I blame my friend Cathe Swanson for my first entry into the wonderful world of audiobooks. While I’d bought them for my children (and enjoyed Narnia, and the Melendy Series on audio), I never had listened myself. However, after hearing her rave about Barbara Rosenblat… hold the phone. Must tell a story on myself that I forgot to put in the podcast.
I was reading a friend’s post not too long ago, when I saw the name Barbara Rosenblat as one of the commenters. Never imagining it could possibly be her, I replied to her comment with the statement that she shared a name with my favorite audio narrator. The woman said, “Thank you. I’m pleased you enjoy my work,” or something gracious like that.” About fell over in a total fangirl embarrassing moment.
Sigh. After listening to a few of my favorite series with Barbara Rosenblat as narrator, I got me a subscription to Audible and haven’t looked back! As I was listening the other day, I realized maybe others were like me–not interested at first, but then learned to love it.
What Is So Great about Listening to Audiobooks?
Audiobooks are one of the fastest-growing segments of the book industry. But why? Why take up to three times longer to “read” a book listening to it than you would if you just cracked the covers? Why sometimes pay more for a book? Just what is so great about them?
In today’s episode, I’m sharing pros and cons, tips for getting the best deal and listening experience, and even a peek into the production side from my personal experience.
So, before we get into what I love and why I think audiobooks are a great way to go for some of your reading time, I first want to acknowledge that there are negatives. Let’s get that out of the way so we can talk… about talking books!
- It requires your attention. It’s easy to become distracted while listening—especially at first. That can be annoying, especially when you’re like me and you listen to a lot of mysteries on audio. Missing that clue can be a killer! Literally and literarily!
A lot of people cite this as the reason they don’t listen to audiobooks. “I become too distracted and miss stuff.” Well, I won’t argue. I did, too—at first. The rest of that story is actually on the positive side, so I’ll leave it there but this does lead to the next negative.
- If you do get distracted, or if you lose your place and for some bizarre reason your host didn’t save it, or if you were on an mp3 at home or something, well… yikes! Going backward or forward thirty seconds at a time to find the last place you remember listening is a pain!
- Expense. Okay, depending on how you listen, audiobooks can be expensive. I’ll talk more about how to find more affordable ones etc., but in general, if you pay full price, you can easily spend 25.00 per audiobook. OUCH! However, with subscriptions, sales, credits, and all kinds of things that again, I’ll get to later, you can bring that price down low… sometimes to free. No joke. However, as an author who has spent THOUSANDS of dollars getting her books on audio, I just want to point out why they’re expensive.
- You pay someone to write the book.
- You pay someone to READ the book. That 10-hour book probably took thirty or more hours to produce!
- You pay a service to put that book up somewhere and host it—like a streaming movie service. It takes space and costs money to hold it there.
Everyone needs to get paid.
Again, though, with things like subscriptions where credits can be as low as ten or fifteen dollars, you can get that same 25.00 book for the same price as a paperback—and someone is reading it for you. Grab a bowl of grapes, recline on the chaise longue, and enjoy!
- Bad narrators: Seriously, this is the worst. It is why I almost didn’t become an audiobook listener. I had a series I’d always loved—mystery, of course—and decided I was going to listen to the audiobook while I did my workout. Queued it up, got it going, and about screamed right there on the treadmill. I hadnt’ listened first. Barbara Rosenblat had spoiled me.
This woman’s’ voice wasn’t bad. She just read. SLOW. Ended at almost 1.5x speed just to make it bearable… and possibly because I wanted it over with.
Let’s face it.
A bad narrator for an audiobook can be like a bad movie adaptation of your favorite book. Like Kiera Knightley butchering Pride and Prejudice or something. Not that I have an opinion on that.
Narrators can sound all wrong to us. They can have voices that personally grate on your nerves, much like certain writing styles. For example, one of my favorite audiobooks my mom can’t stand. Why? Because it’s read by folks with British accents. My mother can’t stand British accents and even gets annoyed with CS Lewis because many of his books have British vs. American spelling and it drives her nuts. ME, I find it interesting how two countries can speak the same language… and not.
Librivox.org has TONS of free audiobooks, but sometimes the narrators are… meh. So, there’s your warning!
- Improved listening skills. I put this in a book once because it was such a big deal to me. Here’s the scene:
Undaunted, Lauren took a different tack. “Well, if you don’t like mysteries, what do you like? You do read, don’t you?”
“I do… but I like audiobooks better.”
The words flew out of her mouth before she had a chance to decide that she did actually want to speak them. “So… basically you’re lazy. Got it.”
But Mitchell laughed—a real laugh with crinkles around his eyes and a dimple that she hadn’t seen before. “It’s okay. I used to think that, too.”
That caught her attention. “Really?”
“Yeah… before I went to school and studied storytelling. An audiobook narrator isn’t the same thing as a storyteller, but the vocal medium is something that resonates with me. I also like it because I can’t “skim” an audiobook. I must listen or it’s difficult to find what I missed, so I tend to pay closer attention to an audiobook than a print copy.”
More about Listening…
So I talked about how it’s easy to get distracted with audiobooks, but what I didn’t say then was how great it has been for making me a better listener—not just to books but also in general. Sermons, people, everything. In fact, I went looking for articles to see what they had to say about this and found THIS great one. Among things like how it improves fluency and pronunciation, how it helps with memory, focus, and attention spans, it talked about how it improves critical listening skills. I can say that is definitely true in my life.
- Multitasking Another advantage is that you can listen to audiobooks at times you could otherwise not “read.” Driving, walking, working out, cleaning house, when you’re too sick to read but you aren’t sleepy… Sure, you could binge-watch your favorite TV shows over and over, or… you could read the next book in that series you’ve been reading… with your eyes closed!
I listen to audiobooks while I’m cooking. The family often comes in and just waits while I turn off the book so they can chat, but if no one comes in, I get my book “read.” I also listen while cleaning, driving in the car, walking/exercising (hey, it happens!), the works!
- Different avenues for consuming your media engage more than one sense which is excellent for retention.
- You can even choose how fast or slow you read!
Some people find they enjoy audiobooks more for nonfiction than for fiction. And vice versa. I’ve found both are true, but the key is to try both and give it a chance. I started listening to audiobooks with books I’d already read. It was a way to visit with old friends in a new way and at times I otherwise couldn’t have been reading.
This week, to celebrate the release of Christmas on Breakers Point, I’m giving away a free copy as my way to celebrate and to give one listener a chance to try out audiobooks! If you’re reading this at becausefictionpodcast.com, you can find that post to leave a comment and win HERE.
My Published Audiobooks are:
- Ready or Not: narrated by Jennifer Drake Ford
- Past Forward Volumes 1 & 2: narrated by Sarah Pavelec (future volumes coming soon!
- Deepest Roots of the Heart: narrated by Thom Rivera
- Christmas on Breakers Point: narrated by Christa DelSorbo who is working on the next book in that series, right now… Dual Power of Convenience! It should be out soon, folks!
Okay, so what do I Love about Audiobooks?
So we’ve talked a little about how I started listening, and I WILL get to the amazing Barbara Rosenblat in a minute, but really started listening when a friend recommended a book I hadn’t had time to read yet. Again, it wasn’t a Christian fiction book—it was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. This epistolary novel was read by about five different narrators and seriously, it’s so brilliant that I have no doubt I’ve listened to all eight hours at least ten times. But here’s the thing. The reason I have is:
A. It’s a brilliant book
B. The narrators are awesome.
I’ve caught nuances of humor that I might have missed in reading.
Just think about it. I have no doubt I’d have read the book in three hours if I read the paperback. But listening to it at regular speed (my preference but we’ll get to speed in a second), makes me slow down and allows my brain to really process the words in a totally different way.
But yes, some people read at 2 and even 2.5 times the usual reading speed (kind of like me with that horrible narrator).
I also love that it engages other parts of my brain like I said up there. I went from listening to that book to purchasing another one by the same author. At first, I blamed the narrator for me not liking it, but then I realized I just couldn’t get into the story.
Since then, I’ve listened to a whole lot of books! Most of them mysteries. I particularly like mysteries because you do have to pay close attention. That doesn’t come naturally to me, so I improve my listening by choosing mysteries.
Anyway, I’ve listened to:
- All the Amelia Peabody books
- All the Mrs. Pollifax books
- Most of D.E. Stevenson’s books
- All of the Lady Hardcastle Mysteries
- All of the Cherringham Mysteries available on audio as well as the Mydworth Mysteries by the same authors.
But that’s not all! Christian Fiction I’ve listened to includes:
- Memories of Glass by Melanie Dobson (GREAT BOOK as well as awesome narration),
- The Edge of Truth by Kimberly Rose Johnson (also good),
- Seal of the Sand Dweller by R. Rushing (nice, precise pronunciation that gives it a hint of an African to English accent without being overdone),
- Grace in Strange Disguise by Christine Dillon (great Aussie accent for those who like accents)
And so many more.
The Audiobook Production Process:
About four or five years ago, I decided to plunge into producing my books in audio with no clue what I was doing. Looking back, it’s a similar route I took in publishing my print and ebooks. I picked what I thought people would want first, got them going, and did not count the long-term cost.
See one thing authors don’t remember is that readers like to “binge” on series and authors’ books. So, when I finish a book in a series on audio or kindle or print, I want that next one there. As an author, I forgot that with audiobooks. I SHOULD have had the funds lined up for all of the books in ONE series before I started. Instead, I went with my two most popular series, expecting to alternate between them and allow both series to pay for the next one. Well, at this point, I haven’t even made back the money I put out in the first place because of that first thing up there—people see that the whole series isn’t there, and they don’t want to go with it until it is. OOPS!
Also, while I KNEW the cost (astronomical. We’re talking hundreds of dollars per finished hour, which is how long it takes to listen once it’s produced rather than how long it takes to produce it). I didn’t exactly COUNT it. I didn’t find out from other authors how long it took to recoup. If I had, I’d have saved longer and done the audiobooks later.
However, some great things have happened and I’ve learned a lot.
Past Forward was the first book I did—volume one. I went with Sarah Pavelec with that series, and I LOVE her as a narrator. She has the perfect voice for Willow and her enthusiasm for the project really helped. Unfortunately, she’s crazy busy and just doesn’t have time to get going on more books. I’ve been waiting for another book for quite a while and don’t know when either of us will get back to that one. Meanwhile, I think I have a solution to get the rest of those up, which is IMPORTANT to me.
Then, as I said, I went on to start the Aggie series. I really did want each of these to come out one after the other so folks weren’t waiting long. They’ve been waiting a couple of years, and as busy as Jennifer Drake Ford is (if you’re in California, you’ve heard her voice as the announcer of the next episode of this or that on a few things Death in Paradise for one! EEP! She is AMAZING but again, busy, and I really can’t afford her.
The publisher of my book, Deepest Roots of the Heart found out that I’d been saving for a specific narrator for that book and GOT HIM for me. Seriously, Thom Rivera was amazing. He worked so hard to find out how I saw the characters, how I heard them, and he even caught a typo in them.
Christa DelSorbo has just started narration—first with my Christmas on Breakers Point, and next narrating for Sally Jo Pitts and her Autumn Vindication—love it so far. Now she’s working on Dual Power of Convenience, and Bookers on the Rocks is slated to be released at the same time as the books this January. SQUEE!
Also, a friend’s son is practicing at audio narration and he’s using Highlands to do it. Seriously, guys. He’s NAILING my character of Tony in Highlands. It just goes to show that if you have a love for reading or vocal acting, you can start a career on your own. 🙂
Things to remember:
- You can listen to books FREE through places like Hoopla with your library.
- You can find deals on audiobooks from places like Chirp
- You can sometimes get lots of book options from places like Scribd (which I always want to call scrib-ed). If you use THIS LINK, you will get 60 days free (and I’ll get free days, too!)
- Christianaudio.com has free books every month or really deals on them. I got Jamie Jo Wright’s The House on Foster Hill for five dollars!
In case you weren’t aware, Amazon owns the biggest retailer of audiobooks—Audible. Here are a few things to note there:
- You can bundle audible books with Kindle books and get GREAT deals. For example, if a Kindle book is on sale for .99, you can often get the audiobook (if available) TOO… for an additional 1.99. So for less than the full price on a Kindle book, you can get them both.
- If you are a Kindle Unlimited reader, you can often get audiobooks FREE through it. I’ve been listening to a lot of books this way—the Lady Hardcastle Mysteries (not Christian but cleaner than most books) by T.E. Kinsey, and the Daisy Dalrymple books by Carola Dunn.
- Some books aren’t that expensive! the Cherringham mysteries by Matthew Costello and Neil Richards and read by Neil Dudgeon (great narrator) are like six dollars for three books. I really have been enjoying those, but again, not Christian and the latter books in the series have a few more words sprinkled throughout that I didn’t appreciate. Nothing atrocious, but totally unnecessary.
- You can return an Audible audiobook you hate, just like you can return a kindle book. Some limitations may apply, but if you don’t abuse the return or exchange policy, they’re eager to ensure you’re happy with your listening experience. I returned one book that I’d been assured didn’t follow the blechy title. I was deceived. I returned with no trouble at all.
- You can try out Audible with TWO free books (instead of their usual one) by clicking my affiliate link below!
ONE MORE PLACE!
To find some of the best CHRISTIAN audiobooks in one easy place (without having to weed through a bunch of recommendations for not-so-Christian offerings, I absolutely recommend Best Christian Audio.