Speaking of Audiobooks: APAC Report

Narrators/Bloggers Breakfast - from left to right - Xe Sands, Simon Vance, Amy Rubinate, Gayle Weiswasser, Anne Flosnik, Lea Hensley, Patrick Lawlor, Lauren Fortgang; Standing - Karen White and Robert Fass

Narrators/Bloggers Breakfast – from left to right – Xe Sands, Simon Vance, Amy Rubinate, Gayle Weiswasser, Anne Flosnik, Lea Hensley, Patrick Lawlor, Lauren Fortgang; Standing – Karen White and Robert Fass

In late May, I attended the Audio Publishers Association Conference (APAC) in New York City, a first time event for me. Not only was I there to meet face-to-face those narrators and publishers I’ve come to know over the years by working together online but to participate in a panel discussion on Listening Community Reviews.

Not knowing what to expect from a one-day conference, I was thoroughly impressed, first with the community of narrators – professionals who work more often than not, alone in a sound booth and hail from all over the country. I discovered it is a close knit group, not large in number, that is highly supportive of one another. And warmly appreciative of bloggers and sites that feature their work and personally promote audiobooks.

I attended sessions in the Narrator Track. First up was Marketing Successfully and with Manners. Tavia Gilbert moderated this panel of four as they discussed the benefits of adding marketing and PR efforts to promote both their titles and themselves as voice artists. Questions included “What is successful promotion of oneself and one’s work in person and online?” and “How can audiobook performers graciously and powerfully connect with listening fans, authors, reviewers, news media, and casting directors in a way that will increase sales, attract audiences, engage decision makers, and help build a sustainable career?“ If I hadn’t already known that we who support audiobooks online through our writing and promotions are thoroughly appreciated by this community, I would have left knowing that we most definitely are!

Talking with Julia Whelan; Whelan won the Audie award for Best Romance the following night.

Talking with Julia Whelan; Whelan won the Audie award for Best Romance the following night.

Lunch was planned with Allan Hoving from Tantor Audio. Now there’s a company that takes the time to show their appreciation of romance listeners. We sat among a larger group including SoundCloud Audio Content Manager Ben Fawkes over from Germany. SoundCloud is a definite wave of
the future. We use it regularly at AudioGals and I was fascinated to learn how to better utilize the service and what we may expect in the future.

That afternoon, before my participation in the Listening Community Reviews Panel, I stopped by the Home Studio Work Flow session to better understand the challenges and rewards of recording in a home studio. Although most of the information shared was above my head, I definitely came away with a new level of admiration for those who turn out successful work in their own studio. Moderator Jeffrey Kafer’s panel included representatives from AudioGo-Blackstone, Audible, Inc., and Tantor Media.

It was then time for our Listening Community Reviews panel, moderated by Karen White. Panelists included Sue-Ellen Beauregard (Booklist), Adam Boretz (Publishers Weekly), Mary Burkey (Audiobooker), me – Lea Hensley (Speaking of Audiobooks[AAR] and AudioGals), and Robin Whitten (AudioFile Magazine). It’s best to go with the session’s description straight from APAC.

With a flood of new titles hitting the market and a tidal wave of new narrators coming into the industry, good reviews are more important than ever. What titles get reviewed? What will NOT get reviewed? What are acceptable standards of performance and what will get slammed as bad performance? Can actors do anything to bring titles to the attention of reviewers, and what can actors do to ensure they’re turning in the best performance possible so that the review is as good as it can be? Join moderator Karen White and panelists (extracted to list above) as they discuss what it takes to get favorable reviews on your work.

With Robert Fass & Anne Flosnik after Narrators/Bloggers Breakfast

With Robert Fass & Anne Flosnik after Narrators/Bloggers Breakfast

Our audience was filled with narrators as our session was also part of the Narrator Track. It would be difficult to summarize the entire discussion but here are a few things that stood out to me:

* Blog land and sites such as AAR are a different world when it comes to audiobook publishing. Those sites/blogs featuring only audiobooks are relatively small in number but we have influence in the market (that impression was partly gained from the earlier Marketing session.)

* We at Speaking of Audiobooks are among the few that include book content in their reviews. In the world of audio reviews, audio content is the focus (as it should be) and since by necessity, the word count for Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and AudioFile is small by comparison. I was the only panelist who represented publications that included both content and narration in reviews. I emphasized that we desire to talk about the entire listening experience as our communities are built on personal recommendations and understanding reviewers’ tastes.

* Although it can’t be said that the other publications represented in our panel don’t write critical reviews, it’s not an everyday occurrence. Book sites and blogs are more likely to write critical reviews of audiobooks. I explained that we justify our criticism and explain our praise.

* Narrators are interested in what we have to say and, for the most part, enjoy sharing with a larger audience. I felt the vibes from the earlier Marketing Successfully and with Manners session everywhere and afterwards as many narrators took the time to approach me to discuss their work.

* Male narrators and differentiation of characters were two areas discussed and worthy of a column dedicated to such. But a quick rundown? Our community of listeners demands more differentiation of characters and it is true – there is a large percentage of women who prefer male narrators when it comes to their romance. That was news to some male narrators in the crowd. Yes, I saw a good degree of interest from male narrators to take on more romance!

With Karen White at Tantor's party

With Karen White at Tantor’s party

Following our Listening Community Reviews session, I relaxed in the Listeners Lounge. That was total complete entertainment. We listened to a number of the best known narrators perform selections ranging from the humorous to the heartbreaking.

That evening, I attended Tantor’s Tantorious Party and the following morning a narrators/bloggers breakfast. I could write more and even more but in a nutshell, it was a grand time as I continued to meet narrators and other industry professionals. We excitedly discussed all aspects of audio publishing – once again more in a later column.

But my biggest impression? This world of audio has a great appreciation for what we do as audio bloggers and want to know us better. I was thrilled to visit enthusiastically with Renee Raudman, Susan Ericksen, Barbara Rosenblat, Julia Whelan, Patrick Lawlor, Anne Flosnik, Karen White, Xe Sands, Elizabeth Wiley…just to mention a few. I know I’m leaving many out with that comment that I thoroughly enjoyed talking with. Now I’m looking forward to next year!

Ending Notes

Check out our Speaking of Audiobooks Facebook page to see romance audio updates, industry news, and links to articles of interest.

For those new to our Speaking of Audiobooks column, be sure to check out our audio archives for further recommendations and discussions.

Our affiliated Goodreads group, Romance Audiobooks, continues to grow and now has 513 members. Come join us for discussions in between columns.

Enjoy your listening!

– Lea Hensley

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16 Responses to “Speaking of Audiobooks: APAC Report”

  1. My biggest regret about APAC this year was that I didn’t get enough time to talk with you. It was such a pleasure to meet you face to face, finally, and to hug you, but though I felt like I was meeting a dear friend, it was far too short and my attention was pulled in too many directions. Thank you again for adding your wisdom, expertise, and enthusiasm to the panel. I hope we have an opportunity to connect again soon, and I look forward to seeing you next year!

    • Lea Hensley says:

      Tavia – I knew that you were so extremely busy with the conference and in the middle of a move as well! It was wonderful seeing you and chatting for the brief moment we did. I’m sure there will be more next time around.

      BTW, highly impressed with the content of the sessions – I believe coming up with those was just one of your contributions. And thanks for your invitation to participate in the Listening Community Reviews panel.

  2. Thanks for the report, Lea! It sounds (ha) like an interesting and fun conference. As an author I’m always curious about industry events–especially with what is (for me) rather mystified in comparison to the print publishing world. And I loved seeing the pics of the various narrators! Especially Anne Flosnik, who narrates the audiobook versions of my books!

    Glad to see that Speaking of Audiobooks and AudioGals got the recognition it deserves:)

    • Lea Hensley says:

      Yes Manda – you would have enjoyed it and meeting Anne! Anne and I felt like old friends from the minute we actually met face to face (we are friends behind the scenes online).

      And thanks for the good word.

  3. Wendy says:

    I love that the male narrators were advised that a greater percentage of women prefer them for romance listening. It’ll be interesting to see if that discussion has an impact in the near future.

    • Lea Hensley says:

      A great (not greater) percentage of women romance listeners do prefer male narrators as we have polled on it. But it’s not quite 50%. Still much higher than these guys expected to hear I think and I really believe we will see more male narrations!

    • Melinda says:

      I’m in the not-necessarily-prefer-male narrators camp. I prefer a GREAT narrator of either gender. I don’t think just having, um, shall we say, more testosterone makes one a better narrator. “Just sayin’”

  4. Xe Sands says:

    Such a great rundown, Lea! And it was such a delight to finally meet you in person! That was one of the highlights of my trip…so nice to breakfast with you and several other bloggers and narrators.

    I was so glad they included you (and by extension, the blogger reviewer community) in the review panel, as there really is a difference between the focus and target audience of the different reviewing platforms, and all are valid. It was good for those in the industry to hear from you on some of those differences, I think.

    • Lea Hensley says:

      The first time I heard your voice in a session, I thought, “She’s here – where is she?!” Pleased to see you close by, I felt like we already knew each other. So enjoyed visiting and the breakfast you and Karen planned. Thank you!

      • Xe Sands says:

        LOL! That’s so funny because I don’t think I sound anything like the way I narrate. Amazed you recognized me in that voice! But yes, so good to meet you and felt like I was just meeting an old friend face-to-face :)

        • Lea Hensley says:

          Yes on that old friend part! We had just worked on a recorded interview together so I may have recognized your voice through that and our phone conversations. But still…your voice is unique.

  5. Caz says:

    You already know I found all this fascinating :) . It sounds like a really positive experience and I’ll definitely be keeping an ear out for further developments.

    • Lea Hensley says:

      You have become my UK sounding board! And of course, the historical romance audio expert IMO! :)

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