Tag Archives: audio book

Writing for Audiobook

Do you love audio books?  Maybe you like to devour the latest epic fantasy novel while you’re on an equally epic road trip, or let a new thriller by your favourite writer entertain you during a boring but necessary house clean. Maybe you have a child who adores the Harry Potter books but is not quite up to reading the last two on his or her own – how excellent to have Stephen Fry do that job instead. I’m of a generation that used to enjoy radio serials – in New Zealand we had one called Portia Faces Life (Portia was a lawyer whose personal and professional lives were both complex.) Another was Doctor Paul: A Story of Adult Love, which I suspect couldn’t have been so very adult, or my parents would not have allowed me to listen to it on days when I was home from school sick.  I also remember the evening book readings on radio, in particular Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, and a night plagued by fearful dreams after listening to The Speckled Band.

Fast forward to the present day. Technological advances have transformed our world, both for good and bad. The publishing business is no exception. I’ve been a published writer for twenty years, and I’ve been fortunate enough to see almost all my novels published not only in print and ebook formats, but also as audio books. Up until this year, the books have come out first in print and ebook, and have later been produced as audio books, often with a different publisher. The audio books have proved popular with readers, sometimes outliving the print editions. Maybe that shouldn’t surprise me in this time-poor society! Audio books allow multi-tasking in a way print books and ebooks don’t. This year I’ve been writing a novel specifically intended for audio book production. This was something new for me, and I’ve learned a few things along the way.

As a reader, I value the effective and original use of voice – my favourite writers of fiction all use voice cleverly to help convey the mood and meaning of their story, to give it a unique shape and character. I try to do the same in my own writing, and increasingly I develop structures around voice. This particular story is an expansion of a novella already written and published. The story, Beautiful, is based on the fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and my version is written in first person from a single point of view. My narrator is not the heroic young woman who is the protagonist of the original tale. My character is not human. The story I created for her has its roots in the fairy tale, but moves far beyond it. Because I had worked hard to develop this character’s striking and unusual voice, I believed the story was particularly suited to audio book production. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way.

I generally read my work aloud to check that rhythm and flow are OK, and I knew that would be especially important this time around. Reading aloud helps you to hear what is clunky, what is repetitive, what is long-winded, and also what soars, what soothes, what makes a strong and powerful statement. It highlights bad pacing and stylistic errors such as oft-repeated words, sequential sentences with the same structure, lack of variety in sentence length and so on. I was happy with my manuscript as submitted, but as I hadn’t done a straight-to-audio book project before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The editorial notes I got back were overall positive, but it was clear I still had a few things to learn about writing for audio book.

I had not considered how my word count would equate to the time taken to narrate. My editor pointed out that a certain section of the book, in which not much action occurred, added around 7,000 words, and that this would take 45 minutes of audio. I was shocked! His request that I tighten up that part of the story seemed entirely reasonable, and I did so. In retrospect, I think I was lucky that they accepted a ms that was (drops voice to a whisper) nearly 20,000 words longer than the contracted word count.

Some things simply don’t work in an audio book. My character can read and write, but in a very limited way. At one point in the book she’s writing place names on a map, in company with another character who can draw but not write. In the text, the place names are spelled correctly when our narrator is saying them aloud: Queen’s Castle, Troll Cliffs, and so on. But as she writes them on the map she spells them as a small child might do: Kweens Kasl, for instance. In an audio book the misspellings would sound exactly the same as the correct names, and would therefore be nothing but a stumbling block for the person narrating, and meaningless to the listener. I changed them back on request.

I’ve realised while working on this project how much I care about the way my stories sound, whether read aloud, or as imagined in the mind of the reader. I’m sure that comes first from my lifelong love of traditional storytelling which has a rhythm and flow all its own. And it comes also from being a musician since I was very young – if you love music as well as writing, the patterns of the first make their way into the second. Now I’m waiting with eager anticipation to find out who is chosen to narrate my book.

Some of you may have narrated your own audio books. Some of you may have published your own. I’d love to hear your experiences with audio book writing and publication.  Please share your successes and challenges in the comments section. Or tell us about your favourite audio books and why you love them!

By Juliet Marillier
Source: writerunboxed.com

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Resolving My Cheater Shame: Listening to Books Instead of Reading Them

Today’s guest post is by author Kristen Tsetsi, who is a regular contributor to this site through the 5 On series.


When I told my husband, Ian, several weeks ago that I’d finished reading Andre Dubus III’s Townie, I corrected myself by hastily adding air quotes.

“I mean, finished listening to it,” I said, feeling like a poseur.

“Whatever,” he said. “Same thing.”

“You think?” The hope in my voice was embarrassing. I so wanted them to be the same, wanted to be authentically “well read.” Surely, though, the passive act of being read to by someone who’d decided for every listener where to inflect and what tone to apply to each line of dialogue wasn’t the same as determining those things for myself.

Author Betsy Robinson confirms the value disparity between reading and listening in her Publisher’s Weekly piece, “Look, Read, Listen.” In it, she cites the research of cognitive psychologist Sebastian Wren, who found that reading uses more of the brain than does listening. When listening, Wren claims, we don’t use our occipital cortex to visualize as we do when reading.

Cognitive psychologist Daniel T. Willingham, “Ask the Cognitive Scientist” columnist for American Educator magazine and author of The Reading Mind, among others, notes another difference: “[Reading] requires decoding and [listening] doesn’t.”

“Reading” it would be, then, air quotes and all.

(But only with Ian. No one else had to know I was cheating to build my “read” list.)


I’ve been air-quoting “reading” since my first legitimate introduction to audiobooks this past winter. Before then, the only time I’d heard a book—well, part of a book—was in a hot car during a summer visit to Minnesota in the eighties. It had put thirteen-year-old me to sleep, and so it had also put me off audiobooks. But exactly thirty years later, Ian would get an Audible account to ease the pain of stop-and-go work commute traffic, and not long after that, on a drive to Litchfield, Connecticut to do some Christmas shopping, he’d convince me to listen to J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy.

I warned him that I might fall asleep.

I didn’t. I was captivated, fully immersed in the narrative flooding the car as we slipped into the snowy beauty of a winding country road.

After our Christmas shopping, Ian pulled into the garage, turned off the engine, and still had the rest of Hillbilly Elegy to listen to the next time he got behind the wheel.

I had no Hillbilly Elegy, and I suddenly very much wanted not only Hillbilly Elegy, but other books. I’d had so little time for reading for such a long time that listening to a story unfold had made me realize how desperately I’d been missing the electrifying magic of other people’s words.

Too, audiobooks had worked so well for Ian and his traffic problem that I thought they might kill the monotony of the twice daily dog walks I’d been taking for two years. Music wasn’t cutting it, anymore. As audible scenery went it held all the excitement of the dull evergreen shrubs Lenny and I passed on Hackmatack every afternoon.

I added the Audible app to my phone and chose my first book, watching with Christmas-morning impatience as the files downloaded, downloaded.

The first month of mobile “reading” was dedicated to some books Ian had already bought. Barry Eisler’s John Rain series filled my head for weeks, Eisler’s voice accompanying me as Lenny and I stepped through and over Hackmatack’s sidewalk snow.

Because Eisler reads his own novels (and with such skill that AudioFile Magazine has twice awarded him the Earphones Award), while I may have been denied the freedom of my own interpretations, I was at least hearing the words in the precise way the author intended. It was no different from being at a (very) long author event, really, which even literature professors would agree is an acceptable way to be read to.

When my Eisler stash was gone I considered other fiction, but I chose nonfiction, instead, believing listening to it would be not only educational, and therefore justified, but also every bit as harmless as listening to authors read their own work. After all, how many literary or tonal nuances could possibly grace the biography of Walter Cronkite? Or the history of human evolution, as chronicled in Sapiens?

My first exposure to a novel read by someone other than the author came only after I’d exhausted the list of available, and interesting (to me), nonfiction. In a “why not?” moment of reckless abandon, I downloaded Liane Moriarity’s The Husband’s Secret.

Reader Caroline Lee was utterly fantastic. By the time I finished, I was ready to listen to virtual stacks of novels not read by their authors, and one after another they engrossed and delighted. I was insatiable!

And then came a jarring confrontation with the other power of a voice.

The book’s synopsis promised a suspenseful page turner. I pressed “play” the moment I stepped outside with Lenny. As the woman read, I noticed that my pace slowed. Five minutes in, I was getting distracted by things to kick on the sidewalk—acorns, small rocks, a clump of dirt. Ten minutes in, I yawned, bored almost to the point of feeling anxious by the slow, spiritless voice in my ear buds. I pressed “pause,” switched apps, and listened to music.

There, then, was another critical difference between reading and listening: the wrong voice/tone/energy could murder an otherwise absorbing book.


I was thinking about the unfairness of it all—poor writers, losing readers for reasons other than the writing!—when author Ian Thomas Healy, in the course of my 5 On interview with him, suggested that I have my own novel adapted into an audiobook. He’d had a few of his adapted, he said, and he’d seen an increase in sales as a result.

“Reading” someone else’s work, pressing “pause” and returning a book if I didn’t like the voice or reading style, was one thing, but I certainly didn’t want anyone doing that with my book.

I also shared Betsy Robinson’s sentiments about the desired nature of the writer/reader relationship: “[W]hen I spend four years honing a novel, I’m not imagining some intermediating interpreter conveying it to a reader,” she writes in “Look, Read, Listen.”

When I ultimately decided to go ahead with the audiobook, it was because of the important words Healy had used: “increase in sales.” I swallowed any discomfort—discomfort that can pull like sickness when it’s a fear of your hard work being misrepresented—and began the process.

In the months since, the audiobook has been published and I’ve thought a lot about the artistic conversion from text to voice. While Willingham does say reading requires more decoding from the reader than does listening, he adds, however, that “…most of what you listen to is not that complicated. For most books, for most purposes, listening and reading are more or less the same thing.”

Decoding is more important for those learning to read, he explains. Those who have been reading for some time are generally already fluent at it.

Well, whew! That eliminated some of my own cheater guilt, but as it happens, listening to a novel is valuable even for those who don’t read text well. Educational website Reading Rockets lists among the benefits of listening to audiobooks that listeners gain access to work above their skill level, they’re given a model for interpretive reading, and they’re more likely to explore new genres.

For the seasoned reader of text, audiobooks also help develop critical listening skills, according to Reading Rockets. I can attest to this—it definitely takes concentration and a commitment to pay attention.

I was surprised as an audiobook listener to not miss what Robinson describes as the “full-sensory and gloriously autonomous experience of a direct hit from words on a page,” or even the hours of visualizing my occipital cortex wouldn’t be doing.

Instead, when “reading,” I delighted in the sound of the poetry of words where such poetry existed. There was also an unanticipated side effect: memorable scenes attached themselves to my exterior sensory experience. When Lenny walks and I huff up a steep path where, months ago, I was “reading” Suki Kim’s Without You, There Is No Us, I’m transported to a Pyongang school cafeteria’s obedient students and nervous, secretive teachers. A love-lock fence section of Main Street plops me in the middle of a military school dorm room, where emotionally stunted and lovable cadet “Pig” lectures his paisans about what they’d better not say in the presence of his girlfriend’s picture in Pat Conroy’s Lords of Discipline. I can still hear John Rain/Eisler in my head, still taste a sip of whisky in a Tokyo bar, when I walk down Hackmatack, and an image of the snow covered trees on the narrow road to Litchfield watermarks my memory of Vance’s description of Appalachia.

The writer in me is now grateful for the audio option less for sales potential than for the ability to reach others who “desperately want to read, but no time, no time…” As much as I feared the influence of someone else’s voice, I—like every writer—had to accept that writing will always be interpreted, correctly or incorrectly, by the silent reader, the listening “reader,” the voice reader, or the literature professor who, more often than not, will just tell students how to interpret the work. Admittedly, I’m also comfortable with it because I was paired with Nila Brereton Hagood, an insightful voice reader. She incorporated personal interpretations that got me to laugh or made me mad, and in places I as the writer should have been immune to. She was also eager to collaborate, which meant there were two of us who wanted the story to be told right.

The book lover in me, though, is even more grateful for the audio option. In just eight months I’ve been able to “read” thirty-eight books I otherwise wouldn’t have. I’ll still use air quotes around “reading,” but only for the sake of accuracy. My cheater shame has been edged out by the conviction that writers write in order to have their words experienced, and that readers and “readers” alike just want to experience them. Period.

“Comparing audio books to cheating,” Willingham writes, “is like meeting a friend at Disneyland and saying ‘you took a bus here? I drove myself, you big cheater.’ The point is getting to and enjoying the destination. The point is not how you traveled.”

Source: janefriedman.com

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Google to Sell Audiobooks, Teases 50% Off Your First Purchase in Leaked Banner

Back in November I brought you the news that Google was looking at selling audiobooks in Google Play, and now it appears the launch is imminent.

9to5Google reports that a last night a banner for the new audiobook section of Google Play went live in the Play Store. The banner linked to the audiobook section of the store. That section isn’t live yet as I right this on Saturday, but clearly that is going to change fairly soon.

Google to Sell Audiobooks, Teases 50% Off Your First Purchase in Leaked Banner Audiobook Google Books Google Play

The Play Store does have a few audiobooks in its Music section, but 9to5Google says the implementation has always felt a little sloppy. And in any case, those audiobooks aren’t listed in their own category. That makes them so hard to find that they might as well not exist.

Google Play via 9to5Google

Source: the-digital-reader.com

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The Amazon Experience #FED_ebooks #indieauthor #ebook #author #createspace

First Edition Design Publishing

The Amazon Experience:

Guest post by Jamie Sutliff

I am a published author. My first two books published by a small regional press sold out the print run in six months. There were only two thousand copies which became popular on a local level based on folklore of Northeastern Native Americans. During that time the publisher filed for bankruptcy and closed. With less than $1500 in royalties I could not afford to reprint.

Amazon sold more of my books than Barnes and Noble and both companies were selling and asking for used copies and still are to this day. A friend mentioned that I should try to record the books. I had been a road musician for seventeen years and she convinced me that my voice would work as a professional reader. We already had most of the equipment and all I needed was a sound room. We built a tiny studio set up the microphones and equipment and I embarked on a new path for my writing. After several months of trial and error I made a demo disk and sent it to Audible thinking they would reject it. Two days later the acquisitions department called and offered a contract.

The phone call was one of the nicest experiences I’ve had. She was professional, polite and excited with my projects and asked for an exclusive. I accepted the contract and believe it or not I did not know that Audible was a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon. Many articles and blogs complain that Amazon is too big, a monster that consumes everything possible. My experience with Amazon up to this point was as a customer and they do go out of their way for customer satisfaction. Client satisfaction is however not on the same level.

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Something wicked this way comes?

My projects were assigned to an engineer whom I came to know as the Dragon Lady. I sent over three dozen CDs to start as this was an acceptable format outlined in the contract. Two months went by without notice of receipt, something else outlined in the contract and I worried that my audios were lost in the mail room or misplaced due to the sheer size of the company. Seven e-mails were not answered so I sent an e-mail to the woman who offered the contract. She forwarded my mail to the Dragon Lady and I received a reply within forty minutes. Yes my CDs were there – end of note. Sending a mail through another department was a fatal error. Dragon Lady took great offense that a nobody such as I would dare to contact her by a third party.

From that time on I walked through Audible hell for six months as Dragon Lady rejected my work six times. These were her rules: If one mistake is found it cannot be repaired by sending a single MP3 track even though the contract says this is acceptable. The project has to be reloaded with every track (chapter) in numerical order.  Each project takes up to six weeks to process and at the end of each month she found something else wrong most were simple things that could have been repaired and reloaded in five minutes. Because I had enraged Dragon Lady with the e-mail she sought revenge month after month until I became convinced that she was possessed by the ghost of Leona Helmsly and reigned as Audible’s official Queen of Mean.

The only defense was to send another mail to the legal department asking that the contract be reduced and reinstated as non-exclusive due to the abuse of this small minded bully who simply refused to process my work. Legal contacted Dragon Lady and informed her that she breached the contract and to put my work on line without further delay. Dragon Lady did so without apology or even notice that the projects went live. She made sure the audios were not listed or advertised, another breach of contract.

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Author trapped in audible hell.

To answer the above question, yes Amazon is too big. Their subsidiary programs have too much control and again client satisfaction is nothing while customers are given anything they want. I had the same problem with Create Space though not as bad as the Dragon Lady. The books they print are inferior with misaligned covers, faded ink and one book was actually put into distribution with twenty one blank pages in the middle of the book. Lucky for me the investment was tiny and I made them refund the cost of the misprints and you guessed it, I did this by complaining to another department.

Kindle select was another mistake by allowing them exclusivity I have lost valuable markets for two books that would have expanded sales. Amazon programs do not care after your signature is on the paper or the agreement is made on line. I have stopped all advertising for Audible and Create Space. I do run ads for Kindle but those will stop too after I withdraw from select, which will be soon then I will send the books to other publishers.

If you are an author, I strongly advise working with a credentialed e-publisher. Paying the fee will buy some piece of mind and your book will have a better chance with multiple venues. All e-books go to Kindle anyway so do not make them the single source.

If you are thinking of audio books follow the same rules. 1. DO NOT make an audio with an artificial voice – most distributors will not handle them and the ones who do are not worth the trouble and fees. 2. DO NOT make any company a single source distributor – you are cheating yourself this way, depriving your work of multiple venues. 3. Last but not least – DO NOT sign a contract in a hurry because you are so grateful, so thrilled that someone says they like your work. The sad fact is that most e-book companies do not even glance at your manuscript and they will publish a shopping list hand written on toilet paper if you pay the fee. Remember that e-publishers do not advertise your work unless it is for a fee and I’ve seen ad packages for as much as $3000. This is another rip off. You have to advertise your books like everyone else on FB, Twitter and other social media programs and for the stout-hearted ones who believe in their own work consider running local newspaper ads for under $50.

I hope this information helps someone who wants to publish their first book and the final fact is if your work is good, word of mouth will sell it in time, it may take a lot of time but it is the best method – no returns. I wish all of you the very best of luck because you will need it. Cheers from Audible Hell—Jamie Sutliff.

This post solely reflects the views and opinions of its author.

About Jamie Sutliff: 

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Jamie Sutliff is an artist/sculptor/author living in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. He specializes in life-sized wildlife sculpture for museums and private collections, including 2 Museums of Natural History. His work has appeared in over a dozen national magazines, most recently, The Smithsonian, Oct 2004. His research on early northeastern Native American tribes has led to the writing of three novels on the subject. Two of these novels in a three book series, “The Elves of Owl’s Head Mountain” and “The Land of the Nen-Us-Yok” were published in 2007 (regional small press) and awarded four star reviews from Foreword magazine for the learning curve offered to young adults with lessons in Native American languages, math, global warming and modern day issues woven through fast-paced fantasy plots. First Edition Design Publishing published these three illustrated books as a trilogy in May 2012 and the edition is available on eBook venues world-wide. Sutliff has written six novels (two premises for graphic novels) and a short story collection. He has five novels available in trade paperback.

Sutliff has critiqued aspiring writer’s work for various groups and workshops. Visit him at www.jamiesutliff.com

About First Edition Design Publishing:

Ebook Publishing Design Edition First Graphic Aggregators Ebooks Publishers Distribution POD Designing Approved Aggregator How Services Academic Distributor Chapter Submission Professional Firsteditiondesignpublishing.com published book market First Edition Design Publishing is the world’s largest eBook and POD (Print On Demand) book distributor. Ranked first in the industry, First Edition Design Publishing converts and formats manuscripts for every type of platform (e-reader). They submit Fiction, Non-Fiction, Academic and Children’s Books to Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Google, Kobo, Diesel, 3M, Ingram, Baker and Taylor, Nielsen, EBSCO, and over 100,000 additional on-line locations including retailers, libraries, schools, colleges and universities. The company’s POD division creates printed books and makes them available worldwide through their distribution network. First Edition Design Publishing is a licensed and approved Aggregator and holds licenses with Apple and Microsoft.

Visit: www.firsteditiondesignpublishing.com

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