Friday, June 26, 2015

The Joys (?) of Audio

by Lorraine Bartlett / Lorna Barrett / L.L. Bartlett

I'm very proud to say that most of my books are available as audiobooks.  I can't say I'm proud of ALL my books that have been produced in audio.

My first experience with audiobooks was a joy.  Penguin Audio hired the perfect narrator, Cassandra Campbell, and her performance of the first five Booktown Mysteries was nearly flawless.  I listened, and enjoyed, every one of them.  Her performance brought the characters to life. Authors "hear" how their characters sound in their heads while writing, and she nailed mine--particularly Angelica. (My favorite of the books she narrated was Sentenced To Death.)

The producers contacted me to ask for pronunciations and other tidbits, and they paid attention to such things as giving one character the English accent she spoke with.

My next experience wasn't quite as happy.  That's when I went through nearly 30 auditions to hire someone to perform the first three Jeff Resnick Mysteries.  The voice was perfect.  Sadly, the experience was flawed.  So much so, that after the third book, I decided I needed to find a new voice for Jeff.  Another 27 auditions later, I found my new Jeff in Steven Barnett.

Steven is a consummate professional. I don't have to read the manuscript word-for-word as I listen to his performance.  He knows when he screws up, and he fixes any glitches before I even hear his work. So far we've worked on five projects with at least two more in the works for this summer.  I hope to have Steven read the first three Jeff Resnick books in the not-too-distant future, too. (My favorite of the books he narrated is Bound By Suggestion.  OMG--I couldn't believe I wrote the book, it was such a roller coaster ride, thanks to Steven's performance.)

It took me four months to find my next narrator, Heather Masters.  Heather reads With Baited Breath, the first Lotus Bay mystery.  I slogged (and that's the word) through 36 auditions.  You can't imagine how tedious it is to hear the same passage being read over and over again, and then comparing reader A with B, C, D, E and F.  And EVERYBODY sounded alike.  The very first woman who auditioned was the best. I compared her to everybody else.  Unfortunately, her circumstances changed and she wasn't able to read the book.  That's when I found Heather, who did a wonderful job.

I must admit, since I didn't own the audio rights to the Victoria Square Mysteries, I nagged my editor about using those rights or RETURNING THEM TO ME.  That doesn't happen in publishing.  It took three years, but finally the books are available in audio.  They're not too bad.  I've listened to them all.  The narrator sounds like she has a cold, and she reads Katie with a kind of simpering voice, but she really nails the male characters, which is difficult for women readers.  I would listen to those books again.

I wish I could say that about Booktown Mysteries 6, 7, 8 and 9 produced by Tantor Media.  As soon as I heard the audio sample up on their website, I knew the narrator WAS ALL WRONG for my books.  Unfortunately, authors have no control over such things. 

I listened (or should say I BEGAN to listen) to Murder On The Half Shelf during my rides to and from the hospice home where my mother went to die.  I was on the road more than an hour a day, and audiobooks were a welcome distraction.  Well, not THIS one.  Not only did the narrator make every character sound unpleasant, she reads as though she feels nothing but disdain for the material.  Not only that, but she continually calls Angelica ANGELA.  That's just sloppy work.  Even worse, nobody caught it.  I reported it to my editor, who was as appalled as me, but nothing was done about it.

I couldn't even finish listening to the book, and I'm sure as heck not going to waste 8 hours a pop listening to the others.  Therefore, I can't in good conscience promote any of those books.

So, audio has had it's highs and lows for me.

If you like audiobooks, and you're on Facebook, I hope you'll visit The Incredible Indie Authors Audio page and like it.  Just click this link.

Who are some of your favorite audio narrators?