Tuesday, May 14, 2019

What You Can Learn Listening to Audio Books

During April and May, I’ve been doing a lot of driving. I rented audio books from the library by authors I like. I got two at a time for the two round trips in case I didn’t like one or the other.

Book number one, written in first person, droned on about the main characters inner feelings. Now don’t get me wrong, I like digging deep into a character. It’s a way for the reader to get inside his head (the character was male) and feel what he’s thinking. It’s also a way for a writer to become that character and express more precisely how he thinks about a situation. One of the problems with that process is when the introspection goes on so long that the character seems self-absorbed. Lordy, lordy, I couldn’t get through the second disc. This was from a very popular author, male, and it reminded me why I stopped reading him years ago. I always felt he was writing for women by pushing the sensitive side of the characters. Now again, don’t get me wrong, I like sensitive as long as the sensitivity isn’t manipulative.

Book two, which I had to listen to at home in order to finish the story, kept me engrossed. It was one of those women abducted stories written long before it became the theme of too many other books. Early on, the woman finds her revenge when she kills the abductor, who was a very bad man. Off she goes home to her parents, maimed and suffering from PTSD and memory loss. As if this poor woman hasn’t suffered enough, our author resurrects a ten-year old crime in which our main character's best friend had disappeared, never to resurface. Will our heroine remember something that might expose the killer? I figured out who done it early on, but the author, female, did a great job keeping the suspense going by having the wrong person accused before the puzzle pieces begin to fit and our heroine's life in danger every minute. This book so riveted me that I followed the car in front of me onto the wrong highway and didn’t realize it for eighteen miles. I paid more attention on the next trip.

The third book was written by an even more popular author. First disc was the set-up. I liked it. Okay, move on. Nope. Second disc was more set-up, more of the same. The book claimed to be a romantic suspense, but through half of the second disc, I found neither romance nor suspense, and if I listened to any more of it, I might drive into a tree when I fell asleep. That was the end of that.

I haven’t finished the fourth book, but I will on my next trip in a couple of weeks if I don’t finish it before then going back and forth to the grocery store. The subject matter was more to my taste: corruption, cults, murder. The only problem was the male narrator had two voices: one male voice for all male characters, and the same voice just a little softer for all the female characters. This required a lot of “character said” to explain who was speaking. Also, the announcement at the end of the disc that usually tells the listener to change discs was non-existent. So I’d be driving along thinking the words sounded familiar. They were, because the disc had started over. Very annoying, but I’m anxious to see what happens.

One thing about listening to audios is, if you’re a writer, you somehow hear all the repetitive words or phrases that you don’t notice on the written page. My pet annoyance is adding an adverb to the word “said.” She said slowly, he said grumpily, she said…well, you get the point. Listening to these minor irritations is also an excellent way for writers to learn what to avoid in our own books.

I’ve had four audio books made from my books: Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Hooked, and Murder Déjà Vu. If anyone would like a free code for an Audible download, contact me here or at PollyIyer AT gmail.com

I was pleased with all of them, she said objectively.

Polly Iyer is the author of nine novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and Indiscretion, and four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash and The Scent of Murder. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

15 comments :

  1. Here's the Audible link for anyone interested. https://www.audible.com/search?keywords=polly+iyer&ref=a_hp_t1_header_search

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  2. I tried listening to audiobooks after my first cataract surgery but had a tough time sticking with the reader who had a weird habit of pausing before delivering the dialog tag. Other books I've tried to listen to were not successful at keeping my mind from wandering. I guess I'm too hooked on the printed word.

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    1. Yes, you hear every little annoyance. I liked the gal who did my book Hooked. She changed voices and you knew who was speaking.

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  3. I think it is important to "listen" to your manuscript and there are plenty of tools to do so. You catch things with the ears that the eyes miss. I process things visually, so haven't been tempted to try audiobooks. But I wouldn't mind having audiobooks of my books made available. Would like to hear more about your experience with audiobook creation.

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    1. Diana, Amazon offers some books with good sales a stipend, sharing the royalty between the writer, narrator, and Amazon, of course. They lowered the percentages after a while, taking more for themselves, but it was still a way to get your book read without cost. Writers could choose to take more percentage by paying some of the costs, but I went with the free way. I had a good experience with my narrators, and we worked together to get the right tone. Not sure if it's as easy to get the stipend these days. I've thought of doing the third book in the series, but I haven't done it. I might still.

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    2. The stipend program is no more, and if you want a "good" narrator, they won't work for royalty share (unless you're huge). Too much time spent recording on a gamble.
      I've just put up my 14th audiobook, and am trying a combination of ACX and Findaway to see how that works.

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  4. One one of my novellas was made into audio. I listened to the first few minutes and couldn't stand any more, because the reader spoke sooooo slowly. LOL. The only audio books I have listened to all the way through are the last two Harry Potters and some non-fiction. Otherwise, I'm still stuck on print or Kindle.

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    1. It's just another way to earn money, Barbara. Narrators signed with Audible "auditioned," and if you didn't like the style, you didn't have to accept. Sorry yours didn't work out.

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  5. When I'm listening--as opposed to watching and listening--my mind tends to wander. That's why inspirational tapes don't work for me. Great post, Polly.

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    1. A lot has to do with the narrator. Some are definitely better than others. I've never thought to listen to inspirational tapes, but I don't read that kind of book either.

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  6. My mind tends to wander, too. But my kids love audio books. They're currently into the Tom Gates books, read by Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter movies) and Mel Giedroyc's reading of Wilf the Mighty Worrier (especially Book 2 with Nigel the parrot).

    More for adults, and maybe teens, Tony Robinson does a great job with Terry Pratchett's books.

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  7. Audios are a great way to get children interested in reading books, especially if the books are a series. Great your kids like to listen. I'm sure they read a lot too.

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  8. Was it worth the investment, Polly? And how many audio books do you sell compared to print books for each title? #JustCurious

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    1. I sold more in the beginning, Dani. Now I may sell a couple a month.

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  9. I love this post, Polly!

    As I get older and my vision gets worse, I find myself turning more and more to audio books. I quickly learned a bad narrator can ruin a good book, while a terrific narrator can sometimes convince me to stick with a less than stellar book.

    Some of my favorite narrators are:

    Mary Jane Wells who narrates for Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas and other romance authors. She develops and maintains distinct voices for each character, male or female. You never need to hear more than a word or two to know exactly which character is speaking, and she absolutely nails English accents all the way from the aristocracy down to guttersnipe, plus she can do glorious Irish and Welsh accents. She's absolutely wonderful. Her male voices are effortlessly seductive, which I know sounds creepy since she's a female narrator, but believe me, when she speaks in a male voice, you will absolutely be convinced you are listening to a man, a very virile, manly man.

    Jane Entwhistle, who narrates Alan Bradley's Flavia De Luce mysteries. She puts just the right put-upon whiny note into the 10-year-old Flavia's voice, and also does a good job of creating distinctive male and female voices for each character.

    Simon Vance, who narrates Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, a complex reimagining of the Napoleonic Wars fought with an aerial corps of talking dragons. He creates a distinct way of speaking for each dragon and each human character, and at least manages credible female voices, although there are not many women in this series.

    And probably my all time favorite narrator, Barbara Rosenblat, who did a wondrous job of narrating Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series. She created such wonderful voices for Amelia, her husband, Emerson, their son, Ramses, their ward, Nefret, and the many Egyptian characters who populate the 20 books. She's narrated more than 400 books, appeared on many TV shows and won 8 Audies and 40 Earphone awards for her memorable performances that breath incredible life and color into any book she reads. At age 69, she is still in high demand. She even won a SAG Best Ensemble award in 2013 for playing Miss Rosa in Orange is the New Black. For some bizarre reason, Peter's new publisher who redid all her books following her death, had them all re-recorded with a different voice artist. Don't bother listening if you cannot find the versions with Barbara Rosenblat.

    My least favorite narrator? George Guidall. All his female voices are the same, a breathy, high-pitched, squeaky mincing voice that is incredibly irritating. If I pick up an audio book and see he is the narrator, I put it down and go find the book.

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