Think Outside The Audio-Book
British indie author Debbie Bennett had a great post on her blog this past week that I strongly recommend. (LINK)
Debbie is working with a local theatre group to produce local radio, but the possibilities here are much wider and worth a full discussion.
Having started out as a TV, radio and theatre writer long before I made an impact with novels, I’m fascinated by the opportunities emerging to take our books and trans-mediafy them, taking full advantage of the possibilities digital opens up.
Were I back in the UK with access to local drama groups one thing I would definitely be doing is working with said local drama groups. As it is, I’ve just this past week got a significant improvement in my internet capacity here in West Africa and will be trying to pursue the following ideas myself after the summer from a distance. Not quite as effective, but us ex-pats have to take what we can get.
But for those of you with perma-homes back in civilization…
As Debbie says of local drama groups, “Many actors can’t commit to line-learning and/or rehearsals; some older members are no longer comfortable on stage and newer members may lack the confidence.”
Not so helpful when trying to stage a theatre production. But that is precisely why such people may relish the opportunity to “blind-work” with an author. That is to say, to act for a non-visual audience.
While the possibilities are endless, there are two key themes I want to explore here today.
Many a local dramatist may have the right voice and enough acting ability to narrate your book as an ebook, regardless of how well they can run off a Shakespeare soliloquy by heart or stalk the stage with an air of confidence.
Many would relish the opportunity of having a credit as a voice-artist, and a percentage of the net of future sales could be a great incentive to for them to give their very best performance.
And while a local church hall drama group is unlikely to have access to adequate recording equipment, you may well find a theatre group at a nearby college or university has just such facilities, along with budding technicians, who again would love to be part of something that could be put on their CV.
While the service offered by ACX is superb, indies should treat a-books in the same way they treat ebooks, and look to do as much as possible themselves.
But there are possibilites beyond simply audio-narrating your book.
There is the possibility of enhanced audio-books.
That is to say, audio-books that go beyond relying on a single narrator, and instead explore the full dramatic potential of your story and have multiple narrators or even a full cast, along with sound-effects and the full panoply of radio production, that can be sold an an electronic file just like an ebook or a-book…
Again, Debbie makes some points about the specifics of writing for radio, where there are no visual aides to help the listener follow the story.
But with a little thought and some study of radio-scripting techniques it would not be hard for an author to transform their novel into an audio-play rather than just an audio-book, and work with a local drama group to make it reality.
At the sales end, the product is much the same. Ebook, audio-book or audio-play, it’s just a bunch of electrons sent out to a willing buyer. A bigger file, sure, but still easily exchanged for cash on a retail site.
At the production end, it’s really not so hard. Again many local drama groups will have sound technicians who know how to create sound-effects from the most every-day objects, and a good sound-technician can give a story a whole new lease of life. Match that with a good recording technician and the world is your oyster.
Audio-distribution is not quite as easy as ebook distribution at this stage, but new opportunities are emerging all the time, and even now there are actually far more options than just Amazon’s ACX, which appears to be as far as most indies get when thinking about audio.
If you’re thinking it all seems like a lot of work for little reward, then think again.
Audio is one of the fastest growing elements of the publishing market, and your potential reach is global in a way that even your ebooks can’t match, because many, many more people speak and understand English around the world than are comfortable reading in English.
You also open up to an audience at home that may be too visually impaired to read your ebooks, or that simply had no book-upbringing and would rather listen to play on the radio than try to read.
Plus of course the usual audio-book suspects too busy or too pre-occupied (driving, gardening, commuting, shopping, jogging, whatever) to hold a book or an ereader, but still wanting to be entertained.
And beyond that, when you do have the finished product, if you’ve been clever and produced it in fifteen or thirty minute installments or whatever, with top and tails, you may just have a commercial product you can sell to radio stations globally.
Not just as a radio-play but as a serialized audio-book. Not all books will lend themselves to serialization, but many will, and some of course are written as serials in the first place, which presents a wonderful oportunity to offer serialized audio, with top-and-tails for each episode.
Thanks to digital, the number of radio stations out there struggling to find content is staggering. Start at home with your local radio, but then expand your horizons. A local radio station on your doorstep may be just as likely to buy a good radio-play series or a serialized audio-book as a radio station in Australia or New Zealand, in Zimbabwe or Nigeria, Malaysia or Thailand.
No, most won’t pay much (though some, like the BBC, do have respectable fee structures) but what a way to reach new readers and a new audience. just by taking your existing works and tweaking them while having fun with the local community as Debbie is doing in Cheshire.
And along the way you just might get the attention of a TV or film producer to take your story to yet another level.
And this idea also has much to offer the author who specialises in shorter works.
My writing ranges from 120,000 words thrillers to short stories of 5,000 words, but this year I’m devoting my time to short and serialized works, from 5,000 to 20,000 words. I’ll report here later in the summer on how this is working out (so far, very promising) but I mention it here now in the context of audio, because short works are great for audio, whether it’s a podcast, a fully-fledged audio book, or a radio piece. And of course the production costs are a lot less for a shorter work.
Whatever your niche, don’t lose sight of the opportunities unfolding above and beyond the ebook as digital gets into second gear.
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