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The Expanding Audiobook Industry
and the Power of Narration

By Ellen Quint, AudioFile

Did you know that while traditional publishing markets are static or declining, the audiobook industry has been seeing double-digit growth for each of the last seven years? So reported AudioFile publisher Michele Cobb at the session titled The World of Audiobooks at this year’s ThrillerFest.

In addition to Cobb, AudioFile was well represented on the panel by Founder and Editor, Robin Whitten. Audible’s Stacy Creamer, award-winning narrators Richard Ferrone and Thérèse Plummer, and author David Hewson joined them. Moderated by author Jon Land, the panel addressed the growth and changes in the industry, the process and challenges of narrating, and the future of the audiobook industry.

Panelists agreed that the significant growth of the audiobook market can be attributed to the confluence of technology, which has dramatically changed accessibility and price, and a culture that encourages multitasking. Although, the data shows that many listeners are enjoying just listening.

Whitten pointed out that in the past, publishers would only bring the top of their lists to audio, and now they are publishing audio versions of a much deeper range of their books. It’s no surprise the suspense/thriller genres constitute the number-one sellers in audiobooks.

As this conference is one of the few gatherings where authors and narrators come together, it was interesting to explore the relationship of authors with their audiobooks and with the narrators of those books. In several of the sessions, the discussion turned to the importance of storytelling—this is the author’s first challenge, and then it becomes the narrator’s. Narrators Ferrone and Plummer agreed that narrating an audiobook is a challenging responsibility, as well as a privilege.

Jon Land leads a ThrillerFest panel on the topic of the rising popularity of audio books.

In response to a question from the audience about how to manage an author’s interest in narrating their own books, a panelist suggested that the publisher should tell the author to take his book into a bathroom and read it aloud for four hours, pointing out what is obvious to professional narrators—it’s not easy.

In another session on thriller series, authors discussed the extent to which they get involved in their audiobook productions. Author Robert Dugoni said that he narrated his own book The Extraordinary Life Of Sam Hell, and he won an Earphones Award for it. But he said that for his next book, featuring a Russian character, he turned to a professional narrator who could nail the required accents.

Richard Ferrone and Ellen Quint

Author Steve Berry said that in his audiobook, The Malta Exchange, he offers a “writer’s cut,” providing commentary at the end of certain chapters on the location, the action, and the historic facts. Listeners get two versions, one with and one without his commentary. The former has proven to be very popular, proving that a connection directly from the author through his words and his voice truly enhances the listening experience.

The impression from hearing authors and narrators is that there is a wide range of relationships between authors and their audiobooks—from hands-off, including choice of narrator, to being totally engaged, from the selection of narrator to the discussion on how to present characters to self-narrating.

The takeaway from this year’s Thrillerfest is that audiobooks are “in.” What’s next?

Thrilling Listens for August from AudioFile Magazine

Just in time for your August vacation, AudioFile Magazine has selected five great mystery audiobooks that combine blow-you-away narrations with standout writing. Grab your earbuds and start listening.



By Peter Swanson, read by Sophie Amoss, Graham Halstead

Harper Audio

You’ve solved a cold case murder, but no one believes you because you’re bipolar and an artist.  Narrators Sophie Amoss and Graham Halstead do a great job with this twisty thriller.




by David R. Dow, read by Henry Levya

Penguin Audio

Lawyer turned author David R. Dow joins forces with narrator Henry Levya for a gripping suspense novel about surviving a wrongful sentence to death row.




by Max Allan Collins, read by Dan John Miller

Brilliance Audio

That high school reunion you’re in doubt about attending? Let Dan John Miller’s narration of this chilling mystery remind you what you might be missing.




by Daniela Petrova, read by Tavia Gilbert, Carlotta Brentan, Dan Bittner, Lisa Flanagan [Prologue]

Penguin Audio

Four fine narrators won an Earphones Award for their performance of this suspenseful tale of what happens when egg donation goes awry.




by Chris Pavone, read by Mozhan Marnò

Random House Audio

A bomb at the Gard du Nord and a suicide bomber at the Louvre are just the beginning of what Mozhan Marnò beautifully handles in the latest Chris Pavone thriller about Kate Moore.



AudioFile is the place to discover more about audiobooks. Every day, its reviews and recommendations tell you which audiobooks are worth your listening time. AudioFile reviews about 50 audiobooks a week, features narrator profiles, and awards exceptional performances with AudioFile’s Earphones Awards. AudioFile publishes in print, newsletters, and a blog. And podcasts daily recommendations on Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine.

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