Audio Publishers Association Names Its Four Top Finalists for the 2018 Audie Awards

In News by Porter Anderson

Concluding its two-stage release of finalist announcements, the Audio Publishers Association names the four top category candidates in this year’s Audie Awards in a growing audiobook market.

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By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘A Tiny Bright Spot’

Audie Award finalists—in the categories of Audiobook of the Year and excellence in design, marketing and promotion—for this year have been announced today (March 19) by the Audio Publishers Association. The winners of those three excellence awards are to be named at the organization’s New York City conference on May 30 during BookExpo.

The Audiobook of the Year winner will be named the next night at a gala event at the Historical Society.

Finalists for a number of other categories were announced earlier this year, on February 7.

There’s no letup in industry enthusiasm for audio, although for publishers, a certain predictable hegemony seems to be building in the sector in Seattle.

Some industry players may find it mildly uncomfortable when Amazon’s Audible uses the slogan Listening Is the New Reading. We’ll embed one of those ads for you at the end of this article. And speaking of Audible, Joshua Brustein on Tuesday (March 13) published his article “Amazon Turbocharged Audible’s Domination of Audiobooks” at Bloomberg’s Businessweek.

Brustein writes, “Today, Amazon is the book industry’s bête noire, while Audible and its rivals represent a tiny bright spot for the beleaguered publishing industry. Audiobook sales totaled $2.1 billion in 2016 [in the US], the most recent year for which data are available, according to the Audio Publishers Association. That’s about 18 percent higher from the previous year and two and a half times the market size when Amazon bought Audible” in 2008. According to Codex, Brustein writes, Audible accounts for 41 percent of audiobook sales.

Audible Studios and Audible Originals are responsible for six of the following finalists, and Brilliance, another Amazon company, is the publisher of a seventh.

Audiobook sales have continued to cheer the industry in some other markets of the world, as well. In the UK, the British Book Awards—the Nibbies—are adding an audiobook prize to their group of Books of the Year award, and the FutureBook conference in December again had a daylong track for audio interests. Sweden’s rapidly expanding Storytel subscription service is led by audiobooks. Poland’s Legimi is a subscription not only for ebooks but also for audiobooks. And Canada’s Rakuten-owned Kobo is no stranger to audiobooks, of course, nor is the ubiquitous Google Play, as we reported in January.

In the States, industry players and consumers recently sat up at the news that Michelle Obama will read the audio edition of her book Becoming, which will be coming in November from Crown, as Hillary Clinton has read her What Happened (Simon & Schuster) which is one of the finalists here in the marketing excellence category.

One factor that’s helping drive the resurgence in interest in audiobooks—which aren’t a new form, after all (remember cassette tapes and CDs?)—is a new buying model: digital downloads and streaming on mobile devices have made audio more practical. Still, audiobook covers still are pictured in online displays as square, although in many cases they may not represent the CD case that gave rise to that convention.

Nevertheless, for those who still cling to the notion that “everything old is new again,” there’s Hachette’s deal with Wax Audio Group to create audiobooks—on vinyl. David Foster Wallace’s This is Water is the first title out, as Keith Caulfield writes at Billboard.

So even while audiobook sales are heartening, they also concern some who watch that part of the market become increasingly crowded with content, with voice-activated devices, and with podcasting evangelists on seemingly every conference panel this year.

It’s a time to watch carefully and to remember that once the sky seemed the limit for ebooks, too.

Here are the Audio Publishers Association’s shortlists for their big four awards.

Audiobook of the Year Finalists

This category honors what the jurors decide is an audiobook that “through quality, innovation, marketing, and sales, has had the most significant impact on the industry. Each nominated title is distinguished by excellence in production as well as its ability to create new interest in the audiobook format through creative marketing.”

  • Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood written and narrated by Trevor Noah, published by Audible Studios
  • Columbus Day: Expeditionary Force, Book One by Craig Alanson, narrated by R.C. Bray, published by Podium Publishing
  • The Handmaid’s Tale: Special Edition by Margaret Atwood and Valerie Martin, narrated by Claire Danes, Margaret Atwood, and a full cast, published by Audible Studios
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, narrated by George Saunders, Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, and 163 others, published by Random House Audio
  • The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness, written and narrated by Paula Poundstone, published by HighBridge Audio, a division of Recorded Books
Excellence in Design Finalists

This award focuses on product design for packaging and/or display artwork.

  • In Death Limited Collector’s Edition by J.D. Robb, design by Carissa Dreese, published by Brilliance Publishing
  • Indigo Girl by Natasha Boyd, design by Kathryn English, published by Blackstone Publishing
  • Inheritance: A Family on the Front Lines of the Battle Against Alzheimer’s Disease by Niki Kapsambelis, design by Christa Douyard, published by Tantor Audio, a division of Recorded Books
  • Red Plenty by Francis Spufford, design by Amy Fernald, published by Tantor Audio, a division of Recorded Books
  • A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead, design by Margo Goody, published by Macmillan Audio
Excellence in Marketing Finalists

This is an award for a promotional campaign that contributed to generating attention and bringing new listeners to spoken audio.            

  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by JK Rowling (writing as Newt Scamander), narrated by Eddie Redmayne, published by Pottermore from J.K. Rowling
  • I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons by Kevin Hart and Neil Strauss, narrated by Kevin Hart, published by Audible Studios
  • Get Your Heart Racing Campaign by Macmillan Audio
  • What Happened, written and narrated by Hillary Rodham Clinton, published by Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Transform Your Commute Campaign by Penguin Random House Audio
Excellence in Production Finalists

The award is for quality in audio production values.

  • The Home Front: Life in America During World War II an Audible Original, narrated by Martin Sheen, published by Audible Originals
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, narrated by George Saunders, Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, and 163 others, published by Random House Audio
  • Liner Notes: On Parents & Children, Exes & Excess, Death & Decay, & a Few of My Other Favorite Things written and narrated by Loudon Wainwright III, published by HighBridge Audio, a division of Recorded Books
  • New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson, narrated by Suzanne Toren, Robin Miles, Peter Ganim, Jay Snyder, Caitlin Kelly, Michael Crouch, Ryan Vincent Anderson, Christopher Ryan Grant, and Robert Blumenfeld, published by Hachette Audio
  • Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle and Stephen Fry, narrated by Stephen Fry, published by Audible Studios
  • The X-Files: Cold Cases by Joe Harris, Chris Carter, and Dirk Maggs, narrated by David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, William B. Davis, Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund, and Bruce Harwood, published by Audible Studios

And we’ll leave you with one of those Audible commercials we promised you, in which it’s asserted that “Listening is the new reading.”

More of Publishing Perspectives’ coverage of audiobooks is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.