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February 1, 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more Selecting the Audies
The Audie Awards were launched by the Audio Publishers Association (APA) in 1996 to honor the best and brightest of the previous year’s recordings. The awards began with 15 categories, including abridged and unabridged fiction and nonfiction. As audio publishing has grown and changed, so have the awards and the venues in which the Audies are presented.
The first year, the awards were presented during an informal hotel luncheon, and then the ceremony (that some call the Oscars of the audio industry) morphed into a formal sit-down dinner at such interesting locations as the United Nations Building in New York and the Petersen Automotive Museum in L.A. At my first Audies gala, I had dinner beneath dinosaur Sue at Chicago’s Field Museum. Audio industry favorites, including narrators Grover Gardner and Scott Brick, were tapped to emcee what were often lengthy events. In 2009, the format changed to a relaxing and fun cocktail party, followed by the awards ceremony in a theater setting.
The 2012 Audies will be held on June 5 at the New-York Historical Society and feature awards in 30 categories, including children’s titles for ages up to 8, children’s titles for ages 8 to 12, and teen titles. The 16 finalists in these three categories range from L. A. Meyer’s swashbuckling The Wake of the Lorelei Lee (read by Katherine Kellgren and published by Listen and Live) to Deborah Wiles’ historical fiction title Countdown (narrated by Emma Galvin and published by Random House/Listening Library) and Bonnie Christensen’s Django: World’s Greatest Jazz Guitarist (read by George Guidall and published by Live Oak Media).
Audie audiences also await the winners in other popular categories, including solo narration—male, solo narration—female, audiobook of the year (recognizing excellence in audio marketing, sales, and production), and distinguished achievement in production (focusing on the listening experience).
The APA estimates that nearly 10,000 titles have been submitted for Audie consideration over the course of 17 years. The first submissions (on cassette) were mailed to the APA office for distribution among judges. I “fondly” recall typing out a form for each entry and inserting the form into each title that we sent to the judges. In 2009, the organizational nightmare of sorting and shipping thousands of audiobooks to more than 100 judges became much simpler thanks to the contribution of Audible.com. Judges now access nominated titles (submitted via an online form) in personalized digital libraries. A few categories, such as multivoice and audio packaging, are still judged in CD format, but the implementation of the largely digital system is a welcome change. Judges’ results are also submitted online, making the tabulation process much easier, faster, and more manageable.
It takes great dedication to be an Audies judge, and we truly value and appreciate the judges’ hard work. The APA instructs judges very carefully, asking them to listen for excellence in narration, direction, engineering, mix, and other qualities specific to the respective categories. This year, we called on 185 judges from a roster of reviewers, librarians, retailers, and audio fans (to preserve impartiality, audio publishing employees are ineligible) to evaluate 1,250 submissions.
Our patient judges can spend as many as 500 hours listening to assigned audiobooks in the first round when every title is evaluated. We recently began splitting the first round of some categories among multiple sets of judges. Premiums are put on the material, reader, and production values. “I think the work can suffer from not having the oversight of a good producer. It’s like having the equivalent of a good copy editor. If they are pronouncing something in Italian in a cockeyed way, for example, it comes out like shoddy work or something riddled with typos,” explains judge Sukey Howard, an audio fan and a journalist.
In the second round of judging, listening time is shorter as judges only have five titles to consider, but the decisions are tougher as these finalists are all standouts. The hallmark of a winning audiobook is “content served superbly by the appropriate choice of narrators,” says software developer Robert Hedin, a judge for the past two years, who goes on to say that what he listens for when evaluating titles are a number of things, including whether the “narrator serves the author and the story. If yes, the audio experience can be life changing.”
Like so many others, I am looking forward to attending this year’s event and learning the winners. For a complete list of the finalists and other information concerning the Audies, check out www.theaudies.com or www.audiopub.org.
Michele Cobb is president of the Audio Publishers Association and currently vice president of sales and marketing at AudioGO.
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