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Find more Voices in My Head
Star power. Audiobook fans know it when they hear it—that’s why so many patrons immediately download each new title by their favorite narrator. Publishers recognize that listeners are avid connoisseurs; witness the Audio Publishers Association 2012 Industry Sales Survey results showing releases nearly doubled from the previous year. How can interested library programmers connect with the growing audiobook community? Try these tips for connecting customers, up close and personal, with actors who master the art of narration.
The Santa Monica (CA) Public Library’s closing event for the Adult Summer Reading Program featured readings by narrators Cassandra Campbell, John Lee, Coleen Marlo and Kathe Mazur, plus a panel discussion. Coordinator Denise Nunez worked with her Books on Tape representative, who helped facilitate the no-cost event. Cheryl Herman, BOT and Listening Library marketing director, shares more information, “Our Library Marketing team loves to help with narrator events that generally fall into two categories, those for the public and those for professional development. Audiences are also interested in what goes on in the audiobook studio, so producers are in high demand for speaking engagements. It’s all in the spirit of raising awareness for audiobooks and the oral storytelling tradition, which, as we know, was around long before the printed word.”
Audio storytelling in a festival setting can also be a great resource for library collaboration. Sue Zizza, owner of SueMedia Productions and president of the National Audio Theatre Festival, has coordinated audio-focused events. One, in Portland, Maine, offered a public-library workshop on scriptwriting and audio performance by Bruce Coville, author, narrator, and founder of Full Cast Audio. In another in Columbia, Missouri, NATF worked with the local library on a literacy program in which children wrote and performed their own audio scripts. This past June, Zizza and NATF launched the HEAR Now Festival, a four-day celebration of all things audio that included partnership with the Kansas City (MO) Public Library, a relationship that will continue and grow during the 2014 festival. Kaite Mediatore Stover, director of Readers’ Services for the Kansas City (MO) Public Library, reacts like any audiobook fan when describing her participation, “I listened and lusted with my ears to the brassy pipes of Barbara Rosenblat, the whiskey-smooth voice of Dion Graham, the sassy tones of Robin Miles, the sparkling sound of Katherine Kellgren, the lively expressions of Stefan Rudniki, and the mesmerizing campfire-story voice of Robert Fass while all of these wonderful narrators treated the audience to selections from Miles: The Autobiography, Dorothy Parker and F. Scott Fitzgerald, short stories, a jazz-tinged story of Josephine Baker, and more. They happily answered questions from the audience, posed for pictures and then allowed their gawky library nerdgirl fans to take them out for cocktails.”
Local bookstores have begun hosting audio narrators along with author visits, a perfect opportunity for piggybacking with a library event. For example, a recent program at Book Court in Brooklyn featured author Wally Lamb, along with eight of the narrators of We Are Water and the audio engineer, who gave a behind-the-scenes description of the production process. During last summer’s ALA Annual Conference, I was fortunate to interview narrator Katherine Kellgren and author Elizabeth Fama about the Odyssey Honor audiobook Monstrous Beauty and can attest to the fascinating conversations sparked when an author and narrator—who had previously only interacted online—met face-to-face to discuss the audio interpretation of a work. Both Kellgren and narrator Dion Graham share the common narrator desire to reach out to public libraries, whether in person or via Skype, opening another avenue for library programmers—direct contact and booking of narrators, just as with authors. Some narrators, such as industry mainstays George Guidall and C. J. Critt, are veterans of many library programs and provide descriptions on their websites. Critt offers some helpful funding hints, such as including an educational component to qualify for grants. The wide appeal of a single narrator, who may be featured on audios for all ages, is also a great opportunity for school and public library collaboration. The Audio Publishers Association (APA) website lists narrator members, along with e-mail addresses and websites, for libraries interested in direct contact. APA president Michele Cobb offers, “Librarians can contact me directly at email@example.com, and I’ll help connect them with a local narrator or the right publisher contact.”
The possibility of Skype visits means that it’s not just large libraries near major cities that can host audiobook events. Plus, today’s narrators often work from home studios located anywhere there’s an Internet connection, so your hometown might have a narrator around the corner. That’s what the Live Oak (GA) Public Libraries discovered when Jonah Cummings, narrator and owner of We Producer Audiobooks, contacted the library, asking if he could set up a pop-up display during “June Is Audiobooks Month,” the annual APA promotion, and host informal patron interactions about the art of audiobook production as well as provide download how-to help. This grassroots event was so successful that plans are in hand for a repeat this summer. Check my Audiobookerblog for expanded details on audio outreach, such as the Phoenix (AZ) Public Library’s National Endowment for the Humanities grant proposal for their Sherlock Holmes special event featuring narrator Simon Vance, and start brainstorming special events to entice your audiobook-loving patrons. Start small with a Skype visit with the narrator of your book club’s next title, or make 2014 the year of Audiobooks Live @ Your Library!
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