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Audiobook Narrators Live!

March 27, 2017

Insights for Readers and Writers . . .

 

 

 

 

A panel of five men and a room full of romance fans – that’s how it started. I attended a men-of-romance-type session at a book festival on a lark. I listen to audiobooks while driving, cooking, and cleaning, so my interest is genuine, although I have yet to read or listen to a straight-up genre “romance.” Part of me was oppositional, too, because on my drive to the festival, I began listening to a CD of a great mystery series, knowing that it was not narrated by the usual actor, and boom! The whole story had changed for me. The ambiance, the main character’s personality, and even the landscape descriptions differed from that which I held in my mind from previous involvement in the series. Drat.

 

This book festival panel opened my eyes to the audiobook component of publishing. I learned that in the audiobook world, a narrator develops a following. The growth in audiobook sales has outpaced that of eBooks and print lately, so writers, take heed whom you choose or whom your publisher chooses as your audiobook narrator. Readers, help your favorite narrators by following them on social media and submitting reviews of their work on Audible.com. I’ve been delighted to hear works narrated by renown screen actor Rene Auberjonois. Today I noticed screen actor Bronson Pinchot listed as a featured narrator on audible.com.

 

At the festival session, the five men, and their female moderator, were all audiobook narrators, and while the session was billed as romance-related, all voiced books in other genres as well. The panel included one older, British-accented man from England, another older businessman-looking guy, a 30-40-ish normal guy who looks like he could be your brother’s friend, a thin attractive 40-ish loner-type guy, and one radical, long-haired, “dangerous-looking,” bad boy 35-year old man. A very normal-looking 30-ish, “mother-of-toddlers”-type woman was the moderator. They are all famous in their business. I add this description to highlight how they were regular people. The fact that they were all white was not lost on the audience, and some discussion focused on that, including the question, “Can you tell race from a voice recording?” Interesting. The best comment was that narration is about the characters, and that unless the writing includes a lot of dialect, narrator race shouldn’t matter. Yes, the word “dialect” elicited some discussion, too.

 

I learned: most audiobook narrators are freelance, have a theater background, and consider themselves “actors”; their professional universe is small, and they tend to be more collegial than competitive; there’s room in the field for new talent; and there’s a difference between dual and duet narration. I learned that the Audio Publishers Association annual conference is Wednesday, May 31, 2017, in New York City, with the Audie Award Gala on Thursday night, June 1. Seems this conference and award ceremony are always in New York, but meetings and other events occur through the year in at least two other major cities, according to the events page at audiopub.org.

 

I digress, but I’m so excited, I have to add this. As I was checking the date of the Audie Awards, I found info on New York City’s May 31-June 2 BookExpo (which “provides a focused professional environment to discover emerging authors and the next blockbuster titles, engage with the world’s most influential publishers and learn from industry leaders and peers”). Awesome. Who knew? Also, I see on the bookexpoamerica.com website that “BookExpo culminates with BookCon, our two day Fan event where storytelling and pop culture collide.” Wow. Here’s more from the site about the June 3-4 BookCon:

 

BookCon is the event where storytelling and pop culture collide. Experience the origin of the story in all its forms by interacting with the authors, publishers, celebrities and creators of content that influence everything we read, hear and see. BookCon is an immersive experience that features interactive, forward thinking content including Q&As with the hottest talent, autographing sessions, storytelling podcasts, special screenings, literary quiz shows and so much more. BookCon is the ultimate celebration of books, where your favorite stories come to life.

 

Back to my Audiobook Narrators Live! theme. The five male panelists spoke of their appreciation of good stories with developed characters. Their comments on the craft of narration and its technical aspects, however, seemed lost on the audience. One professional narrator, in response to a question about if authors should narrate their own works, said something like this:

 

Try sitting in a small, windowless room reading aloud from your very favorite book, for two hours. Then, take a 15-minute break and read aloud for another two hours. Take an hour meal break, and then return to that same small, windowless room and read aloud for two more hours. Take another 15-minute break and return to read aloud for another two hours. Stop for the day. Come back tomorrow and do the very same thing again, and keep doing this for as many days as needed to record the complete work. If, at the end of this, you can say that you love the work and could do it forever, then maybe you have a future as a professional narrator.

 

The session proved very refreshing and enlightening about a side of the publishing world I’d never considered.