by Amy Rubinate
Audiobooks are an increasingly important part of the literary marketplace, and there is a high likelihood that every book will become an audiobook sooner or later. In light of this shift in the market, authors may wonder if they need to keep the audio version in mind when writing, and adjust their writing style to accommodate this medium. I would suggest that the answer is yes, even if the changes are subtle or few. But let’s start with the easiest adjustment: using audiobook techniques to your advantage as part of the writing process.
You can open the door to any audiobook studio in the country, stop the narrator mid-sentence, and ask them if they think the author read their writing aloud before publication. The narrator won’t even have to consider the question; they will already have an answer. And they will probably be right. Reading aloud is the final litmus test to ensure that your writing is sure-footed and nimble—because your tongue will tell if your phrasing is clumsy, the syntax is off, or if you could have cut that long sentence in half.
In audiobook sessions, a narrator often trips over the thing that shouldn’t be there. When I direct an author in the booth, they often vow to never again use a complicated last name, or to stop using “little” as an adverb, since these can be stumbling blocks for a novice narrator. But it’s best not to wait for the recording session to discover these issues. You can read aloud as a way to give a final pass to your work and root out the things that may look good on paper but aren’t easily read aloud. Often, the things that aren’t easy to read aloud are also difficult to read on the page.
I had the pleasure of directing author Alex Gino’s first narration job for their middle grade novel, Rick. While Alex was new to the audiobook process, there was an effortless flow to their narration, and they were able to move quickly beyond the technical demands to dive into the spirit of the story.
I asked Alex if they read aloud as part of the editing process. Alex replied, “I read my writing with cadence while I’m working—mostly to myself, but also at least once or twice through with my voice before I turn in anything to my editor. So I’m not actively thinking about audiobooks while I write, but am constantly focused on how things sound when read aloud.” This process comes naturally to many authors, but it can be used by anyone as another method of vetting a text’s readability.
Another benefit of keeping audiobooks in the forefront of thought as you write is that it will spur you to use words in a more active way. One of my favorite books to narrate was Judy Moody and the Bucket List, by Megan McDonald. McDonald uses words playfully, as if they were meant to be read aloud in full character. For example, “Wait just a kick-the-bucket second. Judy liked lists. Judy was the Queen of Lists. She, Judy Moody, would make her own list. Her very own kick-the-bucket list of all the stuff she wanted to do before she…went to fourth grade!”
It is nearly impossible to see these vibrant, rhythmic lines and not read them aloud in a bright, playful style. I would bet that McDonald reads her books aloud at some point in the process.
If you’re not already using these audiobook techniques to enhance your writing, I suggest trying them the next time you’re working on a complicated edit. They can help you effortlessly smooth the rough edges in your writing, and help prepare your book to become an audiobook.
Do you have a favorite audiobook or audiobook listening experience? Share it with us in the comments below!
And if you’re new to audiobooks, here’s few audiobooks I helped create, whether behind the scenes or behind the microphone:
- Loving Vs. Virginia, by Patricia Hruby Powell, narrated by Adenrele Ojo and MacLeod Andrews
- All Four Stars, by Tara Dairman, narrated by Kathleen McInerney
- Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble, by Anna Meriano, narrated by Kyla Garcia
Upcoming: Article 3 will feature The Business of Audiobooks.
Also check out Article 1: Bringing Stories to Life
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Amy Rubinate is the owner of audiobook production company Mosaic Audio and the founder of Ideal Audiobooks. She has cast and directed hundreds of narrators, authors, and celebrities, narrated over 300 audiobooks, won AudioFile Earphones Awards, and was listed for Booklist Editor’s Choice Media, Top 10 Historical Fiction, Best Romance, and YALSA Amazing Audiobooks. She has been reviewed and featured in The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal.
Images provided by author.