Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Writing an Audio book review

Continuing with Day 2 of Audio Book Week, Jen proposes the following discussion starters on the topic of writing audio reviews:

What do you include? How do you rate an audio if the narrator is good but the story isn’t (or the other way around). Do you let people know the book was an audio off the bat, or do you surprise them with it at the end, ‘trick’ them into reading the review?

I find that I retain information much differently when listening to a book than reading it. I remember more about the plot, and I am left with a more tangible mood. When I read something in print, I have little magnetic markers that I use to mark important scenes, quotes, etc. With audios, I make no notes whatsoever. And when I sit down to write an audio review, I use the tangible mood I'm left with, and write from the heart. This can be tricky with a 30, 40 or 50 disc audio, but there you go. Nobody REALLY wants to hear a 50 disc plot, so my memory is the best editor in this case, and you lucky people get the boiled down version.

Quotes can be very problematic with audios, and I rarely use them in my reviews. Once in a great while, a quote will stick in my head and MUST be included though. Sometimes I will write down the location of a quote and later transcribe it (which is a pain). Chances are, however, if the quote made that much of an impact on me, then it probably impacted others as well, and I can easily Google it and find it online.

There are other smaller issues as well. Names, for example. I don't remember them, and obviously I don't know how to spell them. That is an easy fix - a quick trip to Amazon will provide everything you need.

Now, let's discuss the impact of narrators, which is really the million dollar question, isn't it? Good books have been ruined for me by narrators (Olive Kitteredge is a great example). It is nearly impossible for me to separate a bad narrator from the prose, unfortunately, which might not be fair, but life isn't fair. I have a pretty strong opinion on this. If a printed book is going to be adapted to an audio book, it is the job of someone (publisher?) to not simply find someone to read the words and record it, but to create an experience. It is like making a movie, is it not? You must find the right narrator or cast of narrators, and ensure the essence is captured. If not, why bother? So when I am reviewing an audio, I am reviewing the entire package. I'd love to say that I would revert to the printed book and read it, if an audio goes sour, but I don't. Not enough time and too many other great books to read!

Jen's question about "tricking" readers by not revealing an audio review until the end is interesting. It never occurred to me! (You mean somebody might not read the review if they know it was an audio??? Really???) In my post title, I always state that the review is for an audio, and I also tag it as an audio as well. I will generally not only review the plot, the characters, the atmosphere, etc. but will also comment on the narrator. Like I said, the whole package.

Stay tuned through out the week for more dicussion. Also, on Friday, I will be hosting a giveaway on some audios as well! Happy listening!


Anonymous said...

I didn't realize people ignore reviews simply because they were audio books. I like how you cover everything, so the part about the narrator is pretty much the only part that is irrelevant for those of us who don't listen to audio books.

Serena said...

I also had no idea that people ignored audio reviews. I usually put (audio) in the title of the post to alert readers.

I really love your audio reviews and would never dream of skipping one because your impressions are spot on about good narrators.

what do you think about sound effects? I saw Dawn's post at She Is Too Fond of Books and consensus seems to be that no one likes them...except me on occasion...does this hold true for you?

bermudaonion said...

I totally agree with you about the reader - they make or break the book! I quit listening to one audiobook because the narrated droned on and bored me to tears.

Zibilee said...

I agree that a good narrator is key in audiobooks. I am sort of thinking that some of my problems with the format may have come from lackluster narrators. I can think back to a couple that were just awful, and that is what may have made me a little distracted. I am going to have to try something from the list you posted yesterday and see if that doesn't do the trick. I am another person who had no idea that people skipped audio reviews! A review if an audiobook and a print book are the same to me!

Jen - Devourer of Books said...

I actually hadn't realized people might skip over reviews because they say 'audiobook' either until someone else brought it up. Maybe it isn't really true at all, but I do think it is an interesting thing to think about.

The Bumbles said...

I wouldn't skip a review because it was experienced via audio. But I would be annoyed if the reviewer didn't reveal at all that it was listened to and not read. For the reasons you state - a narrator or something else about the recording (background music, sound effects, etc.) might sour the experience and the reviewer therefore would not rate the book well. But if they didn't reveal that it was an audio and don't share those details, I'm getting short-changed.

I am a visual learner as opposed to auditory so reading a book allows me to absorb it more effectively. But if it were a favorite story, I might want to listen to it for a different experience the second time around.

Beth F said...

I'm with you -- a bad audio sours me for the book and I don't go back to the print version. The only time I do this is if I can tell the audio is going to be annoying within the first 10 minutes or so (music or sound affects, for example).

Use that look inside feature -- spellings, quotations, and other data are there for you.

Kathleen said...

You've offered some good tips for me if I ever make peace with the whole audio book thing. I just can't seem to stay focused on a book if I listen to it. I must have very poor listening skills!