My Sweet Love Affair With The Audio Book

May 6, 2016 | By | 2 Replies More

Virginia Franken PhotoBoredom.

I once shut down the entire floor of a banana packaging warehouse, because I was so bored of grading bananas my brain was about to dissolve into dust particles and float away on the wind. I had no transport, but I desperately wanted to go home. So I screamed, as loud as I could, and fell to the warehouse floor in a fake-out faint. When I “came to” I pretended I’d seen a huge, hairy tarantula peeping out at me from within the depths of a packing box.

Animal control was called in, the minivan came to pick up the workers and we all got to go home early that day.  And that was not my only act of deliberate sabotage that summer. Whilst working in a quiche factory I purposefully squirted egg mix directly onto the conveyor belt (instead of into the pie case) so we’d all get to stop for a chat while it got cleaned up, and I once repeatedly messed up the spice recipe for hundreds of Christmas puddings so I’d be hauled off the job and sent home.

All because I was bored.

I might have made a lot more money over the summer of ‘95 if I’d have had access to the wonderful thing that is the audio book. Thinking back, I probably could have obtained a classics CD from the feeble selection offered at my local rural library – but who would even have thought of it back then?

Books have always been the light of my life, but about seven years ago when I had my first child – I stopped reading for pleasure.  No time. No spare brain bandwidth. But then, a couple of years ago…I discovered the audio book and fiction crept back into my life. Audio books have obviously been around longer than two years and I’m not sure why 2014 was the magical year for their entry into my life – but I’m not the only one catching on.  At some point over the last decade, audio books stopped being things Great Aunt Thelma might pop on – with the volume up extra loud – when she was knitting, and started becoming mainstream.

And so when I received notification from my publisher that they were about to start production on the audio version of my novel, Life After Coffee, I was ecstatic.

Would I be willing to talk to the director? Did I have any thoughts on casting? What specific qualities was I looking for in a narrator? Well goodness. These were some of the most exciting questions I’d ever been asked in my life! Not quite up there with, “Will you marry me?” but pretty close.  I can’t wait to hear someone else’s interpretation of my words. I can’t wait to hear my characters come to life!

As a first-time, unproven author I was surprised that my publisher was willing to take the fiscal leap and invest in producing my audio book before I’d sold one single paperback. But perhaps my stupefied shock was somewhat unwarranted – audio versions are big sellers these days.

It’s no new news that although buyers are cautiously returning to print, digital sales are down. However, sales of audio units…are up.  Quite a lot, actually.  According to the Association of American Publishers, audio book downloads shot up by a whopping 38.1 percent in 2015.  And subscription services for audios books are actually proving more successful than eBooks – with about 3.88 million audio books downloaded last year, against 2.47 million eBooks.

But why?

Well, for one thing, as we all get busier and busier, even the most frantic among us probably has a few minutes in the day when we can listen to a book, even if there’s no time to physically sit down and read one. Working out, cleaning, commuting, watching your kid’s baseball practice, procrastinating at the office and yes, even grading bananas – now all have the potential to be a lot less dull.

My own personal audio book time is during my hour-long commute. What used to be the most lackluster part of my day is now my guilty pleasure. Monday through Friday, my alarm starts chiming at 5.30 am and I’m hit with a quiet horror at the knowledge that I now have to crawl out of bed and do it all for hours on end – and then I remember: the book.  Suddenly I have the will to throw back the covers.

And what an intense hour that can sometimes be. Much like music, the narrated word – at its best – can bypass your outer defenses and nestle in right beside you soul. There’s no skipping paragraphs or skimming descriptions. The author’s words are delivered direct: right to the center of your consciousness.

Slipping right into the middle of the reader’s day; hijacking their brain and taking over their emotions – what’s not to like about that?

And now I’m off to the gym. Instead of thrashing around on the elliptical to Tailor Swift like everyone else in there, I’ll be listening to The Girl on the Train and I’ll be so caught up in the drama of Rachel’s personal hell, I won’t even notice that persistent pinch in my left hip or the exhaustion in my thighs while I pound endlessly at the treadmill.

I’ll be transported.

The bit about this audio book freak:

Virginia Franken was born and raised in Medway, Kent, the place Henry the 8th sent his wives on vacation in the hope that they’d be eaten alive by mosquitoes and save him the trouble of beheading them. She worked for a while on cruise liners as a professional dancer before deciding she’d had enough of wearing diamanté g-strings for a living and somehow managed to blag a job in book publishing.

These days she lives in California with two kids, a dog, one ever-lasting goldfish and her bearded lover, in a house that’s just a little bit too small to fit everyone in quite comfortably. She gets most of her writing done when she should be sleeping. LIFE AFTER COFFEE is her first novel. If enough people buy a copy, there’s a good chance she’ll write another…

Find out more about her:





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Category: Contemporary Women Writers, On Writing

Comments (2)

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  1. LG O'Connor says:

    Love your post! And I’m 100% with you on audiobooks 🙂 I almost won’t buy a Kindle book unless an audio companion is available at a reasonable add on price. Driving is my favorite place. That and cleaning out the basement. Cheers!

  2. Hi Virginia,

    I completely sympathise with how you felt when you learnt your book was going to be produced in audio. This has just happened to me and I feel both excited and nervous!

    Thank you for sharing about being s user of audio.

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