Thursday, 8 October 2015

Mistakes to Avoid in the First Chapter of your Audio Book

Just like the first page of a novel, the opening scene of an audio book can either hook the listener or spur him to do an Audible return, which is very easy. The first scene of an audio book is the second most important piece of recording after the audio retail sample. So what can the audio book producer do to ensure the listener does not return your audio book early?

How to Get Audio Book Sales

Okay, so your audio retail sample has piqued the interest of the reader enough to upload your audio book. But what about the first scene? There is a huge choice of audio books available, so the reader must be hooked straight after uploading. This means getting chapter one or the prologue as tight as possible. No waffle or verbal dithering is allowed. The following elements are vital:

The style of the narration, the narrative style, the dialogue (if any) and the action description. Added up, each makes a whole, which is only as good as its weakest point. This means tight prose, read by a compelling narrator that pushes curiosity upon the listener. The listener has to keep listening or the audio book could be returned. And Audible members can return any audio book within one year of purchase, no questions asked.

The opening scene of my audio book, A Hard Lesson by Charles J Harwood narrated by Rachel Shirley propels the listener straight into action via the viewpoint of Frank, who witnesses his friend, Kurt being physically abused by his uncle. Click to take a listen to the audio sample.


Straight away, questions present themselves. Why is the uncle angry with his nephew? Is all as it seems? What sort of relationship does Frank have with Kurt? What series of events led to this point? Within the fear that Frank experiences, there is a back story. The narrator paces the reading to convey the tension. Some words are clipped; others are preceded by a pause or a breath.

Compelling Scene Openers of Audio Books

Not every audio book has to hurl the listener into action. The opening can intrigue via an unusual narrative imparted by a soft voice. Perhaps a secret is about to be revealed or a meeting of people who have not seen each other since childhood. Perhaps something terribly embarrassing is about to happen or a unique problem needs solving. The listener should be piqued by curiosity – not so much by a mystery, but an irresistible urge to keep on listening.

How to Keep your Audio Book Interesting

What to omit is as vital as what to include, as a good narrator is also a story teller. Reading out a novel will often reveal problems within the text or the dialogue and a redraft will be necessary. Perhaps some sentences are too long or waffly, or the dialogue sounds stilted. Both must be addressed before recording.

But the best story in the world will sound uninteresting if not performed well by the narrator. Tension and suspense should be evident in the voice, as well as variations in pitch and tone. Narrating an audio book is all about story telling. Don’t give the listener any reason to switch the book off. And this means:

1 No annoying clicks and swallows from the narrator. A beautiful story can be spoiled by sloppy reading.
2 Good recording quality. Recording in a bathroom won’t do. And no one wants to hear the hush of traffic or echoes from wall tiles, it spoils the listener experience. ACX do a quality check, but these issues do sneak though.
3 No waffly words and wordy paragraphs. The listener can be a fickle audience. Don’t give him or her any reason to switch off, or your audio book could be returned.

How to Begin an Audio Book

If your audio book has a rash of returns, take a second look at the opening scene. Consider substituting it for another scene in the book. Perhaps the beginning is too slow. Cutting the first chapter or prologue can sometimes improve the novel, in that it pushes the listener further into the story. Look out for other issues, such as the recording quality or the narration. Re-recording the opening scene will often be worth the trouble.

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