An underutilized hashtag on Twitter points up the books readers wish would migrate into listening format. Some are new titles, many are never-bestsellers that can still be found readily in current print editions, several tagged posts point up the dearth of titles representing affinity groups. Here’s a sampler of what and why readers want to push against the boundaries of audiobook publishing’s current offerings.
#audiobookwish Practice inclusivity in romance, both in print and in audio editions
While it came as no surprise to romance writers of color–nor to many readers of color as well as some who are white–last week’s publication of the Ripped Bodice bookstore’s report “The State of Racial Diversity in Romance Publishing, 2016” confirms that the disparity between both writer demographics and publishing attainment is wide. In fact, the romance genre also relies on small publishers to bring out any titles featuring romantic characters who are anywhere in the LGBTQIA family as well. Breaking down that print availability even further, we find an audiobook world in which virtually everyone is white and straight—unless it’s a teen title (both It’s Not Like It’s a Secret and If I Was Your Girl went to audio quickly, for example, and various youth award winning print titles are made into audiobooks ahead of the literary awards they earn).
#audiobookwish Publish solid reviews of adult audiobooks reflecting lives and interests beyond the big market majority focused publishers
Finding expert critical evaluation of audiobooks from marginalized authors and for marginalized listeners is damned difficult. Fewer than half a dozen professional journals actually cover audiobooks in any depth and breadth at all, and their interests never quite stretch to cover audiobook publications from houses like Bold Strokes and Dafina (to name just two with easy-to-find profiles and output). Again, the youth market has begun to receive marginally better attention in this regard and finding solid reviews of audiobooks by and about people of color and varieties of gender identity is a bit easier to negotiate than the seemingly unmapped world of adult audiobooks.
#audiobookwish Hold the audiobook reviewers accountable for reviewing responsibly, instead of reflexively
On the topic of growing the audiobook critical awareness zone, when will media awards stop shying away from acting on the fact that, as popular as slave-centered or civil rights era-themed fiction might be with white listeners, audiobook audiences of color thirst for more inclusive attention to authors and works that fall beyond those two zones? The Mothers, for example. In a similar vein, when will review editors include some development efforts for their largely white reviewing stables to encourage better quality descriptions of accents, character voicings evidencing characterizations, and a cessation of judging word choices made by the author that are true to the story while causing discomfort to the reviewer? Or, even better, how’s about more inclusive reviewer stables?
#audiobookwish Give listening readers access to complex nonfiction writing that addresses inclusivity in a variety of ways—including with the demand that would-be listeners include themselves reflectively
There appear to be no plans to bring to audio format Dashka Slater’s 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime that Changed Their Lives (coming from Farrar, Straus & Giroux 17 October). This true crime journalism has received three starred reviews to date and stands out from most adult—and nearly all teen—titles of the genre for the even handed depth the author offers from both teens’ perspectives, as well as those of their families, teachers, friends, and professional advisors. Moving this to audio would exponentially increase access as well as afford the opportunity for discovery by the overwhelming majority of true crime readers who won’t find this in the teen print section. Both the case and the reporting crosses multiple fractious lines in America: race, class, gender, sexual orientation, educational opportunity, and criminal justice among them.