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In This issue... "Reader Optimization" for Audiobooks


Are you hoping your novel will eventually achieve distribution as an audiobook? ... (continued below)

"Reader Optimization" for Audiobooks, by Bruce L. Cook, Ph.D.

Are you hoping your novel will eventually achieve distribution as an audiobook?

Isn't an audiobook just a normal book being read aloud by a professional reader? Is it that simple?

Well, it's not difficult to record your "read by author" voice. But can you do, say, dialogue for ten characters, all unique from each other? And how would you approach audiobook publishers? As usual, the dice are loaded against the humble writer.

Unless you can afford to pay a marketer, your audiobook is out of the question. Yet, apart from those depressing thoughts, an author might want to make their audiobook more successful?

Believe it or not, some books adapt better to the audiobook medium. Consider these problems in communication:

  1. 1. Recognizing Characters without their Names

  2. First, writers assume that readers pay attention when they read. Not so for audiobook readers, who "play" the book in the background while they pursue daily functions like driving, exercising, etc. (Please make exception for those who sit in the proverbial armchair and listen carefully.)

    Fact is - audiobook readers seldom pay attention to detail in the book. Thus, audiobook readers are likely to fail at recognizing the characters by name. How do they manage the situation? Instead, they recognize characters by what they have done in the story so far.

  3. 2. Recognizing Time Periods and Locations

  4. Second, many audiobook readers miss the time jumps that are so popular, especially in recent novels. For example, when a section begins with the words "Berlin, 1944," audio listeners - only partly paying attention - will easily miss that detail as they attend to life outside the book. The audio listener just won’t hear are attend to that (essential) detail

    Thus; like trying to recognize characters without their names, audio readers need to decide times and places by whatever is happening in the story.

  5. 3. Audiobooks for All

  6. Perhaps this seems hopeless. Especially, even montage in time and space seems to invade current fiction, it may be time for a new category of fiction. To be current, call it "Audio Optimized."

    For these "Audio Optimized" audio book submissions; there is a distinct need to follow chronological time, if possible, support the action by current world events to help audio readers place events in time. Second, there is a need to firmly establish character identity as the story moves on. For example, instead of starting a section about "Fred", start with "Fred, the pottery maker."

    Then, once these conditions are met, audiobooks can be better understood and therefore more accepted and more profitable for our friends, the publishers.

    If nothing else, such books will have special appeal to readers with what is politely called "senior forgetfulness."

    This may come down to publisher philosophy. Option one - publish and expect readers to work hard at reading. Option two - publish to meet readers preferences and needs.

    Whichever option is chosen; I believe there is a market for “Reader Optimized" books. Now, which publishers are willing to give this a try?
Comment: Publishers are welcome to post a response to let writers know they are interested in such improvements. Let's get started here!

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--Bruce Cook, Publisher


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Publishing New Writers,

April, 2023 (vol. 24, no. 4)


Dr. Bruce L. Cook
1407 Getzelman Drive
Elgin, IL 60123

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