Audiobooks

Are You Self-Publishing Audio Books?

21 May 2019

From Just Publishing Advice:

It takes total concentration to read a book or an ebook. But with an audio book, a listener can multitask.

This is the key attraction for so many younger readers in particular, as it allows for the consumption of a book while driving, commuting and playing a game on a smartphone, knitting or even while grinding out the hours at work.

The popularity is on the move and according to recent statistics, audiobooks are now a multi-billion dollar industry in the US alone.

. . . .

In another report, it estimates that one in ten readers are now listening to audiobooks.

While the data helps to gain a small insight into the market, it is still easy to draw an assumption that it is the next logical step for self-publishing authors and small press.

Ebook publishing is now the number one form of self-publishing. Many Indie authors then take the next step and publish a paperback version.

. . . .

An audio version offers an opportunity for self-publishing authors to extend their sales potential, and at the same time, diversify revenue streams.

Well, only a little at present as it is really an Amazon Audible and Apple iTunes dominated retail market. However, in the future, this may change.

. . . .

If you live in the US, you are in luck.

Amazon offers production and publishing through Audio Creation Exchange, ACX.

For authors outside of the US, things are not quite so easy.

. . . .

If you live in the US, you are in luck.

Amazon offers production and publishing through Audio Creation Exchange, ACX.

For authors outside of the US, things are not quite so easy.

This is a very common complaint about Amazon and its US-centric approach, which creates so many hurdles for non-US self-publishers.

The following quote is taken from Amazon’s help topic regarding ACX.

At this time, ACX is open only to residents of the United States and United Kingdom who have a US or UK mailing address, and a valid US or UK Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN). For more information on Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TIN), please visit the IRS website. We hope to increase our availability to a more global audience in the future.

If you live in the UK, Amazon can help you, but you will need to have a TIN. If you are already publishing with KDP, you probably have one.

For the rest of the world, well, Amazon, as it so often does, leaves you out of the cold.

. . . .

There are a growing number of small press and independent publishers who offer to produce and publish audio books.

Distribution is most often on Amazon Audible and iTunes.

Do your research and look for publishers who accept submissions or offer a production service using professional narrators and producers.

As with any decision to use a small publisher, be careful, do your background research and don’t rush into signing a contract until you are totally convinced it is a fair arrangement concerning your audio rights.

While some may charge you for the service, it is worth looking for a publisher that offers a revenue split. This is usually 50-50 of net audio royalty earnings.

It might seem a bit steep, but Amazon ACX offers between 20 and 40% net royalties, so 50-50 is not too bad.

Link to the rest at Just Publishing Advice

As with any publishing contract, PG suggests you check out the contract terms carefully before you enter into a publishing agreement for audiobooks.

Speaking generally (and, yes, there are a few exceptions), the traditional publishing industry has fallen into a bad habit (in PG’s persistently humble opinion) of using standard agreements that last longer than any other business contracts with which PG is familiar (and he has seen a lot).

He refers, of course to publishing contracts that continue “for the full term of the copyright.”

Regular visitors to TPV will know that, in the United States, for works created after January 1, 1978, the full term of the copyright is the rest of the author’s life plus 70 years. Due to their participation in The Berne Convention (an international copyright treaty), the copyright laws of many other nations provide for copyright protections of similar durations — the author’s life plus 50 years is common.

PG can’t think of any other types of business agreements involving individuals that last for the life of one of the parties without any obvious exit opportunities. The long period of copyright protection was sold to the US Congress as a great boon to creators. However, under the terms of typical publishing contracts, the chief beneficiaries are corporate publishers.

While it is important for authors to read their publishing agreements thoroughly (Yes, PG knows it’s not fun. He has read far more publishing agreements than you have or ever will and understands what it is like.), if you are looking for a method of performing a quick, preliminary check for provisions that means you will die before your publishing agreement does, search for phrases like:

  • “full term of the copyright”
  • “term”
  • “copyright”
  • “continue”

Those searches may help you immediately locate objectionable provisions that allow you to put the publisher into the reject pile without looking for other nasties. However, if the searches don’t disclose anything, you will most definitely have to read the whole thing. The quoted terms are not magic incantations which must be used. Other language can accomplish the same thing.

Until the advent of ebooks, book publishing contracts used Out of Print clauses to give the author the ability to retrieve rights to his/her book if the publisher wasn’t doing anything with it.

With printed books, even dribs and drabs of sales would eventually deplete the publisher’s stock of physical books. At this point, the publisher would likely consider whether the cost it would pay for another printing of an author’s book was economically justified or not. If the publisher was concerned about ending up with a pile of unsold printed books in its warehouse for a long time, the publisher might decide not to print any more.

Once the publisher’s existing stock was sold, the book was out of print – it was not for sale in any normal trade channels. The author (or the author’s heirs) could then retrieve her/his rights to the book and do something else with them.

Of course, once an electronic file is created, an ebook costs the publisher nothing to offer for sale on Amazon or any other online bookstore with which PG is familiar.

The disk space necessary to store an individual epub or mobi file is essentially free for Amazon and it doesn’t charge anything to maintain the listing almost forever. (There may be a giant digital housecleaning in Seattle at some time in the distant future, but don’t count on it happening during your lifetime.) Print on demand hardcopy books are just another kind of file that’s stored on disk.

So, in 2019 and into the foreseeable future, an infinite number of an author’s ebooks are for sale and not “out of print”.

So, the traditional exit provision for an author – the out of print clause – remains in existence in almost all publishing contracts PG has reviewed, but it provides no opportunity for the author to exercise it to get out of a publishing agreement that has not paid more than $5.00 in annual royalties in over ten years.

 

I Didn’t Consider Audiobooks Really Reading

4 May 2019

From Book Riot:

Confession: until a few years ago, I didn’t consider audiobooks really reading. I know, I know, the science says the effect on the brain is the same. What can I say? I was a snob. Nowadays I’ve changed my tune so much that I would even say there are some types of books that are better as audiobooks.

I first ventured into audiobooks when I moved to a city where walking or standing on a crowded bus were my main methods of transportation. With audiobooks, I could read while I was commuting, even if I was using both hands to hang on for dear life.  I could read while I shopped for groceries. I could read while I was cooking.

. . . .

Not only have I come to appreciate how listening to an audiobook engages my imagination and offers me the same kind of escape as the written word, but I’ve actually come to feel that some books are (dare I say it) even better on audio than they are in print.

. . . .

1. HUMOROUS BOOKS READ BY THE AUTHOR

This one is a no-brainer to me. Which is funnier, listening to a stand-up comic do their routine or reading the transcript of the comic’s routine? Anything that’s intended to be humorous is usually funnier in the author’s own voice, delivered with the comedic timing they heard in their head when writing it.

Audiobooks narrated by funny people are also great conversations starters. Turns out when you laugh-snort soup out of your nose with your headphones in, people want to know what you’re listening to.

. . . .

4. FICTION WITH A NARRATIVE VOICE UNLIKE MINE

Over the past few years I’ve made a conscious effort to read more diversely, particularly books in translation and works by authors of color. These books often contain words in languages I am unfamiliar with or have characters with a particular accent or cadence to their speech that I have trouble hearing in my (30-something white American female) mind.

These books are better as audiobooks because listening to these stories in a voice that matches the narrator’s helps to transport me into the setting and to get a better sense of the characters. As an added benefit, I can hear any unfamiliar words pronounced correctly rather than butchering them on my own.

Link to the rest at Book Riot

Mrs. PG recently persuaded PG to listen to an audiobook while the two of them were sitting in their living room. This was a first for PG. He must say he enjoyed the experience, but his mind did tend to wander once in a while.

Prior to this, PG’s only experience with audiobooks was enjoying them (including genres he probably would not have read in printed or ebook form) while engaged in automobile trips involving long stretches of interstate travel.  Part of the pleasure was discussing the book and characters with Mrs. PG.

PG has always been a fast reader when reading for pleasure (and, long ago, when reading for academic purposes). In the distant past, whenever he checked his reading speed, it was well above average.

In his pleasure reading, PG likes to keep things happening in his mind at a rapid pace, faster than any audiobook narrator would speak. He will sometimes pause for contemplation, but not usually.

When reading legal documents, statutes or opinions of this or that court, things tend to slow down. While a small percentage of attorneys write well, most do not. In PG’s experience, judges (all of whom are former attorneys) who write well are also rarely encountered.

That said, the purpose of legal writing is not to entertain (although on rare occasion, unintentional entertainment does appear), but rather to use precise words in precise sentences so no one, no matter how highly motivated, can misread or misinterpret a legal document.

With that preamble, PG presents an exception to his observation that legal writing and entertainment are rare and strange bedfellows.

Joe Hand Promotions v. Sports Page Cafe, 940 F. Supp. 102 (D.N.J. 1996).

The promoter of boxing match brought suit against restaurant and bar owners for allegedly displaying the fight for patrons without paying promoter for broadcast rights. The Judge rendered his decision (and footnotes) in verse. Here is a sample:

The genesis happened on an April night
When plaintiff promoted a boxing fight
And transmitted it live for the usual fee
For paying subscribers to watch on T.V.

The bout was between Messrs. Holmes and McCall
Whose pugilistic talents are well-known to all.
The match evoked international attention
But the outcome herein shall go without mention.

Defendants allegedly exhibited the match
In their respective taverns for their patrons to catch.
Plaintiff’s complaint is based on that section
Installed in the Code for easy inspection
Which forbids such transmissions, recorded or live:
47 U.S.C. Section 605.

Consumer Use of Audiobooks Continues to Rise

26 April 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

Half of all Americans over the age of 12 have listened to an audiobook in the past year, according to a new consumer survey and research report from Edison Research and Triton Media, conducted on behalf of the Audio Publishers Association. This is up from 44% of in 2018. The further penetration can be attributed to more users listening in cars. According to the new report, 74% of audiobook consumers listen in their car, up from 69% in 2018, and 19% percent of Americans age 12 and older have access to an in-dash information and entertainment system in their (or their family’s) vehicle, up from 15% last year — of those, 62% who have in-dash systems have listened to an audiobook.

Home listening is second most popular way of listening to audiobooks, with 68% of respondents saying they listen at home, down from 71% in 2018. The survey revealed that 42% of audiobook listeners age 18 and older own a smart speaker (Alexa or Google Home device, for example) and of those, nearly one-third are using them to listen to audiobooks.

The survey confirmed the popularity of audiobooks among younger listeners, with 55% of all listeners being under the age of 45.

. . . .

On average, audiobook listeners consumed 6.8 audiobooks in the last 12 months, which is up from 6.5 in the previous survey; 24% have listened to 10 or more in that period.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Books Heard ‘Round the World: a New Survey of International Audiobook Markets

11 April 2019

From Publishing Perspectives:

Amid so many programs and events last week at the 56th Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy, a new first-time effort at sizing up the international audiobook marketplace was introduced during a session called “Listen Up.”

. . . .

[T]here are obvious pitfalls in trying to assess audio in world publishing markets today. There’s no consistency or standard in data collection from nation to nation. And in some cases, online retailers withhold sales data as proprietary information, which means the industry can’t see and count everything.

. . . .

For example, the new report cites 54 percent of American audiobook users being under the age of 45, and 74 percent of listeners preferring their smartphones as a leading device. In China, by comparison, available data indicates that an online audiobook platform like Ximalaya had as many as 40 million users daily at the end of 2018.

In putting together a first attempt at an overall picture, Cobb and her colleagues have identified several categories of geographical consideration.

Three “macro-areas” of key importance, for example, are:

  • The United States (with an estimated 2017 consumer spend of US$2.5 billion)
  • Europe (an estimated 2017 publisher data coming to $500 million)
  • China (an estimated 2017 publisher data of $470 million)

. . . .

“Key areas” of growth are identified as:

  • The United States (46,000 titles in annual production, 375,000 now available)
  • China (7,000 new audio titles annually, 25,000 available)
  • Nordic countries (5,800 titles annually, 32,000 available)

“Audio strongholds” are a classification comprising:

  • The UK (some 14 million units sold in a year, 18 percent of them for children)
  • Germany (about 16 million units sold in a year)

“Developing markets” identified include:

  • France (1500 titles annually, 4,000 available)
  • Russia (1,800 titles annually, 16,000 available)

. . . .

Cobb’s APA has become the leader in describing and analyzing the fast-growing audiobook sector in the biggest market for the format, the United States. The organization’s annual reports are a key gauge in understanding the new popularity of this “reborn” format. Once hobbled by the inconvenience and expense of tapes and CDs, audiobooks are the big beneficiary of downloads and streaming distribution in many parts of the world. The plethora of devices—smart phones, smart watches, smart speakers, tablets, and others—has facilitated rapid adoption even among “reading-reluctant” audience segments such as men and boys.

. . . .

“More availability. There are so many titles being produced that a reader will try an audiobook,” seeing that something he or she was interested in reading, “and then they stick with it. It doesn’t mean that is all of their reading, but a healthy portion.”

. . . .

Cobb has been explaining for years now the attractions many audio fans cite of being able to listen while doing other things, or—among some Americans studied—stopping other activities and focusing on listening to a book as a means of relaxation. What’s more, the digital disruption of how many books re released—with “windowing” various formats all but a thing of the past—has meant, as Cobb points out, that “If someone is going to take a book for the weekend to the beach, now they have options” of being able to pick up a new release’s hardback or ebook edition, or the audiobook.

“And audio really has been simultaneously released” in many instances “for more than a decade,” Cobb points out.

And one of her more interesting observations is that audiobooks for children may move much more quickly if retailers learn to create “safe” spaces for them to shop and select what they want to hear without parents having to worry that they’ll wander into adult content.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG is interested in hearing about the experiences of indie authors with the production and sales of their audiobooks.

His impression (which may be wrong) is that there isn’t a path to audiobook publication that is nearly as friction-free as ebook publication is. He’s also interested in hearing about the financial returns for author and voice talent.

Audio Book Narrator Scott Brick Is the Man with the Golden Voice

30 March 2019

From The Wall Street Journal:

Scott Brick reads 50 books a year so you don’t have to.

Mr. Brick is an audio book narrator, one of the most lauded and sought-after in the business. The winner of four “Audie” awards, the Oscars of the spoken word, he’s the baritone voice of choice for thriller masters like Lee Child, Nelson DeMille and Gregg Hurwitz, and for historians, among them, Ron Chernow (Mr. Brick narrated “Alexander Hamilton” and “Washington”).

He estimates that he’s narrated some 900 books to date by authors as diverse as Ayn Rand, Erik Larson, Truman Capote, William Faulkner, Dennis Lehane and Pat Conroy.

That’s Mr. Brick on Frank Herbert’s multivolume “Dune” series and on pieces of the Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick oeuvre. He’s currently booked six months out; the workload includes new novels by Brad Meltzer and Clive Cussler.

“In many ways my voice is kind of vanilla,” said Mr. Brick over multiple cups of English breakfast tea during a recent visit to New York from his home in Los Angeles. “But if you’re going to spend 25 hours with a voice…”

Mr. Brick makes a point of reading a book before he takes it into the recording studio. Especially in the case of a whodunit, he needs to know whodunit. “Authors give us red herrings so we can be surprised when the real killer is revealed,” he said. “And when I know who the red herring is I can make that character as dislikable as I can to help authors do what they clearly intend to do. And I take the real killer and make him seem as mild as mother’s milk.”

The covers of a book can sometimes seem very far apart. “My analogy for the narration process is that it’s a dance,” Mr. Brick said. “Your partner is the text, and when you have a weak partner you find yourself doing more of the work. But when you’re dancing with a strong partner you can relax and just let it happen.”

. . . .

Mr. Brick read voraciously during his childhood in Santa Barbara and in a central California farming community—then as now fantasy and sci-fi were favorite genres—and studied theater at UCLA. He was eking out a living as an actor, mostly performing Shakespeare for kids, when, 20 years ago, a college pal in the recording industry arranged an audiobook audition for him.

. . . .

It was a smart career move. In 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, audiobook sales totaled more than $2.5 billion, a jump of almost 23% from the year prior, according to the Audio Publishers Association.

Mr. Brick narrates a book a week, and says he’s paid considerably more than the industry average of $250 per finished hour. His is an elusive art. “You can get all the words right and in the right order and pronounce them correctly but that’s not enough,” he said. “You have to perform it for lack of a better term. You have to bring it off the page.”

. . . .

Does listening to a book count as reading a book? “A lot of people who have the audio book think they’re cheating or doing the Cliffs Notes or something,” Mr. Brick said. “I think it is the same as reading in terms of absorbing the material, experiencing the story the author intended. But there is a difference.”

“In the old days, the only thing between the author’s words were the reader’s eyes and imagination,” he continued. “Now, you have the narrator standing between the author’s words and the listener’s mind. I’m the construct, and my job is to make the construct as small and unnoticeable as possible.”

“I’m as shallow as the next actor,” Mr. Brick said, “but if I read an audio review that doesn’t mention me, I’m fine with it. That means I’ve done my job.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Understanding Audiobook Production: an Interview with Rich Miller

17 February 2019

From  Kristen Tsetsi via Jane Friedman:

What I didn’t learn until recently was that the $100-$200/PFH I had seen offered by many narrators at ACX and therefore thought was reasonable compensation is, according to seasoned professionals who frequently discuss pay issues in a Facebook group for audiobook narrators, woefully inadequate. Had I done more research in my earlier audiobook days, I’d have learned that other production companies, such as ListenUp Audiobooks, charge $450 per finished hour.

. . . .

You’re both a stage-and-screen actor and a book narrator. Does narrating take a special skill, or could most actors also be audiobook narrators?

I’d actually answer “yes” to both questions.

Stage actors who cross over into film learn that the mediums are very different, so they learn how to use the skills they already have in a different way. So it is with audiobooks: having a background in any form of acting gives you a leg up, you just have to adapt the tools you already have for use in a different medium.

When going from stage to audiobooks, an actor needs to learn how to be “small”: you have to be able to portray the same level of intensity as you might do on stage moving around expressively and shouting, but without moving your mouth away from the mic too much and without actually shouting. This is similar to going from stage to film, with the added constraint of knowing that you can’t rely on facial expressions to convey anything to your audience: they may help you deliver lines believably, but alone they don’t add to the listener’s experience.

With fiction, there’s usually also the need for the ability to portray a character who is not the same gender as the narrator without taking the listener out of the story. There are a few narrators who can do this so well that it’s easy to believe that the audiobook is actually a full-cast production, but most listeners are fine as long as the characters are clearly differentiated without the narrator resorting to methods that make it obvious they’re faking something (e.g., a male narrator using a falsetto for all female characters). Subtlety is generally a good thing.

. . . .

 Jess Herring says in a conversation about sound quality of audiobook recordings, “Some authors want to record their own books.” In response, you almost inaudibly murmur in the negative. She goes on, “…which is a bold choice…”

Though it could easily be argued that you and Herring are right to warn authors not to read their own material unless they have an acting background (whether stage or straight voice), it could also be argued that there is legitimate concern on the author’s part that the narrator won’t correctly deliver a certain line of dialogue or the personality of a character. All writing is of course open to personal interpretation, but a silent reading allows for any number of interpretations; a voice reading, on the other hand, determines a single interpretation for all listeners.

What would you say about this to an author considering audiobook production for the first time and uncertain about whether to hire a narrator?

I think it’s perfectly reasonable for an author to consider narrating their own work. The problem is that most authors are not familiar with all of the elements that go into audiobook production.

In addition to the performance aspect, there’s understanding how to properly set up and treat a recording space; mic choice; mic technique; and recording software proficiency, to name a few.

There are certainly ways to deal with a lack of knowledge in those areas, such as hiring a director and an engineer and booking time in a professional studio, but many authors are not thinking along those lines, they’re thinking about self-producing. So whenever I hear that an author wants to narrate their own work, I try to caution them about everything they need to know before going that route.

I think that it’s also perfectly reasonable for an author, especially one who has never had an audiobook produced before, to have concerns about how a narrator is going to interpret their text. But a well-selected audition piece and open communication with the selected narrator should allay any fears. It’s also important to remember that while an author knows the characters that they created, it’s possible to get too close to one’s own work: a character that is portrayed differently than how you hear them in your head may resonate more with the audience.

. . . .

An author might be of the mind that s/he is the creator of the characters and may be uncomfortable with someone else re-creating them, or re-envisioning them. Actors are used to taking direction when performing on stage or set, but novels don’t have directors—only their authors. Is feedback/guidance from authors received as it might be from a play or film director? That is, do you welcome their input or their suggestions about delivery, or are they generally not trusted because they’re writers and not actors (or not otherwise involved in the acting world)? Is there a commonly understood “just right” amount of input?

Unfortunately, there is no “just right” amount of input. I know narrators who are very explicit with rights holders when starting on a project, and go so far as to send a detailed description of how they’re going to work, including a statement about the fact that they will accept no creative or directorial change requests once the first fifteen minutes have been approved. In a recent podcast episode, I had a chat with an author/narrator pair who knew each other prior to audiobook production, and it was clear that the author gave a great deal of direction during the process. So it really depends on the people involved.

I think the important point is that the author is not the director: either the book is being recorded in a studio with a director and an engineer and a narrator, as often happens at the major publishing houses, or the book is being recorded by a single person who is self-directing (with an occasional outlier, e.g., an engineer is hired but no director), but in neither case is the author the director. That doesn’t mean that an author’s input can never be considered; it simply means that how much input will be welcome should be determined by the parties involved before embarking on the journey.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Business Musings: Audio

19 January 2019

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Publishing analysts have said for years that if the disruption hadn’t hit with ebooks, the story of publishing in the past decade would have been audio. By that, the analysts mean audio rights. They have become increasingly important and will remain so.

Here in the States, where so many of us commute to our jobs, digital audio created a revolution around 2010 or so. Rather than buy a CD or a tape to use in the car (or rent them), folks with the right kind of vehicle could play their digital audiobooks in through their car’s sound system, often by linking their phone to the system.

That has become more common rather than less. But the revolution continues. Joanna Penn, on the Creative Penn, was the first in my experience to point out that voice-first devices, like Amazon Alexa or Google Home would be able to play digital audiobooks. So someone could go from the car to the house without headphones and pick up on the audiobook exactly where they had left off.

For a while, Amazon enabled this too, by offering an inexpensive audio version of a book if you’d already bought the book in another format. Like so many things Amazon, the cheap early adaption part of this vanished, only after people got hooked, of course.

A lot of books aren’t in audio—it’s expensive to produce a good audiobook—so readers have defaulted to having their dry computer voice (Siri or Alexa) simply read the text. Purists complain about this, but when you’re desperate for audio story, you will listen any way you can.

Audio story is expanding almost daily. Podcasts have moved from a group of people talking or someone interviewing someone else into the storytelling format. Some of those podcasts are nonfiction, but many are fiction, and have become a gateway into reading novels and other fictional products. (As I write this, I just got hit with three different ideas that I want to do if only I have the time.)

. . . .

Audio is expensive to produce and it takes time to earn back the initial investment, without proper set up. I’ll get to that below, but first, let’s look at #voicefirst and Voice SEO.

Voice SEO is search engine optimization for voice-commands. With the growth of things like Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Apple’s Siri, voice commands are becoming more and more common. They can handle relatively easy commands, but not complicated ones or something said in an accent that the system doesn’t recognize.

. . . .

A lot of people make fun of readers who ask their Google Home or Apple’s Siri to read a book to them. Right now, the voice is flat and often mispronounces words. (My favorite version of Siri, whom we have dubbed “The British Guy,” says Wig-Wham for wigwam, and mispronounces every Spanish word he encounters. Which is tough here in Las Vegas, when he’s the one giving driving directions for the GPS. (Wigwam is a major street.) And don’t get me started on how badly he pronounces Hawaiian words, which are also common here.)

The flatness and mispronunciation won’t be a forever thing, though. The read-aloud feature will probably never be as good as a human performance. (The science fiction writer in me forced me to use the word “probably.”) But more and more people will use the feature as the reading improves.

Because the future of audio is moving so rapidly that I missed significant developments by taking nine months off, it’s more essential than ever for writers to hold onto their audio rights.

However, traditional publishers are snapping up audio rights with every single book contract now, which is rather like snapping up movie rights or TV rights. And writers are letting the publishers do it—usually on the advice of idiot agents.

Audio is the reason that Simon & Schuster’s Carolyn Reidy declared 2018 the best year ever for the company—the growth of audio and backlist sales, which I will get to in a future part of this series. S&S has its own audio division, and it increased its title count in 2018. The company has also started producing original content, just like Audible has.

Reidy expects S&S’s audio division to become even more important. She told Publisher’s Weekly:

With even more audio retailers coming on board, and the further proliferation of smart speakers and other listening devices, audio will remain a growth engine for us.

Audio will be a growth engine for all of us, if we can manage it. In addition to the audio retailers growing almost by the day, ways for indie writers to produce their own audiobooks and get them into the market have grown in 2018 as well.

Findaway Voices, in particular, has become a go-to site for writers who want to produce their own audiobooks.

. . . .

The key here with audio rights—with all of your rights, really—is maintaining control of them. Watch your contracts. If you’re publishing traditionally, reserve your audio rights. Do not sell them as part of a package to your traditional publisher, no matter how big those companies are.

If you’re indie publishing, watch your contracts, particularly if an audiobook publisher comes to you. As I mentioned above in the bit about S&S, they now have an entire audio division and are producing original content. Which means that they might contract for audio first.

The problem with all of the S&S contracts I’ve seen—the problem with most of the Big 5 contracts I’ve seen—is that they won’t accept a license for a single right. They want to license the entire property, even if they don’t exercise all of those rights. Which means that by licensing audio to them, you might lose paperback rights as well. Or the entire copyright, since that seems to be the M.O. for many of these companies.

Be very careful.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch



AudioFile

10 January 2019

Chalk it up to PG’s sheltered life, but he just discovered AudioFile.

Re: No Time to Spare by Ursula K. Le Guin, Read by Barbara Caruso:

Narrator Barbara Caruso delivers a collection of previously published reflections by Ursula K. Le Guin, who passed away in January. Caruso’s wondrous ability to capture Le Guin’s humor and energy gives listeners an unhurried experience. An introduction by Karen Fowler, also read by Caruso, sets the stage by framing the audiobook as a journey. Distinctions between essays are clear; Caruso pauses a few beats before and after announcing each selection. Listeners become active participants in discussions on youth and old age; ownership, gender, and language in the literature business; beliefs and metaphors; the joys of family and travel; and even snappy uniforms. Interspersed between sections are the adventures of her irrepressible cat, Pard.

Link to the rest at AudioFile, which includes an audio clip from Ms. Caruso’s performance.

Given the long decline in radio drama, at least in the US, some readers have not heard talented voice actors perform. Audio clips for a large number of audiobooks are available on AudioFile, which allows visitors to follow their favorite narrators through various performances.

AudioFile has a Golden Voice Narrators section featuring particularly talented and popular narrators with audio excerpts of their works.

Having attended college with some men and women who became professional actors, as he examined the photos of the Golden Voice Narrators and listened to excerpts from their performances, PG was reminded that while, with a few exceptions, acting is largely a young person’s business, the actor’s voice does not tend to change with age in the same way the actor’s face and body may. Plastic surgery is not necessary for a voice actor to stay busy and a talented woman of a certain age can effectively portray an ingénue should she wish to do so.

The era of audiobooks distributed on magnetic tape, tape cassette and even audio CD means that at least some readers who associate audiobooks with those media may have tuned out of the audiobook world.

Digital audio distribution and consumption via online downloads to iPods and, more recently, smartphones, have powered a resurgence in the audio drama audience.

From Forbes:

In 2017, digital content subscription service Scribd’s fastest-growing segment was audiobooks. Primary audiobook subscriber numbers for Scribd grew by more than 20% in 2016. This rise isn’t unique to Scribd: Audiobooks are also up about 20% year over year across the publishing industry for the first eight months of 2017, according to the Association of American Publishers’ data reports from 1,200 publishers. In the same time period, print books rose just 1.5%, and e-books dropped by 5.4%.

What’s behind the rise of the audiobook? According to 2018 Edison Research data, the percentage of Americans who have ever listened to an audiobook stands at 44%, just one point up from 2015’s 43%. If the audience base isn’t expanding, the number of audiobooks each individual listens to must be going up, and that’s likely due to tech advancements that are changing their listening habits. Eighteen percent of Americans own smart speakers, the same research found, a number that has risen shockingly fast since 2017 when it was just 7%. And don’t forget to factor in airpods, wearables and the still-increasing 83% of smartphone-owning Americans.

“Not only is audiobook production constantly improving, but recent developments in technology have made audiobooks extremely convenient for the consumer,” Scribd CEO and cofounder Trip Adler says. “With the Scribd app, for example, a user can download any audiobook to their device and enjoy it during their commute, while doing chores at home, or even at the gym. And as AI-enabled home devices like Echo and Google Home continue to improve, I think we’ll continue to see the popularity of audiobooks grow.”

Technology might be making it easier to produce audiobooks, but it’s still a time- and resource-consuming process — one that is punished rather than rewarded by the industry’s payment standards, according to Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords.

“Despite the high production expenses, industry-standard payout percentages for audiobooks are abysmal. Traditional publishers and indie authors alike will often earn only between 25-40% list [price] on audiobooks, whereas on the ebook side, where production expenses are negligible, they earn 60-80% list,” Coker says. Since 2016 audiobook sales in the U.S. alone amounted to $2.1 billion, authors are leaving a large chunk of change on the counter.

“In other words,” he adds, “the compensation structures are backward. Authors and publishers have to invest more yet earn less. Why do retailers get away with paying authors and publishers so little on audiobooks? The answer is because the industry is asleep at the wheel.”

. . . .

“Audio rights are now seen as increasingly valuable, to the point that even Audible is bidding against traditional publishers to acquire the exclusive audio rights to promising projects,” Coker says. As the number of smart speakers in homes around the globe continues to pick up speed, I wouldn’t be surprised to see audiobooks continue to ride that same wave.

Link to the rest at Forbes

PG also discovered LibriVox, a nonprofit service that produces free audiobooks of printed books for which copyright protection has expired and are in the public domain – think Jane Austen, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Dickens, etc.

All LibriVox audiobooks are created by unpaid volunteers.

From Wired:

I’ve spent the past year with strange voices in my head. Soothing, rich-voiced, strangers intermittently whispering, crying, yelling, and practicing terrible accents in my ear. This is because I discovered the weird world of LibriVox, a charmingly scrappy DIY community site dedicated to creating free audiobooks for public domain texts.

LibriVox is like Audible, the audiobook service owned by Amazon, except that every book is made for free by volunteers, and every book was published before 1923. A legion of volunteer readers—from professional stage actors to people practicing reading English as a second language—patiently, and sometimes not so patiently, inch through thousands of texts, posting the end results for free. The most popular audiobooks on LibriVox— for The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Moby-Dick, and Pride and Prejudice—have been downloaded or streamed more than 2 million times. Since LibriVox started in 2005, over 8,000 texts have been recorded, edited and posted to the site by over 6,000 readers. Other volunteers work on the editing of the audio files and checking for accuracy.

LibriVox volunteers give their work away. The site maintains a do-what-you-will attitude. If a volunteer wants to re-record a book that others have already done, that’s fine: the more the merrier. Anyone can burn LibriVox audiobooks onto CDs and try to sell them. People have done that. More lucratively, perhaps, third-party vendors have also developed LibriVox apps, which generate advertising revenue, and host the site’s catalog.

The difference between LibriVox and Audible is sometimes like the difference between public-access television and high-end cable shows.

. . . .

“Now Audible has millions of members globally,” says Matthew Thornton, Audible’s vice president of communications. “In 2014 that translated to about 1.2 billion hours of listening.” That’s about the equivalent of over 100,000 years of listening. Thornton says the average Audible subscriber devotes about two hours a day to listening, which is kind of mind-blowing.

Whereas LibriVox depends on passionate volunteers, Audible employs a pool of about a 100 mostly New York-based actors to record nearly non-stop in the six studios at the company’s Newark headquarters. The company also draws from professional celebrity performers like John Malkovich, Kate Winslet, Samuel L. Jackson, Anne Hathaway, and more. Audiobooks have become so popular that, in some cases, the sales of individual audio titles outstrip their print counterparts. But unlike Audible, at LibriVox the values of the marketplace are wonderfully disregarded.

. . . .

You won’t find user reviews of performances on LibriVox because the community has decided—rightly, no doubt—that negative comments would discourage volunteers from reading for the site. (But you can find those reviews—negative and not—on those third-party apps and on Archive.org, which also hosts the LibriVox catalog.)

Some of the audiobooks on LibriVox are almost like outsider art. Sometimes while listening I feel like I’m eavesdropping on a strange over-wrought audition, where an aspiring actor tries on and abandons accents, tweaks their voice in pitch too much, or hyperextends vowels in an effort to feel their way into the voice of a fictional New England sea captain, or a crude Yorkshire industrialist, or a displaced German Jew in London.

Link to the rest at Wired

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