The A to SFR of Audiobooks (Part 1)
If you enjoy listening to your Science Fiction Romance novels, the good news is that there are SFR audiobooks available. Amazon lists 274 ‘Romance=> Science Fiction’ titles. (And in a very unscientific test, they do include all three of mine!) Audible and iBooks also have good backlists of SFR audiobooks, depending what search criteria you use. The simplest approach I’ve found is to search on your favorite author’s name.
The audiobook market overall has grown by leaps and bounds in the last five years, much of the growth credited to the availability of digital downloads versus CDs, as well as celebrities narrating their own books or novels for others. In a recent discussion on the Science Fiction Romance Facebook Group, readers said they listen to audiobooks while driving, walking, exercising, knitting, cooking, relaxing – just about everywhere you can imagine! I have some readers who read the book on their Kindle, listen to the audiobook in the car on the way to work and pick up the Kindle again in the evening.
Three of my fellow independently published SFR authors shared their insights for this article – S. E. Smith, Pauline Baird Jones and Deborah A. Bailey.
If “location” is the key to real estate success, “narrator” is the secret to a good audiobook, assuming the author has created an exciting, intriguing novel. Here’s what New York Times and USA Today Best Seller S. E. Smith has to say about the narrator: “I’ve discovered that if the narrator and story are right, you get pulled into it. That is essential, especially if you are working out, driving, or just cleaning the house. A narrator does more than read a story, they are actors who bring it to life with just their voice. Oh, and if you think narrating a story is easy, try recording a page on your computer or Smartphone and play it back! I did. What an eye-opener! It really takes a very special person to be able to read 30,000-100,000 words without messing it up. I never made it past a paragraph. LOL. Then, do it with emotion, voice changes, and no background noises! They are totally amazing! So, go easy on them if they aren’t perfect for you, they do a job few others can do.
I listened to numerous auditions before picking the narrators that I use. Within the first 30 seconds of listening to David Brenin read my story, I knew he had captured the essence of the character and story (the goosebumps on my arms helped). There were several factors that I look for: first, can the narrator capture the story. Second, does the “voice” reflect the feel of world I’ve built and can I listen to it for a long period of time. Third, can he/she change the voices to reflect the characters. Picking the right narrator is essential to the story. The narrator is bringing it to life in a totally different way than the author.”
Here’s how Deborah Bailey selects hers: “Usually I’ll wait until I have around 5 auditions, then I listen to them one after the other. That gives me a chance to compare how each narrator performs the same piece. What attracted me to Kristin James, who narrates my Hathor books, was that she picked up on the character nuances right away. She performed them just as I’d heard them in my head. For my short story book, I liked the fact the narrator could do different voices for each story. The narrator I picked for my non-fiction book was not the type of voice I set out to choose. But I liked her reading. Her voice had a warm quality that I felt fit the content. Hearing your writing in your head is one thing, but hearing someone else perform it really gives it a different dimension.”
And Pauline’s experiences: “I guess the most important thing for me is that the narrator helps the reader get into the story, helps them enjoy it. I know for me, as an audio listener, I am not as picky about narrators as some. I think I’ve returned one book because I just couldn’t take the narrator. Picking narrators has been a learning process (a STEEP learning curve) for me, no question. I was not an audio book listener, so I had no idea what audio books should sound like, what made a good narrator. So, initially, I looked for someone who just read the story well. I dumped about ten books into ACX in two months! It was kind of crazy. I was trying to hit the Christmas sales market and I think I listened to 200 hours of audio in one month. My ears were almost bleeding, LOL.
So most of my books are narrated by different people. I found some through friends, slowly learned better what readers liked, and became an audio book listener myself, and I’m hopefully not being quite so random these days. I have one narrator working on my Uneasy Future books, which is very nice. I’m excited for Core Punch and Sucker Punch to release, hopefully for this Christmas season.
My own approach was similar to Pauline’s – I listened to lots of auditions – too dramatic, too falsetto, too “voice of the gods”, too many pauses, not enough pauses – but then I found actor Michael Riffle. From the first word, he just was the character Nick Jameson in Wreck of the Nebula Dream. I can’t imagine doing an audiobook version of any of my SFRs without Michael doing the narration. We had two narrators on Escape From Zulaire, adding actress Mary Fegreus to be the main character, Andi. That was really exciting, especially in scenes where the two actors were exchanging dialog. Not to give spoilers, but there’s a scene toward the end of the book, where the characters are literally in a last stand situation and Michael’s character has to persuade Mary’s heroine that she can do a seemingly impossible task…I get goosebumps listening to them.
Which leads me to my fellow authors’ favorite scenes from their audiobooks. S. E. Smith says: “My favorite scenes are when the narrator captures the character perfectly. In Touch of Frost, David is able to give the twins, two young boys, the perfect personalities. When they confront Frost, you can hear Frost’s confusion and exasperation while the twins are enjoying every minute of it. In another story, David is able to bring out Cara’s (Capturing Cara: Dragon Lords of Valdier Book 2) ADHD moment when she has too much coffee. Capturing those moments really brings the story to life.”
Deborah: “That’s a tough one, because I have a few favorites! 🙂 But one in particular is one of the quieter scenes in Hathor Legacy: Burn where the heroine, Nadira has been separated from Jonathan (the hero) and she has a very vivid dream about him. It’s not a long scene, but the way Kristen narrated it really brought it to life. She captured the nuances of the character’s longing so well, that I went back and listened to it a couple of times. It’s a quiet moment that really holds it own against the more action-oriented scenes.
I think that’s part of what makes picking the right narrator so important. As a writer, I might be thinking of the bigger, turning point scenes. But a good voice artist can make the smaller, quieter scenes shine. It makes you look at your work in a different way.”
Pauline waxed a bit philosophical first: “One of the comments I’ve heard from other authors is that books are written to be read, not to be listened to. But since becoming an audio listener, I’ve found that listening to a books has expanded my appreciation for the words the author used. It slows me down, so that I hear the words and let them build the picture in my head. Listening has also made me more aware of how much of some authors’ words I was skimming over while listening. I won’t slam another author, but there are a couple of very popular authors who I can’t, just can’t listen to their books in audio. So, it’s kind of hard to tout my own stuff. I like the words I used, so not exactly neutral. LOL I think, I hope, that listening to them will add another layer of fun to the experience. And I like all the scenes I wrote. Haha.
I will say, a book with lots of fun (IMHO) scenes in it is Do Wah Diddy Die. My narrator really got the sense of fun I was trying to create and I think that makes it a fun book to listen to.”
For more information on S. E. Smith and her books, you can visit her website at http://sesmithfl.com/
For more information on Pauline B Jones and her books, you can visit her website at www.paulinebjones.com
For more information about Deborah A. Bailey, you can visit her website at http://dbaileycoach.com/brightbooks/
A Sampling of Other SFR Authors with Audiobooks:
- Jessica E. Subject – 1Night Stand Series
- Rachel Bach – Paradox Series
- Laurann Dohner – New Species Series
- M. K. Eidem – Tornians Series
- Linnea Sinclair – Dock Five Universe
- Anne McCaffrey – Dragonriders of Pern Series, Crystal Singer series & more
- Anne Aguirre – Sirantha Jax Series
- Jayne Castle – Various Titles
- Robin D. Owens – The Celta Series
- Mary Robinette Kowal – The Glamourist Series
- Cindy Spencer Pape – Gaslight Chronicles Series
Coming next issue, the authors talk about their best selling audiobooks and give some advice to writers who want to create their own audio titles.