Speaking of Audio: Listen Up! Here's the Word on Audio From BEA

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By Robin F. Whitten

Publishers did a lot of listening at the pre-BookExpo America (BEA) APAC conference sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association (APA). Six programs with topics ranging from new formats to the Hispanic market to a three-session Audio Publishing 101 filled the day for more than 280 members of the audiobook industry.

Panelists Fred Ciporen, Publishers Weekly; Guy McMullen, McNaughton AudioBound; Peter Robinson, San Francisco Books & Travel; Michael Fragnito, BN.com; and moderator Robert Allen, Random House Audio, presented "What Is the Market Telling Us?" to a packed audience. Fragnito extolled the potential of audiobooks to be entertainment and motivational and educational tools. He noted that the developing formats, including the current expansion of CDs and the future download options, offer avenues to expand the customer base.

Documenting the growth with sales data, Allen showed the change in Random House’s mix from 21 percent CD sales in 2001 to an estimated 40 percent in 2002. This shift to CDs appears to cross all markets and genres, he said. Most titles have a nearly balanced mix between the traditional cassette and CD format, with the cassette still strongest. However, some titles -- Allen cited Stephen Hawking’s Universe in a Nutshell -- sold three to one in the CD format.

Allen’s report on in-store merchandising of specific titles in multiple formats should get booksellers’ attention. The cross-merchandising of the audio with print editions resulted in a sales growth that has ranged from a two to a seven times increase. The title itself is the draw for a customer, and audio as an alternative format increases sales potential, he said.

Allen, Fragnito, and Ciporen all touched on the importance of keeping the customer informed. Audio is often relatively new to many customers, and all the auxiliary content publishers (and booksellers) can provide reviews, profiles, and recommendations to encourage sales.

Wrapping up the program, Ciporen criticized audiobook merchandising and challenged the audio publishers to maximize opportunities. His message -- worry less about formats and develop more creative marketing -- is also valuable for booksellers. The customers will tell you what format they want, and new formats will appear that you will have to sell. The greatest potential comes from creative, informed marketing of the audiobook medium, he stressed.

June is Audiobook Month

Take advantage of the APA’s promotions for Audiobook Month this June. Previous years’ promotions have focused on consumer discounts, rebates, and twofers, but selling tools for booksellers get the attention this June. The APA is offering a car cutout display box that holds sampler cassettes or CDs. Posters -- "Friends … lend me your ears" -- samplers (without display box), and merchandising tips are available to booksellers. Contact Alisa Weberman, [email protected] or (973) 781-1444. Listening activities for kids in the car, consumer contest suggestions, and an Audiobook Month display contest are additional activities in the APA marketing kit.

Booksellers attending the Audiobook Tea, which was held on Friday, May 3, at BEA, heard authors Janet Evanovich, Brad Meltzer, and Walter Mosley and picked up handy sets of tips and resources placed at each seat. The APA also includes a special membership offer (good until May 31). During the promotion, retailers can save 25 percent on a APA membership that includes publishers’ upcoming release information, the APA e-newsletter, market data, and directory listings. For more information on bookseller membership, contact Rick Stoff, [email protected]. From individual publishers, special incentives include extra discounts on June orders of backlist titles (Time Warner); free shipping and no minimum (Listen & Live); giveaways (HighBridge and Random House; and a consumer buy-two-get-one-free offer (Simon & Schuster).

Audie Award Winners

Headline your audio displays this month with Audie Award winners. Another BEA event, the Audie ceremony was attended by audiobook luminaries, including many New York-based actors and producers. Ed Herrmann announced some awards and also accepted one for his performance of John Adams by David McCullough in the Abridged Nonfiction category. It was a big night for Mr. Adams. The unabridged audio edition, read by Nelson Runger, was the winner in Unabridged Nonfiction. Simon and Schuster offers both versions, including a special Father’s Day unabridged CD edition. Emcees Dylan Baker and his wife, Becky Ann Baker, kept the evening moving through the 23 awards, and Dylan picked up the Abridged Fiction award for narrating The Corrections, also S&S.

Other not-to-miss Audie winners:

  • Unabridged Fiction -- The Talisman, by Stephen King and Peter Straub, read by Frank Muller (S & S).
  • Mystery -- Tell No One, by Harlan Coben, read by Steven Weber (Random House).
  • Humor -- Napalm & Silly Putty, by George Carlin, read by the author (HighBridge).
  • Poetry -- The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, various authors, read by Caroline Kennedy, Claire Bloom, and others (Time Warner).
  • Narration by the Author -- Ava’s Man, by Rick Bragg, read by the author (Random House).
  • Short Stories -- Blood: Stories of Life and Death From the Civil War, by Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln et al., read by Christopher Graybill, Colleen Delany, et al. (Listen & Live).
  • Original Work -- The Life and Works of Chopin, by Jeremy Siepmann, read by Jeremy Siepmann et al. (Naxos Audio Books).

Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass (Listening Library) achieved the amazing feat of three Audies -- Children’s Title for Ages 8+, Multi-Voiced Performance, and Achievement and Innovation in Production. The last in Pullman’s trilogy, which also includes The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife -- just shouldn’t be missed. But, of course, listeners must start at the beginning, so stock the complete trilogy. A perfect summer listening pick.

Robin Whitten is editor and founder of AudioFile: The Audiobook Review. Bimonthly issues cover audiobook news, features, and reviews. Check it out at www.audiofilemagazine.com. Comments and questions welcome at [email protected].