Writers on Writing

If You Just Listen, You’ll Hear Some Amazing Audio Books

by A.J. Scudiere

There are definitely great audio books out there . . . and some not-so-great ones. A lot goes into making good audio, and this may be why the divide between avid audio book fans and the I-don’t-listen crowd are so wide.

I was definitely in the non-listener pool several years ago. So I know all the reasons why people wouldn’t listen. I can read. Why should I have someone read to me? It’s not the way I heard it. (Truthfully, there’s a tone and cadence to audio books that’s not like casual speech. It’s the difference between your radio DJ and the NPR newscasters). I don’t like one person trying to do all those voices . . . and I don’t like when they don’t try.

One thing about audio books is that they are an art form like any other. Some are simply better than others. But unlike most art forms, the majority is an art made from another art: audio books are generally made from a print book script. And some simply translate better than others.

As readers, we are willing to accept the fact that we like some writers and dislike others. We will happily pick up our favorite authors and sometimes pick up someone new. But usually when we pick up a new writer, we open the book and read part of it. This is common enough that Amazon built this ‘read a page’ function into their system. But as listeners, we often lump all audio books together. “I didn’t like that one, therefore I don’t like audio books.”

But real listeners know that thinking of audio books as a unit is as foolish as saying you ‘don’t like movies’ because you didn’t like certain ones. Real listeners know that there is amazing voice actors out there: readers who will transport you to another place and never sound like when your mom read to you before bed. There are audio book directors who are the Oscar winners of their genre (yes, audio books have directors and editors, just like movies!) In fact, the Oscars of audio books are known as the Audies – complete with an annual awards ceremony.

Just as you likely wouldn’t purchase a book by a new author without reading a bit of it first, you can now listen to snippets of audio before you buy. The online world has not only drastically dropped the price of audio books, but put an end to the blind purchase of the past.

Audio books are evolving on all fronts. Not only can we now listen before we buy, but we can take audio wherever we go. CD and/or USB ports are in most new cars. MP3 players can be strapped to your arm for a jog, the gym, or even set on the passenger seat of the car that lacks the aforementioned accoutrements. And that alone is a huge reason you should be listening.


A lot of people want to read more and simply can’t find the time. But the time is there. It’s there in audio format. Multitaskers can listen while they do dishes, mow the lawn, vacuum. Commuters can make traffic disappear with a good book – think how many books you could ‘read’ while you drive. I’m convinced that people would work out longer with a thriller playing in their ears. (It’s why gym TVs play “Die Hard” rather than “The Notebook”.) And if you bring your own audio, you aren’t stuck with a piece of a movie nor are you stuck with what the gym is showing. You can almost feel the accomplishment.

Just as 3D movies and CGI effects have improved over the years, the production of audio books is changing too. I admit that I listened to some audio fiction fifteen ago, and didn’t listen again. But today’s producers have so many more options. Some are using full casts and even adding sound effects and scores. This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.

Like anything else, you should check a few things before you buy. Listen to a sample. If you are like me and have an aversion to the word ‘abridged’ look for the formatting before you get involved. You can also look for awards . . . Audie nominations and ‘best of’ is a good clue that you have a quality production in your hands. There’s more out there to choose from than ever before.

So go back. Listen again. I bet you’ll find it’s better than you expected. To me, there’s nothing like gasping out loud because you heard the footsteps creeping up behind you . . .


A.J. Scudiere is the bestselling author of the thriller novels: Resonance, Vengeance and God’s Eye.

All are available in Audio movie format, as well as on USB. The three books hold twelve audio book awards including multiple ‘best audio book of the year’ awards and two Audie nominations.