I Like to Listen

John Ramsey Miller

I went a’ traveling last week and (since our local library is on weird hours due to budget cuts) I rented books on DVD from a Cracker Barrel. Which brings me to my biggest peeve on audio books on DVD. How much trouble can it be to add a tag at the end of an audiobook disk saying, “This is the end of disk one, please insert disk two to continue?” Why do listeners have to realize that the damned disk has started over again to begin digging on the floorboards for the box to get the next disk? It’s damned unthoughtful, and some producers actually add this amazing feature that adds two seconds to a disk to some books on DVD.

I don’t know how many authors are invited to listen to the audios of their books before they are released, but I’ve never been one of them. I first heard SMOKE & MIRRORS several weeks after it was released and there was a glitch in the audio track that a short discussion between myself and the producer or narrator could have prevented. The book was unabridged and wonderfully performed by, Scott Brick, one of the absolute top talents in the business. It was the arbitrary addition of an East German accent for my antagonist in the scenes where he was being himself that were off for me. My Paulus Styer was a psychopathic master chameleon and was always in character, none of which was being an East German. Maybe it was best for the listener since it helped them know who was speaking, but I never had him speaking with that accent in my mind as I wrote. I mean his syntax was Germanish but I never heard that voice as interpreted. I am sure nobody else noticed.

My first book, THE LAST FAMILY, was read by Gerald McRainey, and everything about it was flawless, even though it was done on cassettes. I think I can convert those to disks for however long that technology lasts. Even the parts of the book (one entire subplot) that were edited out to cut run time made the book stronger.

I’m excited about the fact that the market is opening up to e-books and audio downloads that aren’t put together by publishers, and that artists might better control their careers and be paid a larger percentage of the money for their labors. The advantage in distribution and advertising, which justified the houses taking the lion’s share is evaporating, and while they risked their money up front, and lost a lot on some projects, they did all right while the model was working. I like the idea of having more control over my own product. I have friends who are actors, and for a sum would be happy to read one of my books. I’d love being truly involved in the process and directing the reading.

We all know that publishers generally don’t want the author’s input on the book once he or she has turned it in. They design the cover and show it to the author after it is designed and accepted by the house. I was lucky in that my editor enjoyed my input and ideas and solicited them at points when things could still be changed. Sometimes I felt like I was on the outside of the process and as a consequence I think I felt some disconnect from the books once they appeared on shelves. Maybe feeling that is natural. It’s sort of like seeing an old girlfriend on the street who changed her hairstyle and lost some weight…


5 thoughts on “I Like to Listen

  1. “I’m excited about the fact that the market is opening up to e-books and audio downloads …”

    Amenb to that!

    I’ve never listened to a book on disk – they’re a bit pricey. Dunno about renting the DVDs from Cracker Barrel – I gain 5 lbs just driving into their parking lot.

    So you know – I’ve posted this comment using an East German accent & read it aloud before hitting the publish button. Sounded okay to me.

  2. Hmm…I’ve never listened to fiction on audio but listen to non-fic quite a bit on audio–and yes, they are frustratingly inconsistent with some telling you it’s the end of the disc and some not.

    Not sure I’d like an audio fiction format. I prefer the voices in my head *-)

  3. I’m on the other side — I like audio fiction. To me, I find it more convinient most of the time. Listen at work, in the car, walking the dog, etc. My only complaint is on older material that’s been converted from one medium to another and/or the general lack of quality in older recordings.

    I’d hope to have some sway if my work is ever read, but I suppose that’s part of the business we’ve accepted.

  4. Due to my relatively insane schedule the vast majority of books I ingest are in audiobook format. Because driving or at work are about the only times I am capable of ingestion of such data. I love well done audiobooks. I also love creating well done books.

    The upside of recording my own books (as well as other folks books) has been that all of the characters came out the way I thought they should, ie the accent I could hear in my head is what came out for the audio. The exception being most women’s voices, those are really hard to make sound like a real woman. Then again, if I could reproduce a woman’s voice perfectly that would be kind of creepy I guess.


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