Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Audio Books vs. Written Books – Should You Write Differently?

As more and more people discover the joys of listening to audio books, more of my clients are asking if they need to write differently for audio book projects. The short answer, if you're a writer and are wondering this too, is no.

Write in your voice, in your style, and with your words. Write the way you normally write, and let your editor correct your work normally. You do not need to do anything differently unless the spirit moves you to make an audio book edit to your manuscript. One of my clients does that when we do audio versions of his short stories. He wants the stories to be as easy as possible for his listeners to follow, as there is a lot of dialogue in his stories. If you write with a lot of conversations in your creations, you might consider making an audio book edit to your manuscript, too, since the listener cannot hear open and close quotation marks.

The one thing you have to know is that the voice actor who reads your book for the audio book version may make slight word changes, and that's normal. In fact, the best narrators know how to make very small changes that help the listener stay engaged with the story. The changes are not mistakes, they're deliberate language changes that make your manuscript the best possible audio book.

Should your book be available in audio form? Since my company produces audio books, you won't be surprised that my answer is yes. However, here are some things to consider when deciding whether to turn your written book into an audio book:

  • In January, 2011, the Association of American Publishers reported a slight decline in sales of physical audio books, i.e. CD and cassette versions. Downloadable audio book sales were up nearly 10% year over year as sales of books declined.
  • In its 2011 professional survey, The Audiobook Publisher Association reported that audio book downloads represent 36% of dollar volume and 52% of unit sales, with downloadable audio book sales growing 300% in dollar volume the previous five years.
  • In a report issued in September 2012, Business Insider revealed that 78% of the U.S. adult population uses a smart phone or tablet, and the percentage is expected to grow to nearly 85% by the end of 2013.
Smart phones and tablets are changing the way readers "read" your books. E-books are dominating the book sales marketplace, and downloadable audio books are the even easier way for people to read a book. introduced a Whispersync app, which encourages purchasers to buy both the e-book and audio book version, and seamlessly switch from one to the other. Go to bed and read chapter four on your Kindle, wake up and listen to chapter five on your smart phone or Kindle as you work out or commute, and there is no searching for your place - all of your devices know where you left off, and pick up there, no matter which version you're reading.

As you go through your day, pay attention to the number of people you see using headphones or earbuds. They are not all listening to music. Chances are many, if not most, are listening to an audio book or podcast.

If you have written a book or are working on one, don't worry about making any changes if you want to have an audio version available. Simply write, knowing that people will love your book - and your audio book!


Sandy Weaver Carman is CEO of Voicework On Demand, Inc. Her specialty is audio products: audio books, audio learning courses, podcasts. She partners with writers, speakers, coaches, and trainers, taking work they've already done and turning it into a revenue river. She is the author of the award-winning "The Original MBA - Succeed in Business Using Mom's Best Advice" and "Create a Revenue River."

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