Charlotte Wood, Jane Harper, Candice Fox, Pamela Hart, Michael Robotham, Peter Fitzsimons, Annabel Crabb. What do they all have in common? Each of these authors is a unique Australian voice whose audiobooks are now available through Wavesound.
Wavesound is an Australian based audiobook company that launched its own flagship imprint a year ago. As well as bringing some of the best international authors to an Australian audience on audio – think Hilary Mantel, Stieg Larsson, Val McDermid, Kazuo Ishiguro, David Walliams – Wavesound brings the best Australian stories to audio, with a high quality finished product using Australian actors.
Wavesound’s outstanding international list of authors on audio is thanks to its sister companies WF Howes in the UK and Recorded Books in the US. Now Wavesound offers the first audio imprint dedicated solely to Australian authors. What’s more, their audiobooks are easily accessible through libraries using their digital app, OneClickDigital – a free service that’s easy to use and can be simply installed on your iPhone or tablet – meaning many of the greatest talents are just a few clicks away.
Take Charlotte Wood (pictured with narrator Ailsa Piper) the Australian author who won this year’s Stella Prize and is shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award for her widely acclaimed novel The Natural Way of Things. Wood was involved with the recording of her latest novel– and is thrilled with the finished product.
“It’s wonderful that they’re [Wavesound] focusing on Australian writers, and that they’re doing a really quality job. That’s the main thing. They could have fairly easily produced an audio book that didn’t have the level of attention that it did… I’m really excited.”
The focus on Australian content has been the driving force behind the business launched in Australia with a list that has doubled in size this year due to demand and across all formats, according to Wavesound Acquisitions Manager Chiara Priorelli.
“Our sales reps talked to librarians, and what we kept hearing was that there was a lack of Australian content,” she says. “So last July we launched our publishing imprint for exclusive Australian content, and books by Australian authors. The success has been outstanding.”
So far the Wavesound imprint is focused on providing a varied range including commercial women’s fiction and crime, and is expanding to include award-winning literary fiction, as well as top biographies, such as Leisel Jones’ memoir Body Lengths (pictured, left), and Australian history. Wavesound recently signed two of Australia’s biggest publishing names in a three-book deal for each – journalist Peter Fitzsimons and crime writer Michael Robotham. In addition, Wavesound is selecting ‘modern classics’ that were formerly unavailable in audio, such as Annabel Crabb’s The Wife Drought, read by the author herself (pictured, above left).
Wavesound’s plan is to not only support Australian talent with top names, but to continually seek new talent too. Priorelli and the team at Wavesound have become adept at creating audiobooks, working with the major Australian publishers and literary agents, wading through manuscripts and knowing what will work best for audio.
“I ask to see everything,” says Priorelli, “And choose what I think would make a great audiobook and the authors I think would do really well on audio.”
Wood’s The Natural Way of Things is a good example. Priorelli had read Wood’s book prior to publication, before the huge critical acclaim it would receive and the phenomenal success it would have in the major literary prizes. She went with her gut and it’s an acquisition that’s more than paid off:
“Reading is subjective, but it has to have a very strong voice and be visual in a way. I found The Natural Way of Things a book that was incredibly powerful and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I knew it was really something special and that we just had to have it.”
The rising popularity of audio
With audio enjoying increased popularity – a recent Wall Street Journal article claims that audio is the fastest rising sector in the book industry – we asked Priorelli why there has been such a resurgence in the sector.
“The digital age has changed things – audio has become accessible so new people are discovering it because it’s easy for them to give it a go on their phone.
“It used to be a small community – now it’s commuters, especially in Australia, where there can be such long drives and people are realising it’s something that fits into their lifestyle. Sometimes people can’t find time to read books but they can find time to listen to audio.”
Neville Harley of Melbourne Library Service agrees. One of the major markets is libraries, with Wavesound’s digital platform, OneClickDigital, now available throughout Australian libraries
“There were plenty of people who in the olden days would never have listened to a hard copy audio book but now you can listen to them on your phone, while on the tram or train or anywhere else you want, it’s a growth industry,” says Harley.
“Compared to having twenty audio cassettes or 10 CDs or mp3s, it’s just so easy. You don’t have to have so much stuff – you download it, it’s on your device and you can listen to it.
“The other thing is, you don’t have to come into the library to get it. It’s all digital – you can get it provided you have a computer or a device like a smartphone.”
While the technology is fairly straightforward – all that’s required is the device and internet connection (and this only initially – books can be read offline after downloading), Harley tell us that many libraries now offer training sessions to show members how easy it is to access audio.
One of the other big advantages is that there are no overdue books or fines because once the lending period is over, the book is automatically returned.
Neville says another great appeal of the OneClickDIgital platform is its simultaneous access. While many platforms operate like a traditional library where if a book is out, it’s out, unless the library purchases addition copies, the OneClickDigital platform allows people to read a book at the same time meaning no more holds! This is particularly popular with book groups, another growing phenomenon, says Harley.
“My observation in general is that popular fiction authors and literary fiction in audio format is very popular,” says Harley.
He cites some of last year’s award winners, the Miles Franklin winner The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna and the Booker winner A Brief history of Seven Killings by Marlon James as good examples.
Priorelli also credits the growth in the industry with the increase in the production quality of audio books today. Wavesound works closely with studios in Sydney on each production, giving the studio a brief and casting auditions to find the right talent.
“It has to engage a listener for ten or so hours so we definitely want to get it right,” she says.
“We also seek the author’s approval – we don’t see the audio book as a separate entity to the author’s print book, we see it as an extension of the author’s work.”
Priorelli says that it’s just the beginning for audio. “It’s growing exponentially. It will keep growing and growing. There’s a place for everything – print books and e-books and audio and it’s very exciting.”