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Audiobooks are the fastest-growing segment in publishing and increasingly, a welcome extra revenue for authors and publishers alike. In this interview, Michele Cobb from the Audiobook Publishers Association talks about the expansion of the market as well as tips for marketing audio.
In the introduction, I talk about Ingram Spark's Catalog Integrity Announcement which included AI-generated material [Ingram Spark blog], and extra comment on the Alliance of Independent Author's blog; plus the death of Clive Cussler, a hero of action-adventure writers. I also mention I'll be speaking at the Slow Business Adventure in Norway, Sept 2020 and the Superstars of Writing conference in Colorado Springs, Feb 2021.
Today's show is sponsored by my book, Audio for Authors: Audiobooks, Podcasting and Voice Technologies, available (from 6 March 2020) in ebook, paperback, large print, hardback and audiobook editions.
Michele Cobb is the executive director of the Audio Publishers Association, the publisher of AudioFile magazine, and a consultant for the audiobook business at Forte Business Consulting.
You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.
- Was 2019 the tipping point for audiobooks and podcasting?
- The shift in listenership and why people listen rather than ‘read' text
- The growing global reach of audiobooks
- The different types of works available in addition to books
- Thoughts on how AI will affect audiobooks and the narration industry in English-speaking markets as well as abroad
- The subscription model for audiobooks
- Tips for marketing audiobooks
- What makes for an award-winning audiobook?
You can find Michele Cobb at AudioPub.org.
Transcript of Interview with Michele Cobb on Audiobooks
Joanna: Michele Cobb is the executive director of the Audio Publishers Association, the publisher of AudioFile magazine, and a consultant for the audiobook business. Welcome, Michelle.
Michelle: Hi. Glad to be here.
Joanna: It's great to have you on the show.
Tell us a bit more about you, because you are one busy lady, and also how you got into the audiobook business. Why do you love audio so much?
Michelle: It's funny because I actually came from the world of theater and I used to travel around and direct plays and I would be on the road a lot. So I started to become an audiobook listener.
When I moved to Los Angeles, I got connected with a company called L.A. Theater Works that records plays in front of an audience and then makes them available on audio as an audiobook. I became the resident expert in audiobooks for that company and I got stolen away by the BBC and have been in the industry now for 20 years.
Joanna: Wow. And you do so much. I met you very briefly at Frankfurt Audio Summit last year. I went to Frankfurt Audio Summit, I went to Podcast Movement earlier in the year, then, of course, London Book Fair. And it seems like 2019 was a bit of a tipping point for audiobooks and podcasting. Can you give us some highlights? Why is now so exciting for the audio industry?
Michelle: 50% of the population is now listening to audiobooks and that is, in part, because of podcasts, it's about 51% of the U.S. population has ever listened to a podcast. So we're kind of in this similar vein.
I think what we're finding is that people are spending so much time on electronics and having to do multiple things, that multitasking, so there's a real need and interest in the audio format.
Whether it be a podcast or an audiobook, people want to listen while they cook, while they drive, and they also don't want to look at a screen.
We've seen that people really love a print book because it's a very different experience than an ebook. And the same for audio, they love an audiobook because they can put their eyes aside and relax.
We've spent all day on our phones and computers and this is a chance to take it down a notch and be with words in the original way that we all knew. Before we could read with our eyes, we read with our ears.
Joanna: It's interesting because, of course, you talked there about 50% and that's the U.S. figures. I'm in the U.K. but there are listeners in over 200 countries to this show. Do you have any sort of idea on where the rest of the world is, because the U.S. is often ahead with digital adoption? I know that's not entirely your specialty, but just a question.
What does it look like in the rest of the world?
Michelle: What's fun for me as executive director of the Audio Publishers Association, I get to travel and talk to people in different countries. What we're seeing is that audiobooks, which are in English, and in the U.K. and Australia, those places have footholds and there are European markets like Germany that are very strong in audiobooks.
But now, we're starting to see Spanish audiobooks pop up all over the globe, not just in Spain, but you've got Colombia and you've got Portuguese in Brazil. It's really becoming a much more adopted format worldwide.
That's, in part, because retailers are going in, they're working on local language content and they're getting people interested in the format.
Sometimes it's in English, sometimes it's in the local language. But they're offering a lot of materials and they're encouraging publishers to make the materials available in audio and that helps create this audience.
So it is going global and it is going into multiple languages. And that's really exciting.
Joanna: And then because you're from the BBC where you originally worked at BBC in theater, I feel like there was one way of doing audiobooks. Originally they were maybe famous actors doing famous actor-y things. But now it seems there are a lot more options with what the creative expression of an audiobook is.
If people don't even listen, what are the different types of audio that they might listen to that are quite exciting?
Michelle: It's funny, we use the word audiobook, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's just a book. It could be poetry, it could be plays, it could be an original work.
We're starting to see more and more of that happening where even book publishers are saying we're going to go out and commission a work that might be more like an audio drama or it might be something that's coming out of a podcast. Putting all these different pieces of a podcast together.
I think people are just interested in the format itself. And when you create specifically for the audio format, you might have multiple narrators, you might have music, you might have sound effects, and you may never want to put that experience into a print format because it wouldn't work with your eyes.
I think everyone's getting a lot more creative and being willing to experiment. When revenues are good, people will take chances. And that's what I think is a really fun time right now is to see what people are willing to try.
Joanna: I feel like maybe five, seven years ago, everyone was talking about enhanced ebooks. Do you remember that?
Michelle: I do.
Joanna: And we assumed that that was video. People were making little apps of books and stuff.
Actually enhanced ebooks are audiobooks with all the sound effects.
Michelle: I think that's interesting. In part, we're starting to see a couple of things. One, the soundscapes put to audiobooks and also that pairing of the ebook and the audiobooks, you're kind of reading along as you do when you first start out as a child and a parent is reading to you.
So that's a very familiar experience. And yes, can we add video and can we jump people off into other websites, all of that? Totally.
I do think the audio experience of wanting to just take in the material and listen is a big part of why people are choosing audio so that they can relax and focus on it.
And the Audio Publishers Association has done all these studies and it took us a really long time to understand that when people say, ‘Yes, I like to listen to audiobooks to relax,' that that's actually what they were doing, sitting and not doing anything else and really just being with the words.
That's been a revelation to everybody. When you ask, what else can I do to get people to listen longer? If you have original material or if you have a soundscape, it's an encouragement to really sit and enjoy the audio experience.
Joanna: I am a knowledge audiobook listener. I listen to nonfiction at 1.5x speed and I just want it in my head. I'm that kind of person. I do listen to some fiction audiobooks, but very rarely, whereas my husband is primarily big, long, fantasy, epic. He will listen in bed for hours. What are the other diverse ways where people are listening?
Michelle: I don't think there are many surprises. I think a lot of it is in the car or commuting and a lot of it is exercising.
What I think we didn't realize until very recently is that there are a lot of things that happen in the house where people can listen. Cooking comes up more and more and crafting and gardening. But all of those things we kind of expected in some way because it's that multitasking.
The real surprise has been how many people say, ‘I'm not doing anything else. I'm just listening.'
Joanna: And what about devices? Is it the rise of smartphones that have done this? What about smart speakers? What are you seeing in terms of devices?
Michelle: Smartphones definitely made the difference because suddenly you didn't have to change out anything in the car. You could be on an airplane and not have a Walkman. That's a lot of material.
Your smartphone is with you all the time and can hold hundreds of books.
So why would you not put something on there? And now, when we're in line at the grocery store or waiting to pick up our child or at the doctor's office, we can be listening.
It's access a lot of the time. It's just right there and I can choose that experience to fill my time. So that really helped.
Smart speakers are definitely something that's on the rise. It still hasn't fully penetrated the U.S. market in terms of not everyone having one, but it's a really pleasant experience to be able to walk from room to room and if you have smart speakers to be able to carry the same audiobook through the space. And it makes it really easy to do hands-free things. I don't love to cook. I don't love to do laundry and fold, but I can do them when I've got the smart speakers on.
Joanna: Definitely, I listen while cooking.
You mentioned the Walkman there, which is funny, and I guess we're showing our age here. I owned a Walkman, so I'm sure many people listening did. But what's interesting is I do get the question, people email me all of the time. They assume that when I say that you can make your own audiobook, they assume I mean a CD.
In our local Waterstones here in the U.K., they are still selling CDs on the shelf. I haven't had a CD drive for probably over a decade. So this is kind of crazy to me.
Should we even bother going the CD route? What is the trend in terms of digital versus physical players?
Michelle: In the U.S., it's about 4% of the units that are sold in CD and it's about 8% of dollars because they are a bit more expensive of a product. For someone who's traveling on a long trip in the car, it can make a lot of sense to have CDs.
What publishers here have done is they've made CDs manufactured on demand a lot of times so that you can have them in an online store and you can access them that way and you don't have to make thousands of them and have them sitting in a warehouse.
Because we all have cars that have CDs and it's only very recently that we're starting to see these in-dash car players and things that make the digital experience a little bit more seamless in the car. It's very easy when you have a CD to just throw it in.
And if you have to use your Google maps at the same time, they're not really interrupting each other. But when you have to plug in your smartphone and you have to connect it to the car, it's not as seamless an experience.
Now that we're starting to see CD players go out of cars, that number will continue to go down. But I am surprised at how many people still tell me they love the CD.
Joanna: You said 4% sales, so 96% digital for audiobook sales.
Michelle: Yes. And there's a little bit of other in there, but yes.
Joanna: To me, that says don't bother doing a CD. It's a big deal for an independent author to go down that route to do that. So I guess I'm not doing it.
I'm narrating a book at the moment and I'm like, this doesn't exist in any physical form. With my books, I print them and I've got a printed version of my book. I'm like, ‘I made this.'
But my audiobook, I have nothing. But what we've seen in the music industry is the rise of vinyl and lovely album covers again and so the physical object is really coming back.
Do you think that could happen with audiobooks like a revival of these physical objects?
Michelle: Well, never say never. Vinyl for audiobooks is something that's done as well.
I was in Chile this summer and I actually went to a bookstore where they were making cassettes. They were selling cassette players and making their own music cassettes. It wasn't audiobooks, but I was like, wait a minute, I have not seen one of these in 10 years.
It was this hipster, oldies thing that they were perpetuating. So who knows? We could see CDs again or cassettes again. But do I think my daughter's generation is going to do anything beyond digital? Probably not.
Joanna: No. If I find a nonfiction audiobook that I am like, I really want to remember that, I buy the hardback and keep that version.
Michelle: That's really interesting. I'll make a notation on my phone so it's like, oh go get this title. And it's always going to be digital.
Partially because I travel so often, so I want to be portable and it can be hard to even carry a big hardcover book. I'm not much of an ebook reader because I spend so much time on email, so I'm going to get my book reading in via my ears.
Joanna: It's interesting, isn't it? I'm finding that all these behaviors are different and we assume that people's behavior is like ours, but then everyone's so different with their reading behavior.
People listening — don't assume that you are the market because it's so broad and we just don't know. Like you said, your daughter's generation will be so different.
You mentioned reading along earlier and, of course, we've had the court case which has been settled, but we don't know the details between Audible and the big publishers on the captions that they said was generated by AI, therefore was not an issue. [The Guardian]
We don't know what's happened with that court case, but there are obviously issues around audio and the text of the audio. What are your thoughts on where that might go in terms of captions?
Personally, I would really like the captions because when I listen to a nonfiction audiobook, and they say a word and I don't really know what it is, I'd like to see it on the screen. But I realize the rights might be difficult there.
What are your thoughts on captions?
Michelle: I'm definitely Switzerland, so I'm curious to see what's going to happen with captions. And I understand I'm not a print publisher, but I understand that that could definitely be seen as a problematic infringement on rights.
I also understand that AI generating is doing something different. I don't think we know where it's going to end and whatever happens with captions, this is certainly not the end.
That's one of the things I know people who narrate audiobooks think about a lot.
When is the AI experience going to be good enough to replace the human voice?
I can't imagine it being anytime soon because audiobooks are so much about the performance and you just can't get that from machine-generated audio.
You need that human understanding, those emotions, and you need to really have experienced life in a way that a machine certainly cannot.
Joanna: And that's so funny because I think that comes from your theater background and also the way you listen. So like I said, I listen for information and I listen at 1.5x speed and I'm getting faster and faster. I think I'll be at 2X speed pretty soon because I just want the information. I have friends who are very similar.
It's listening because I'm too busy to read and I want the information. So it's not the performance that I want, it's the information.
So what I think is that it's going to stratify. I think that what you're talking about is the human narration that we're always going to have.
And then I think there'll be another level, which is mass-market AI audio, which will be all the stuff that we need in audio that is not available in audio and isn't really about the performance. I know narrators who do ‘The Economist' magazine every week. Is that really about a performance?
Michelle: To me, I listen to ‘The Economist' and I do think, in part, it is about the performance because it's the interpretation of the data. And I'm an aural learner, so I have to have some differences in tone, in inflection that you can't get yet from AI.
Does it mean that someday we're not going to get there? Probably someday there'll be robots doing lots of things for us, but we're not there yet.
For me, whether it be fiction or nonfiction, to take in the information, I want to hear it in a way that has some other shades of interpretation. And just the sort of machine-read straight facts, it doesn't give me enough levels to keep my brain together with the text and really absorb it.
Joanna: How will we expand the number of products available in audio? Because I heard, again at Frankfurt, in particular, the non-English speaking markets were like, ‘We just don't have the ecosystem. How are we going to expand all of this work into Spanish or Portuguese?'
Or there was a lady there from Ghana, all the African dialects, how are we going to do that? Because we've seen in English, the expansion of what people want.
How are going to expand? Are we just going to get a lot more human narrators?
Michelle: I would think that's definitely step one. And I do think there is a piece of things that are going to happen with AI.
That's my personal feeling, I like the human voice better. But do I think that we're not going to have some of this read by machines? No, I think we're absolutely going to have a portion of things read by machines.
I do think that what you're talking about having different types of books and different languages and also how important a book is and what the emotional impact of the book is, those are all the things that are going to be taken into consideration.
But I have yet to be able to listen to an audiobook on a multi-speed and really feel like I'm getting a good performance. You've just stripped out the performance. It's like a stake through my heart and the heart of every narrator who records. Don't you want to listen to the work that's been put in?
Joanna: I love it! And I narrate my own books now. So I get it from the other perspective because I'm pausing for effect and then I realize if someone like me is listening, they're not hearing my pause. There's even an app that gets rid of pauses. I'm sure you've heard of that.
Michelle: Those are choices. I realize things are out there, but I don't have to make those choices for myself and I still have yet to hear anything that's machine-generated that I can listen to for a long enough to feel like it's a real experience.
Joanna: Fair enough. Then I wanted to ask you about revenue models because this is the other both pro and con with the explosion in audio. So, you know, one thing's really good. The revenue, did it double every year for the last seven years?
Michelle: We've had double-digit growth each of the last seven years.
Joanna: Which is incredible. So more people are investing in audio.
So the costs are, I guess, coming down because there are more people in the market so there's more competition. But also we've got things like the subscription model, which doesn't pay out so much. And again, I know this because I get paid for my narration that I get all the subscription stuff on Audible.
Today as we speak, I don't if you've seen this, but PRH has pulled their ebooks and audiobooks from the subscription models [The New Publishing Standard]. So they haven't specified but I imagine Kindle Unlimited for ebooks and Audible presumably for subscription and places like Storytell or other places.
Michelle: I think they wouldn't pull from a credit subscription.
Joanna: The all-you-can-eat.
Michelle: Right. It's the all-you-can-eat subscription. It's the Netflix model that we, as consumers, have come to know and love. It doesn't work for every publisher and that's totally fine.
I think a lot of the smaller publishers definitely find that's a good place for people to discover their titles. So each publisher is going to look at their data and make their own decisions.
And I think that's what's really interesting in this time is that we can have data to make decisions that are best for our company and that is going to be very different for a really big company and a really small company potentially.
Joanna: What's interesting to me is that with ebooks, we only came to subscription late and still not loads of things.
Whereas I feel like for audiobooks, digital audio, we've gone for subscription as the default.
Michelle: We have. But because it's all been built on a credit subscription model, I think that's very different.
You're paying your $15 a month and you get your one book, so that limits your listening as opposed to the all-you-can-eat model where I pay my $15 and I can listen to 15 books.
Now, I probably can't listen to 15 books because it takes me a lot longer to listen than it does to read with my eyes. But then again, maybe all of you people who are speeding things up are getting through a lot more than I am.
Joanna: It definitely makes a difference. But it is interesting also because at the audio summit, Spotify was the keynote and they announced, ‘We're going to do podcasts now. We're going to kill it on podcasts.' And of course, I have my podcasts on Spotify, but I don't get paid for that.
My thought was, when are you guys coming for audiobooks?
Michelle: You actually can get some audiobooks on Spotify. Those are paid for. So that's the interesting thing is that podcasts have helped increase the interest in audiobooks and so far, it hasn't impacted the fact that the market is growing.
There were so many more people who could be listening and you can easily get turned on to audiobooks by listening to podcasts and saying, ‘Ooh, I want to listen.' Then you might go buy some audiobooks.
It's creating an audience and a market.
Even though the business model is very different, they have an opportunity to exist together and it still is an opportunity for audiobooks to grow more revenue.
I've been hearing for probably 15 years now, ‘Someday audiobooks are going to be ad-supported.' Well, nope. Turns out, no one knew about podcasts back then. Podcasts are ad-supported.
It's a different model, but they can peacefully coexist and it's a slightly different type of product as well.
Joanna: I agree. So that brings us into marketing. I buy a lot of audiobooks because of podcasts, listening to people on podcasts. I'm like, ‘Oh, I want to know more about what they're talking about. I'll go buy that audiobook.' If it's not available in audio, I likely won't even buy it. So there's a lot of books that are not available in audio, which is kind of nuts.
You're the publisher of AudioFile magazine. And marketing audiobooks is a huge deal.
What are some of your thoughts around that and how does Audiofile magazine fit in?
Michelle: Audiofile magazine is really the number one global source for audiobook reviews, has over 40,000 audiobook reviews on the site.
If you are looking to reach a targeted audience of audiobook listeners, there's really nowhere else to go that is as well-established and has as many reviews. So our consumers are looking to us for the recommendations and we're reviewing over 2,000 books every year. It's a small portion of what's out there, but it's a way to curate. And in a digital world, we all need that guidance and curation.
So what's good, not just because the book is good, but also because the narration is good, the recording is good, and that's what AudioFile helps to do.
We have a special for independent authors where they can advertise in the magazine. It goes into print and digital and also on the website so that they can be reaching directly those consumers who are looking specifically for audiobooks. It's hard to find that because there's just not a lot of people doing audiobook reviews at this point.
Joanna: The thing that we're looking at in the U.S. is ChirpBooks from BookBub. I don't if you've heard about Chirp, it's very good.
Michelle: I love Chirp. They've sold a lot of audiobooks for everyone who's participated.
Joanna: It's not review-based at all. But it's interesting.
Is there anything else that you've seen working for audiobook marketing, especially when people's books aren't stocked in bookstores?
Michelle: What I always say is when you have an audiobook, you suddenly have another extension of your intellectual property. So you should be marketing it at the same time as you're marketing the print book and you should be using the assets that it provides.
So you have a narrator, maybe pictures of them in the booth, a sound clip, all of these different things that you can be using to interest people in your title. They might hear a sound clip and go buy it in print, but who cares, right?
You're trying to sell as many copies of your book in all the formats and it's supporting all of that and giving you some assets with which to interest people.
As far as marketing audiobooks, obviously I'm biased, but I say go to audiofilemagazine.com and check out what we can do for you.
Joanna: Fantastic. And it is ‘AudioFile,' F-I-L-E, not PH. I was like, it must be P-H-I-L-E.
Michelle: No, it goes all the way back to Robin Whitten who founded it thinking about librarians and needing a file of reviews. So that's why it's ‘AudioFile.'
Joanna: Then I also wanted to ask you about the Audio Publishers Association. I am a rights holder. I'm an author, I'm a narrator. I'm a marketer, I'm a podcaster. Many of my listeners are variations of these things.
What does the Audio Publishers Association do? Who's it for? What might its benefits be for some of the listeners?
Michelle: Obviously, our main focus is on the publishers themselves. They're the voting members. We have over 900 members, many of whom are voice talent or authors. When you become part of the association, you have access to the full data that we pull together. You also have access to webinars that we do.
If you're a voice talent and you're trying to increase your knowledge about what's happening in the world and what's happening in your own voice and how to market yourself to publishers, we connect publishers and narrators.
We actually do things called speed dating, where you sit down as a producer or a publisher and you meet different narrators and they can tell you a little bit about themselves. It's a lot of networking. It's research networking events. We also do the Audie Awards and an association conference. You'll get discounts to all of those.
As an independent author or as a voice talent, it's $165 a year, so it's not a huge expense. And then you're going to get close to, I think you get $100 off each event. If you go to two events, you've then gotten your money back. But it's an opportunity to meet people in this space and to network with whatever side of the business that you're from.
Joanna: And is it U.S. only?
Michelle: It's not. We have members all over the world. Obviously, they're not coming to the cocktail parties on a regular basis. But we do have people come in for the awards.
We are going to be in New York on March 2nd and on February 3rd, we'll be announcing the finalists for the awards. And we just signed the contract with the host, so that'll be announced next week, hopefully.
Joanna: Fantastic. And so the Audie Awards most people, the most famous one in the indie community is ‘The Martian,' which of course was a self-published book that got picked up for an Audie with Podium Publishing and then went on, the film, and Matt Damon, and things like that.
To enter the Audies, is it just the members of the Audio Publishers Association?
Michelle: No, anyone can enter. It costs $200 if you're a non-member and $100 if you're a member. So again, you saved the money if you are getting a membership, but anyone can enter.
We have, gosh, about 1,400 entries from across the globe. And we will be actually adding a Spanish category in 2021. So that's kind of exciting.
Joanna: That is actually because I think that's…we haven't even started, I think that was the message at Frankfurt. It was like, look, the rest of the world is really just starting on this journey of audio, which is very, very exciting.
Circling back to your experience as a listener, your background, and what you were talking about earlier around the quality of the recording. People can go and see the list of the Audie winners.
What are the things that make for an award-winning audiobook?
Michelle: It's a real understanding of the text and interpretation of the text and drawing you in with their voice. That's what a great audiobook narrator does. They don't take away from the words as they are written. They're adding a layer onto them and they're really keeping your attention in a way that nothing else can do.
Joanna: It's easier said than done!
Michelle: That's the funny thing. People always think that they can, just as an author like yourself, sit down and record an audiobook. But it is a marathon. You need stamina, you need the right mic, you need to wear the right clothes.
I often hear authors who are recording their own work and they've got an understanding of the words, but they don't necessarily have an understanding of performance.
What they're doing would be very different than what a professional audiobook narrator does. And it takes time. And even people who are very good actors that you might see in Hollywood films, they don't always make the best audiobook narrator. They really need that direction and that understanding of the experience because it's not an easy thing to do.
Joanna: It's not. I do my nonfiction, but my fiction is with professionals. Because, like you say, it has to be some kind of performance. Some of them do lots of different voices and accents and others do a straight read without the variation. Neil Gaiman is a storyteller, not necessarily an actor. What are your thought on actors who do voices, voice talent?
Michelle: I think it's about what the book really calls for. And sometimes those super characterizations, they could get too broad. So you really have to have a director or someone to craft how the sound of the novel should go.
I think each book has a different take. And there are some books where I listen to it, it's like, ooh, that person didn't do a lot of characters, but they got the tone or the pacing different.
I always knew the perspective was that I was listening to and it might not have been a totally different voice, but they did enough changes to it so that I could understand the shifts and it was an engaging performance.
So it's kind of all types and depending on my mood, depends on what I might be really interested in listening to.
Joanna: I have 7 or 8 different audiobooks as well as 10 or 12 podcasts. So I'm always swapping between things depending on my mood.
Michelle: I'm the same way. I do a lot of walking and so it's like, okay, I'm going to go walk for an hour and, all right, well, I've got these 3 podcasts that are 20 minutes. Okay, can I listen to that? Ooh, but I'm really into my audiobook, which has four hours left. So if I walk now, maybe I'll walk further if I listen to the audiobook.
Joanna: It's interesting because audio is changing our behavior. Like you're saying, we don't have a car so I walk all the time and it's like, well I could go this route and get an extra five minutes.
Michelle: It's exactly right. And it was funny, even, you know, 10 or 15 years ago when we did a focus group with people and we were listening to them talk about how they were choosing audiobooks based on length.
And it was a bunch of publishers standing around going, ‘Oh, well yeah, we think about the length of an audiobook, but we didn't think that people are really making selections based on their commute.' But indeed they are.
Joanna: You say that on credits, my husband only wants them when they're over 30 hours.
Michelle: I hear that all the time. It's like,
Why do science fiction and fantasy books do so well in audio? Well, because for 1 credit you're getting 35 hours.
Joanna: Thirty-five hours. That's why we do audiobook box sets now. I've put three of my novels in an audiobook box set because then it looks better for your credit. So there's another behavior change.
This has been brilliant. Where can people find the APA and AudioFile and everything you do online.?
Michelle: The Audio Publishers Association is at audiopub.org. ‘AudioFile' magazine is audiofilemagazine.com. And if you're interested in finding out about me, I'm at the very hard to spell fortebc.com that's Forte, F-O-R-T-E, Business Consulting, so bc.com.
Joanna: Fantastic. Thanks so much for your time, Michelle. That was great.
Michelle: This was a lot of fun. Thank you.
Henry Hyde says
I’m with Michele. The subtleties of voice, whether conveying information or story, are really important to me, though I do acknowledge that the latest tech Joanna has shared with us today (DeepZen) is pretty startling. I also imagine that certain technical information (user guides), mathematics and science/engineering-base stuff would probably be fine delivered via AI. But, like Michele, for me the performance counts, even in non-fiction (and I would include history and other humanities in that).
Incidentally, Joanna – is it me, or has listening to audiobooks at 1.5x speed made you talk faster too? 😂
Joanna Penn says
It may well have made me talk faster – but seriously, on AI narration, I don’t think you will be able to tell within a few years!
David Temple says
Joanna, first of all this is a fantastic interview. Having been in this world (radio, voiceover & such) for most of my career, I was/am thrilled to continually learn of this prolific growth in the medium. You can be sure I’ll be making a sizable contribution to the effort. Secondly, I like you find myself listening & watching non-fiction material at no less than 1.5 times the speed. I’m approaching 1.75 and feel confident I’ll hit 2x by year end. We share a thirst for knowledge. Lastly, I am continually amazed at your vast experience and passion, but more so your kindness; it shows in all your interviews and podcasts. You’ve got a great heart. Thank you for your work!
Joanna Penn says
Thank you, David. I appreciate your kind words and glad that we share a similar enthusiasm for audio even as the industry continues to change!