Thu | Sep 20, 2018

Audio edition precedes debut novel

Published:Sunday | January 31, 2016 | 12:00 AM
This audio book cover image released by William Morrow shows, "Be Frank With me," a novel by Julie Claiborne Johnson and voiced by Tavia Gilbert


Before book buyers get to read Julia Claiborne Johnson's debut novel, Be Frank With Me, they'll have a chance to hear it.

On Friday, January 29, the audio edition of Johnson's comic saga of a famous writer's nine-year-old son became available through the audio seller and producer Audible Inc four days before the hardcover and ebooks go on sale. The early release, read by the popular audio narrator Tavia Gilbert, was a joint project of the Audible and HarperCollins Publishers.

"Sometimes you don't know how well an audiobook is going to turn out until you listen to the final version," said Sean McManus, associate publisher of HarperAudio. "When we heard Tavia's performance, we knew we had a great audiobook on our hands and an opportunity to do something different with a debut author."

Audio book revenues have been growing by double-digits over the past few years, with reasons cited including digital downloads that allow you to hear a book on your phone and the appeal of 'Serial' and other podcasts that feed an appreciation for the spoken word.

Anthony Goff, Hachette Book Group's audio publisher, said that a decade ago, audiobooks often came out after the print edition. Now, simultaneous releases are the standard and advance releases for audio a growing possibility. Last summer, Stephen King's short story Drunken Fireworks came out months before it appeared in print in the collection The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. Jack Campbell's fantasy series The Pillars of Reality was first released in audio late in 2014, and in paper last May.




"Publishers pick their spots, and an early ebook release can be an effective thing to do," said Chris Lynch, president and publisher of Simon & Schuster Audio, which released King's audiobook.

Audio sales don't yet approach those for paper or even for ebooks, which comprise around 25 per cent of the overall market, but for some releases, they have become substantial. In a blog post from last summer, children's author John Scalzi noted that some 40,000 copies of his novel Lock In had sold in audio, just under the combined numbers for the hardcover and ebook. Scalzi added that audio's growth was even affecting his writing style.

"Audio has its own audience, with its own sets of desires and expectations, and that's something you'll want to factor in as you create your work," Scalzi wrote. "At this point, I absolutely give consideration to how my work sounds as well as reads. I'm starting to use substantially fewer dialogue tags ('he said,' 'she said'), as an example."

Johnson said she had imagined her book being read out loud, just not by her.

"Tavia Gilbert nailed it," Johnson added. "I may crib from her delivery when I have to read my book aloud myself."