Consider the Audiobook.
Seriously. Consider it.
If you’re an author and you aren’t producing them, you should start. If you’re a reader with a life, and kids, and a job, and pets—or any combination of those things—then try an audiobook.
Audiobooks are a truly mobile experience. We commute to work. We do any number of activities that would be improved with a story—for me, it’s running and travel, and the holy grail of boredom-- folding laundry. I also listen to audiobooks while cleaning the house, which leads to more enthusiastic application of floor cleaner if I really get into the story.
Simply stated, audiobooks serve purposes that I never could have imagined, and my life is richer for them.
I started listening to the venerable Books on Tape in 1999—remember then? Just before the world ended due to Y2K, and before our phones could do things like send customer complaints and share adequate cat pictures? Heady times, the 90s, but the seed of audiobooks was planted and yielding then, and now, it’s an industry growing at rates even I, an enthusiast, could not have imagined.
Audiobooks provide, for authors, an advantage in connecting with two kinds of readers: those who love your books, and those who don’t have time to read your books. The audio format is surging, and it’s due to how we consume books, not if. Book sales are strong—for indies, but still strong and many indies have correctly wagered on building their series as ebook, print, and audiobook.
Another wonderful side effect of the audiobook? Meeting characters you’ve loved for years, or in some cases like me with the Dragonriders of Pern, decades. Hearing the narrative come to life is nothing short of magic, and as a dedicated listener, I purchase all of the books in a series, because just like print, I will re-listen for the sheer joy of it.
Part of the educational process of becoming an indie author is understanding how to hire talent, produce audiobooks, and reach your market with a product that looks and sounds professional from beginning to end. My motto is simple—hire the best possible talent and damn the costs—because this is a version of my story that will exist in perpetuity.
Audiobooks are the long game. They sell for years, if not decades, and librarians love them because they aren’t damaged or destroyed with use.
Audiobooks are a third of my brand, and I want a performer who is more than just capable—I want a star. A talent. A voice that wraps you in the story and brings you along from page one to the last ringing sentence. That’s what I wanted, and that’s what I got- consequently, I, the author, can listen to my own audiobook and forget I wrote it. I’ll have moments of pure joy where I think, “Damn, this is good!” and it’s not me—it’s the actor’s performance that transports and elevates the reader.
People under the age of 35 love audiobooks, podcasts, and accessibility. Why not give them what they want?
As I write this on my private island with a herd of attack giraffes, I think you can see the wisdom of my decision. Audiobooks are here to stay, and to paraphrase noted 20th century philosopher Ferris Bueller, “you don’t want to miss it.”
Listen to Terry Maggert's podcast here.
Hildie McQueen - author of the Clan Ross series, the Moriag series, and Brides for all Seasons.
Susan Boles - author of the Lily Gayle Lambert Mystery series
Have you ever put off chasing a dream because you’re too busy, too burdened, or flat overloaded? Do you hope that someday, you’ll finally be able to pursue it?
That was me. I couldn’t start writing seriously until my 50s. But maybe that was a good thing, because at that age, I had something to write about. Life experience, hard knocks, wisdom. And by then I was passionate about finding the good in old age because TV, magazines, movies—the culture—all conspired to make me feel bad about myself.
I wouldn’t let them. I’d come too far, suffered too much. I didn’t deserve to have a poor self-image just because that’s what we do.
I fought back by looking for information about the good in aging. And I found so much, it’s incredible. Unfortunately, most of it happens on the inside where you can’t see it, but it’s so powerful it could save the world.
See, when we get older, we think differently. We’re mentally stronger. When you feel like you’re SO over the drama? That’s a biological thing having to do with your fight-or-flight mechanisms. While younger folks are constantly on alert, overreacting to every threat, older folks are calmer, because their amygdalae have quieted down. It’s not that we grow placid. We’re on alert, but we don’t overreact to every little thing. One researcher said, “It’s as if, having figured out what isn’t going to kill you, you settle down.”
Another thing that’s cool is that you start using both sides of your brain more, resulting in more creative, deeper thinking. (It’s called bilateralization).
And yet another thing: you know how sometimes when you face a big hairy problem, suddenly a great answer comes to you in a flash before the young ‘uns at the table have even grasped the situation? That’s pattern recognition. It’s why we, homo sapiens, are still here after those other guys died out.
But I’m sure you already know this, having read about it in all your favorite women’s magazines. Sure. Right next to how to hide your wrinkles for three hundred bucks.
As I began my new career as an author, I realized my passion wasn’t only to write. It was to create stories about older people facing and overcoming hardship, using the power nobody thinks they have. My prequel novella, California Blues, is an example of that.
The second book, Dakota Blues, won an award for Women’s Issues. So I think I’m on the right track.
When I started writing about people over 50, some folks told me I was crazy. I would never find an agent, let alone a publisher, they said. “Nobody wants to read about old people. What are you going to talk about, naps and bingo?” Once, at a book fair in Palm Springs, a woman pulled me aside and confided that I should change my signs, because the word “midlife” would turn people off!
But most people were very supportive. The best reception I ever got was from women in their forties, at an annual conference of the Romance Writers of America. Want to know a secret? Women in that age group are scared to death about getting old. They’re facing menopause and the end of life as they know it, so you can sympathize. But when they saw I was excited and happy about being older, they begged me to write my stories. Our conversations were so emotional, I wanted to hug them all. I told them it would be better than they could imagine.
People love to read about what happens when you're older. They love stories about older people experiencing personal growth and triumph when faced with challenges. About sacrifice and heroism when least expected. And about falling in love when you’d given up hope.
There are plenty of non-fiction books out there, collections of essays about reinvention and personal growth after fifty. Those are great, but there’s a big gaping hole in the bookshelf: fiction about growing old. Because fiction contains an emotional element that lifts you, moves you, and sticks with you forever. That’s what I desperately want to read, so that’s what I write. The future might be daunting, but there are those who’ve walked the path ahead of us, and they’re sending messages back. Here’s how it’s done, they’re saying. Be strong.
If you’ve ever longed for novels about women your age, for stories about older women finding a new gear, I hope you’ll check out my five books. People love them. They say, “Finally, someone is writing about us.” (Men do, too. I have two reviews that begin (after a manly huff), with, “I rarely read women’s fiction, but…” and they gave me five stars.
Also, on my Facebook Author Page, you’ll find a collection of fifty-five books by other authors. Every book in this collection features older characters. I recommend them all. You’ll find the link to that page below.
To learn more about the midlife fiction of Lynne M. Spreen, go to her website.
You can also find her on Amazon and Facebook.
Visit her Facebook page to find fifty books featuring older characters, and to learn about the amazing strengths of the middle-aged brain, go to this series of four blog posts.
Listen to Lynne M. Spreen's podcast here.
Rich Amooi - author of Dog Day Wedding, Bored of the Rings, and Dying to Meet You.
Will North - author of the Davies & West Mystery series and The Long Walk Home.