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APAFAQ

Frequently Asked Questions About Audiobook Consumers & Audiobook Publishing

Glossary of Key Terms Concerning Audiobooks

APA Membership Questions

Narrator FAQs

Merchandising Best Practices and FAQs

Librarian Frequently Asked Questions

Consumer Frequently Asked Questions


Frequently Asked Questions About Audiobook Consumers & Audiobook Publishing

Who are the primary customers for Audiobooks? The audiobook customer is a frequent book reader who sees audiobooks as a way to "read" more while pursuing other lifestyle activities. They are well educated, have higher incomes than non-listeners, tend to be older (35+) and are attuned to book trends through reviews and bestseller lists. Children's audiobooks are also a formidable part of the market, as many families choose them for in-car entertainment or an at-home hobby, as well as many teachers and schools using them for educational tools.

When and where do they use them? The primary usage is while traveling and commuting. Other uses revolve around lifestyle activities such as exercising, relaxing, cooking, cleaning, gardening, crafting, walking the dog, etc. People whose jobs involve repetitive manual tasks also report using audiobooks at work.

How are narrators chosen? Sometimes it is the author who is considered the best choice to read his/her own work, predominantly in nonfiction. When an outside narrator is called for, audiobook publishers look for professional narrators or actors and actresses that have voice and dramatic training, are able to use dialects and accents, can respond to direction, have the stamina that being in a closed studio for many hours requires, and ultimately deliver the feeling behind the author's intent of the book or project. Frequently, the author approves the choice of narrator. The role of the narrator is 'cast' as it would be for many other forms of drama, only in most audiobooks, the performer usually plays all of the parts (although there are also many programs performed by multiple narrators or a full cast).

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Glossary of Key Terms Concerning Audiobooks

Abridged Audiobook--A professional abridger "edits" the work from the original text to encompass the essence of the story while maintaining characterizations, plotlines and style. Most abridgements are done with author approval. Just as many book-based movies do justice to the book while not including every single scene, so an abridgement strives for the same goal of staying true to the spirit and content of the book.

Audio Original--Audiobook products derived from sources other than book content. These programs include dramatic readings, stand-up comedy, seminars, conversations, etc. that have no book counterpart.

CD--A Compact Disc (also known as a CD) is an optical disc used to store digital data. Audio CDs have been commercially available since October 1982 and remain a popular format for audiobooks.  
Pre-loaded Digital Players--(many are known as Playaways) usually hold a single title. Listeners can plug their own earbuds into the player and listen or connect it to a set of speakers.

Digital Download--Digital files such as MP3 files that can be downloaded onto a computer, smart phone or standalone device such as an ipod.

MP3CD--An audiobook format for which an MP3 player is required, most CD/DVD players can currently read this format. MP3CDs can hold a large amount of audio material on a single CD.

Unabridged Audiobook--The complete, unaltered book done in the audio format.

Dramatization--Adaptation of a work such as a book, usually multi-voiced and including sound effects and music.

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APA Membership Questions

What are the benefits of joining APA?

To view a list of APA membership benefits, please click here.

How do I join APA?

To join APA, please download the APA membership application. All membership applications are subject to board approval. The APA board meets monthly to review membership applications.

What are the different APA membership categories?

Please click here to see a list of the APA membership categories.

Who are the members of the APA Board of Directors?

The APA board of directors is comprised of professionals in the audio publishing industry. The board sets policy for the APA and its members. Board elections take place annually, in the month of May. To view the current board list, please click here.

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Narrators

How do I become an audiobook narrator?

Have you been told that you have a nice voice? Do you love reading aloud to your kids? Do you make a living as a commercial voiceover or as a narrator of medical or corporate scripts? Then recording audiobooks will be a natural fit for you, right? No! Not necessarily! We encourage you to think twice before you embark on this career path.
The audiobook industry is growing rapidly, but it remains very competitive, with specific artistic, technical, technological, and business requirements. It’s also by far the most time-intensive genre of voice acting work for the least amount of money. There is no shortage of narrators, and while projects may at times be plentiful, the life of a freelance narrator is like any other freelancer, with ebbs and flows in the amount of work.

For the vast majority of narrators, even those at the highest levels of the business, an agent will not help build an audiobook career. Narrators are responsible for maintaining relationships with casting directors, producers, and publishers and for booking their own projects. Independent audiobook narrators run their own small businesses, so it’s necessary to balance not only the creative demands, but also the financial management, record-keeping, tax preparing, billing, marketing, professional networking, self- and project-promotion, scheduling, and other essentials of any small business. It is possible to become a successful, full-time audiobook narrator, but it demands focus, determination, skill, stamina, professionalism, reliability, talent, flexibility, financial investment, and time.

Some History
The audiobook industry has changed dramatically over the decades, but this has not: The best audiobook narrators are also thoughtful readers, so bringing a love and understanding of the nuance of language and literature is a key component of achieving excellence in the craft.

In years past, actors who recorded books worked exclusively in professional recording studios, guided in their performances by audiobook directors and given technical support by professional sound engineers. The most successful narrators learned their craft in this manner and bring this quality of experience to their work. While some books are still recorded with that degree of close oversight, many books today are recorded by narrators working alone in home studios, self-directing and self-engineering their work before sending their digital recordings to publishers for editing and proofing.

This means that to be successful breaking into audiobook narration, aspiring narrators will need not only excellent acting skills and a healthy, flexible, relaxed vocal instrument, they will likely need some degree of audio recording and engineering ability, as well as a reasonably sound-proof space, a computer, a microphone, a preamp, and various software. While one can get started in audiobook narration with a fairly small investment (using a low-end microphone, inexpensively appropriating a closet to serve as a recording booth, using free recording software, etc.), over time, a successful audiobook narrator might invest thousands of dollars in training, space, and equipment.

Most audiobook publishers and producers currently work under a union contract with the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA). If you're not currently a member of SAG-AFTRA or its sister union, Actor's Equity, contact SAG-AFTRA for further information on membership and benefits.

Some Words of Caution
Audiobook narrators typically have little say in what books they record, or in what genres they are cast. You might aspire to narrate classic literary fiction, but your voice may be perfect for modern romance novels. Or someone may have a passion for sci-fi and fantasy, but most often find herself asked to narrate history and business books. While every narrator has the right to graciously say “no thank you” to any audiobook project, it would be unwise for anyone to enter the field without a willingness to narrate most anything and everything, including books they would never themselves read for pleasure or enrichment.
Audiobooks are paid by the finished hour, and most professional narrators do not exceed a 2 to 1 ratio, meaning that for every finished hour the listener hears, it took the actor two hours to record (so the actor worked about twenty hours to complete about ten hours of content). It takes time and practice to work up to this level of efficiency, especially if someone is beginning their work at home, without an engineer or a director. In addition, narrators are generally not paid for their time to do any retakes, nor are they paid for any of the prep time required, including reading the script, preparing any dialects, researching the proper pronunciation of unfamiliar vocabulary or proper names, or any other work prior to recording. And there are few opportunities for royalties in the audiobook world, so audiobook voice actors work paycheck to paycheck, like most freelancers. Audiobook narrators can make a good living, but they’re not likely to become wealthy from this work alone.

Still Interested in Pursuing an Audiobook Career?
The following are a few suggestions for how to break into the industry

  • Invest in specific audiobook acting training. Even if you're a trained actor with credits on stage, on screen, or in voiceover, you still need to learn technical and creative skills that are specific to the craft of audiobook narration. Seek out classes from audiobook coaches and directors, but do your homework. As in any industry, not every person who professes expertise is, in fact, an expert. For referrals to reputable, experienced audiobook teachers and coaches, contact the APA staff.

  • If you're not a trained actor, begin with some basic acting courses and/or classes in improvisation at your local college or university, or join your local community theater.

  • Read aloud, record your voice, and listen to the playback. Listen and listen and listen to professionally-produced audiobooks, in order to pick up on how audiobook narrators create masterful performances and emotional depth and truth as they bring work off the page. Such performances include believable opposite-gender voices; dialects, as called for by the author; appropriate pacing and phrasing; compelling and connected narrative (whether fiction or nonfiction); and other acting challenges.

  • Attend the Audiobook Publishers Association Conference (APAC). This annual conference brings together all the members of the Audio Publishers Association (APA), including audiobook publishers, casting directors, and studio directors; voice actors with a range of experience; members of the media who cover the industry; and more. Each year the conference includes opportunities for networking with casting decision-makers, as well as offering programming intended to serve the needs of both publishers and narrators, with sessions such as how to self-direct and how to manage work flow in a home studio setting, how to prepare and research a script, how to self-promote and market, and how to stay abreast of industry trends. The conference often includes performances from the most seasoned narrators, which offers a great opportunity to experience live the excellence of the craft of audiobook voice acting.

  • Get to know (not solicit) the professionals involved in the industry.

  • Record a series of professional demo tracks. Demos are essentially the audiobook narrator's resume, and showcase one's ability to do male and female voices, different emotions and settings, a variety of dialects or languages, and more. The key is to set yourself apart from the thousands of others eager to break in. It's not enough just to have a “great voice.”

  • Email demos to companies you would like to work for, once you've researched who within the company casts narrators. (Using each publisher or producer’s website for this research is best, as each company may have distinct requirements for submission or undergo staff changes.) Direct your message to the appropriate casting person, and be prepared to follow up.

  • Read AudioFile Magazine, the leading publication for the audiobook industry, which is full of news, reviews, profiles, and information about the world of audiobooks

  • Have additional questions? Contact the APA office or Robin Whitten at AudioFile Magazine, and they'll put you in touch with someone who can help.

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Audio Publishing Industry Statistics

Where can I get information on audiobooks statistics (i.e., how big is the market, what are the most popular genres, who listens to audiobooks, etc.)?

APA conducts an annual sales survey and a biennial consumer survey. To access the most recent statistics on sales and consumer demographics, please click here.

How do I learn more about the history of the audio publishing industry?

A short history of the Audiobook Industry is available here.

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Getting Started in Audio Publishing

How do I get my book published in audio?

Getting a book published in audio is just as difficult, if not more difficult, as getting a book published in print. Keep in mind that not all books would make good or entertaining audiobooks. Publishers base their decision on the potential market value of the book, i.e., will people buy it. Publishers prefer to release the audio version of a book in conjunction with the release of the print copy of the book. It is best to use an agent to facilitate this endeavor. Publishers prefer to work with agents, especially those they know, rather than directly with the author.

How much should I sell my self-published audiobook? Is there an industry average?

ACX, the Audiobook Creation Exchange, helps connect audio rights holders and audiobook producers.

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Media

Where can I find recent articles on APA and the audio publishing industry?

The APA press room and media coverage web page features news articles about APA and the industry. The press room and media coverage pages provide links to press releases and recent coverage organized by date.

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Events

Does APA host any special events?

APA hosts two events to educate and celebrate the audio publishing industry. The Audio Publishing Association Conference (APAC) is the premiere educational event for audio publishing professionals. APAC gives attendees the opportunity share ideas and gather solutions from fellow colleagues, as well as learn from experts on topics and issues pertinent to the industry. It is held in conjunction with BookExpo America (BEA). Click here for more information.

Additionally, since 1996, APA has hosted the The Audies® gala celebration honoring excellence in audiobook publishing. The Audies gala brings together industry, entertainment, and political dignitaries to celebrate excellence in audio publishing including the Audiobook of the Year category. Click here to view last year's winners.

The Audies is the only awards program in the United States entirely devoted to recognizing distinction in audiobooks and spoken word entertainment. This year, more than 800 entries were submitted for consideration for these prestigious awards. Please visit the Audies Gala web page for more details.

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Merchandising Best Practices and FAQs

Source: Audio Publishers Association Board, 4/04

Best Practices of Audiobook Merchandising -- Since the best audiobook customers are also the best book customers, the merchandising strategies that are most successful with books will also work for audiobooks including:

  • Cross-promotion of audiobooks with the other book formats (hardcover, trade paper and mass market)
  • Including audiobooks on "staff recommends" or "staff picks" shelves
  • Discounting bestsellers or key titles
  • Featuring audiobooks when making special themed-displays or tables or even in windows or at front of store
  • Featuring audiobook at author signings or events
  • Good old fashioned hand selling - if you love an author or narrator, pass it on!
  • Don't forget to contact the publishers. Many publishers offer staff listening programs to retailers.

Librarian Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the available audiobook formats?

  • CD--A Compact Disc (also known as a CD) is an optical disc used to store digital data. Audio CDs have been commercially available since October 1982 and remain a popular format for audiobooks.
  • Pre-loaded Digital Players -- (many are known as Playaways) usually hold a single title. Listeners can plug their own earbuds into the player and listen or connect it to a set of speakers.
  • Digital Download--Digital files such as MP3 files that can be downloaded onto a computer, smart phone or standalone device such as an ipod.
  • MP3CD--An audiobook format for which an MP3 player is required, only some CD/DVD players can currently read this format. MP3CDs can hold a large amount of audio material on a single CD.

How are audiobooks packaged for libraries?

  • Library Packaging – Audiobooks packaged for library use are sturdier than retail packaging. They are not shrink-wrapped, have more standard album sizes and are easier to shelf spine out than traditional retail packaging.
  • Trade Packaging – Audiobooks can come in trays, slides, jewel cases, sleeves, wallets and spined plastique books. Most audiobooks are shrink-wrapped and some have a Mylar-seal. Outside boxes can be many different sizes due to the number of units inside and package design.

How are narrators chosen?

  • Audiobook publishers look for professional narrators that have voice and dramatic training, are able to use dialects and accents, can respond to direction, have the stamina that being in a closed studio for many hours requires, and ultimately deliver the feeling behind the author's intent of the book or project. The role of the narrator is 'cast' as it would be for many other forms of drama, only in most audiobooks, the performer usually plays all of the parts (although there are also many programs performed by multiple narrators or a full cast).

What are the different types of audiobooks?

  • Abridged Audiobook--A professional abridger "edits" the work from the original text to encompass the essence of the story while maintaining characterizations, plotlines and style. Most abridgements are done with author approval. Just as many book-based movies do justice to the book while not including every single scene, so an abridgement strives for the same goal of staying true to the spirit and content of the book.
  • Audio Original--Audiobook products derived from sources other than book content. These programs include dramatic readings, stand-up comedy, seminars, conversations, etc. that have no book counterpart.
  • Dramatization--Adaptation of a work such as a book, usually multi-voiced and including sound effects and music.
  • Unabridged Audiobook--The complete, unaltered work.

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Consumer Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I get definitions of common audiobook terms & lingo? For a list of common terms used in the audiobook publishing industry, click here.

Where can I find audiobooks? Audiobooks are available for purchase wherever books are sold. For a list of members who sell audiobooks, click here for a list of APA member companies. In addition, your local public library is an excellent source for audiobooks in a variety of formats.

How do I get a replacement? Requests for replacement audiobooks should be directed to the publisher of the audiobook. Most publishers have customer service policies regarding these requests, although they vary from publisher to publisher. The name of the publisher is usually located on the outside packaging of the audiobook. Contact information for various publishers is available in the APA member companies list.

 

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