An industry-wide #LoveAudio campaign is launching next week, designed to shine a spotlight on the fastest-growing sector in UK publishing.
The Publishers Association (PA) has spearheaded the social media campaign, with its members running a number of audiobook competitions and promotions from Monday 19th June to Sunday 25th June, supported by interviews and podcasts promoted in "take-overs" across social media accounts.
The week will feature behind the scenes videos of audiobook production and clips of authors talking about the power of audio, as well as samples and promotions designed to get more people engaged with the medium, from publishers including HarperCollins, Hachette, Penguin Random House, Canongate, Creative Content Digital, Simon and Schuster, Faber and Macmillan, and the RNIB.
A number of high-profile authors and narrators will be getting involved. Hodder has rallied authors Miranda Hart, David Mitchell, Peter May, Katie Piper, Simon Scarrow and Elly Griffiths to produce special "audio messages” while at Orion Ian Rankin and Laura Barnett will be asked to divulge their favourite "Desert Island Listens”. Penguin Random House is asking Jon Culshaw to discuss narrating Doctor Who and is hosting a discussion between Mad author Chloe Esposito and her book's narrator Emily Atack. And at Pan Macmillan Daniel Weyman, who read Peter James' Need You Dead and won "Narrator of the year" at the Audio Production Awards 2016, will be interviewed, sharing his experience why everyone should #LoveAudio.
The week-long focus coincides with new research from Nielsen's UK Books & Consumers Survey showing that in 2016 10.3% (5.5m) of the UK population aged 13-84 had bought or listened to an audiobook in the last year, whether that was on CD, tape, downloaded or streamed, with the number of people buying and listening to audiobooks rising 3% between 2014 and 2016 across formats. The research, based on over 100,000 online interviews, also revealed a male skew, showing audiobooks are most popular with men aged 25 - 44yrs.
Stephen Lotinga, chief executive for the PA, said: “The fact that one in ten people are now listening to audiobooks is testament to the incredible flexibility of the format.
“Not only can audiobooks bring stories to life and enable people to enjoy reading while doing other things such as running or driving, it is also a great way of making books more accessible. As well as providing a wonderful opportunity for people with print-disabilities to enjoy published products, audiobooks are a great way of removing barriers to reading for those who might otherwise struggle.”
Sarah Shrubb, chair of the PA’s Audio Publishers Group and Audio Publisher at Little Brown, added: "The audiobook sector has seen high double-digit growth every year for the past few years, fuelled by ubiquitous smart phones and tablets. Apps to buy and listen to audiobooks are available for all these devices, and they sit on the screen alongside apps for podcasts, music, movies and TV; it's as easy to tap and listen to, say, a Harry Potter audiobook as it is to tap and watch a Harry Potter film or read a Harry Potter e-book."
She added that retailers such as Audible have reached out "brilliantly" to this "audience-in-waiting", raising awarness and making audiobooks easy and seamless to buy and listen to.
"Publishers have risen to the challenge of this growing market by recording more and more of the books they publish, and producing fantastic audio editions with massively talented narrators, such as Juliet Stevenson, Benedict Cumberbatch and Stephen Fry," Shrubb said. "All of these factors are combining to create a burgeoning new market that has grown, and will continue to grow, faster than any other sector of U.K. and US publishing.”
The industry-wide campaign follows news that HarperCollins has partnered with talkRADIO to bring “A Summer of Walliams” to the airwaves from this Sunday 18th June. "The Story Hour" on talkRADIO in association with HarperCollins Children’s Books will run from 3pm-4pm every Sunday, with the aim of airing the best children’s audiobooks, targeting family audiences.
Walliams will kick off the programme with three readings from The World's Worst Children followed by three readings the following week from the sequel, The World’s Worst Children 2. From September, the programme will feature stories from other HarperCollins Children’s Books authors.
In April The Bookseller reported on how publishers are responding to the surge in audiobook downloads by investing more in the sector, hiring new staff, upping the number of titles they publish and exploring audio-first opportunities.