October 4th was National Poetry Day 2018, which came at a time of a huge resurgence of poetry writing and consumption in the UK. Poetry book sales have seen a 42% increase over the last 5 years which can only mean that the appreciation of poetry is booming in the UK. Even more encouraging is that the poetry market and poets themselves are diversifying – 1.4 million adults wrote poetry in 2015–16. In other words, this medium is reaching, and voicing the experiences of an ever-expanding section of society. This has absolutely been reflected in our output here at Strathmore, which in the past few months has included a wide range of poetry. Audiobooks are arguably particularly effective in conveying poetry through the medium in which it ought to be experienced – orally. As Kate Tempest, the electrifying wordsmith from South East London says, “people should read poems aloud even if they’re reading them to themselves.” According to Tempest’s edict, arguably the audiobook as a medium lends itself excellently to poetry. Having recorded Tempest's breakthrough Brand New Ancients four years back, we were very pleased to be involved recently in the post-production side of the audiobook of her new collection Running Upon the Wires.
In the last blog, I mentioned that Strathmore’s output has increased not only in quantity, but also in variety. This trend has continued over the first half of 2018 and, while audiobooks are still very much our bread-and-butter, we have branched out into other kinds of audio recording. From interviews, to podcasts, to apps, Strathmore has been developing a range of new skills and pondering the questions and challenges that come with them: How long will a listener be willing to stay for a bonus feature at the end of an audiobook? What are the differences between a competent podcast and an engrossing one? And how many different ways can an actor manage to read a line of dialogue for an app before they go mad?
QUARTERLY BLOG: HEARD AND NOT SEEN
The second half of 2017 has been some of the busiest months that Strathmore has seen. Not only have we upped the quantity of spoken word that we are producing, but the diversity of it as well – from nursery rhymes to apps to medical instruction videos. And, of course, our production of good old-fashioned audiobooks is flourishing as well. In fact, this trend can be seen throughout the audio publishing industry as a whole (up 28.2% year on year). People seem keener than ever to get their ears around a good story, and this raises an interesting question – what are the benefits of listening to a book over reading it?
In 2015 and 2016 we recorded the vlogger Carrie-Hope Fletcher for her books All I Know Now and On The Other Side, published by Little Brown. For Hachette Children’s, we were delighted to produce YouTuber Hannah Witton’s debut foray into audiobooks, Doing It, an educational and entertaining guide to the world of sex and relationships. As with Carrie’s book, it is refreshing to produce material that treats its young audience with intelligence, and is able to inform with the benefit of experience. Putting vloggers on audiobooks helps engage an audience – technology-minded teenagers and young adults – who are often more receptive to audio than they are to print. Moreover, audiobooks preserve the voice at the heart of the intimate relationship between vlogger and subscriber. From having worked with these insightful young women for separate projects, they are united by being examples of a genre where a different relationship is created between listener and author, compared to reader and author. The attitude that audiobooks are an inferior substitute for print is dissipating more and more, but it is still worth drawing attention on occasion to the unique potential afforded by the audio form, especially when the voice is a familiar one to its audience.
This article was originally published in the Publisher's Weekly/BookBrunch London Book Show Daily, 16 March 2017.
In his preface to Pygmalion (a story perhaps better known to some as My Fair Lady), George Bernard Shaw avers that “It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.” He was writing in 1912 (forgive his lack of inclusive language; we know he meant ‘man or woman’). That work may be the best known example where speech-based prejudice is at the centre of the story, but the idea is apparent very much further back than that. Chaucer made his Pardoner self-aware of the way language can disguise character: as Coghill’s modern-English version puts it, “For though I am a wholly vicious man, Don’t think I can’t tell moral tales. I can!” And Charles Dickens, in 1861, has Magwitch in Great Expectations railing against the preferential treatment Compeyson gets in their joint trial because “He was a smooth one to talk, and was a dab at the ways of gentlefolks.”
The past few months have been some of our busiest in recent memory, with both of our studios being put to use on almost every day of 2017 so far. Recently we have completed one of our most complex productions, that of the masterful Istanbul: A Tale Of Three Cities, written and read by Bettany Hughes. Bettany’s book, published by Orion, is full of digressive nuggets of detail, and possesses a truly global scope spreading out from the crossroads of the world.