A couple of weeks ago, Octavia Spencer won Best Supporting Actress for “The Help” at the Academy Awards. Here at ACX, where we’re always trying to impress upon rights holders how the talent and skill of many of our narrators and producers can really bring a book to life, Spencer’s remarkable achievement was also a powerful reminder of the kind of great art that can emerge from an audiobook. For as many of you audiobook fans may know, Spencer’s superlative performance of Minnie did not originate with the film version—the roots of Spencer’s memorable performance lie in her powerful narration of the audiobook of “The Help,” which Audible members began to discover in January 2009, way before moviegoers did. And Spencer’s audio performance, which helped the audiobook win two Audie Awards, without a doubt influenced her casting in the film.
At Audible, the audiobook of “The Help” has been nothing short of a phenomenon. We recognized early on the potential for breakout success of this marvelous, multicast audio version, supporting the audiobook on the Audible site with tons of marketing to Audible members. As a result, “The Help” was Audible’s Audiobook of the Year in 2009, and has close to 300,000 downloads to date, with a 4.8 star rating at Audible and close to 20,000 ratings. Spencer and the talented ensemble of actresses created an audio experience at a level Audible members considered a redefining moment, and “The Help” remains the highest-rated audiobook of all time according to Audible members.
In July 2011, Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly described “The Help” in audio as the definitive experience of the form. “Occasionally, listening to a book is just plumb better than reading it. Yes, I’m talking about The Help.” If any ACX users are looking for a great example of audiobook narration, look no further.
And if any actors out there are wondering whether audiobooks are worth investigating, we hope Spencer’s example will inspire them to take a closer look. Spencer’s success is a testament to the emergence of audiobook narration as a powerful arena of performance, as valid and distinct a variation on acting as stage or screen, with the added possibility, as in Spencer’s case, of giving a huge lift to an actor’s career.
You never know where your next audition might lead!