Narrators/Bloggers Breakfast - from left to right - Xe Sands, Simon Vance, Amy Rubinate, Gayle Weiswasser, Anne Flosnik, Lea Hensley, Patrick Lawlor, Lauren Fortgang; Standing - Karen White and Robert Fass

Narrators/Bloggers Breakfast – from left to right – Xe Sands, Simon Vance, Amy Rubinate, Gayle Weiswasser, Anne Flosnik, Lea Hensley, Patrick Lawlor, Lauren Fortgang; Standing – Karen White and Robert Fass

In late May, I attended the Audio Publishers Association Conference (APAC) in New York City, a first time event for me. Not only was I there to meet face-to-face those narrators and publishers I’ve come to know over the years by working together online but to participate in a panel discussion on Listening Community Reviews.

Not knowing what to expect from a one-day conference, I was thoroughly impressed, first with the community of narrators – professionals who work more often than not, alone in a sound booth and hail from all over the country. I discovered it is a close knit group, not large in number, that is highly supportive of one another. And warmly appreciative of bloggers and sites that feature their work and personally promote audiobooks.

I attended sessions in the Narrator Track. First up was Marketing Successfully and with Manners. Tavia Gilbert moderated this panel of four as they discussed the benefits of adding marketing and PR efforts to promote both their titles and themselves as voice artists. Questions included “What is successful promotion of oneself and one’s work in person and online?” and “How can audiobook performers graciously and powerfully connect with listening fans, authors, reviewers, news media, and casting directors in a way that will increase sales, attract audiences, engage decision makers, and help build a sustainable career?“ If I hadn’t already known that we who support audiobooks online through our writing and promotions are thoroughly appreciated by this community, I would have left knowing that we most definitely are!

Talking with Julia Whelan; Whelan won the Audie award for Best Romance the following night.

Talking with Julia Whelan; Whelan won the Audie award for Best Romance the following night.

Lunch was planned with Allan Hoving from Tantor Audio. Now there’s a company that takes the time to show their appreciation of romance listeners. We sat among a larger group including SoundCloud Audio Content Manager Ben Fawkes over from Germany. SoundCloud is a definite wave of
the future. We use it regularly at AudioGals and I was fascinated to learn how to better utilize the service and what we may expect in the future.

That afternoon, before my participation in the Listening Community Reviews Panel, I stopped by the Home Studio Work Flow session to better understand the challenges and rewards of recording in a home studio. Although most of the information shared was above my head, I definitely came away with a new level of admiration for those who turn out successful work in their own studio. Moderator Jeffrey Kafer’s panel included representatives from AudioGo-Blackstone, Audible, Inc., and Tantor Media.

It was then time for our Listening Community Reviews panel, moderated by Karen White. Panelists included Sue-Ellen Beauregard (Booklist), Adam Boretz (Publishers Weekly), Mary Burkey (Audiobooker), me – Lea Hensley (Speaking of Audiobooks[AAR] and AudioGals), and Robin Whitten (AudioFile Magazine). It’s best to go with the session’s description straight from APAC.

With a flood of new titles hitting the market and a tidal wave of new narrators coming into the industry, good reviews are more important than ever. What titles get reviewed? What will NOT get reviewed? What are acceptable standards of performance and what will get slammed as bad performance? Can actors do anything to bring titles to the attention of reviewers, and what can actors do to ensure they’re turning in the best performance possible so that the review is as good as it can be? Join moderator Karen White and panelists (extracted to list above) as they discuss what it takes to get favorable reviews on your work.

With Robert Fass & Anne Flosnik after Narrators/Bloggers Breakfast

With Robert Fass & Anne Flosnik after Narrators/Bloggers Breakfast

Our audience was filled with narrators as our session was also part of the Narrator Track. It would be difficult to summarize the entire discussion but here are a few things that stood out to me:

* Blog land and sites such as AAR are a different world when it comes to audiobook publishing. Those sites/blogs featuring only audiobooks are relatively small in number but we have influence in the market (that impression was partly gained from the earlier Marketing session.)

* We at Speaking of Audiobooks are among the few that include book content in their reviews. In the world of audio reviews, audio content is the focus (as it should be) and since by necessity, the word count for Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and AudioFile is small by comparison. I was the only panelist who represented publications that included both content and narration in reviews. I emphasized that we desire to talk about the entire listening experience as our communities are built on personal recommendations and understanding reviewers’ tastes.

* Although it can’t be said that the other publications represented in our panel don’t write critical reviews, it’s not an everyday occurrence. Book sites and blogs are more likely to write critical reviews of audiobooks. I explained that we justify our criticism and explain our praise.

* Narrators are interested in what we have to say and, for the most part, enjoy sharing with a larger audience. I felt the vibes from the earlier Marketing Successfully and with Manners session everywhere and afterwards as many narrators took the time to approach me to discuss their work.

* Male narrators and differentiation of characters were two areas discussed and worthy of a column dedicated to such. But a quick rundown? Our community of listeners demands more differentiation of characters and it is true – there is a large percentage of women who prefer male narrators when it comes to their romance. That was news to some male narrators in the crowd. Yes, I saw a good degree of interest from male narrators to take on more romance!

With Karen White at Tantor's party

With Karen White at Tantor’s party

Following our Listening Community Reviews session, I relaxed in the Listeners Lounge. That was total complete entertainment. We listened to a number of the best known narrators perform selections ranging from the humorous to the heartbreaking.

That evening, I attended Tantor’s Tantorious Party and the following morning a narrators/bloggers breakfast. I could write more and even more but in a nutshell, it was a grand time as I continued to meet narrators and other industry professionals. We excitedly discussed all aspects of audio publishing – once again more in a later column.

But my biggest impression? This world of audio has a great appreciation for what we do as audio bloggers and want to know us better. I was thrilled to visit enthusiastically with Renee Raudman, Susan Ericksen, Barbara Rosenblat, Julia Whelan, Patrick Lawlor, Anne Flosnik, Karen White, Xe Sands, Elizabeth Wiley…just to mention a few. I know I’m leaving many out with that comment that I thoroughly enjoyed talking with. Now I’m looking forward to next year!

Ending Notes

Check out our Speaking of Audiobooks Facebook page to see romance audio updates, industry news, and links to articles of interest.

For those new to our Speaking of Audiobooks column, be sure to check out our audio archives for further recommendations and discussions.

Our affiliated Goodreads group, Romance Audiobooks, continues to grow and now has 513 members. Come join us for discussions in between columns.

Enjoy your listening!

– Lea Hensley