Audiobook Week Day 5: Finding Audiobooks

21 06 2013

Friday: Finding audiobooks
Where do you learn about great audiobook titles? Buy your audiobooks? Share your secrets with the rest of us! We’d particularly love to know what narrators or publishers are active in social media or do a great job communicating with listeners.

When going over the Audiobook Week Posts, I decided I wanted to handle two separate but related topics. The first, which I wrote on Monday, was how I find out about what Audiobooks will be becoming available in order to choose what I will listen to, and today I want to discuss how I acquire my Audiobooks, particularly on a very limited budget. This is a topic that I think we cover every year during audiobook week, and I have discussed some of this is pasts posts, but I thought I would put a bit more detail into it here today.

I think I have become a bit of an expert on acquiring audiobooks. Not that I am in any way especially skilled, but necessity is the mother of invention. I listen to and review a lot of Audiobooks. Last year, I reviewed around 200 Audiobooks. On average, I review about 4 audiobooks a week. I am not by any means a rich person. I work for a non-profit organization at a position not known to rake in the dough. I often forgo luxuries in order to afford things like doctor’s visits and pants. Last year, I figured that if I purchased all my audiobooks through Audible, it would cost me over 12% of my gross salary. I don’t know about you, but 12% towards one form of entertainment is simply unfeasible. So, I must find ways to knock that 12% well down.

I typically use three methods of acquiring audiobooks.

1. Purchasing: I do my purchasing almost entirely through Audible or Downpour.  The biggest trick with Audible is to utilize sales. Audible will have multiple Buy 1 Get 1 sales, $4.99 sales and Get 3 Credit sales, plus surprise sales and promotions. I currently use the plan that gives me 2 Credits per month, and I use any trick I can to make that work.

2. Library. I utilize my Public Library, and it’s Digital Service through Overdrive to borrow audiobooks. Sadly, my Library won’t utilize Inter Library Loan for Hardcopy multimedia like Audiobooks. Yet, AcessPA will often allow you to get Library Cards for out of area Libraries. I use this option for a few of the Philadelphia Area Libraries, giving me access to multiple Overdrive Databases. I always recommend people who use this option consider making at least a small donation to their out of area libraries. Check with your Library System for details on their Digital Media options and the rules in your State. Some Libraries also offer relatively inexpensive Non-Resident cards that may be an option if you don’t have Overdrive or the like in your area.

3, Review Copies:

The majority of this post will be about review copies. I think, Review Copies is a tough issue, especially with Audiobook Bloggers, to discuss, because you need to find a balance. I struggled early on in my reviewing because I don’t like asking for handouts, and that is sort of what requesting review copies felt like. No one make me feel that way, but I couldn’t get past my early reluctance, until some publishers began to engage me. I was also concerned about the ethical implications, whether I would feel a need to go easy on a book, because I received it for free. Here, I eventually learned that, at least some publishers, would rather you write an honest negative review than fluff. Readers respond to honesty, and if you are honest about your negative feelings it will only make your positive reviews hold that much more weight.

One thing I do want to talk about first is obligations. I don’t feel that publishers owe anything to bloggers, not do bloggers owe anything to publishers. If a publisher I work with no longer wants to send me review copies I don’t take that personally. I think the only thing required in the publisher/blogger relationship is professionalism. We both benefit from the relationship, and most publishers know that we won’t like or even review everything that is sent our way but conversely, we won’t abuse their faith by acting unprofessional. This doesn’t mean you can’t write a snarky, sarcastic, highly negative review. It just means you will communicate with professionalism, make a real attempt to request titles you are truly interested in and never upload their items to pirate websites.

There are two types of Review Copies. The first comes from pitches. More and more Authors, narrators and publishing companies will pitch you audiobooks. How you handle this is your business. Many people do not review any sort of self published book, which is fine. I receive no where near as many pitches as print bloggers do, maybe one a week. Most have been professional, but occasionally I have upset someone by either ignoring their request, or not reviewing something they sent. Now, I always include when I accept pitched audiobooks that I don’t promise a review, and that I don’t review books I can’t finish. This is my personal policy.

The other type of Review Copy is things you request, or publishers who you have agreed to allow you to send Review Copies. I am going to give you a break down below of how I acquire books through certain publishers. Some notes though.

1. If I note that a publisher doesn’t seem to have a Blogger Reviewing program, this isn’t a criticism of the Publisher. How a publisher chooses to do business is their concern. If, for some reason, a publisher does have a program, or disagrees with something I write, they can contact me, and I will adapt this post. Also, things change. If you are reading this post down the road, there may be new information.

2.  I am not going to put direct email addresses, but I may link to a page with that info. If you want more detailed information on one of my contacts feel free to email me.

3. I love when Publishers offer Digital Downloads. Outside of that, my preferred format is MP3 CDs. I wil, attmept to indicate which publishers use which format.

4. I always attempt to get a library copy before requesting a review copy. If their titles are available through Overdrive, I will mention that.

As a huge Science Fiction fan, I purchase a lot of Audible Frontiers products. Currently, Audible doesn’t have a blogger Reviewer program that I am aware of. Sometimes, an author, publisher or narrator will provide you with a gift or promo code through Audible, but their is no current way to request specific titles of Audible productions that I know of. This is why I often use sales, and that my Audible wish list is overflowing. Audible products are also not available at libraries due to the fact that the majority are digital only and they don’t participate in Overdrive. Some titles will eventually receive Physical releases through Brilliance Audio.

ACX is an Audible based platform that allows Right Holders to hire narrators, produce their own audiobooks and sell them on Audible. While ACX doesn’t currently have a Blogger Review program there is discussion about starting some sort of program. Authors will often be given promo codes or credits to distribute to reviewers for their books. You can attempt to contact authors, but this process is hit and miss. Most pitched audiobooks will utilize this program. I always recommend listening to samples before accepting, but remember, the samples on Audible aren’t always the best representation of their audiobook.

If you are an audiobook blogger, you must get to know Audiobook Jukebox right now. They have a reviewer program called Solid Gold Reviewers which puts together multiple publishers with reviewers looking for review copies. Make sure you read the information provided then you can get searching for Review Copies.

I typically acquire AudioGo products in multiple ways. AudioGo is sometimes a participant in The Audiobook Jukebox Solid Gold Reviewers program. There books are often available at the library through Overdrive. AudioGo has a blogger review program. I haven’t actually used it since the recent purchase of Blackstone Audio lead to publisher changers, but at last check you can request specific titles through Michelle Cobb. In the past I have received review copies from AudioGo through Digital Downloads as well as Physical Copies.

Blackstone Audio is one of the most Blogger friendly Audiobook publishers. Their titles are often available at the library through Overdrive, or on Audiobook Jukebox’s Solid Gold reviewers program. If you need t0o contact Blackstone, my contact is Alan Weiss, who can provide monthly Download codes for their titles through Downpour or send a physical copy.

Brilliance

I highly recommend signing up for the Brilliance Audio newsletter to discover new releases. My current contact is Kailyn Baum, who works with me to get whatever titles I request in Physical format. They currently do not have a Digital Review copies available but all of their titles are available in CD or MP3 CD. Typically copies are not available until publication date.

Crossroads Press is a participant in the Audiobook Jukebox Solid Gold Reviewers program, and will make their tittles available through Audible.com downloads. To get more information about Crossroads I recommend following company CEO @David_N_Wilson on twitter.

Dreamscape

Dreamscape titles are often available through Overdrive. They will work with bloggers to provide physical or digital review copies of upcoming titles. My current contact is Emily Cherry and she’s wonderful to work with. I would also recommend following Publisher Jeff Golick @drewledrew on Twitter.

Hachette Audio titles are often available through Overdrive. Publicist Mitch Kelly @mitchellkelly sends out a monthly Reviewer email which will let Bloggers know which titles are available for review. Mitch will then send out Physical copies of those titles to blogger who request them.

Harper Audio is a bit tricky. Some of their titles are available through Overdrive. A recent shift in Publicists has left us with no one person to request Audiobooks through. You currently must attempt to figure out the Imprint of the book then contact the publicist for that Imprint. It’s been hit and miss for me because I have trouble determining which publicists works for which Imprint. There is a list of publicist here, but I am not sure how up to date this list is. When successful, Harper Titles are available through Digital Downloads.

 

Publicist Richard Wyle will send a monthly email for Random House Audio and Listening Library titles available for review. These titles will then be available as digital downloads or physical copies.  Both companies titles are also often available through Overdrive.

Some Macmillan Audio titles are available through Overdrive. They are a participant in Audio Jukebox’s Solid Gold Reviewer program. Physical copies can be requested through the publisher. My current contact is the wonderful Esther Bochner. So far, titles available as Digital Only are unable to be requested through the publisher.

Sadly, my Library does not have One Click Digital, which is Recorded Books answer to Overdrive. As far as I can tell, Recorded Books doesn’t provide Review Copies for smaller Bloggers, but those working for larger blogs or publications may be able to obtain them. I currently pick up most of my Recorded Books products through Audible purchases, although I have a lot of their titles lingering on Wish List status.

Penguin

Penguin Audio has one of the best Blogger Programs available. If you get on their list, through Sarah Jaffe, or one of their current interns. you will receive all their physical copies without having to request. They also have a monthly email for digital copies which provided links for instant downloads. Penguin also participates in Audio Jukebox’s Solid Gold Review program.

Tantor Audio’s Cassie McNeil is one of the most energetic and engaging audiobook publicists you can work with, particularly if you are fans of Zombies. You can request any title through Cassie and she will send them out to you. She also loves putting together special events and giveaways. There titles are also often available through Overdrive.

Simon Audio

Simon Audio is an Audiobook Jekebox Solid Gold Reviewer participant. Their publicist Lauren Piles will often send out an email letting bloggers know which titles are available for Review. Simon Audio makes their titles available through Physical Copy or Digital Downloads. Sadly, I haven’t requested any titles recently because the downloader for Simon Audio is Flash based, and for some damn reason, I can’t get any Flash based program to work on my computer, despite much tinkering and attempted fixes.

 

So, if you would like more specific contact information for a publicist, feel free to contact me at guildedearlobe@gmail.com. Also, if you are a publisher, and I neglected you, and would like to be added to this post, email me or leave a comment. If my information is incorrect, also feel free to contact me.

This post basically is about how I get my audiobooks. If you have a contact of a bit of information to share, email me or leave a comments.

Remember, spread the audiobook love wherever you can. One last resource I want to mention is the awesome Miss Susie’s Reading and Observations Twitter contact list. Full of narrators, bloggers and publisher contacts on Twitter.

Audiobook Twitter List Part 1

Audiobook Twitter List Part 2





Audiobook Week Day 4: Audiobook Tasks

20 06 2013

Thursday: Audiobook Tasks

What do you do while you listen? Any particular tasks or games that you find amazing for audio time?

I think for most people, audiobooks started out as a compromise. I think the vast majority of readers, if given the options prefer to read. I know I did. Now, remember, I’m a strange guy. I remember reading The Dark Tower, and just wishing there was a way I could suck the works off the page. Actually consume the words. I love reading. I love the zone you enter when a good story just sucks you in, how the whole world just falls away and becomes less real than the world the author has pulled you into. For me, reading was my Wardrobe, a way to enter an infinite number of Narnias.

So, 10 years ago, if you would ask me which I would rather do, read a book, or listen, there was no choice in the matter, I read. All the time. Then, of course, there came a time when I couldn’t read as much as I wanted to. You see, reading has its limitations. Honestly, I think at some point all of us have attempted to get through that last chapter as we drive. Getting beeped at by the car behind us, because we just had to sneak a peak at the page while at the red light. Yet. people, you cannot really drive and read. You can’t walk and read. You can’t perform manual labor and read. It just doesn’t work.

That’s when you discover audiobooks. When, you make that compromise. There comes a point where you just need the story, and you will take it whatever way you can. For me, it came when I changed jobs. I worked at a job for 6 years, where I actually had time to read a physical book for large portions of my shift. When I switched, it became impossible. So, this is when I decided to truly give audiobooks a try. Sure, it would be a poor substitute for reading, but sometimes beggars can’t be choosers.

So, I downloaded a few audiobooks. I listened to them. I found them to be a bit exasperating, and not fully engaging. I had chosen two books I had read before, one of which was the multicast audio production of The Mist, and the second was the original Abridged version of World War Z, which I had recently read in print. They were nice. Then, I listened to Adam Grupper reading Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer, and I was back in that zone. I was again in Narnia, where everything else fell away and I sucking the words off the page through my ears into my brain.

Then I listened to Oliver Wyman’s reading Tim Dorsey’s Hurricane Punch, and I new I could never go back. That I was now a hopeless audiobook addict, who now looks at print reading as the compromise.

So, today we are asked what we do while we listen. For me, the simple answer is… anything that allows me to keep listening. I walk my dog longer, happily stop at yellow lights, and volunteer to vacuum, as long as the story is good. I scowl at people who disturb me during the good points, and have perfected the agreeing headshake to make people thing I am actually listening to what they are saying, when in fact, I am listening to zombies get their heads blown off, and or space battles between robots and hybrid monkey lizards.

There is something that happens when a good story is expertly told. I think it touches something deep in our genetic memory. I think this is a reason why I haven’t really gotten into over produced audio dramas, and often resent intrusions like music and special effects. When someone is telling me a story, I don’t need those extras. It’s just me, and the words floating through the ethereal mist, being expertly guided by a storyteller.





Audiobook Week Day 3: Mid Week Meme

19 06 2013

Current/most recent audiobook:

One of my biggest Audiobook enablers is Tanya Perez, aka Dogearedcopy. One thing I love about Tanya is that I feel like she has a great handle of what I like, and when she makes recommendations, even ones without Zombies, Robots or Spaceships, I listen and obey.

Impressions:

I am only about 7 hours into the 43 Hour production, but so far, it’s living up to Tanya’s excellent track record. Ever since listening to Manil Suri’s excellent City of Devi, I have become fascinated with India, and Shantaram is making me feel like I am walking the streets of Bombay, visiting the places that tourists will never see. This is my first time listening to Humphrey Bower and so far, he has wonderfully handled the many characters.

Current/most recent favorite audiobook:

I expected to enjoy Taylor Steven’s latest Vanessa Michael Munroe Thriller, but I didn’t expect it to be my favorite action thriller of the year. A lot of the credit goes to the wonderful Hilary Huber who just allows the action to simmer until it hits a boiling rage.

Favorite narrator you’ve discovered recently:

Holy Crap Captain Janeway! Kate Mulgrew gives an enthusiastic performance in NOS4A2 that just made the audiobook so much fun. Like his father, Hill can sometimes go on and on, but with Mulgrew reading, you wish he would never stop.

One title from your TBL (to be listened) stack, or your audio wishlist:

I was a big fan of Lauren Beukes Zoo City, and a love Hachette Audio’s multicast Audiobook productions. Put them both together and I can’t help but be excited. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a novel about a time travelling serial killer and includes work by some of my favorite narrators including Khristine Hvam and Jay Snyder. If this one is not on your TBL pile, than I hope that means you have already listened.





Audiobook Week Day 2: How Do You Choose Your Audiobooks?

18 06 2013

Tuesday: How do You Choose Your Audiobooks?
How do you decide what you’ll listen to? Do you mostly listen, or split time between listening and reading? Particularly if you split time, how do you decide what you’ll consume in audio and what in print?

I think the hardest thing to explain is how I choose what I listen to. It seems so much of bloggerhood is separated by genre. My Twitter feed is full of YA bloggers, Speculative Fiction Bloggers, Literary Bloggers, Crime Fiction and Thriller Bloggers all of whom contribute in someway to my listening list. So, I am always getting a strange mix of recommendations and links to reviews. I have always combined research and impulse when shopping. I will come up with a list of items I want, yet, I always find my eyes being caught by some bit of pretty that I just have to have to have. Too often, the list I came in with is only a pale reflection of what I end up leaving the store with.

I find my shopping for audiobooks is quite similar. I will often plan out my listens based on New Releases I had requested from publishers, recent acquisitions from the library, and recent purchases from Audible or other sites. Yet, then something unexpected will come in the mail, people will tweet about a book that catches my fancy, or a random bit of internet surfing will lead me to something intriguing. Maybe I will see a pretty cover, or one of my favorite narrators will comments on a recently released project and suddenly, my plans go all askew and crazy, and I find myself with a totally different plan. To paraphrase, No Battle Survives First Contact with an Unexpected Audiobook Release.

I also find it’s important to embrace my moods. It’s easy to listen to an audiobook because you feel you have to. You accepted a audiobook pitch, or requested a review copy from the Audio Publisher or Audiobook Jukebox, and you think, I better get this listened to and reviewed before someone thinks I’m a slacker and never wants to work with me. Or you just want to get an audiobook reviewed as close to release date as possible. First off, listening to an intricately developed Literary masterpiece when you are in the mood for a shoot em’ up Military Science Fiction novel benefits no one. If there was a reason a book intrigued you, eventually there will come a moment when it fits you mood. Embrace your moods, listen to something when you want to. Being the first to review something won’t get you bonus points, and getting a review out a week, or even a few months after release date may rekindle some interest.

Being that I listen to between 40 and 50 hours of audio a week, if a book is available in Audio format with a narrator I find acceptable, I choose to go that route. The majority of my print reading is short stories, novellas, anthologies, and a few novels that aren’t available in audio. I am typically happy if I finish 1 novel a month in print, with a few shorter works along the way. With audio, I average about 15 to 20 a month, so keeping that beast fed is my main concern.

I have a wide range of genres I listen to. I listen to horror, science fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal, thrillers, legal thrillers, Literary fiction, urban Fantasy, Steampunk, books about Robots in dance battles with Unicorns, Zombie Apocalypse, Zombie Outbreaks, Zombie POV’s, Post Apocalyptic, Pre Apocalyptic, Far Future Apocalypse, Apocalyptic, Dystopian, Utopian, Some books with a cool picture of a monkey on it, Time Travel, Military Science Fiction, Military Fiction, Young Adult, New Adult, Middle Grade, Really Really Old Adult, Classics, Cheese, Pulp, general fiction, Cereal Boxes and Shampoo Bottles. Basically, whatever jumps out at me at the time. So, finding what I am interested in has no real process but I will share some of the ways I discover new audiobooks.

Some Tools for Finding Audiobooks:

I think that major book retailers are a horrible way to search out new audiobooks. Their lists are horribly incomplete, and calling their search engines clunky would be a gross understatement. So, these are the tools I use to find audiobooks that tickle my fancy.

PUBLISHER SITES ARE YOU FRIENDS

Not all publisher sites make searching for audiobooks easy, but many of them do. Even the ones you have to work at a bit are worth the effort. Some will offer lists of upcoming Releases, while others give you multiple search options. My suggestion… Advanced Search is your friend. Search by Date or genre if available. While most will list narrator, not all do. This can be frustrating, but if you discover a book coming out you are interested in, and there is no narrator information, jump on Twitter and harass official handles and publicist. That’s what they are there for:

Some of my favorite publisher websites:

Brilliance

Dreamscape

Penguin

Simon Audio

These are the sites I check at least once a month. I know there are other smaller audio producers that I have neglected, and they are more than invited to link up their websites in the comment setting. Maybe even I will begin added them to my rotation.

Many of these sites also have newsletters, I encourage people to sign up for those. I may miss a title or too on the site and discover it in their newsletter. Some offer newsletters tailored to reviewers, these I will talk about more on Friday when I discuss review copies, and offer a resource list.

 

BLOGGER RESOURCES:

A lot of bloggers offer weekly posts like Mailbox Monday, or lists of new releases. These are excellent tools. Also, scan archives of bloggers you follow for titles you may have missed. Here are two blogger resources that I value highly when trying to figure out my plans for the upcoming month:

mybookishways

Kristen is one of the most prolific and simply plain awesome bloggers out there, and besides awesome reviews, interviews and giveaways, she offers excellent monthly lists of upcoming genre releases. Go, check out her blog. Follow her. Reap the rewards. I know I have.

Fair warning, Kristen covers print releases, so you may find a title that you are interested in, but isn’t available in audio, but I have found her lists to be invaluable resources.

Audiobookaneers

Sam, one of the Audiobookaneers, provides a weekly list of Newly Released Speculative Fiction titles available in audio. One of my favorite features is his Seen But Not Hear section where he details new releases that are available in print, but not yet in audio. He will often also highlight audiobook available internationally, but are yet available in the US. I find many of my books through his weekly lists, and both Sam and Dave provide many quality recommendations.

OTHER RESOURCES:

Audiofile has lists of New Releases, usually set in three or four month blocks, searchable by either Genre or Production company. I use this resource often, but there are some things to beware of. Often, the titles mentioned are not new releases, but recently repacked or remastered items, or items that were available only digitally, but are now being made available in Hard Copy. Also, when available, narrators are listed.

Fantastic Fiction is a good resource for discovering new audiobooks, with a few caveats. Like Audiofile, the newly listed audios may just be a format upgrade, and being a UK site, sometimes release dates and availability are not 100% accurate.

I love Overdrive Classic Search. It can be clunky and annoying at times, but it’s customizable search engine has helped me find lost of titles I may have missed. I like that you can search by author, publisher or narrator. Understand, only titles available through Overdrive will come up, and it may not be available at your library. but still, it’s a great resource. Do not attempt Overdrives default search. It sucks. Classic is much better.

Yes, everybody loves Audible. Despite it’s use of DRM and it’s affiliation with SKYNET, (AMAZON) it is the premiere resource for Audiobooks. It’s search function is totally dreary, but I does allow search by narrator, search by publisher, even search by length, so it may help you find what you want. Just beware, there is no way yet to separate Coming Soons from Currently Available and their new inclusion of Amazon Reviews is annoying.

One of the few viable alternatives to Audible. It could truly set itself apart by offering a better search function, but currently it’s about as clunky, if not more so, than Audible’s.





Audiobook Week 2013 Day 1: Your Audiobook Year

17 06 2013

 

Monday: 2012-2013, Your Audiobook Year
Are you new to audiobooks in the last year? Have you been listening to them forever but discovered something new this year? Favorite titles? New times/places to listen? This is your chance to introduce yourself and your general listening experience.

2013 so far has been a strange year for me for audiobooks. Often by this point in the year, I have had a few titles that have really blown me away. I have had one or two major surprises, and a nice group of books I just can’t stop recommending. At this point last year, I had been actively recommending books like The Rook by Daniel O’Malley, The Stand by Stephen King, 14 by Peter Clines and Defending Jacob by William Landay. All these books were awesome and amazing and ended up on my 2012 Best of list. Yet, in 2013, I’m struggling for find books that garnish equal excitement.

It’s not that 2013 has been a bad year. So far I have reviewed just over 100 Audiobooks and I have only really hated 1. I have actually rated nearly a quarter of them somewhere in the A range. Yet, I think I have had very few that blown me away. Yet, I think it’s for a few reasons. The first half of 2013 has been full of events, and many of my favorites so far have been part of series. I find it much harder to actively recommend novels that require the listener to go back and read three of four novels first to get the full impact. I think social media encourages instant gratification recommendations, and so, if’s easier to say, YOU"LL LOVE THE ROOK! Than, EXTINCTION MACHINE is awesome, but first make sure you read Patient Zero and The Dragon Factory and King of Plagues and (I think I ran out of my 140 characters.) So, yes, there have been some awesome listens in 2013, and I think if you follow me in a trip through my Audiobook Year, you will find it has a lot of awesome.

EVENTS:

BLOGGER RECOMMENDATION WEEK

I started out 2013 with a week dedicated to titles on some of my favorite bloggers Year End Recommendations Lists. I think this is something I will continue to do and maybe expand next year, because I got to listen to a lot of great Audiobooks I may never have listened to before. I ended up choosing three books that were a lot of fun. My favorite from this group was an audiobook recommended to me by Dave from The Audiobookaneers. The other novels I listened to were Gutshot Straight Recommended by Jen Forbus from Jen’s Book Thoughs, and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk which was on several end of year lists including Book Riot.  The Troupe is a 2012 title, and if I had read it in 2012 it would have had a place on my end of the year list.  Anyone who thinks Fantasy is all Elves and Magic Swords hasn’t experienced this wonderful novel set in the world of Vaudeville.


THE HUMAN DIVISION LISTEN ALONG:

Along with Dave from The Audiobookaneers, each Friday for 13 Weeks I reviewed an episode of John Scalzi’s serial novel which takes place in his Old Man’s War universe. It was a lot of fun, and along the way I got to interview the narrator of the project William Dufris.

THE ARMCHAIR AUDIES

Once again this year, under the tutelage of Jennifer from The Literate Housewife, I took on three categories of The Audies Awards. My categories were Fantasy, Science Fiction and Paranormal. When I started there were 16 nominees and over 215 hours of listening not including the prequels I may need to listen to. Before nominations were announced I had already listened to 6 of the nominees so that knocked it down to about 140 hours of new to me audio. I think Armchair Audies was again highly successful, I personally correctly picked The Paranormal Category, and my Science Fiction didn’t match, but the one I thought would win did. There were some great listens along the way. A particular favorite was the crazed Steampunk Comedy of Errors ALL MEN OF GENIUS by Lev AC Rosen.

ZOMBIE AWARENESS MONTH

Once again my slice of the Internet was taken over by The Undead for the month of May. For May, I reviewed over 20 Zombie Audiobooks, had an interview with author Eloise J. Knapp, a special post from Zombie Author Joe McKinney and three Zombie Roundtables talking about Young Adult Zombie Literature, Zombie Apocalypse Survival with Tantor Audio Authors and Characters from Permuted Press Authors. I reviewed some amazing audiobooks, some of my favorites being Eloise J. Knapp’s THE UNDEAD HAZE, Jessica Meigs’ THE BECOMING: REVEALATIONS and the updated version of WORLD WAR Z.

 

SOME 2013 FAVORITES

While many of my events had me listening to 2012 titles, there has been plenty of great listening experiences.

MY FAVORITE AUDIOBOOK OF 2013 SO FAR:

Extinction Machine (Joe Ledger, Bk. 5)

If you are not listening to the Joe Ledger series, well… I don’t know what to do with you.

BIGGEST SURPRISES

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clark read by Kate Rudd

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson read by Fenella Woolgar

FAVORITE HORROR

Red Moon by Benjamin Percey Read by the Author

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill Read by Kate Mulgrew

GREAT NEW EDITIONS TO ONGOING SF/F SERIES

The Rift Walker by Clay and Susan Griffith read by James Marsters

The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett read by Pete Bradbury

FAVORITE 2013 POST APOCALYPTIC/DYSTOPIAN

The City of Devi by Manil Suri Read by Vikas Adam and Priya Ayyar

Fuse by Julianna Baggott Read by Khristine Hvam, Casey Holloway, Kevin T. Collins, and Pierce Cravens

FAVORITE 2013 YOUNG ADULT SERIES EDITIONS

Fragments by Dan Wells read by Julian Whelan

FAVORITE STANDALONE THRILLERS

Suspect by Robert Crais read by McLeod Andrews

Gun Machine by Warren Ellis read by Reg. E. Cathey

FAVORITE THRILLER SERIES EDITIONS

The Doll by Taylor Stevens read by Hilary Huber

Dead Aim by Joe Lansdale read by Phil Gigante

The Lawyer’s Lawyer by James Sheehan Read by Rick Zieff

THE REST OF 2013

Now that I have gotten through my events, I am focusing of more laissez-faire approach to my listening. More focus on New Releases and just listening to what I want, when I want. Two things I plan on focusing on. I want to save one slot a week, starting in July, to series I have started, but not finished. This will lead to more series reviews. Also, starting in July, I plan to bring back my weekly Welcome to the Apocalypse feature.

Note: This all depends on one major issue in my life. There is a slight chance, due to a family medical issue, for personal and financial reasons, that I may need to drastically reduce the detail and frequency of my blog posts, or even go on hiatus. It simply comes down to whether I will need to pick up another part time job, or discontinue the expense of Comcast, which provided my Internet and Cable services. This likely won’t even become a consideration until the end of July, so I hope that things will be more favorable then, but, I will do my best to honor any commitments I have made, up until I can’t.





Narrative Overtones: My Interview With Michael Goldstrom

29 06 2012

Michael Goldstrom is a relatively new to me narrator who has recorded books like A Confusion of Princess by Garth Nix. My first experience with his work was Variant by Robison Wells, in which I said he “has the potential to be a great narrator.” Well, in Mira Grant’s Blackout, he proved that statement true by giving an excellent performance in my favorite audiobook of 2012 so far. Michael Goldstrom was kind enough to answer a few of my hard hitting questions.

I want to thank you for taking the time out today to talk audiobooks. First off, could you tell me how you became involved in the audiobook industry and give a bit of an overview of you career?


Michael Goldstrom:  I’m really appreciative, but does your audience read? Part of me thinks I should narrate this. Anyway, I’ve always been an aural person (hello ladies), and have loved creating worlds out of sound by either recording sketches, radio shows, characters, or sound worlds in fake languages. With sound, our imaginations go wild, and we become our own filmmakers.

In college we had a phone system called the Rolm phone, where you could easily change voicemail greetings (and prank friends and connect them so they each thought the other called), and every day I’d change the greeting with different characters and scenarios: a mafia den, Brazilian carnival, an international whorehouse… those really were the days.

At Juilliard I up-leveled my skill set to perform classical text, and do mafia voices but with greater breath control. Then I worked as an actor in New York doing plays, musicals, television and film, and I also auditioned for Saturday Night Live. Now in Los Angeles I focus on comedy, both in acting and writing. I also performed as the narrator in Peter and the Wolf with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and  currently perform in Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon for the Cartoon Network.

I’ve always wanted to do audiobooks, because they merge the fun of characterization with the luxury of long form storytelling. Audiobooks are like deeply intimate films in the mind of the listener, and as the narrator, you have the power to help create those images. You dictate the pace, the tone, and create entire worlds, by…dictating. Literally. You are a dictator. This fulfills my German heritage.

You are relatively new to audiobooks. Is there anything about the industry or the process that surprised you?

Michael Goldstrom: I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, because every community has this, but the audiobook community is a relatively insular world consisting of stars , passionate fans, critics, haterspublishers, all centered around aural recordings of stories. I find that amazing, amusing and as the Spanish say: great.

Striking about the publishing industry though, is how much authors must actively self-promote their own work – primarily through Twitter. Imagine if Melville had to do that- “@mobynotthemusician New novel coming out – whales, natives and peg legs in a crisp 458 pages. Kindle anyone? Lol. Check it out!”

Through Twitter I also enjoy reaching out to the authors…they’re alive; why not take advantage?


Before I get into the book I really, really want to talk about, I wanted to talk a little about my first audiobook experience with you, which was your reading of Variant by Robison Wells. Variant is a sort of modern Lord of the Flies, with a host of wildly different young adult characters. What was you biggest challenge when recording this novel?

Michael Goldstrom: In Variant, the narrator is a jaded teenage boy, and all the main characters are within a four-five year age range, so differentiating the characters was a challenge. This was amplified by the story itself in which these characters have no contact with the outside world, so their personalities are in question. Also, their very existence is in question – once you get to the end of the story, you see why.

Before reading Variant, were you aware of the true phenomenon that the Young Adult market is?

Michael Goldstrom: While mentally I feel like a young adult, I definitely did not know the young adult market was a phenomenon.  Is it a phenomenon? What constitutes a young adult anyway – ability to not buy beer, or a penchant for zombies? This is a deep question.

As a narrator, do you feel your talents are more suited to Young Adult and Middle Grade books, or adult books?

Michael Goldstrom: My talents might be most suited to the “Pre-School Epic” genre. I love the fun you can have with young adult and children’s books. How often can you play an invisible bandapat in adult literature (aside from the deleted chapters in Fifty Shades of Grey)? That said, I love the richness and variety of genres, so my goal is to work in all genres at all levels: thrillers, mysteries, historical fiction, neuroscience. You’d hope four years at Juilliard would prepare you for anything, or at least that’s what I tell myself. Right?…Anyone? Hello? It’s very quiet here.

Now, I want to talk about Blackout, which, full disclosure, is my favorite audiobook of the year. Blackout is the third entry in Mira Grant’s Newsflesh Trilogy, and you are the third narrator to handle Shawn Mason’s perspective. Before taking this on, did you read or listen to the previous editions of this series, or did you go into the character cold?

Michael Goldstrom: I’m so thrilled you liked it! I went in cold. Very cold. Think Antarctica, add a dash of Siberia and top it with a WASP from Connecticut.

Personally, I thought you nailed Shawn Mason, but where you really excelled was in some of the peripheral characters, particularly Mahir. Can you tell us a little about your process for creating authentic voices that fit the background and personalities of the characters?

Michael Goldstrom: Very appreciated. Text analysis gives you clues to the characters.  It’s the same process when preparing  for theater or film. Usually, everything you need to know about the characters is either explicitly expressed or implied in the text.  For example, in Blackout, Mahir’s name gives us information about his background, then his schooling and family are mentioned, and of course how he relates to other people and his environment, and the actions he does and does not take all reveal information about how he might sound.

For Blackout, you co-narrated the novel with Paula Christensen, each of you handling a different perspective. How did the two narrator system work? Was their any interaction between you and Paula, or was their a director or other outside person that helped coordinate the recording?

Michael Goldstrom: Our truly masterful maestro of all things audiobook related, Bob Deyan of Deyan Audiobooks supervised the recording. Paula and I overlapped on one day and we briefly discussed some voices, then had lunch. ‘Twas a good day.

As far as your personal tastes, do you read or listen to audiobooks for pleasure, and what are some of your favorites?

Michael Goldstrom: I listen to audiobooks when I drive to Northern California to see my family.  It’s my traveling therapy before entering the storm.  Unfortunately, I’m a productivity book fanatic, so I listen to a lot of those kinds of books -”Getting to Yes, Getting to No, and my favorite, “Time Management for People Who Listen to Too Many Productivity Books.” I’m just now reviewing my audiobook fiction list so I can start to learn from narrators I like. When I heard Frank Muller’s audiobook of Orwell’s 1984, I couldn’t stop “turning the page.”

Is there one novel or author who you would love to narrate that you haven’t yet had the opportunity to take on?

Michael Goldstrom: Michael Chabon or Andy Borowitz or of course The Last Testament, A Memoir by God, with David Javerbaum.

When not performing, what do you do to blow off steam?

Michael Goldstrom: I was asked that in Central Park when I was 15. I was then asked if I wanted to “blow off steam” behind the bushes. Now I play piano, accost other people’s dogs, or write.

Besides being a narrator, you also act and perform comedy. If someone was to show up to see you perform live, what should they expect?

Michael Goldstrom: I’ll let the LA Times speak: “a tour de force that will leave you roaring”. Aw yeah.

Of all your performances, which would you consider the highlight of your career?

Michael Goldstrom: Sadly, Cabaret in high school.

Is audiobook narration something you plan to continue on a regular basis? Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to share?

Michael Goldstrom: I absolutely love narrating audiobooks, and look forward to the overwhelming plethora of literature demanding to be read out loud.  Snooki may need her autobiography read since she cannot speak language. But I do have some upcoming projects – and to be kept apprised please follow my Facebook Page or Twitter or Google + Page (yes I use it and love it).

Someday, when someone writes the story of your life, who would you want to perform the audiobook version?

Michael Goldstrom: There’s a lot of assumptions in that question, but going with it – hopefully I myself will be able to narrate it with advances in cryopreservation, or by having kept my brain alive and speaking through Siri. Although in that case I’m not sure where royalties would be sent.

 

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Audiobook Week: What Makes A Good Narrator?

28 06 2012

Who are your favorite narrators and why? What do you look for in a narrator? Have a preference between male or female narrators?

As someone who has listened to as many audiobooks as I have, you develop certain pet peeves. Yet, I’m attempting to stay positive for Audiobook week, so I am going to talk to flip it around a bit and call it my narrator pet preferences. I think this post will serve two purposes. First for listeners and fellow bloggers, when I do review an audiobook these are things I look for and the terms I apply to these aspects. Secondly, for narrators, when I critique your performance in a way that can be seen as negative. Typically it is because of one of these issues. Often times, I am not saying your performance is bad, but it could have been better for me as a listener if these things were achieved.

It should be noted that I am in no way an expert. I am a listener. Narrators have directors, producers, groupies and hanger-ons who probably give them better advice than me. So, take these bits of advice from a novice listener for what they are. When you are recording a book, ask your self, "What Would The Guilded Earlobe Do?" Then chide yourself for getting distracted.

1. Find A Distinctive Voice:

While this applies most to First person narration, it can also include third person as well. Most narrators have what I call a “default narrative voice.” This is the voice you typically hear when they are reading Third Person Prose. Yet, often, when reading first person tales, their default narrative voice doesn’t necessarily fit with the main character. This is when a good narrator creates a distinctive voice. Let’s face it, if your main character is a New York City early 1800’s roughabout, then he or she probably shouldn’t sound like a professional voce over artist. There are times when a narrator actually enhances the character development of a story by creating a distinctive character voice. There are some narrators who are simply amazing. If you have listened to Nnedi Okafor’s Who Fears Death you may be surprised to learn that Anne Flosnick is not a young African girl living in Post Apocalyptic Kenya, and neither is MacLeod Andrews, narrator of the wonderfully dark Sandman Slim series, a 90’s era punk who just escaped the darkest pits of hell.

2. Flavor

This is a term I use a lot when discussing the overall feel of an audiobook. When you eat chicken, you want the protein rich avian flesh substance to taste like chicken. When a book takes place in China 3000 years in the future, the audiobook shouldn’t feel like its taking place in The Valley in 2012. There are many ways to achieve flavor, through the proper use of accents, distinctive vocal styling, rhythm and pacing. I think this is one of those aspects of an audiobook that is part preparation and part instinct on the narrator. If you want examples of excellent use of flavor by narrators, check out Phil Gigante in Throne of the Crescent Moon and Cassandra Campbell in A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True.

3. Consistent Choices

Narrators need to make a lot of choices when narrating a book. Often times these choices are not just about what works best for a novel, but also what will highlight the narrator’s strengths and downplay their weaknesses. The most important pieces of advice I can give on this topic is, first, know yourself and second, stay consistent. If you are going to read a third person account that centers on a Irish character with an Irish accent, then you should continue that trend when voicing perspectives involving Chinese, Lithuanian or Venusian characters. I reviewed one audiobook where the narrator read the female characters dialogue with a female voice, but her internal monologue with a male voice. Don’t do this. It makes me sad and a bit confused. Two narrators that always make smart consistent choices are Bronson Pinchot and Katherine Kellgren.

4. Don’t Be Riddley Scott

I love action films. Heck, I love action. But when I watch action movies I like to see the action. I cannot stand Riddley Scott’s extreme closeups during action scenes that muddles the ability of the audience to follow what is going on. Narrators sometimes like to speed up their reading of action scenes, to increase the urgency and excitement. This is affective if done right, but some narrators lose control of the pace, and the action becomes muddled. Some narrators manage to slow down the pace of the action, yet still display the same sense of urgency that the speedier narrators are attempting. Two narrators that always help me visualize the action, no matter how intense, are Ray Porter and Hillary Huber.

5. Why You So Serious?

I tend to read a lot of science fiction. I love me some strange and weird characters.  Big tentacle monsters, fuzzy cat like sentient aliens, fallen angels, demons, creatures from Mazzugalh 5 in the Delta Quadrant, all these characters make me happy. What I really like is when I realize these characters are making the narrator happy too. I love when you can tell that a narrator is having fun. It comes out in their choices, in the wonderfully weird character they create. You guys might not know this, but we listeners can hear that sly smile on your lips. I love when a narrator just goes all out. If the script calls for over the top, go for it. Let’s face it, Oliver Wyman makes me laugh on a regular basis, whether he is voicing my favorite loveable serial killer Serge Storms, or the cast of crazy creatures in Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International. And, I challenge anyone to listen to Khristine Hvam’s narration in A Beautiful Friendship and not want a Tree Cat. It cannot be done! One little secret, when you are having fun, I’m more likely to have fun when writing my reviews, and my fun reviews tend to be my best and most popular reviews, even if they are about sexy dragons.

6. Know Who You Are

This topic is a bit more controversial. Well, controversial in the fact that it resulted in my only negative interaction with a narrator. Casting is quite important for the listener. Now, I understand that narrators have little if any control over casting, and they have families to raise and cats to feed so they can post funny pictures of them on the internet.  Yet, make smart choices when taking on a role. More often than not when you are miscast in a role, the casual listener will blame you. If you choose a role that doesn’t suit you, it probably will result in bad reviews, and more importantly, one bad listen may keep a consumer from buying future audiobooks you narrate. Nobody but internet trolls and snooty pipe smoking critics like bad reviews. Two narrators that make very wise decisions on what roes are appropriate to them are Wil Wheaton and Grover Gardner. And yes, I know one of the reasons this is is because they are able to make these decisions, but it’s still true.

I love narrators. I have done many things with narrators by my side. I like writing good reviews and praising your performances to the heavens and petitioning the government for a national narrator holiday. Today I talk a bit more about the relationship between narrators and the listeners in my review of Ken Scholes Lamentations. Make sure you check it out. There will be a test.

Don’t forget to check out all my narrator interviews this week. Today’s interview features the awesome Khristine Hvam.