NEWPORT will be released as an audiobook on July 7th, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

I do, however, have a confession to make: as excited as I am about my novel’s audio release, I’ve never actually listened to an audiobook.

I know. What rock have I been living under? Because now that my own book will be available in audio formats, it seems that everybody I talk to not only listens to audiobooks, but adores them. One friend tells me that listening to audiobooks together is a cherished part of family vacation road trips. Another says that stories and earbuds enhance his long walks. The AAA guy I didn’t know before I went in for a Triptik swears by them. (Yes, there is a story behind why I now know this about the AAA guy, but we’ll save that for another time.)

The audiobook business is booming. Last year, over 35,000 titles were released in audio formats, compared to around 12,000 in 2011. By the end of 2014, the global audiobook business was worth more than two billion dollars. Not bad for an industry that began back in the 1930s, when the Library of Congress created a “talking books” program to provide reading material for veterans blinded in World War I.

My informal poll of people who listen to audiobooks revealed that the narrator of the book is hugely important. Some listeners have disliked entire books because the narrator’s voice does not seem to “fit” the story. The AAA guy (really, he needs his own post) actually buys audiobooks based on who is narrating them and is such a fan of one narrator that he’ll buy any novel the guy narrates, regardless of whether there is any interest in the story itself. So, clearly, choosing the right narrator for NEWPORT mattered. (No pressure there. None at all.) Fortunately, my publisher did most of the hard work, presenting me with three competent narrators from which to choose. There was no way I could mess this up.

What an interesting experience, listening to each recording and trying to decide how NEWPORT should sound! When I write, I do sense my characters’ distinct voices and vocal inflections, but I’ve never had to translate what I hear in my head into actual tone. Which narrator had the timbre that would best express the mood of the story? Did any of the three possibilities have particular vocal nuances that might help listeners differentiate between speakers in conversation? Did one voice help weave the texture of the book’s historical settings better than the others? In the end, I used sheer intuition to make my decision: NEWPORT will be narrated by Audie-Award-winning actress Johanna Parker. (You can learn more about her here.)

Not everybody agrees that listening to books instead of reading them is a good thing. A recent study at the University of Waterloo in Ontario indicated that the freedom to multitask while listening to an audiobook may prevent the mind from absorbing  words it hears as effectively as those it reads. Maybe. But we are all so busy these days that reading time is often at a premium. For many, this isn’t an “either/or” choice. Listening is often the only way that a book might ever get “read.”

I can’t help but be a fan of any method that allows me to share my novel with readers. I’m also looking forward to listening to the story myself, experiencing NEWPORT in a whole new way.

And then I want to talk it over with the AAA guy.

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