Tag Archives: audiofile magazine

The Elements of a Well-Reviewed Audiobook

Today, we’re joined by Robin Whitten, Editor and Founder of AudioFile Magazine, one of the industry’s top sources for audiobook news and reviews. Robin is here to demystify AudioFile‘s editorial process, teach ACX Rights Holders how to cast the best voice for their book, and share how to submit for a review.

The Elements of a Well-Reviewed Audiobook

AuON14_cover_300dioFile has been around the block with audiobook reviews. I started the magazine in 1992 when I could not find any reviews that considered the audio performance or the listening experience. What started as a 12-page newsletter has morphed into a multi-platform audiobook review and recommendation source. We review nearly 200 audiobooks per month, and now have 36,000 reviews in our Review Archive.

Listeners, library selectors, authors, narrators, and publishers access AudioFile reviews in our print bi-monthly magazine, in weekly e-newsletters, on the AudioFileMagazine.com website, at AudiobookREX.com, and featured by content partners who sell audiobooks.

Audiobooks come into our Portland, Maine, offices in a steady (digital) stream. We receive review copies from all major publishers and in increasing numbers directly from authors, rights holders, and narrators. Our AudioFile reviewers –about 120 individuals from all over the country with a few scattered around the world—help us create 40-50 professional reviews each week.

What’s a professional review?

A professional or editorial review is often different from a user-review. Editorial reviewers step back and consider each audiobook from a wider perspective. They use their audiobook listening experience to evaluate and assess the quality of the narration, the overall performance, and the alignment with the author’s intent. A professional’s critique is considered alongside the many other audiobooks they’ve experienced.

There’s always a place for user-reviews. The candid enthusiasm and satisfaction (or lack thereof) offers immediate feedback and is easy for others to react to. AudioFile reviews are more than just one reviewer’s opinion; they’re deliberate and collaborative. At AudioFile, we encourage discussion of elements like successful emotional tone & dramatic style more than a rating system. Our reviews are carefully edited and meet strict standards. Three editors see each review, and the grammar and the sense of the language have to pass them all.

The Focus of AudioFile Reviews

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Robin Whitten, AudioFile’s Founder and Editor.

AudioFile reviews very specifically focus on elements of the performance, and what sort of listening experience to expect. Obviously we have to discuss the storyline, but we are not there to critique the author’s written work, or to give a plot summary. Each AudioFile review should make clear to the reader that it’s an AUDIObook review. We may be critical of a performance choice, or the success of an accent, but we do not trash titles indiscriminately.

What Should Authors Listen For?

The most critical element for an audiobook review is the casting. The choice of the right narrator is essential. The skilled narrator can fulfill the intent of the written work and give subtle layers of brilliant storytelling. However, the narrator is not just a voice. The narrator has to get inside the words, and thus into the head of the author. Experience shows, and reviewers can spot the pros.

Sound quality is also something noticed by all listeners. Lapses in QC, like extraneous noise, sloppy edits, and varying sound levels will always be called out by reviewers. All of these are controllable issues, and not perfecting them is a black mark.

Unpredictability comes into reviews primarily because all performance choices or all stories do not appeal to all reviewers. Part of the professional review process is to match reviewers with audiobooks appropriate to their tastes and skills.

AudioFile reviewers are given criteria for their evaluation, criteria we take seriously enough to outline on our masthead: Narrative voice & style; Vocal characterizations; Appropriateness for audio format; Enhancement of the text. We have great respect for the narrators and authors. To get top marks with our review criteria, here are some specifics:

  • Listen for more than “a great voice.”
  • Choose a narrator whose vocal style and tone is aligned with your written style and tone.
  • Make sure the narrator emotionally connects to your intent.
  • Think about how much “performance” you want from your characters. (Note: at Audible, we recommend a subtle performance over a “cartoonish” one.)
  • Consider whether big accents will define your characters or distract from them.
  • Consider whether your book has visual elements like maps or charts, essential footnotes or multiple time-line shifts? These present extra challenges in audio production.

How Do We Choose Audiobooks to Review?

The audiobook publishing floodgates opened a few years ago when ACX added their titles to the already expanding lists from traditional publishers. AudioFile receives announcements of upcoming titles from traditional publishers and starts our selection process there.

CoverBest of-300We make one pass after looking over basic title merchandizing sheets; references from various book scouts in the library and publishing industries; and whatever publicity we find. If an audiobook comes out after the success of a print or eBook title, reviews and buzz can bring these into focus. We take recommendations from narrators, and authors, as well as standard publicity information.

Rights holders, authors, and narrators can submit titles to AudioFile by sending an email with information about the title to editor@audiofilemagazine.com. AudioFile’s managing editor, Jennifer Dowell, will coordinate the review copy and make sure we have all the relevant details.

Why a Good Review is Only Half the Story.

A good review can go a long way, but you need to get out in front of the crowd with the good news. Marketing audiobooks is one of the toughest parts of the process. ACX gives rights holder’s good tips and resources. AudioFile’s broad listener audiences are eager to find their next audiobook. Our readers depend on us to find and review gems that might otherwise be missed. To give listeners an additional resource we started the Indie Showcase for independent authors and publishers. The advertising program gives prime print and online exposure to individual titles. To find out more about the Indie Showcase, email Michele Cobb, michele@audiofilemagazine.com.

AudioFile strives to find the best audiobooks to recommend to our subscribers and visitors. If you follow our advice above and end up with a great audiobook, we’d love to hear it! Please send it in for review.

Robin Whitten is the Editor & Founder of AudioFile Magazine.

This Week in Links: December 8 – 12

Here at Audible and ACX, we make sure to mix in a little fun with all the hard work of helping you make great audiobooks. Audible Studios’ engineer Orlando recently created and starred in the following music video highlighting some of the audiobook innovations Audible has to offer.

Enjoy his infectious performance, then check out the week’s best audiobook links below.

For Producers:

Being an Entrepreneur – via Your Work Is All I Talk About! – Check out Natasha’s year-end roundup of advice for voice actors.

What to Post & When to Post it on 9 Important Social Networks – via Business 2 Community – Whether marketing yourself or your titles, heed this advice for making the most of your social media efforts.

20 20: The Year in Audiobooks – via AudioFile MagazineAudioFile offers their extensive review of the best audiobooks of 2014.

Show This Blog to Anyone Wondering What To Get You For Christmas – via Voice Acting in Vegas – Great gift ideas for you and your VO friends.

For Rights Holders:

How to Never Worry About What to Write Again – via Goins, Writer – Learn to focus on voice, not subject.

Even More New Year’s Resolutions for Writers – via Writer Unboxed – Make a promise to yourself to improve in 2015.

5 Tips for Writing a Memoir – via Publishers Weekly – Are you looking to tell your own story? Heed this advice from author Will Boast.

You’re—I mean YOUR—Complete Grammarian Gift Guide – via LitReactor – Ideas for the grammar obsessive in your life.

 

 

 

ACX at the 2014 Audie Awards

This past Thursday, amidst one of the busiest weeks of the year in the audiobook industry, ACX attended the “audiobook Oscars,” better known as the 2014 Audie Awards at the New York Academy of Medicine.

IMG_1231The night kicked off with an opening cocktail reception, where the industry’s best engineers, narrators and other audiobook celebrities rubbed elbows, munched hors d’oeuvre, and sipped cocktails, while the night’s nominee’s received medals for their work. Our mistress of ceremonies, author Libba Bray, kicked things off with a blisteringly funny monologue, highlighted by the musical number “Talk Audie to Me.”

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Author and Audie hostess Libba Bray.

This year, 6 ACX titles were nominated for this prestigious award. We’re thrilled to celebrate the producers and rights holders of the following books:

The first round of awards featured presenters Robert Fass, Suzanne Toren, and Joe Barret (ACX producers all) announcing winners for categories like best Non-Fiction, Biography/Memoir, and Business/Educational audiobooks. Billy Crystal (sadly not in attendance) then picked up his first award of the evening for Still Foolin’ ‘Em, in the Humor category.

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Audible Studios received their first award of the evening for Graeme Malcolm’s narration in the Short Stories/Collections category for his read of Sherlock Holmes in America. Our celebration continued when Audible Studios next won its  second award of the evening for Best Erotica audiobook (Shana Savage, reading Carrie’s Story.)

IMG_1229Robin Whitten of AudioFile Magazine presented the Special Achievement award to George Guidall for his impressive record of success in the audiobook industry. With over 1,100 audiobooks recorded, the standing ovation he received upon acceptance was well deserved.

Katherine Kellgren was honored with the Audie for Solo Narration/Female for the Audible Studios production of The Twelve Clues of Christmas, and David Pittu picked up his second award of the night for his read of The Goldfinch.

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The final, most coveted award for the evening, Best Audiobook, netted Billy Crystal his third win of the night for Still Foolin’ ‘Em.

Congratulations to all the 2014 Audie nominees and winners. With all the talented rights holders and producers on ACX, we can’t wait to see what you create to be featured at the 2015 Audie’s!

Audible has a full list of 2014 Audie winners here. You can read @ACX_com’s live tweeting of this year’s ceremony on Storify.

The Newest Voices of Audible Studios

Earlier this month Audible Studios, ACX, and AudioFile Magazine teamed up for this spring’s open casting call. You submitted a record-smashing number of auditions, and we were thrilled to hear so many great new voices!

ACX_051314_v2Actors read samples from Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made and Counterclockwise: My Year of Hypnosis, Hormones, Dark Chocolate, and Other Adventures in the World of Anti-aging, and the titles were cast by Audible Studios producers in conjunction with Robin Whitten, Editor and Founder of AudioFile. So, without further ado…

Congratulations to Hollis McCarthy reading Counterclockwise and Josh Goodman reading Raiders!

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Actor Hollis McCarthy.

Both Robin and Kat were impressed with Hollis’ ability to entertain with the material. Robin notes, “Hollis grasps the author’s point of view and ‘gets’ the humor,” while Kat was swayed by her “wonderfully pleasant voice” and ability to “weave the narrative of Counterclockwise and keep the listener engaged and entertained.”

Update: Listen to Hollis’ winning audition below.

Turning to Raiders!, Kat found that Josh “adds another level to the entertainment of the story of Raiders!  He is very invested in the story, and you can tell that he’s really enjoying the material he’s narrating.” Robin noted that Josh “is able to balance the narrative view and the energy of the two boys.”

Update: Listen to Josh’s winning audition below.

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Actor Josh Goodman

The narrators won’t have to wait long to cash in on those contracts, as production will begin shortly. Hollis and Josh will voice the two books and Audible Studios’ Grammy-winning team will handle the production. Watch for Raiders! and Counterclockwise from Audible Studios this later this summer. In the meantime, why not try one of the over 3,700 open castings on ACX today?