Post Easter Monday Motivation: Writing for listeners
Are you one of the increasing army of readers who prefer to listen to their books, rather than read them in the rather more traditional sense?
Audible has reaped the lion’s share of the phenomenal growth in audiobook revenues. By 2020 in the US alone, revenue from audiobook sales stood at $1,3 billion.
If, as a writer, you have half an eye on revenue from your work – or at least aspire to enjoy an income from the sale of your books – you can’t afford to ignore the potential of recording audio versions of them.
At the London Book Fair this year, a session was devoted to the issue. Are there specific genres that lend themselves to audio? How do you write for audio? And should you concern yourself at all with tailoring your writing to suit this potential market?
By the way, if there was one thing I learned at the Fair, it’s that writers increasingly regard their endeavours as a business, and that it’s foolish to ignore the market (and revenue) potential of their work. Of course, this raises the old controversy about the motivation to write. Should we allow crass commercial concerns to dictate our artistic choices?
Well, when that subject comes up in conversation, I invariably quote my late mother, whose advice, when it came to matters of the heart, went like this: “Don’t marry for money,” she would tell her only son. “But love where money is.”
I’d advise you, in turn: don’t write for money, but don’t forget that if you don’t write to be read by as many people as possible, your immortal prose could well be like the tree that falls in the forest – unheard, unread, unheeded. (If indeed, a tree can be unread. But consider: wood, woodpulp, paper, books…)
Which brings me back to writing for audio. The writer in the hotseat was K.L. Slater, who has written 17 psychological thrillers over the past six years, a number of which have been dramatized by Audible.
She dealt with one of my questions in short order: “The relentless pace of commercial crime fiction suits audio very well,” but quickly went on to add that she believes that audio suits all genres.
In answer to the question of whether one can specifically write for audio, her answer was direct.
“My sentences are quite punchy. My chapters are short. I don’t have too many characters. I often remind listeners – subtly – about what’s happened in previous scenes, and I write a great deal of dialogue.”
But most important of all, she says, more critical than having any dialogue at all, for instance, is this: “Your priority must be to write a great story.”
Sounds like good advice to me. In fact, it sounds like good advice whether or not you have half an eye – half an ear? – on the audio market.