Speaking of Audiobooks: The Audies and Romance

iStock_000004062139SmallIf you have read even one of our Speaking of Audiobooks columns, it’s clear to you that I’m an avid proponent of audiobooks – romance in particular.  Celebrating June is Audiobook Month (JIAM) is a special joy in that its goal is to increase consumer awareness of the audiobook industry.  I’m amazed at the large number of planned events as well as the concerted effort to exhibit the vast array of choices, the ease of listening, and affordability of audiobooks to readers and non-readers alike.  Taking place in June as well are the Audio Publishers Association Conference and the Audie Awards Gala and Awards Presentation (sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association) for excellence in narration, direction, and engineering.

For years, I paid little attention to the Audies.  More often than not, those nominated for romance failed to impress me as worthy of such an award.  I started paying closer attention to the finalists in 2009 as the Speaking of Audiobooks column had become a twice-monthly event and we were seeing the occasional Audies comment in our discussion area.  We usually heard a confused “Huh?” while looking over each year’s romance finalists and, I fear, the awards were ignored for the most part.

As I recently took a closer look at past Audie Awards, I realized that romance listeners’ lack of interest was well founded.  Although the Audies started in 1996, a romance was not named a finalist until it received its own category in 2005.  Since that time five to six romances have been chosen as finalists each year although, sadly, that number includes six finalists (including one in 2012) that aren’t categorized as romance.  Of the more than 150 finalists each year, romance hasn’t even averaged its six finalists positions nor has it appeared in one of the other finalist categories such as Solo Narration – Female (or Male).

As romance listeners/readers, we are accustomed to the lack of recognition.  A self-proclaimed eternal optimist, I still find myself hoping for the day when the publishing industry (and readership in general) will quit judging the romance genre by misperceptions and the ridiculous clinch covers the publishing industry itself pushes on us.  Oh, for the day when romance can be given respect for the quality source that it is with smart, thoughtful, intense, and well-written books of fiction that can make you laugh out loud, move you deeply, or plunge you into a fascinating conflict other than the love interest.  That’s not to say we’re not still plagued with some thoughtless, formulaic books but can’t that be said of any genre?

Although the Audies recognize excellence in narration, direction, and engineering, it also takes into consideration the marketing information and numbers provided with each nomination.  It’s apparently not a case of the most popular book within a genre so we, as listeners, can’t expect it to be that sort of instrument.  But for romance fans, who merely buy the product and listen to the end result, news of the Audie Winners is usually a disappointment.  Even with the knowledge of how the Audies are structured, it’s still met with doubt and the feeling that someone somewhere just doesn’t get it.  Seeing J.D. Robb’s In Death series as a romance finalist four out of eight years indicates to me a lack of research or imagination.  I don’t deny In Death’s popularity among its followers, but there is so much more to be seen and considered in the world of romance audio.  I see hope in 2012’s romance finalists as four of the titles are well-known by many of our listeners and have been discussed favorably.  Could that be related to the increased selection of quality romances we are seeing from audio publishers?  I have to believe there is a strong correlation.

The Audie Awards remain a thrilling event for audio professionals and an award that can only enhance one’s resume.  This time of year, I catch the excitement of those nominated and I’m delighted when I see one of our favorite narrators of romance nominated for an Audie in another genre.  I’ll applaud with great enthusiasm should any win as they so deserve.  And, yes, I have my list of favorites I’m secretly cheering on.

- Lea Hensley

19 thoughts on “Speaking of Audiobooks: The Audies and Romance

  1. What you wrote is so true. People think I read trash when reading romance but when you have talented authors like Joanna Bourne who brings not only the romance alive but the history and intrigue as well they don’t have a clue what they are missing. I have to admit some of the narrators disappoint me but others make the story come alive. I listen to them again and again!

  2. Priscilla – I think it sad too that the many excellent narrators of the genre also have fewer chances to be nominated for an Audie just because a significant portion of their work is in romance.

  3. The only one of the romance nominees I listened to was New York to Dallas. it was an excellent narration, but the crimes were so personal and horrifying, that I ended up having nightmares for several days after.

    I will probably listen to Summer Rental at some point as well.

    The mystery category is rather upsetting for me. I did listen to Rhys Bowen’s Naughty in Nice, and will it was enjoyable, it wasn’t remotely close to the best mystery audiobook I heard published in 2011. Jayne Entwhistle was robbed by not being nominated for her narration of the latest Flavia de Luce book by Allan Bradley, I am Half-Sick of Shadows.

  4. I’m a bit fascinated by how the audie winners are chosen. Is it kind of like the Academy Awards as opposed to People’s Choice?

  5. Kaetrin – professionals within the industry nominate a book. The entry ballot includes the following:

    Please include SIX packets of your marketing materials for judging. The following materials, as available for the work, will be considered:

    Updated Marketing and Publicity Plan, including details on how listeners were reached (include TV, radio, web, library and store events as well as ads and sales promotions details)

    Results of Marketing and Publicity efforts, including off-the-book-page coverage as well as reviews, web promos

    First print and net sales units and dollars to date

    Notes about unique aspects of packaging and/or recording

    Notes about any unique challenges of the editing/recording/producing
    process

    Any additional sales and marketing information you deem relevant

    Why do you believe this title should be the Audiobook of the Year winner, and how has it had the greatest impact on the audio publishing industry? (please attach one paragraph, as appropria

  6. J.D. Robb’s NEW YORK TO DALLAS with Susan Ericksen just won the Romance category at the Audies.

    AND – after writing this, I feel great about this one – Susanna Kearsley’s THE WINTER SEA narrated by Rosalyn Landor just won for Solo Narration – Female. Yes, a romance win in another category other than romance!

  7. I am listening to New York to Dallas right now, and am so glad to hear it won an award. It’s a cut above the others imo. I have listened to all of the In Deaths except the ones issued after the series began on audio. I will go back and start at the beginning eventually since it’s been maybe 15 years since I started the series. I save them for when I am dire need of a good book so I am behind 1 book. I commute 80 miles a day in So Cal so I listen to dozens every year.

    I would love for listeners to post some recommendations of romances
    and any others that they enjoyed, and also ones to skip. I started a Linda Howard (cant remember name) and the narrator had a high pitched shrill tone so I had to stop listening. I loved the SEP novels narrated by Anna Fields. She passed away and the 2 books after were hard to listen to. So if you have any to recommend, please, I am all ears! LOL

    • Grace: I am listening to New York to Dallas right now, and am so glad to hear it won an award. It’s a cut above the others imo. I have listened to all of the In Deaths except the ones issued after the series began on audio. I will go back and start at the beginning eventually since it’s been maybe 15 years since I started the series. I save them for when I am dire need of a good book so I am behind 1 book. I commute 80 miles a day in So Cal so I listen to dozens every year.
      I would love for listeners to post some recommendations of romances
      and any others that they enjoyed, and also ones to skip. I started a Linda Howard (cant remember name) and the narrator had a high pitched shrill tone so I had to stop listening.I loved the SEP novels narrated by Anna Fields. She passed away and the 2 books after were hard to listen to. So if you have any to recommend, please, I am all ears! LOL

      The recommendations are many I’m sure! But here are a few places to start – previous columns where the content as well as the comments offer many recommendations:

      Results of the 2011 Favorite Romance Audiobook Poll
      http://www.likesbooks.com/blog/?p=6718

      Romance Audio Bests by Author
      http://www.likesbooks.com/blog/?p=5025

      Favorites
      http://www.likesbooks.com/blog/?p=3848

      Also, a popular column was When Books Succeed but Audios Fail
      http://www.likesbooks.com/blog/?p=5494
      This one points you to some that aren’t favorites with listeners although they might have big name authors. Most of the content is in the discussion.

      We are dedicating an entire Speaking of Audiobooks column to Linda Howard in July. There are so many different narrators for her books – you certainly can’t judge one by its narrator.

      And what are some of your favorite romance sub-genres? That might help us make recommendations for you as well!

  8. Guess I am wondering if there should be a category “narrated by author and/or person who is already famous” ;-)

    • LeeF: Guess I am wondering if there should be a category “narrated by author and/or person who is already famous”

      I understand your point completely. :)

  9. Grace – stay tuned. I have submitted a response to you but since it contained several links, it is awaiting moderation.

  10. Sorry, I think I hit enter before I was done with my message. So, if it looks wierd, that’s what happened. I have clumsy fingers…

  11. Lea, Thanks for the various links and suggestions where to look for recommendations. I used to subscribe to Audiofile but I didn’t find it helpful. They didn’t review romance much. I was much more into romance at the time. I have branched out thanks to my commute. I find to keep my mind from wandering while driving, suspense and thrillers seem to do the best job.

    I’ll be sure to read the article about the Linda Howard books. I’ve listened to 3 or 4 of hers. None was particularly good imo. It could have been the books though. One was so depressing about a search for a missing child, I am surprised I listened to the whole thing. Thanks to a friend who is obsessive about collecting audios, I have access to a ton of them. She has quite a few romances, but is mostly a Sci Fi fan which I don’t care for.

    I like the In Death books but I don’t think there is another series like that. I loved the Outlander books, Harry Potter, SEP. I have tried historical romances but have found them boring. I had bought some cassettes way back by Judith Ivory which were pretty good but I mostly wasted my money on many others. I liked paranormal for a while but got burnt out on witches, vampires, and werewolves. (Charlaine Harris, LKH,et al)

    So now I am looking for word of mouth recommendations. I think what will drive me to listen more is a positive comment on the narrator. Thanks again & I will check out the links.

  12. This is such an insightful and important post. I’ve just linked to it over on Facebook – hope others read it and the perceptions (and misperceptions, most importantly) finally begin to change.

    • Xe Sands: This is such an insightful and important post. I’ve just linked to it over on Facebook – hope others read it and the perceptions (and misperceptions, most importantly) finally begin to change.

      Thanks Xe for the support!

  13. I am an audiobook fan girl. I am not a narrator or work for any kind of business that is related to audiobooks. I attended the Audies this year because it’s been on my bucket list for three years. For me it was the experience of a lifetime! Narrators are wonderful people and love to connect with fans. It’s a shame there aren’t more “events” where narrators (like authors at the RT conventions) can interact with their fans. I’m trying to figure out a way to change that.

    I want to explain something about the Audie Awards. There are about 30 of them. I believe out of that number there are three very important and prestigious awards. Audiobook of the Year, Solo Narration – Female, and Solo Narration – Male. Rosalyn Landor winning Solo Narration – Female for her narration of Kearsley’s THE WINTER SEA is much more significant than just a romance book winning in another category. It won in one of the most prestigious categories!!!

  14. Teri – thanks for pointing out the significance of the Solo Narration award! I’m learning more about the Audies each year and putting it on my wish list as well. Maybe next year…

  15. I’m so glad you wrote about this subject, I thought I was the only one with this sentiment, but I can certainly see how more and more peeps are starting to listen to audiobooks, so I hope we see more attention paid to the Romance Genre.
    I started to listened to audiobooks in 2008 and to see how far the publishers have come when it comes to releasing more Urban Fantasy and Romance titles makes so happy and proud to be helping in small way to call attention to these great genres.
    I was so happy for Rosalyn Landor, she’s one of my favorite narrators, I have spent countless hours of pure entertainment with her performances.
    Fantastic post, as always! I’ll be posting a link on my face book page as well.
    Thank you.

  16. Lupdilup – it’s close to amazing just how much the audio industry has changed over the past 5 years but especially in terms of romance (and I believe you are correct on the Urban Fantasy front as well – I don’t follow that genre as closely). I know there are many of us (who tend to stay quiet) who share out romance sentiment.

    Thanks for taking this to FB!

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