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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: the mysterious way the labels for this post keep vanishing and I have to keep writing them again, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Audiobooks: A Cautionary Tale

posted by Neil
I was talking to an author last night. Actually, we were sending text messages to each other, something I don't do a lot of, but it was sort of fun, texting. I'm not going to identify her, or the book.

She had a novel published recently by a major publisher. I read it. I really loved it.

I thought, Why not see if I can do it as a Neil Gaiman Presents Audiobook, through ACX?

I asked if there was an audiobook. She said, "No, no audiobook."

I asked who had the rights, and whether I could do it in ACX. She was thrilled and said of course, and she'd find out if she had the rights or if her publisher did. We talked about what kind of voice narrator she'd want, and whether a male or a female narrator would suit the book best.

And then I got a message from her saying "Oh. Bizarre. I just looked online and see there is an audiobook of (the novel) which no-one ever told me about. It apparently came out in November."

I went online and looked. There was indeed an audiobook, and it had a terrible cover. And this morning brought an email from the author saying, sadly "Don't listen to the (novel) audiobook. It might be the worst thing I have ever heard."

I felt so sorry for her.

It was the same stuff that I'd been talking about in the interview that Laura Miller did for me with Salon.com

Why is there so much hesitation?

For me, the tragedy of audiobooks is that the physical limitations and impossibilities of putting out complete novels as audiobooks in the days of LPs and then pretty much in the days of cassettes, meant that the costs and the odds were always against you. Most books aren’t out as audiobooks. If you like a book, it’s probably not been done as an audiobook.

Publishers would take audio rights but then never do anything with them. ... That process is that you persuade your publisher to do an audiobook and then you have no control over who gets cast, or who reads it. You have no quality control over pronunciation or goofs or anything like that. And then your publisher brings it out and then your publisher remainders it.

That is the problem that ACX was created to solve — and for me it’s also the problem that it’s highlighting. I’m hitting it more and more. All I know is that there could be lots and lots of audiobooks out there that aren’t. For years it didn’t matter that the rights were held by people because nobody could do anything anyway. But we’re not in that world anymore.

Can you talk a bit about the importance of the right narrator, and how much that person can add to or subtract from the audiobook experience?

I remember once talking to a best selling author about audiobooks. He’d written a book that was narrated by a 20-something black male and the audiobook was read by a 50-something white female. He had no say in this and after listening to it for five minutes he stopped, feeling physically sick.

In some cases, when the author is alive and available, I cede that choice to the author. I become the production entity and I’ll cast a deciding vote if the author says it’s between three narrators he or she likes equally. If the author’s alive, I want the author happy. That’s the most important bit.

And I felt really extra sorry for my anonymous sad author, because I was SO happy about the release two days ago of Swordspoint -- mostly happy because of how amazingly happy author Ellen Kushner is. (See 0 Comments on Audiobooks: A Cautionary Tale as of 1/1/1900
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