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by Amy Rubinate

Photo Credit: Ron Butler and Erin Bennett

Many authors use audiobooks to enhance their readership and increase sales. To confirm why a writer would want to ensure that their book is made into an audiobook, I went straight to the source. I asked the executive director of the Audiobook Publishers Association (APA) Michele Cobb for her thoughts. She replied, “By giving the consumer all the format options, you maximize their ability to connect with your title. With eight years of double-digit growth, audiobooks have proven their value again and again.”

Narrator Erin Bennett

A recent press release from the APA gives the numbers to match her assessment. “US audiobook sales in 2019 totaled 1.2 billion dollars, up 16% from the previous year, with a corresponding increase in units.” It is beneficial for an author to ensure that their book is made into an audiobook, whether by tying audio rights to the print and digital sale, retaining the rights and shopping it to an audiobook publisher, or self-publishing the audiobook and placing it with a distribution service.

According to a September, 2019 article by The Bookseller, some of these new readers are children. Citing a report shared by The Insight People, The Bookseller revealed, “As ownership of smart speakers by children has increased twofold since January 2018, audiobook popularity has increased by 138%.” Children’s listenership still lags behind the adult market, but this report indicates a significant increase among the younger demographic.

In my work as an audiobook producer and director, I have seen an increase in the kinds of juvenile books that had previously not been regularly produced in audio, such as picture books and graphic novels. With graphic novels, some textual adjustments are necessary, since some visual elements won’t translate to the spoken word. In picture book production, music and sound effects are often added to create a complete aural experience. 

While the idea of altering your original concept for audio may seem daunting, you can view it as an opportunity to lend a new dimension to your storytelling. I narrated Marla Frazee’s picture book Roller Coaster for children’s audiobook publisher Live Oak Media. In print, this book wonderfully depicts the journey of trepidation, thrilling climactic moment, and joyous relief of a child experiencing her first roller coaster ride. In audio, all of these aspects of the story are in place, enhanced by the excitement in the narrator’s voice, the sound of the crowd, and the clatter of the roller coaster carriage on its tracks.

All of these sensory details help listeners feel as if they are really there. Each of the audio elements is organic to the pictures and text; for example, a shout from the ticket taker and the bark of a little dog are suggested by the illustrations. Putting these details into audio is a way of honoring what already exists in the book and lifting it off the page. 

Narrator Ron Butler

Since many publishers sell an audio CD and picture book as a package, especially for the library market, and many novels are available on tablet in both audio and print, for the reader to consume in tandem, the reader can now have the best of both literary worlds. If you have an opportunity to put your book on audio, I urge you to take it, and celebrate this uniquely modern form of storytelling and its path to wider consumer engagement.

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:

  • Rebound, by Kwame Alexander, narrated by Ronnie Butler 
  • Yes No Maybe So, by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed, narrated by Michael Crouch and Tiya Sircar 
  • Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland, narrated by Bahni Turpin 

You can also consult professional review sources like audiofilemagazine.com and libraryjournal.com for recommendations.

Check out Articles 1 & 2 for more on Bringing Stories to Life and Writing for Audio.

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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 the author.