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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Audio Books - What I've Learned

Last year at RWA, Audible asked me to sit on a panel and share my successes doing audio books. My narrator made up this audio snippet to play, and we wowed the audience with the creative possibilities. Now I have 16 under my belt, so I have even more I can share. In fact, if you'll be around the Nashville area, I will be giving a small presentation, with my awesome Nashville narrator, J.D. Hart, on October 3 for the Indie Romance Convention, just before the book signing that date. Whatever I didn't cover here, will surely be covered there in Tennessee in a little over one month.

No one has come up with a good way to promote audio books, IMHO. There are small blogs and bloggers out there who will do reviews and post them, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart, but frankly, there isn't a source, except for paid advertising in some expensive magazines that promotes audio books. It's still like the Wild West out there, every author and even publishing house kind of "doing their own thing."

I consider my friendship and collaboration with J.D. Hart a tremendous asset and a boon to my career. I can only hope that all of you find yourselves lucky enough to find a great narrator who can work with you on book trailers, snippets to SoundCloud or other things you might need for promotion. And remember, audio books are books. Funny how publicists and promoters don't think of that when they are designing an author's campaign. The audio book listener is different than the eBook listener. They like to savor the stories, take their time. Remember, most audio books are 7-10 hours long. A great reader can finish a good book in 3-4 hours, or less. So, younger readers I find are not into audio books, unless they are doing a long commute or have lots of free time. Unless you're very wealthy, most young people I know have little or no time. That's why I think there has been such a surge in the novella market.

Narrowing the field a bit more, some people want to hear their own idea of how the hero sounds. They may not like my husky voice of a man I like to whisper in my ears. They may have some other idea, so an audio book might take them out of the story. I find that the listener, if they will give the narrator time enough, can adjust to this. Remember that Diana Gabaldon didn't like the producers' choice of Jamie Fraser at first, but as she watched the actor reel and sample reading, she said he became the character Jamie Fraser to her. Simply put, she let the actor do his job. And he did.

Most authors don't understand that the Narrator becomes a character in her book, since the book is told through the narrator's eyes. He gives a read, but it is more than just telling the story, he performs the story for the reader, thereby adding his interpretation of the words. If we didn't have this, we'd have books we all would fall asleep over every day. And there are plenty of those out there to begin with!

My narrator had to point this out to me. Now it seems so obvious. The collaboration we do together isn't anything I could have done by myself. It gives the reader three ways to enjoy my story: to read it electronically, hold a printed book in their hot little hands, and listen to the story as told by a talented actor with a dreamy voice. My best and most loyal fans enjoy my books all three ways, and several of my author friends have had the same results.

Coming 10-19-15
We've been fortunate to sell nearly 12,000 audio books since I began this new media venture under two years ago now. Going forward, I only see this trend as strengthening as new forms of media pop up, new devices are created and the talented people at Apple and others come up with new, perhaps more interactive ways of relating to a favorite story. Look at what has happened with video movies. Don't you sometimes enjoy the bloopers, or re-watch the movie with the Director's narration, the actor interviews and the "Making Of" portions of the movie?

I think in publishing, audio books allow the reader to have more bites of the Apple (if you'll forgive the pun) -- more chances to experience the story in a fuller dimension.

What are your thoughts on audio books?

Sharon Hamilton is a NYT and USA/Today bestselling author most known for her SEAL Brotherhood series. She also writes a Golden Vampire and Guardian Angel series.

A lifelong organic gardener, Sharon lives with her husband in the Wine Country of Northern California, where most of her stories take place. When she’s not writing, she’s getting verra verra dirty in the mud, or wandering Farmer’s Markets looking for new Heirloom varieties of vegetables and flowers.




Sharon Hamilton
Life is one fool thing after another.
Love is two fool things after each other.



12 comments:

Cara Marsi said...

Great post. Congrats on your terrific audio book sales. I know audio books are becoming more popular. As a reader, I'm not quite there yet with audio books. I put the Audible app on my iPhone to support a writer friend when her first audio book came out. I like the way you can sync your Kindle with Audible and read the book along with listening to it. But that's the only book I have, so far, on audio. I have a funny story to share: a few years ago, a woman I know told me that she used to have a long commute to work. She listened to books as she drove. She's a romance reader. One morning she listened to a particularly hot scene. She missed her exit, and by the time she got to work, she was sweating from listening to the hot love scene. Her co-workers couldn't figure out what was wrong and she was too embarrassed to tell them.

Sharon Hamilton said...

LOL Cara. Yes, it happens. I get emails about the delicious housework or gardening that can be done. And I agree, it's something that's a trend and growing. Quilters, for instance, listen to audio books. People who spend lots of time doing one thing in one place by themselves, or with others are good prospects. Not like you can broadcast one of my books over a factory's PA system! Although productivity might go up! We are all so busy, and audio books are to be savored, like I said in my post. Like a lot of things these days, we don't take the time.

jean hart stewart said...

A world I have yet to explore. Thanks for all the information.

J.D. Hart said...

"We're moving toward a media-agnostic consumer who doesn't think of the difference between textual and visual and auditory experience," says Don Katz, Audible's founder and CEO. "It's the story, and it is there for you in the way you want it."

Audio books have ballooned into a $1.2 billion industry, up from $480 million in retail sales in 1997. Unit sales of downloaded audio books grew by nearly 30% in 2011 compared with 2010, according to the Audio Publishers Association. Now they can be downloaded onto smartphones with the tap of a finger, often for the price of an e-book.

Recorded books date back to the 1930s, when the Library of Congress created a "talking books" program for the blind. The proliferation of the cassette deck in autos boosted their popularity in the 1980s. CDs followed, but sales plateaued as audio books failed to keep pace with other forms of digital entertainment.

These narrated books typically cost $50 or more ($100 for Stephen King's lengthy "The Stand"), so devotees borrowed them from the library or rented them from mail-order services like Books on Tape, which still exists as a unit of Random House and emphasizes unabridged titles for libraries and schools.

Prices are much lower now, as production costs have plunged and demand has risen. Audio books can be bundled with an e-book for just a few dollars, downloaded as part of a monthly subscription plan or bought individually for as low as $1.99 (for a short story) or as high as $69.99 (for the Bible). An average downloadable audio book costs close to $20.

"Everybody has an audio book player in their pocket at this point," says Anthony Goff, vice president of Hachette Audio, where sales have jumped by 31% this spring over last. "It makes that much easier for the masses to try it." Downloadable books made up some 60% of total audio unit sales in 2011, dwarfing CDs.

Audio book producers have been dramatically increasing their output. 13,255 titles came out in 2012, up from 4,602 in 2009, according to the Audio Publishers Association.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Awesome stats. Thank you, J.D. for publishing this and reminding us and others -- we need to jump on board!! Huge section of the market, and getting larger by the day.

Now if only the places we can promote audio books could expand, that would be lovely!!

julie beasley said...

I've read audios for quite some time now they kept me company on dark winter nights waiting for my bus home and train journeys home to Wales. I read recently that truckers listen to romance it helps them keep alert with the sex scenes. I've been lucky and been either gifted with or won audios from book parties that have some incredible narrators. Your right Sharon about not having enough marketing etc. Also listeners shouldn't be shy about leaving a review they are easier and more fun than doing a book. This month though as been August Audio for a couple of authors and they have been interresting

Pamela Reveal said...

Sharon Hamilton thank you for introducing me to the world of audio. J D Hart you are amazing as narrator i have listen to other audio but you are my favorite. Between Sharon amazing writing and your voice abilities the journey you both take us on is simply amazing The world of Audio will bring you hours of enjoyment

Pamela Reveal said...

Audiobooks are amazing while you drive, cleaning house, exercise. I love that i can listen to amazing journeys and do the thing i enjoy so much and that is traveling the world of romance writers/ authors

Pamela Reveal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pamela Reveal said...

Sharon Hamilton thank you for introducing me to the world of audio. J D Hart you are amazing as narrator i have listen to other audio but you are my favorite. Between Sharon amazing writing and your voice abilities the journey you both take us on is simply amazing The world of Audio will bring you hours of enjoyment

Pamela Reveal said...

Sharon Hamilton was the wonderful Author who introduced me to audio books. They are anazing with J D Hart reading them. I do like audio books alot they are great on trips, while cleaning house, exercising, you can lounge in a pool and listen to them, let me say thus you may want to be by yourself when you hesr J D sexy voice awww To me having a good narrator is the jey to a awesome audio book. Ive have listen to other audio I do like men reading over wonen so far. I have yet found a sudio where men and women both read . I think Audio has a wonderful place and brings you such a wonderful experience that you will truly enjoy i have

Pamela Reveal said...

Sharon Hamilton was the wonderful Author who introduced me to audio books. They are anazing with J D Hart reading them. I do like audio books alot they are great on trips, while cleaning house, exercising, you can lounge in a pool and listen to them, let me say thus you may want to be by yourself when you hesr J D sexy voice awww To me having a good narrator is the jey to a awesome audio book. Ive have listen to other audio I do like men reading over wonen so far. I have yet found a sudio where men and women both read . I think Audio has a wonderful place and brings you such a wonderful experience that you will truly enjoy i have

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