Audiobooks, friend or foe?

Welcome back to another blog hop, with #OpenBook. Here’s this week’s prompt.

Are audiobooks considered reading?

I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that they are! My reasoning is simple. When you read a book, you use your eyes to transfer information from the page to your brain. When you listen to an audiobook, all that happens is that you use your ears instead. The information is still transferred from the page to your brain, it’s only the method that’s different.

If you think about it, when you read a bedtime (or at any other time) story to your children; or swapped ghost stories around a campfire, you were in fact producing an audiobook. OK, so it wasn’t mp3, with rumble filtering and couldn’t be set on repeat. Mind you, after three daughters there were several stories I could read without the book, so I guess they were stored on the hard-drive in my head. Like the campfire tales.

The point that I’m making is that we have always told each other stories, for pleasure, education and entertainment. Audiobooks are merely a modern version, for the digital age.

There’s another reason.

I’m in the process of getting three of my novels produced as audiobooks. Along with one that was done a couple of years ago, they are the starters for my most popular series, plus one of my stand-alone novels.

As far as I can see, any exposure is good, if people have the option of listening to my work while they are driving or exercising or whatever, it all means that the reach of my work (and my potential audience) is increasing.

Apparently, audiobooks are going to be big this year, it would be nice to be a part of that.

As well as the convenience of listening while you are doing something else, there are so many other reasons why people may be unable to access the written word, in printed books or even digitally. Audiobooks are a valuable way of telling stories, of passing information.

Talking about my own audiobooks for a moment,

Getting the right person to narrate is important, I spent lots of time auditioning to ensure that the person reading the story liked it and read it in the way I visualised it.

Listening to the narration as I receive chapters for proofing, several things stand out.

First, I can’t remember writing a lot of it, which is strange.

Second, listening to it seems so much more exciting than reading it, especially as the narrators vary their tone to impart emotion and alter their voice for each of the players.

Lastly, I find it very hard to believe that I actually wrote what I’m hearing.

I guess you could say that having a narrator reading the story (by the way they create tension and describe things) might influence how the listener will see the location and action in their mind. Sort of taking away their minds-eye view and replacing it with the narrators.

That’s a valid point,

personally, I check to make sure that the narration follows how I saw it when I wrote it, and as far as possible keeping the emotions I wanted to create.  

Time will tell if I’ve got it right.

It’s also true that; in a world where we’re used to letting the media that we watch create the world with no input from us, listening to a book may feel more comfortable to some than reading it.

I already have the Steampunk adventure The Rocks of Aserol on audiobook.

That will be followed by Ribbonworld and Life and Other Dreams at the end of March.

Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café will be done by the end of April,

then depending on sales, I will have a look at the rest of my portfolio. If things go well, I will try to get the same narrators to do the series.

I’ve just received an audio sample of my psychological thriller Life and Other Dreams from my narrator, if you’re interested, you can listen to it HERE and see what you think (opens in a new window).

What do you think about this week’s topic, are you a fan, do you consider that listening to audiobooks is the same as reading them?

Let me know in the comments, then check out the rest of the great blogs on this hop.

Just follow this link.


27 Responses

  1. Chris L Adams

    Great topic there, Richard. I agree with all of your points with one other thought; to truly experience a novel you must both read it and listen to it by a good narrator (or team of narrators).

    I read William L. Hahn’s The Ring and the Flag and really enjoyed it. By reading it (it’s a fantasy novel by the way) I saw all of the strange words of Mr. Hahn’s world, decided how they were pronounced, and became familiar with them (‘dekentar’ comes to mind–a military title of a junior officer).

    When I later heard him narrate his own story, I was pleased to discover that I’d pronounced ‘dekentar’ correctly. More importantly, his expertise in the genre of audio (he has a wide vocal range and is a fabulous voice actor) added all of the elements and nuances you mentioned above, but with the benefit of added sound bytes that really enhance the audio experience over the reading experience. You don’t have to imagine the clamor of war when you listen to Ring and the Flag, you actually hear it. Very cool.

    At the end of the day, it really depends on the time available to one who likes to read. If all you have is a commute, then audio is your best friend. Some like to unwind at the end of the day by reading a few chapters in bed. I actually do both. I have about a 30-minute one-way drive to work so I usually have an audiobook going for the mornings, and a book laying on the headboard for the evenings. I also read on my phone (currently reading Life and Other Dreams 😉 so I will also swap–not only from reading to listening–but from reading a paperback to reading an eBook.

    Things are so different from growing up as a kid in a pre-digitalized world!

    Thanks, Richard!

    • Richard Dee

      Thanks for commenting Chris. You’re so right, if the eight-year-old me had been told that the sixty-year-old me would be video chatting for FREE to people in Australia on his phone, or reading/listening to books on the SAME device, I would have been so impatient to grow up!!!!! And that’s before you get to the internet. I want the audio versions of my books to help the reader see the story the way I saw it, while still allowing him (or her) to create their own version. Which makes the choice of narrator crucial.

    • Gilbert M. Stack

      I agree with both Chris and Richard on this. I listen to a lot of audio books, but I read a lot of books also. It all depends on what I’m doing. Commuting/exercising is made for audio, but you can’t turn on an audio book when you’re reading on the couch while other people watch TV.

      In addition, I’m finding that production quality of audio books is going up fast. Chris mentioned the sound effects in Will Hahn’s narrations–they’re one of the reasons I turned to him to narrate my own series. It’s a step between a simple reading and full dramatization that I like quite a bit.

      And a good narrator really can improve the whole book. In addition to Hahn, take someone like R.C. Bray reading Planetside or Optional Retirement Plan. He gets the old man voice perfect (maybe he is an old man, I don’t know) and it really helps these first person accounts strike home.

      • Richard Dee

        Strangely, just as I’m dipping my toes into the murky waters of audio, I’m seeing a few sales of paperbacks. I guess it all proves that there is a place for everything and that anything which gets your name out there in readerland is a valuable asset.

        • Will Hahn

          Absolutely to that last Richard! Lots of folks read a book AND then listen to it later (when guys like me would probably have just re-read it). These are all pathways into your mind, and delight, and they can all be remembered.
          Some people listen to audio at 1.5x speed- and some people skim when they turn the pages. Takes all kinds.
          I even see a relationship to the way we write (or will be soon). I can hardly imagine penning a tale with an actual pen anymore- most of us use the keyboard for the obvious advantages. But some authors are starting to TALK their novels with dictation SW, and that’s another path, isn’t it? Who knows what great tales may come from some of us.

          • Richard Dee

            I’ve tried dictating but find it hard, the speed I can type at seems to act as a brake on my mind. When I dictate every other word is either UM or ER. And the software seems to need a lot of training to understand my accent. I’d rather spend the time typing.

  2. Stevie Turner

    I’m not sure it is ‘reading’ as such, as we read using our eyes. I guess I’ll have to become a bit more connected to audio books. I have lots of my own novels as audio books, but still prefer the old-fashioned way of reading.

    • Richard Dee

      I think that there’s a place for both, and people who can benefit from either. I enjoy audio, ebooks and the feel (and smell) of the real thing.

  3. Chris L Adams

    I meant to add that I really enjoyed the Life and Other Dreams audio sample. It’s been a fun read (9 chapters in). Part of what I enjoy about it is when I find myself staring at a British phrase that I don’t know what means and I have to figure it out. You guys are so funny!

    • Richard Dee

      Someone once said that England and America were two countries separated by a common language.

  4. phil huston

    I fall in there with Stevie on this topic. My problem and this is my .02 only, and is laid out in my weekly bit on this topic, is that if I had to listen to that lad’s nasally whine rolling randomly through the equatorial heat for the length of a book I’d have to kill him off by chapter 2. Again, I am way too opinionated on these things but for some sort of adventure with humor in it, I’d find one of the guys who was Tom Barnaby’s underlings in Midsommer. This is also where what is written, what is read, and what is listened to are all three unique editing challenges and opportunities to fine-tune our writing. That’s why audiobooks don’t work for me. Had anyone heard my father read Uncle Remus and Pooh aloud this would be far more understandable. I’m not bashing, I’m opinionated.

    • Richard Dee

      Fair enough, I actually liked what the narrator did with the story, I know it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and it’s all a learning curve as I explore the possibilities of a new format.

    • Chris L Adams

      There’s no need to torment yourself with treble when you can tickle your auditory sensories with a nice baritone. I’ve listened to several of Stever Parker’s readings; just wonderful. I listened to his versions of Brave New World, Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Island of Dr. Moreau. All were fantastic.

    • Richard Dee

      It does not need to be. I’ve used acx and royalty shared, so production costs are zero. Once I have assessed the market I may try a different method of production, at the moment I’m accepting reduced royalties to gain a foothold.

  5. Amy Miller

    Great post and points. And congrats on working on getting your books in audio format! For now, I’ve read my first book on YouTube in order to give readers that option. It’s a start, and it taught me a lot. Someday I hope to have other options for read aloud!

    • Richard Dee

      Thanks, I think that you can’t ignore the audiobook craze and it’s better to be a part of it.

    • Richard Dee

      I hope I have found some good ones, time will tell.

  6. Roberta Eaton Cheadle

    I am a big fan of audio books, Richard. I will certainly get one of yours as a an audio book when they come out. I agree that audio books play a role in the modern world and environment. Any book in any form is good in my opinion

    • Richard Dee

      Thank you, that’s good to hear. The more accessible literature (in all its forms) is, the better.

  7. phil huston

    There is a theme running through commentary on this post regarding publishing in audio format. $. Cost prohibitive, too much, not enough choice, free, trade out, profit sharing.

    You get what you pay for.

    Unless you know somebody. Or are somebody.

    • Richard Dee

      I’m trying a couple of my novels with profit sharing. I’m working on the theory that while I’m not yet somebody; if the right person hears my work, it might well start the process. The more you make your work available, the more chance there is of that happening.

      • Chris L Adams

        I totally agree, Richard. Going audio is the smartest move an author today can make for him or herself. Although I don’t have any audio editions yet, I hope to in the future. Like many a working sap, I commute to work and listening to an audiobook is an excellent way to pass the time.

        Also, it gives one the freedom to devour a couple of books simultaneously. Currently, I’m listening to William L. Hahn’s excellent Shards of Light tetralogy on my drive to work (25 minutes each way) and reading Richard Dee’s intriguing Life & Other Dreams.

        I’ll add, I’m an old paperback guy. I always collected paperbacks because a) they’re smaller so I can get more per shelf and b) they’re generally cheaper than hardbacks. It took me years before I’d give audiobooks a try. Now, I am constantly listening. And one doesn’t have to buy a membership to an expensive audiobook site; just jump on YouTube — they’re literally tons of free audiobooks to listen to.

        The route you plan to take, Richard, is the most general route and a great way to start, from what I’ve learned. You can get an audio of your book made available with no up-front cost to you (except perhaps for a cover, and many re-use their existing eBook cover) and then you both (author and narrator) reap the rewards. I’ve no idea as to the “split”, but apparently, it’s enough to make it appealing, as both authors and narrators keep doing it.

        • Richard Dee

          That’s my plan, I’m quite prepared to split royalties as it’s win-win, the narrator puts in a lot of effort and gets rewarded, he has an incentive to perform well as exposure may get him noticed. The author gets a new audience. Not forgetting that a percentage of anything is better than 100% of nothing. I will try a few titles, if I get sales, I will probably do the rest.

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