Microphone prefIf you haven’t heard about Audible’s new venture, Audible Creation Exchange (ACX), have I got news for you.  On May 12th Audible announced a dynamic online audiobook rights marketplace, audiobook production platform, and online sales system.  Its aim? To increase the number of audiobooks by offering a place for audiobook professionals to connect and produce audiobooks.  There’s much more to ACX, but what it means to us as listeners is greater selection.

ACX is groundbreaking in that it allows any professionally published book, new or old, to become a professionally produced audiobook.  It provides authors and publishers access to talented actors/narrators and studio professionals who know how to deliver a well-produced audiobook.  There is even training for an author if one wishes to narrate their own book.

The possibilities are vast.  Publishers and authors with unused audiobook rights can utilize ACX to find just the right narrator.  Yes, authors can specify their preferences of such things as gender and a narrator’s ability to perform accents and voice types.  Am I hearing a few chants of “Yes, yes, yes!” from our listeners?  In turn, audio publishers, studios, and narrators can find books of interest and even audition online for those holding the audio rights to specific books.

With the rapid growth of the digital audiobook industry, traditional production companies just aren’t keeping up and there is tremendous demand for more across the industry.  Donald Katz, CEO of Audible had this to say about ACX:

“The brilliant performances of well-composed words that are packaged as audiobooks have emerged as a profound form of entertainment and a very fast-growing media category.  But despite the efforts of many valued publishing partners, the creation of new audiobooks has not kept up with our progress. The Audible.com member base has experienced intensive and accelerating global growth, and our average member listens to close to 17 audiobooks per year. And yet the stunning fact is that close to 95% of new, professionally published books do not become audiobooks. Most authors and millions of avid listeners are disenfranchised from this important market. ACX was created to change this. Secondary rights to books are held in moral trust, and they are designed to be exploited instead of buried in file cabinets.”

ACX is launching over 1,000 titles (I’m not sure of the date) and participating publishers include Random House, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Pearson Education.  ACX is seeking more titles from professional authors and book publishers.

And here’s another advantage of ACX.  Once an audiobook’s production is complete, ACX includes instant access to Audible’s digital distribution platform.  I can just see my Platinum membership at Audible spinning out of control.

Of course, there will be challenges as well.  How many authors have retained their digital rights of books produced throughout the years?  Digital rights was not an issue given much consideration in years past.  Only now as the digital market explodes with both eBooks and audiobooks are authors learning to take serious note.  And quality will likely be another matter for consideration on both the production side and the narrator’s suitability for a given book.  I imagine we’ll wade through longer lists of unknown narrators but that can also be quite a good thing.  Just think of some of our recent new discoveries in the narrator talent pool.

As an audio enthusiast, I’m extremely excited about Audible’s new venture.  If you want to learn more about ACX, check out their site here?  You can be assured that we’ll be following its development closely here at Speaking of Audiobooks.

A View from a Seasoned Author in Audio for the First Time

 

We often wonder in our discussions here at Speaking of Audiobooks about the author’s thoughts on the audio process.  What do they know about the production process and  think about the narration?  Donna Lea Simpson, author of 25 published romance novels, talks with us today about her experience as a first time author in audio.  Donna’s 2010 digital release of Love and Scandal by Harlequin’s Carina Press resulted in not only eBook format but audio as well.  Welcome to Donna!

Donna SimpsonDonna, did you know that Love and Scandal may be chosen for release in audio?  Were you aware of the digital rights involved with the choice?

I didn’t really think about it. I’ve signed a lot of contracts over the years, with a lot of rights attached, and I’ve never had audio rights picked up, so this was a first!

Do you think authors are paying closer attention to audio rights now?  Do authors see it as a growing market?

 

Authors are certainly paying a lot more attention to audio rights. I think of it as a part of the whole digital revolution.  All digital rights have become so much more important because of the proliferation of devices now available to read/listen to books on. With MP3 players, iPhones and iPods, and Android, etc., there is so much choice for listening devices, that a lot of busy people are now realizing audio books fit their lifestyle. The difference is, they don’t need a dedicated device for an audio book. As an author, I’m becoming much more aware of markets I hadn’t really thought of before, and in my opinion, audio book format is right up there with ebooks in growth of market. We’ve only begun to see the potential.

When did you first hear of the decision to offer Love and Scandal in audio format?  What were your thoughts?

In July of last year I got an email with the news, and I was so surprised! And excited… it was another wonderful gift in a year that held a lot of surprises for me. I have to say, though, I was a little uneasy, too. There are some… ahem… lusty scenes in Love & Scandal, and I wondered how those would translate to audio.

Was anything required of you as the author once you heard the news?

No, there was nothing required of me; Carina and Audible took care of everything.

What did it feel like to hear someone perform your book?  Did you agree with the narrator’s interpretation?

It feels distinctly odd, an out-of-body experience, to hear my words read back to me.

I have only listened to part of the book, but I think the choice of narrator was absolutely brilliant! First off, Charlotte Parry has the most lovely voice and accent, simply beautiful. And she manages to capture the subtle slyness of my main character, Collette, with clever inflections. She is the perfectnarrator.

So, how did you feel about those lusty scenes in audio?

Let’s just say, I blush real easy! I don’t know why it’s different, but hearing the words is much different for me than simply readingthem. And the scenes are… hmmm… very lusty.

Did you meet Charlotte Parry at any time during the process?

No, unfortunately.

On the Audible page for Love & Scandal I was flabbergasted to see this note from the publisher: “Our recording studio engineer took the unusual step of sending us a note to let us know this is one great listen.” I think that this is overwhelmingly a tribute to Charlotte’s lovely interpretation.

Any words of wisdom or overall thoughts now that you have one of your print books in audio?

I don’t think I really have any words of wisdom, but I do have a question for book listeners; as a writer, I’m interested in how the book experience is differentwhen you listen to a book rather than read it?

Thanks to Donna for joining us today.  As I worked with Donna over the past few months, I discovered that not only does she have a great sense of detail but also a creative mind (beyond the written word).  She’s already provided me with an idea or two that I’ll likely include in a future column this fall!

Coming in June – Our First Annual Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll!

How many times have we discussed our favorite audiobooks, narrators, and those heroes who make us melt?  Next month marks Speaking of Audiobooks’ first annual Favorite Romance Audiobooks Poll.  It’s much more than choosing our favorite romance in audio format.  We will also be tallying votes for our favorite narrators and authors in audio, as well as favorites in a number of genres and a few other surprise categories.  The poll will be located at AAR’s main site.

Recent Listens

Lover Unleashed – J.R. Ward

Review by Lea AAR

Narrated by Jim Frangione

One review of the audio aspects of a Black Dagger Brotherhood book will look much like any other.  Jim Frangione narrates all and he reads more than acts.  The first time I experienced his reading of another BDB book, Lover Eternal, I stopped within an hour declaring “This isn’t working for me!”  But I later reconsidered, tried again with an open mind, and felt victorious with my thorough enjoyment of his narration.  One warning – I read the first five in the series numerous times before trying the audio version.  The glossary of terms is important for those who are new to the series and you miss that in audio.

As always, I was fascinated with the BDB’s world and accepted Ward’s developments with little complaint.  Both Manny and Payne are relative newcomers to the series when compared to the host of other familiar characters.  Their love story takes back seat to the overall action in and around the Brotherhood and much of their time together is spent in long bouts of foreplay that I thought made some rather boring listening.  Vishous, Jane, and Butch share a good bit of the spotlight and a number of new characters are not only introduced but given considerable page space.  However, I must be honest.  I found myself a little depressed listening to all of this misery for 18+ hours and resorted to taking an occasional break with a humorous romance audio just to keep going!  However, in the end, I did find the romance rewarding and, yes, I’m definitely on board for the next chapter!

River MarkedRiver Marked – Patricia Briggs

Review by Kaetrin

Narrated by Lorelei King

This is the sixth book in the Mercy Thompson series and Spoiler Alert – Adam and Mercy get married (awww).  They head off on their honeymoon and the meat of the story occurs in their absence.  A river monster is killing people and it will be up to Mercy to put a stop to it.  There’s also more to learn about Mercy’s family history and walkers in general.

I actually liked this one better in audio than print and even thought it easier to understand.  In print I found myself reading a beginning scene between Mercy and Adam a few times in an attempt to understand and finally just let it go.  When I heard the same scene in audio, its intent was so obvious that I had no idea how I didn’t get it while reading.  It’s quite possible that was just me but there is something about the way a phrase sounds which can add so much to the meaning one takes away.

When I read River Marked in print, I was left with the impression that Adam was in wolf form (and therefore kind of absent) much longer than he actually was.  In audio, he seemed to be more present in the story.  I can’t really explain why other than that was my impression.  As I’m a mad keen Adam fan, it definitely added to my enjoyment and Ms. King’s deep growly voice for Adam is very good.

Quicksilver – Amanda Quick

Review by LinnieGayl

Narrated by Anne Flosnik

Some of Amanda Quick’s older books are beloved comfort reads for me, but her Arcane series is hit or miss. This is a definite miss; if not listening for review I would have stopped after one instead of listening for a boring 8 ¾ hours.

Glass reader Virginia Dean knows she’s in trouble when she wakes up by a dead body. Fortunately, Owen Sweetwater appears and rescues her. Owen is investigating the murders of two other glass readers.  A lot of this is familiar. Owen and his family are afraid he’s facing madness. He feels an instant psychical bond with Virginia. The two quickly begin working together to solve the murders.

I felt the paranormal aspects overwhelmed any potential character development or romance. Normally I like the hero and heroine to spend a lot of time talking together. Unfortunately, while Virginia and Owen talked a lot, their conversations sounded like lectures – boring lectures. They did have a few funny conversations about sex but too soon they’d get back to talking about psychical matters.

Anne Flosnik’s narration didn’t work. Her deliberate, slow narration made Virginia and Owen’s conversations more boring. Owen’s voice was horrible; he sounded ancient. Virginia’s wasn’t a lot better. At one point, when Virginia was talking with a female friend, Ms. Flosnik made Virginia sound like Owen.

While I enjoyed a few parts, they had little to do with any romance. In fact, I never felt a romance between Owen and Virginia, just a psychical bond.

To Taste the Wine – Fern Michaels

Review by Melinda

Narrated by Anne Flosnik

“Oh what a tangled web we weave…” The protagonists of this story learned the very, very hard way how tangled after they meet in London onboard a ship bound for Australia. Each hides any number of shady secrets that prevents their shipboard romance from developing once they reach New South Wales.

The narrator is Anne Flosnik, a narrator I have found interesting and well spoken when not reading British Regency or Medieval romance. As luck would have it, this is set later in the 19th century and includes Australian accents! She moves the story along at a good pace, only very occasionally and briefly slipping into the nasal ennui she seems to exude when reading Mary Balogh.

The story itself could use a little fine-tuning, as it seemed to stretch longer and longer, leaving the listener wondering how Michaels would ever bring the two to their happy ending. Once she surrounded them with layers upon layers of lies, their lives were incredibly complicated, and then she added more twists and turns. It took a little Aboriginal magic to finally resolve the story, with an epilogue Flosnik almost rushed through with the same exhilaration of the final chapter. Well, to clarify, it’s rushed for Flosnik, who sometimes manages to hold a single syllable for several searing seconds (when reading Balogh).

Our Group Listen

 

Our Group Listen of Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh is up and running.  Our group discussion is planned for the end of May.  We hope you’ll join us!  Our past two listens have proven to be just plain fun.

Time for Your Thoughts

What are your thoughts on ACX?  Do you see it as a game changer?

Donna’s question to us, “I’m interested in how the book experience is different when you listen to a book rather than read it?”

Are you planning on joining our Group Listen?

Do you have an update on your Listening Challenge?  It’s not too late to join in.

And as always, do you have any recent audiobook successes or failures to share with us?

Ending Notes

We now have a list of all our Mini Reviews from our Speaking of Audiobooks columns over at our Goodreads group.  You don’t have to be a Goodreads member to view this list so check it out.

Our Speaking of Audiobooks Goodreads group keeps growing and we now have 109 members with a constant flow of comments.  Come sign up and share your audiobook shelf with us.

I’ll be back later this month talking about June releases.

Enjoy your listening!

–   Lea Hensley