One of my dearest memories of my paternal grandparents was when their son — my father, a writer, teacher, radio host and speaker — bought a high-end microphone for his recording work. He first tested it on his family, gathering us around in his den to speak and share. We three young sisters just loved hearing our own voice and being zany, knowing we were going on tape. My parents, as always, were the anchors, the bookends, narrating and undergirding this and so many other memories.
And my grandparents decided to do what they always liked doing: sing a song.
For years I was an audiobook abridger for several major publishing houses. Titles I worked on won Audie Awards (the Oscars of the audiobook industry), and many others were nominated. It was a great gig that taught me a lot as a writer.
Before the popularity of digital audiobook downloads, podcasts and the like, audiobooks were primarily released on CD and, even longer ago, cassette tape. A whole cottage industry, known as abridging, thrived during that time because most books (fiction or nonfiction) were abridged (shortened) before recorded as audiobooks.
Why? Because listening to a book is an entirely different experience than reading a book: the product is different; the audience is perhaps listening while doing something else, or in smaller snippets of time (perhaps driving or exercising with headphones, short distances). And a few years back, people didn’t want to have to lug 12 cassettes or 6 CD’s around if they bought an audiobook of Roots or Gone with the Wind.
So I would be hired to cut anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of the book. Usually 30-40%. I’ve abridged many great titles: award-winning novels and novelists, bestselling nonfiction titles from worldwide CEO’s and championship-winning coaches, sex manuals, you name it.
Abridging was definitely a craft that helped me as a writer. How?