How are audiobooks changing the publishing industry? What is involved in the production of an audiobook? What is it like for an author to have her book narrated by someone other than herself? This month we interview author Kate Rademacher and audiobook narrator Becket Royce about their experience collaborating on the production of Following the Red Bird: First Steps into a Life of Faith. If you have any questions you'd like to ask our authors, make sure to leave a comment on our Facebook or Twitter!
Thank you for joining us for this month’s blog about the production of audiobooks. Can you both introduce yourselves?
Kate: My name is Kate Rademacher. I published my debut memoir, Following the Red Bird: First Steps into a Life of Faith, in mid-2017. The audiobook version, which was narrated by Becket Royce, was released in March 2018. Following the Red Bird is the story of my very unexpected conversion to Christianity, and how I began to understand what it means to be a Christian in the first year after my baptism. I like to say that the book explores not only the why of Christianity but the how.
Becket: I'm Becket Royce, and I was very pleased to have been chosen as the narrator Following the Red Bird. Most of the audiobooks that I've narrated are fiction, so I really enjoyed the challenge of narrating the words and thoughts of an actual human being! I'm honored to be a part of this project.
How did you become a book narrator? What is your background?
Becket: I have been involved in the performing arts in one way or another since high school. After I graduated from the UNC Professional Acting Training Program, I worked in New York, Boston and North Carolina in theatre, film and voice over. My focus has narrowed over the years and I now work exclusively as a voice over actor. While living in New York, I was hired to narrate Marilynne Robinson’s novel, Housekeeping, and my love of the form was born. I’ve since read mysteries, classics, romances, action and non-fiction.
As an author, what was it like hearing your words being read aloud by someone else? Does it change your relationship to the text?
Kate: I The first time I heard a sample, I have to admit it was a little weird to hear my words read aloud by someone else! But I love Becket’s voice, and when I listened to the final recording, it was very emotional for me to hear it. Throughout the entire process of writing and publishing the book, I always felt like the book was my baby. And, as we all know, our kids grow up! When I published the book, I knew it was being launched into the world, and it would go in directions I couldn’t imagine. The audiobook is one of those places I didn’t anticipate the book would go when I was writing it. And just like watching your child leave home, I am delighted (and a little nervous) to see the book continue to develop a life of its own. I am incredibly thankful to Becket for the amazing work she did narrating the book. I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job!
Your other recordings as a narrator have been fiction. What was it like recording a memoir?
Becket: Most of my work has been fiction, but I did record one memoir before Following the Red Bird. My sister, Catherine, died of ALS in 2009. Between her diagnosis and death, she kept a journal of her experiences which was published in 2008 as Wherever I am, I’m Fine: Letters About Living While Dying. My other sister, Amanda, and I recorded the book which was released in 2011.
I loved recording both of these memoirs. The work might seem pretty straightforward, in that you aren’t keeping track of character voices. But the words need to come alive in nonfiction just as they would in fiction. Without those character delineations and end of chapter cliffhangers, non-fiction narration needs to come from a truly honest place to keep the listener engaged. The narrator needs to relate to the words in a personal way in order for the author’s words to resonate.
As an author, how does having an audiobook version of your memoir change your approach to marketing and promotion of the book?
Kate: I am really excited because having the audiobook available means that we can connect with audiences we might not have otherwise reached. For example, my own college-aged stepson never reads printed books; he only listens to audiobooks. With the publication of the audiobook version of Following the Red Bird, now he may actually listen to it! It has also been fun collaborating with Becket to market the audiobook version of Following the Red Bird.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the past year is that after you publish a book, the work has just begun. There is so much that an author needs to do to help market the book, and this can often feel like a daunting task. In this case, it’s been fun to see information about the audiobook version of Following the Red Bird posted on Becket’s website and on her social media sites. We have been able to collaborate on things like this blog post and we hope to schedule speaking events together as well.
How do you think your experience with the publication of the audiobook version of Following the Red Bird will influence your writing style as you are writing your next memoir? Do you think it will influence your writing overall?
Kate: I’m currently working on my second memoir about our experience as foster parents. I don’t think publication of the audiobook is influencing the writing process, but I do think it will impact how I think about book publication and promotion in the future. Just as Becket noted, I'm really seeing the value and importance of engaging audiences in a variety of ways and “meeting them where they are at.” For many people, audiobooks are convenient, engaging and fun. For example, I got a text from a girlfriend just the other day who said she never would have had time to read the book, but she’s really enjoying the audiobook version. So it is an incredible blessing that both versions are now available, and I’m very grateful to Becket and Light Messages for making it possible.
Tell us a little bit about the production process for an audiobook. If someone wants to create an audiobook version of their book, what advice would you give them?
Becket: There are different avenues for producing an audio version of a book. There is the traditional path, in which the author’s editor works with an audiobook publisher. The industry has changed dramatically over the past few years, though, with the advent of audio self-publishing. The biggest player in the audiobook self-publishing field is ACX.com. On this site, an author can post their title, hire a narrator based on auditions, and follow along the production process. All contracts are provided by ACX, so it’s pretty much one-stop shopping.
Listening to literature rather than reading it is a different sensory experience. In this regard, do you think that audiobooks help or harm literature?
Becket: When I believe that offering literature in a different format can do nothing but increase its appeal and accessibility. Audiobooks open up the world of literature to many who otherwise don't experience it. People with learning difficulties or vision impairment benefit, as do those like me who simply don't have time to sit and read a book but have a 2-hour commute every day. For me, the most powerful draw to audio books is listening to an amazing narrator bring it to life. What a bonus!