Then I was
disappointed. Marketing kind of liked the guy, thought he sounded very suspenseful. He did have a nice voice and, yes, suspenseful. BUT his cadence never changed, and so slow I fear the listener would go to sleep at the wheel. I also couldn't tell when he went from narration to dialogue...and I wrote it! As much as I want an audio book, I had to pass on him. Sure hope I get some more takers.

So, what is your experience listening to audio? What makes an audio book good for you? I need some direction so when I get the next audition, I can judge it rightly.



Visit Brenda at www.brendawhiteside.com.
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She blogs on the 9th and 24th of every month at http://rosesofprose.blogspot.com
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15 comments:

Jannine Gallant said...

I've never listened to an audio book. My work commute is 10 minutes. During road construction season, it's significantly longer even at 5am! (Rolling my eyes here.) Does anyone who doesn't commute listen to books? I'm curious.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Thanks for chiming in, Jannine. I want to hear too.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Great idea! I've never listened to one but know people who do. They love them.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Thanks, Margo. Now we just need to figure out what makes a good one!

J L said...

I've listened to a TON of audio books. I used to live in MN and my mother lived in Iowa, and I made about 300 trips over the years to visit her. Needless to say: audio books.

I listened to the entire Wheel of Time series (14 books) that way. Unabridged. 20-24 hours each. All of Outlander and 3 of the follow-on books. Probably 30 hours each or more. Almost every Michael Connelly mystery. Seven or eight hours per book. 10 or 12 books.

The best ones were the James Lee Burke mysteries. Will Patton did the audio and his Southern accent was perfect for the main character. I could almost feel the sweat and smell the bayou.

I also used to listen to audio books when I did a lot of needlepoint and crochet. I 'read' the entire Amanda Peabody series that way.

I 'read' all of Connie Brockway this way. Her narrators had a great Scottish accent that was spot-on. That's important -- the character should sound like the person in the book.

Also, a good narrator varies the tempo (as Brenda noted when it was lacking). The narrator shouldn't shout or yell or whisper, but there must be pauses and cadence.

One of the best ones I ever heard was by Roger Zelazny who read his own book, "A Night in the Lonesome October." I got it from the library and I loved it so much I bought it. And when the tapes started going fuzzy, I had it transferred to CD. I still listen to that book now and then, as much for the prose as anything. "I'm a guard dog. It's what I do." The author/narrator has a wry, almost self-deprecating tone that is perfect for the subject matter (a Halloween night when all the world's villains gather. You, the reader, must use hints from a dog to figure out who's who. Great fun to figure out which is Frankenstein, which is Dracula, etc.)

I don't have as much opportunity any more to listen to them, but I have to say that if I didn't have them, I would have missed out on a lot of great authors.

Andrea Downing said...

I own one audio book and have never listened to it. Even when my daughter and I did our 7 week road trip and I thought, take along that audio book!, nope--it was more interesting to listen to some music and talk about what we were seeing. There's something that's just off-putting about someone else reading a book to you (as an adult anyway) and putting his/her voice and interpretation on it. Still, it is a booming market so an author it's something I'd consider.

Brenda Whiteside said...

It is a booming market, Andrea, so keep your fingers crossed mine goes that way.

Thanks for the input, JL. I've been afraid I won't get anyone else who wants to pick it up. Although I have POV from both the heroine and hero and the villain who is male, I'm not sure it should come from a man. This guy would be okay for the villain only...elderly, well-spoken, but eerie. And he chose to read a scene where the villain plays a major part but in heroine's POV. Still, his lack of variation in tone is what put me off. I THINK I could read my own book quite well but not sure if the company TWRP uses would go for it.

Diane Burton said...

I used to have a 40-minute commute. I listened to books on CD from the library. As JL said, I found new authors whose books I bought. No commute anymore so no audio books. I am looking into it, though. I'd heard that they are surging. My DIL has a long commute and listens to them too.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Would appear driving is the best time for audio books, Diane.

Vonnie Davis said...

TWRP did my "Tumbleweed Letters" in audio. I listened to the first couple minutes of it and was so embarrassed by the woman they'd chosen (I'd been given no choice) that I couldn't stand listening to the whole thing. My Gawd, it was awful!!! I've sold one audio copy in three years. So, for me it wasn't a big deal. Calvin's "The Phantom Lady of Paris" was made into audio. An actor did it. His read was very nice. Calvin's sold 4 audio copies. To be honest, we've put very little promo into them. My promo time has to go elsewhere.

Brenda Whiteside said...

TWRP now lets us choose. They send "auditions" to me and I can accept or not. I chose not to accept the first one. Waiting for another. So glad I get a say in this.

Leah St. James said...

I've never listened to an audio book. When I have a drive long enough to get into something "meaty," I listen to music because it's my only chance. If I play music while I'm writing, it's too distracting. I'll start singing along or "dancing" in my chair. My sister loves audio books though and has spent hours in the car "reading" books. As an indie author, I've recorded my own. (I'm lucky that my son has a degree in music and has the know-how, the software and equipment.) I felt no one could really know what tone or pace to use but myself. (Plus I didn't have the money to pay a reader.) But it's long, tedious work for both the reader and the technician who has to clean up all the reader's stumbles and odd noises after the fact. I'm not sure how many we've sold...not a lot. I'm not sure it's worth the effort.

Brenda Whiteside said...

I thought about asking TWRP if I could read my own but my guess is they'd say no. I'm sure they have a contract with the audio company. I think I could do a good job because like you said, I KNOW what I meant.

Alicia Dean said...

Wow, Brenda. This is a timely and interesting post for me, for a couple of reasons. For one, I listen to audio books a LOT. I don't have a long commute back and forth to work, but even the 15 or 20 minutes gives me an opportunity to hear a bit of the story. I love audio books. Honestly, unless it's Elvis, I don't really enjoy listening to music much anymore. When I go 'south side' on the weekends to see my Mom, I have about a 30 minute drive each way, and if I go in the evening, like I am shortly, I have an even longer drive because of traffic. A good audio book lessens my rush hour road rage, LOL. You are right about the cadence and having the right 'voice' for your story. I wouldn't dare try to do an audio book. My recorded voice sounds like a man. :) Besides, the idea is sooo daunting. I can't imagine how much work and how difficult it must be.

Secondly, I am currently having my book, Without Mercy, produced through ACX. I received an offer from a girl and I LOVE her. She's doing a great job. We will split royalties 50/50, so I didn't have to pay anything up front. I'm able to provide feedback as we go along.

Best of luck on finding someone you like for your audio books!

Brenda Whiteside said...

That's fantastic, Alicia. I think ACX is who TWRP uses. So you're doing this directly with them? I sure hope I get another audition. I've had nothing since the guy I turned down.