Pandemic book boom aside, audiobooks have been the fastest-growing format in the publishing world for the last decade. Per an annual survey by the Audio Publishers Association, audiobook revenue has sustained double-digit growth for ten consecutive years — a trend that shows no sign of stopping, as the audiobook industry is now projected to become a 19.39 billion dollar industry by 2027. This is a massive increase compared to the industry’s pre-pandemic valuation of 2.84 billion.
Befittingly, science fiction audiobooks have a particularly dominant role to play in the industry’s continued success. In 2021, the greatest amount of published audiobook titles hailed from the science fiction and fantasy genre. Evidently, providing a distinct voice and atmosphere is an upgrade to sci-fi storytelling that keeps readers happy.
Of course, the audiobooks v. reading debate continues, but there’s no doubt that lending one’s ear to a story is a uniquely immersive experience — one that authors like Edward Savio know how to utilize to capture readers’ imaginations. His Battle for Forever series, narrated by two TV legends, is the perfect example of leading with audiobooks to promote one’s enigmatic writing and establish a wider readership base.
Battle for Forever Series
Taking a unique spin on the immortality theme in sci-fi literature, Savio’s witty, adventurous, and historically insightful trilogy follows Alexander — a teenager who happens to be 1500 years old. Due to a genetic mutation, Alexander’s aging is slowed down to the extreme (100 years of living = 1 year of age). As one of the Eternals, Alexander’s hyper-elongated existence has made teenagehood particularly tricky. He’s a man of many talents but is forced to live in obscurity. As one can imagine, the high-tech modern world makes it even harder to stay under the radar.
Ultimately, Alexander’s plan to lay low falls apart when a mysterious cabal attempts to capture him and his friends, setting off an action-packed, high-stakes adventure.
The Power of the Narrator
The Battle for Forever series fits perfectly into the broader discussion of audiobook trends because they display the power of a stellar voice-actor match-up. Actor Wil Wheaton, popularly known for his work in Stand By Me, The Big Bang Theory, and Star Trek, took on the narration for Books 1 and 2. According to Savio in a 2019 Fan Effect podcast interview, Wheaton was the perfect cast because “he has Alexander’s voice.” Readers widely concur about Wheaton’s undeniable embodiment of the character, and both novels topped the Audible charts upon their prospective releases.
Audiobook successes like these undoubtedly show how authors can launch their series to new heights by enlisting the perfect narrator. Further, lending a voice actor with an existing following or fan base is a huge boost to authors who need to reel in more readers to give their story a chance. With Wheaton as a headliner, Savio’s sci-fi soared, and fans were hooked for a journey of a (borderline immortal) lifetime.
Presently bringing Alexander to life in the third installment of Savio’s series is another TV favorite and established narrator, Ray Porter. The third book, titled League of Auld, made its early Audible debut on February 21st, and already boasts a five-star rating.
With Audiobook platforms unanimously reporting increased memberships, there is an ever-growing window of opportunity for authors to boost sales by leading with audiobook promotion. Plus, given the transportive nature of science fiction, a perfectly-matched narrator can spell double the success for writers. That said, making audiobook creation and publication more accessible may come with some real-life sci-fi developments.
Audiobooks and AI?
Looking forward, the perpetual expansion of the audiobook industry is on course to butt heads with the voice-acting enterprise. Just this year, Apple Books launched a collection of AI-narrated audiobooks as part of their initiative to supposedly make narrations more accessible and affordable to authors.
Though it’s true that digital narration may open the audiobook world to more up-and-coming writers, an artificial narrator remains a bit of a hard sell to listeners/readers. As most would agree, the synthetic sound of an AI voice-over pales in comparison to a voice actor’s storytelling craft. It’s no surprise that critics of this development emphasize that the future of audiobooks shouldn’t be a money grab that undermines the power, warmth, and complexity of a human narrator.
Additionally, though Apple has been the first to herald this shift in the audiobook business, their other big-league competitor, Amazon (who owns Audible), has shut down the digital narration idea. In fact, their submission requirements state that every audiobook “must be narrated by a human.” Clearly, there are inherent divisions about exploring digital narrations moving forward. Though each major company recognizes that audiobooks are the future, it’s still up for debate what that future will look (and sound) like.
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