Some would have you believe that audio books are the future… and to an extent they are right, at least for some people. Indeed one of the most common questions I get asked by a certain section of friends and readers is, “Is there going to be an audio book edition?”
Myself, I am more your classic bibliophile. For me the only thing better than the feel of a fresh unopened book with all its texture, feel and the glorious new book smell, is a battered old paperback, its spine cracked from multiple readings… While I have a kindle and a fair old collection of ebooks, nothing beats paper for me. I will however admit it is hard to read a paperback while cruising down the motorway, or walking the dog, or peddling the exercise cycle or… well you get the point there I am sure, audio books have there place, and I can understand the attraction, but I personally don’t listen to many.
So if I am honest, I would prefer my readers actually read my books, rather than listened to them. But that said I would also prefer they read the paperback editions than read the ebook version. Ostensibly the print and ebook editions are the same apart from the typesetting and the graphic art of the chapter headings in the print versions. But if asked my preference it would be that they enjoyed the books it that tactile bliss that is the paper form. But my own preferences aside, what I want more is for people to enjoy my books no matter what format they partake of them. Be that paper, ebook or for that matter if it was a simple thing to do, on audio.
The problem with audio, however, is that it’s not easy to do on an independent writers budget. It’s expensive to hire professional audio-book readers, and while in an ideal world books read by the actual writer are great when your Stephen Fry, ironic as it may seem writers are not all that often the best readers of there own work. Reading novel aloud into microphones is its own skills set, and you are seldom the best voice for your own work. It is also, frankly, my personal nightmare. I do not read aloud…
There are other options, you can enter into a half and half arrangement with a audio artist where rather than a upfront fee, they get half the royalties. This is a good deal for both if the book is successful. But there are recording fees and other costs and so its a gamble for the voice actor. If the book doesn’t do well they end up losing money. As such half and half deals tend only to be attractive to them if the writer has a large following or if the voice actor is just starting out and wants to build a reputation in the industry so is willing to take a punt.
With the best will in the world, while my books sell well within the genre, I don’t have a large enough following to justify a professional time. Frankly I have no idea how well audio versions will sell and I am not prepared to lie to someone about that in order to get them to record one of my books.
Finally there is another consideration, these books are like my children, and when you hand your children over to someone you have to be able to trust them. I frankly would not want just any old voice artist, I would want someone I know, and someone who knows me. Someone I can be honest with and who can be honest in return. What I need in order to hand over my books to record is therefore someone in whom I have faith, faith that they will put there all into the project and faith that they care about it.
So all considered my answer to “Is there going to be an audio book edition?” has always been a somewhat frustrated “No”.
However, and here the tale takes a turn, my close personal friend Mark Adams, a man of many talents, pod cast host, wrestling announcer and humanist celebrant among them, also used to give up his time once a fortnight to read newspapers for the blind. Literally recording newspapers… I’ve known Mark for going on twenty five years, I’ve gotten drunk with him, share a tent with him, had late night phone calls trying to fix the universe on more than one occasion when one of us is having a crisis of come kind. There are few, if any, people I trust more, and so it occurred to me that if I could get anyone to record my books it would be him (unless Sir Patrick Stewart is available, or possibly Brian Blessed…) So, I ask if he would like to give it a go…
As a tester, and since we intend to do my novella ‘A Scar of Avarice’ first for reasons, we agreed he should start by recording one of the short bonus stories at the back of the novella, to see how it goes. And because, well… it occurred to us perhaps the most obvious one to do was this one, and because, well, maybe because…