In 2015 and 2016 we recorded the vlogger Carrie-Hope Fletcher for her books All I Know Now and On The Other Side, published by Little Brown. For Hachette Children’s, we were delighted to produce YouTuber Hannah Witton’s debut foray into audiobooks, Doing It, an educational and entertaining guide to the world of sex and relationships. As with Carrie’s book, it is refreshing to produce material that treats its young audience with intelligence, and is able to inform with the benefit of experience. Putting vloggers on audiobooks helps engage an audience – technology-minded teenagers and young adults – who are often more receptive to audio than they are to print. Moreover, audiobooks preserve the voice at the heart of the intimate relationship between vlogger and subscriber. From having worked with these insightful young women for separate projects, they are united by being examples of a genre where a different relationship is created between listener and author, compared to reader and author. The attitude that audiobooks are an inferior substitute for print is dissipating more and more, but it is still worth drawing attention on occasion to the unique potential afforded by the audio form, especially when the voice is a familiar one to its audience.
This article was originally published in the Publisher's Weekly/BookBrunch London Book Show Daily, 16 March 2017.
In his preface to Pygmalion (a story perhaps better known to some as My Fair Lady), George Bernard Shaw avers that “It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.” He was writing in 1912 (forgive his lack of inclusive language; we know he meant ‘man or woman’). That work may be the best known example where speech-based prejudice is at the centre of the story, but the idea is apparent very much further back than that. Chaucer made his Pardoner self-aware of the way language can disguise character: as Coghill’s modern-English version puts it, “For though I am a wholly vicious man, Don’t think I can’t tell moral tales. I can!” And Charles Dickens, in 1861, has Magwitch in Great Expectations railing against the preferential treatment Compeyson gets in their joint trial because “He was a smooth one to talk, and was a dab at the ways of gentlefolks.”
The past few months have been some of our busiest in recent memory, with both of our studios being put to use on almost every day of 2017 so far. Recently we have completed one of our most complex productions, that of the masterful Istanbul: A Tale Of Three Cities, written and read by Bettany Hughes. Bettany’s book, published by Orion, is full of digressive nuggets of detail, and possesses a truly global scope spreading out from the crossroads of the world.
The late Andrew Sachs (1930–2016) is best known to the general public as Manuel, but he was a key player of the audiobook industry over thirty or more years. In January 2010, after he recorded Simon Sebag-Montefiore’s monumental Jerusalem, he stayed on in the studio to talk to Nicholas Jones about his work. The interview was recorded in anticipation of an audio industry website that never happened, so this interview was filed away in the archives and has never been heard. We rediscovered it recently, and release it now in honour of the memory of this brilliant performer and delightful, gentle man.
During the past week we have been recording The Gilded Cage, the first title in Vic James' Dark Gifts trilogy. In addition to our reader, Avita Jay, and producer, Leo Whetter, Vic herself was able to join us for two of the studio days, drawing upon her experiences to pen a thoughtful blog post about the process.
Alongside Vic's insight into the pronunciations, directions, and the spine-tingling feeling of hearing words brought to life which all comprise a good audiobook recording, we've compiled some other pieces from our archives of authors blogging about hearing their words performed back to them.
This article was originally published in The Bookseller, 23 September 2016.
Audiobooks are now an established part of publishing - and they are growing fast. In the UK, downloaded audio sales were up 29% year on year in 2015 compared to 2014. Markus Dohle, C.E.O of Penguin Random House, picked out digital audiobooks in a recent letter to staff as having "a significant upswing".