The Listening Explosion

Seeking out audiobook deals seems to be a popular request from many of my authors/clients, if not all of them. I worked in the audiobook industry myself before starting my own literary agency, so I always knew and understood the importance of the audio format and it always warms my heart when I see authors possessing that same understanding. But, there are many authors out there that I speak with that don’t see the value in putting their work into audio and see it more as a waste of time or just too complicated to deal with at the moment. They rather focus on writing new content to be released in e-book and print because that’s where the biggest pay-off tends to be. I totally get that too, but it really pains me to see these authors leave a great opportunity on the table. I often can’t iterate enough why audio is a market that shouldn’t be left untapped. If you don’t listen to audiobooks yourself, of course it’s going to be a lot harder to understand why you should pursue this format for your work. If we don’t understand something, we tend to shy away from it until a ‘better day.’ Well, thanks to The Wall Street Journal, hopefully that ‘better day’ is sooner rather than later.

In a recent article, The Wall Street Journal talks about how audiobooks are the fastest growing format in publishing. In 2015, sales jumped 21% from the previous year in the United States and Canada. In today’s world, it really shouldn’t be a mystery about why audiobooks are becoming so appealing. People are getting busier and busier. With jobs, children, hobbies, and other commitments we rarely have or take the time to sit down with a good book. I know for myself I have a huge list of books I would love to read and I have no idea how I will ever be able to tackle it. I just don’t have the time. Well, that is exactly what is making audiobooks so successful. They are portable and can be listened to while multi-tasking, voilà!

audiobooks

A big part of the listening explosion is due to the availability of digital downloads, rather than bulky physical CD’s. According to The Association of American Publishers, revenue from digital downloads grew 38% in 2015 from 2014. Revenue from hardcover books grew 8%, paperbacks grew 3%, and revenue from e-books actually declined by 11%.

The predictions for 2016 don’t seem be slowing down either. In January/February, researchers found that digital download audio sales were up 37% already compared with the same time period in 2015. Audible is also projecting that their listeners will listen to 2 billion hours of audio, doubling that number from 2014. Looking at these numbers, it really doesn’t make sense for any authors to be missing out on this upsurge.

Smartphones and new technology have been a godsend for the audiobook industry. 64% of adults in the United States have a smartphone, making it very easy to access digital download audiobooks right from the very device they carry with them 24/7. This year, 63% of all cars are being sold with some sort of smartphone hook-up. Listening to an audiobook while commuting literally can’t be any easier.

Both consumers and authors are catching onto the audio trend. In 2015, 35,574 books were published in audio format- an astounding number compared to the 7,237 audio titles published in 2011. Audible’s membership has also grown by 40% last year compared to 2014.

This doesn’t mean people are starting to prefer listening to reading. The reading trend will never disappear. There’s nothing better than holding a great book in your hands and getting lost in it for a few hours. And audio sales aren’t about to make any author the next Daddy Warbucks alone. In 2015, audiobooks sold 81 million units only making up 3% of the 2.5 billion trade books that were sold the same year. Audio isn’t just a convenient medium for busy folks, it’s also been proved to encourage book lovers to actually buy more books. Listeners who use Audible are reported to buy 40% more books in all formats after becoming members. Amazon’s Whispersync sales were also up by 60% in 2015 compared to 2014. The audio bug lights a fire under consumers for more content, increasing the likelihood that they will reach out to other formats as well.

It doesn’t matter whether you listen to audiobooks yourself or not, the truth of the matter is that other people do. More and more listeners are tuning in each year. In the age of multi-tasking, audio is just one small way to give  consumers what they want. Audio also introduces your work to a whole new audience and puts a little extra money in your pocket at the same time. Maybe we shouldn’t be so hesitant after all.

Write on.

Modernize Your Grammar

One of the scariest aspects of self-publishing is the editing process. You don’t have a built in editor waiting for your next draft. If you don’t possess a doctorate degree in the English language, you feel prone to have a ‘professional’ edit your work which often comes with hefty fees. You worry about following every grammatical ‘rule’ because you fear that any poor grammar will cast your work in a negative light or will be judged by readers and/or critics, just because you are not following the ‘conventional rules’ despite how well you write. We all have heard and seen authors get slammed for poor grammar and the last thing we want is to be the next victim. Go ahead and breathe because I don’t want you to spend another second worrying about it. I recently came across a very interesting article in the Wall Street Journal, called “There Is No Proper English.” I think this article is so important because it’s something that we all lose sight of during the writing process. We always have a need to strive for perfection, but perfection is rarely ever reality.

Alright, let’s take a step back for a moment. Punctuation and spelling are both really important and should never ever be overlooked. You need to dedicate a large amount of time proofreading your work for these errors before you publish. In fact, you need to read through your work multiple times focusing solely on grammar to the point you are practically banging your head against the nearest desk, table, or wall. Grammar can often set a part a good book from a great book. However, given the age that we currently live in, what is mostly important is to convey your message the best way you know how and this might not always be the “proper” way. The article goes into detail about different grammatical rules such as double negatives, “I can’t get no satisfaction.”  We are taught not to use double negatives all the way back to elementary school, but that does not mean it is wrong. Many of the grammatical rules we have are simply suggestions that a society, at a certain time, followed. How is a student supposed to look back at a grammar book with roots in the 1880’s and be expected to abide by those rules?  Society, along with language, words, and grammar, are all fluid and will change. What is seen as “correct” should not be dictated by individuals from the past, but rather our contemporaries. It’s who you are writing for after all. The bottom line is common sense, if it doesn’t make sense to follow a rule then don’t follow the rule. This reminds me of something I read a while ago. I have no idea where I read this or who told me it but I will try to recreate it the best I can:

A mother was cooking a roast with her daughter; the mother cut the end of the roast off and put it in the pan.

The daughter asked, “Mom, why did you cut the end of the roast off?”

The mother responded that it is just how I always did it, there probably is some good reason for it.

The next week the mother and daughter where visiting the grandmother and the mother asked, “Mom, why did you always cut the end of the roast off before you cooked it?”

The grandmother responded, “Because my pot was never big enough.”

Most traditions and rules are only societal guidelines. Rules of grammar are dictated by best practices from a society during a certain time period. In the age that we live in- with the invention of text messages, e-mails, Facebook wall posts, comments in a blog section, we are not required to speak or write like we are from the 1880’s. In fact, that would be counterproductive. The goal today is to get large quantities of information relayed as quickly as possible. ‘Brevity’ and ‘informative’ should serve as the guidelines for the grammar rules for our society. Don’t worry about the rest. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Write on.