FutureBook Live 2018 AudioBooks

AudioBooks debate Turning up the volume in growth sector

One of the brightest lights in the book business in terms of recent growth, the audio content sector, will come under the spotlight in a number of varied panels, keynotes and debates


he AudioBook Conference this year reflects a market that is expanding and challenging, as new opportunities

promise to open new routes to new consum- ers. But they bring with them tricky new business.

There are three big areas up for discussion.

Content creation; the rise of smartspeaker/ voice-first technology; and streaming, a model whose time may finally have come for audio- books. We are not ignoring rights, either, a fourth area of debate and the conversation no one wants to have in public aſter the revela- tions at last year’s conference. The creation of original content for listening

(i.e. stories that were not first conceived for print) will be discussed at noon, in a panel entitled The Originals—How to Develop New Audio. The panel features bestselling author Sophie Hannah (who contributed short story “Bully The Blue Bear” to an Audible-published audio collection, and has also recently launched her first podcast, “How To Hold a Grudge”); Rachel Mallender, group audio director at HarperCollins; Kate Jones, audio publisher for the English language at audiobooks retailer and publisher Storytel; and Nick Briggs, executive producer of Big Finish Productions.

I want to share the lessons learned: about the costs of creating a podcast, the barriers to ROI... and the implications for audiobook sales

Jon Watt, Bonnier Books UK

Content for Voice Assistant Technology slot. The 2 p.m. panel features Google’s Alice Zimmerman; FutureBook 40 alumni and voice designer Jess Williams, founder of Opearlo; Ben Drury, founder of the smart-speaker start- up Yoto Play; and it will be ably chaired by radio futurologist James Cridland. We might also expect Subscription & Streaming: The Future of Bookselling? to get a litle lively. Beginning at 2.50 p.m., it features subscriptions evangelist John Phillips, manag- ing director EMEA for Zuora, the Silicon Valley company that creates cloud-based soſtware which “enables any company in any industry to successfully launch, manage, and transform into a subscription business”. Also on stage will be Jasper Joffe, founder of Joffe Books, whose titles have generated more than a billion page reads through Kindle Unlimited. We have already heard, via Zebralution and BookWire, of the growth in streaming in Germany, and Marc Sieper, head of audio at German publisher Bastei Lübbe, will also join this panel.

Lessons shared



Complementing this are two showcases from audiobook newbies: James Waller m.d. of Trigger Press and Kimberley Williams, digital and audio publisher at Princeton Universit Press. The session is called Are you Experienced? New AudioBook Publishers on their First Time, and follows the session on original audio creation. Podcasts get in on the act too. A Podcast

Symposium, where podcasters—including those up for the FutureBook Awards’ Podcast of the Year—will discuss the opportunities (and challenges) for publishers, books and authors at 4 p.m. Chaired by Clarissa Pabi, producer of “Mostly Lit”, it features Alex Reads from “Mostly Lit”, Mark Stay from “The Bestseller Experiment”, Octavia Bright from “Literary Friction”, Jake Harris from “Story Shed”, and Leena Normington of “Banging Book Club”, “Vintage Podcast” and “I’m Not Being Funny But”. One of the most interesting discussions on the day will be during the Trends in Audio

This year, rather than a dedicated AudioBook room, sessions are mixed throughout FutureBook, and audiobook aficionados may also be interested in hearing from Wil Harris, chief executive of podcast platform Entale, and Tom Abba from Ambient Literature in the noon panel New Platforms, New Ways of Storytelling. They can also seek out Jon Watt, head of audio at Bonnier Books UK, who will talk about the firm’s experiences launching a six-part podcast to promote Jonathan Wilson’s The Barcelona Legacy. “I want to share the lessons learned: about the costs of creating a podcast, the barriers to return on investment, the ingredients for profitabilit and the impli- cations for audiobook sales,” says Wat. Oh, and that rights discussion. Well, Curtis Brown agent Cathryn Summerhayes joins the morning keynotes, with her frank overview of the rights marketplace. Last year she said agents were “geting beaten up by the Big Three corporates” over audiobook rights. And she wasn’t even one of the speakers. She is most welcome back in an official capacit. Says Summerhayes: “As audiobooks turn up their volume, should agents force print publishers to listen to new models to beter serve their authors?” Kapow!


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