From The Sunday (London) Times:
When Sarah Hall wrote her most recent short story, Sudden Traveller, she read each sentence aloud. It’s not the usual writing practice of the twice-Booker-nominated writer, who finds performing her work “intensely awkward”. This time she felt she should, because instead of being published in print, this story of a bereaved mother was heading to the recording studios of Audible, the audiobook publisher and retailer owned by Amazon. Niggling at the back of Hall’s thoughts was the awareness that she was writing for the voice, not the page.
It’s a radical move, but Hall is only one of many writers bypassing print and going straight to audio. Michael Lewis, one of the most successful contemporary non-fiction authors, with books such as Moneyball and The Big Short, has said goodbye to his usual magazine outlet, Vanity Fair, and is writing four essays for Audible this year. You won’t be able to read KL Slater’s forthcoming thriller, either. The same goes for the next works from Robert Caro, Jeffery Deaver and Brian Freeman: these are ears-only, too. Other A-list authors doing various audio-exclusive deals include Margaret Atwood, Philip Pullman, Andrew Motion and Sophie Hannah.
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Hall decided to write for audio because the money offered was good and she wanted to do something different. “My first experience of short stories was of them being told to me as a kid. I had this big character of a headmaster in my infant school, and he would sit us down on a horrible staticky carpet in the afternoon and tell us a story, usually a ghost story. I liked that idea of going back to writing for the voice. It gives a story a different quality and I wanted to give it a go.”
The audiobook market is exploding. In the UK, publishers’ revenue from audio rose from £12m in 2013 to £31m in 2017. In America, where book trends tend to be a year ahead of ours, it’s estimated that 44% of people have listened to an audiobook. While print sales are growing at a measly rate and ebook sales are plummeting, audio is a ray of hope.
For authors, this means lucrative rights deals and advances. “Eleven years ago, audio editions were often released post-publication, or not at all,” says the literary agent Camilla Wray. Now, all of a sudden, there’s a fight over them. The audio rights for Robert Webb’s How Not to Be a Boy, for instance, went separately from the print rights and sold for a reported six figures.
It’s not just a straightforward case of following the money, however. Some writers are forgoing print because they have more listeners than readers.
Link to the rest at The Sunday (London) Times