My guest today is Nita Basu, Marketing and Publicity Manager at Hachette Audio.
I love behind the scenes conversations, and today’s is partly about her work promoting audiobooks across genres and how audio can be adapted when the text is unique and very visual.
Who listens to audiobooks, and where do they listen? What are people doing when they listen?
Should you listen to murder books on the side of a mountain? Where do you listen to audiobooks? What are your favorites?
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Today’s podcast is brought to you by Owner of a Broken Heart, the first book in the Richardson Sisters series, by Cheris Hodges.
This is the first book in a new series about four sisters who own a historic B&B in Charleston, South Carolina. Nina Richardson is a sportswriter, forced to take a time out after a social media blowup and a painful rejection by her boyfriend. When she heads home to Charleston, she finds instant attraction with the newest employee in her family’s B&B, Clinton Jefferson – who used to work for her family’s biggest rival. He’s got plans for upgrades and modernization, and ideas for a future with Nina, too – if they can overcome the trust issues between and around them.
If you like contemporary romances featuring close, supportive families who aren’t afraid to offer a swift kick in the butt when needed, you’ll love this series. Owner of a Broken Heart by Cheris Hodges is out now, and available wherever books are sold.
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Sarah Wendell: Hello there. Welcome to episode number 394 of Smart Podcast, Trashy Books. I’m Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. My guest today is Nita Basu, who is the marketing and publicity manager at Hachette Audio. I love behind-the-scenes conversations, so today we’re going behind the scenes and looking at how she promotes audiobooks across genres and how audio is adapted when the text is unique and visual. We’re also going to talk about audiobook demographics, which is something that I find really fascinating, especially when a format or genre is growing or changing. So we’re going to talk about who listens to audiobooks. Where do they listen? What are people doing when they listen? How are people fitting audiobooks into their lives? Because, as you know, more and more people are listening to audiobooks every year. Key question: should you listen to murder books on the side of a mountain? We will answer that question.
But I’m curious: do you listen to audiobooks? What are your favorites? And what are you doing while you listen? You can email me at email@example.com. I would love to know how audiobooks fit into your life, and if they fit into your life doing the same things that you do when you listen to podcasts like this one.
Speaking of podcasts, today’s podcast is brought to you by Owner of a Broken Heart, the first book in the Richardson Sisters series by Cheris Hodges. This is the first book in a new series about four sisters who own a historic B&B in Charleston, South Carolina. Nina Richardson is a sportswriter forced to take a time out after a social media blowup and a painful rejection by her boyfriend. When she heads home to Charleston, she finds instant attraction with the newest employee in her family’s B&B, Clinton Jefferson, who used to work for her family’s biggest rival. Now, he’s got plans for upgrades and modernization, and ideas for a future with Nina too, if they can overcome the trust issues between and around them. If you like contemporary romances featuring close, supportive families who are not afraid to offer a swift kick in the butt when needed, you will love this series. Owner of a Broken Heart by Cheris Hodges is out now and available wherever books are sold.
Every episode of this show receives a transcript, hand-compiled by garlicknitter – thank you, garlicknitter! – and this week’s transcript is brought to you by our Patreon community. If you have supported the show with a pledge of any amount, not only is that pledge deeply appreciated, but you’re making sure that every show is accessible to everyone. Thank you so much for your pledge, and thank you to our Patreon community.
If you would like to join, if the podcast is a meaningful or enjoyable aspect of your day, have a look at patreon.com/SmartBitches. Monthly pledges start at one dollar a month, and like I said, every pledge means an enormous amount to me, so thank you, thank you, thank you.
I will have links to all of the things that we talk about in terms of where to find audiobooks, and I will have links to all of the books that Nita mentions – there are many – and of course I will end the episode with an absolutely terrible joke, so if you listen to the outro you get a prize at the end, because these jokes are really terrible! And I love them so much, and I love that when I look at reviews for the podcast, many of you have mentioned how much you enjoy them, so thank you for enjoying terrible humor as much as I do.
But now, let’s do this episode! On with the podcast and my conversation with Nita Basu.
Nita Basu: My name is Nita Basu. I work at Hachette Audio, and I’m the assistant manager of marketing and publicity there. But I also do, so, like, it’s a lot of reviewer outreach, media outreach, but also digital marketing, social media, email newsletters, and then I do a little bit of, like, retail management too with our retailers. It’s a little bit of everything.
Sarah: That’s, that’s a lot!
Nita: Yeah! It’s fun!
Sarah: And that’s for –
Nita: I might get cloned at some point.
Sarah: I was going to say, that’s for every book, right?
Nita: Yes. Yeah, we have about, I think our title count for this year is like seven hundred and fifty titles. So I have a boss, too, and she is also doing it, so that’s like three hundred-ish per? I’m bad at math, but it’s, like, something like that.
Sarah: So you have to sort of develop a base fluency about every title when you’re creating social media and marketing campaigns that are going to span multiple platforms.
Nita: Yeah. And, like, different genres, too. And become, like, ah, I wouldn’t say fluent in every genre. I would say we probably have our own strengths, but, but to be able to carry on a conversation in every genre, yeah. Between, like, Jesus books to, like, murder books. Also, side note, but I really love this story: I took a Lyft like a few weeks ago, and my Lyft driver, who I was trying to talk to, is writing a novel, of course, and it is a Jesus sex thriller, and I just, I have to work that into every conversation I have with everybody now? But –
Sarah: [Laughs] Okay.
Nita: – it’s like a time-traveling Jesus sex thriller. He told me all about it. I never wanted to leave that Lyft.
Nita: Like, I just want to sit here –
Sarah: Time –
Nita: – and listen to you tell me this.
Sarah: – traveling Jesus sex –
Sarah: So is Jesus fighting crime?
Nita: No –
Sarah: And having sex?
Nita: No, it was like, I think it went from present day to, like, the Jesus time? And it just kept alternating between the two. Like, I think Jesus finally came back –
Nita: – in the now times, and lots of sex was happening.
Sarah: How far were you going? Was this, like, rush hour in Manhattan and you were trying to get through the Lincoln Tunnel or something?
Nita: No, it was like, it was like Queens to Brooklyn, which is like twenty minutes, and normally I’m like, oh, twenty minutes, and I was like, this is not, this needs to be three hours. Like, I need to just delve into this story!
Nita: What is this? What was your inspiration, sir? I didn’t get any of those answers yet. One day.
Sarah: Oh man! See, I know that this is something that people in publishing often dread, like, saying what they do, because the minute that they say –
Sarah: – that they’re in publishing, all of a sudden you hear, oh, I have this great idea for a novel; will you publish it? That sounds truly exquisite!
Nita: That’s amazing! That’s, like, the best-case scenario, I think, of just having someone – also, have to say, this guy was not like, oh, please publish my book. He was like, oh, I’m writing a book, but I don’t want to bother you. It was like, okay, then, like, go ahead and tell me, ‘cause he wasn’t being pushy about it? And then it was an amazing story! So – [laughs]
Sarah: [Gasps] How long have you been working in publishing? And I know you do a lot of all, of all things audiobook at Hachette too.
Sarah: So how long have you been dealing with that as well?
Nita: So I’ve been in publishing since, I mean, not – I’m trying to think, like, 2012, I think? So that’s about like seven years, and I would say audio for a much shorter amount of time; audio only for about two and a half years? Before that I was pretty central in print, sci-fi/fantasy, a little bit of romance, and YA. But yeah, and then audio for about two and a half years.
Sarah: So what are the things that you do with audiobooks, in addition to all of the marketing that you do for print books?
Nita: Well, so a lot of the things that we do, we’ll do a lot of audio excerpts. So, like, there’s a lot of, I, we always like to, my, my boss Megan and I like to joke that, like, a lot of our job is poking our heads into other imprints’ meetings and being like, hi, there’s an audio edition available! But, like, it’s so, like, there’s so much of trying to keep tabs of what everyone’s doing, so hypothetically, if you’re, if a group is doing a print excerpt, we’ll get in touch and maybe try to do the audio excerpt of that print excerpt as well so it’s like, hey, read this, and then you can also listen to it! And try to work with them on that, but we’ll also do a lot of, we do a lot of giveaways through retail partners like Libro.fm, Audiobooks.com. We’ll work with the narrators in promoting the titles; we’ll do a lot of in-studio videos. Audio excerpts are definitely our big thing. We’re starting to do, like, photos with the audio overlaid on top of them for, like, digital advertising, social media advertising. So it’s a little bit of, a little bit of working with the imprints on the titles but trying to bring out, like, what does the audio enhance?
So, like, just a quick example: we had a book with Little, Brown Young Readers called Teeth in the Mist by Dawn Kurtagich that had this great cast, and the book itself is really, really great, and it’s, like, really creepy, and it reminded me a lot of House of Leaves, and it had, like, the, the crazy formatting, you know, when, like, the words are falling off the page and, like, flying off the page and stuff, and so what they – but that’s hard to do in audio, and our producer and engineer had so much fun with it. They had, like, the creepiest music, but they also did a lot of, like, so, for the words that were, like, backwards, they would have the narrator say it, and then they would have, like, a whisper track overlaid on top of it of them saying it backwards. So it, like, was super creepy, and it just added something to the story that you wouldn’t get just from the print. So we would, like, so it’s like, it’s sort of promoting a lot of that stuff.
Sarah: That’s cool! And deciding in production how to create the audiobook out of a text that has such a visual impact, I mean, that, that’s a really creative solution for that!
Nita: Yeah, yeah, and it’s really rewarding for that.
Sarah: That’s really cool!
Nita: And it’s, it’s, yeah, it’s extremely creative. It’s, it’s extremely collaborative, ‘cause I know they were, like, there with the narrator saying, like, okay, like, what are the ways that we could do this? Like this word is falling off the page, so maybe we’ll have your voice kind of trail off and, and kind of do like a crescendo or, like, I’m, I’m blanking on –
Nita: – what the reverse of crescendo is, but, you know, stuff like that, so.
Nita: It’s, it’s pretty neat, but, and so then, so then what we were doing for promotions and stuff was we were doing a picture of the page and then overlaying that audio on top so people could see what that page looked like, and then they could hear the way it was being conveyed in the audio edition, which made people be like, that’s kind of cool. Like, I want to check that out! So –
Sarah: That’s seriously cool!
Nita: – so yeah, it’s all about, it’s all about, like, bringing that experience, like audio is just a different experience from print. It’s not, like, better or worse; it’s just, it’s just a totally different experience.
Sarah: Yeah! That’s, wow!
Sarah: With the audiobook production, you mentioned, you know, you spend your time sticking your head in a, in a lot of different meetings. Does the audiobook production side from a publishing house operate somewhat independently from the print production side?
Nita: Yeah, I would definitely say so. I think – and I can’t speak to production, necessarily; I think our producers probably could better, obviously –
Nita: – ‘cause they’re in production, but –
Nita: Right? That was, like, the obvious statement of the year, right? I think only when they’re trying to coordinate getting, like, scripts together and stuff do they kind of converge a little. If it’s a, if it’s a really, if it’s, like, we had Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow come out, and so there was a lot of – which is amazing, and he reads the audio, and plug for that, ‘cause it’s, like, it’s a harrowing listen –
Sarah: Oh –
Nita: – and he’s amazing at it, but, like, it’s great; you just need to be in a mood to listen to that book.
Nita: But, but for something like that, where, like, the script is changing constantly, like, then they’ll sort of get in touch and, and kind of coordinate on that back end a little bit, but yeah, in general, they, I – we’re almost like a publishing house within a publishing house, if that makes sense. Like, we do –
Sarah: No, it absolutely makes sense.
Nita: – our own sales; we do our own production; we, we have our own relationship with manufacturing; like, all of that stuff. So we just sort of function independently within Hachette.
Sarah: That’s really interesting.
Nita: Yeah. It’s like a small company, but we’re part of a big company.
Sarah: When we’ve met –
Sarah: – at conferences and hung out in the bar, because –
Sarah: – we make good decisions –
Nita: Where else would we hang out?
Sarah: Right, we make good decisions – you have told me a lot of really interesting marketing research about audiobooks in terms of audience and demographic: who listens to audiobooks, where are they, what are they doing? Would you be willing to share some of that? ‘Cause I find it so fascinating.
Nita: It’s –
Sarah: And I also love the number of people who say, oh, I, I, well, I don’t read; I listen to audiobooks. I’m like, yo, that’s reading.
Nita: Exactly. Or listening.
Nita: I mean, there, I think there’s a little bit, like, I think there’s a little bit of a culture change, too. Like, some people are like, I don’t read; I listen. And it was like, okay, cool! Like, that’s –
Nita: – that is – let’s not be too aggressive about it, but okay.
Sarah: That could be a really good life motto –
Sarah: – let’s not be too aggressive about it, but okay.
Nita: Yeah. But no, I think one of the things that blew my mind – ‘cause again, like, I’m very entrenched in this world but, like, fairly new to it, in, by the scope of things, two and a half years, but I was really surprised to hear how – and this is my favorite party fact is, you know, that truckers are, like, audiobook gurus? Like, getting schooled by a trucker about your company’s audiobook because they know everything about the narrator – they know the narrator, narrator’s other, like, names that they go by; they know that, like, under this name, this person per-, like, narrates for vampire romances, and under this one they do nonfiction, and, and they, like, have everything queued up because, like, they are traveling over such long distances too, and so they have to, like, queue up the audiobook as they go, that they, like, become so attuned to it, and, like, trucker’s magazines and stuff, like, feature audiobook reviews. Like, it’s like a big thing for them, which I didn’t anticipate? Like, I don’t know what I expected, but I just didn’t anticipate truckers to be, you know, so well educated in audiobooks specifically? And we ended up doing, like, a focus survey for the APA, the Audio Publishers Association, and there was one guy there who was, he used to be a trucker, and now he’s in construction, and he was there in a room full of people who were picked because they liked audiobooks, and he’s schooling other people too, which was hilarious. Like, this, like, old guy sitting there being like, nononono, you’re, you’re talking about this guy; you’re talking about this guy. Like, that guy, his voice sounds very similar, but it’s not quite – like, a little off here, and, like, it just was the funniest thing to listen to. But they know so much about it. They really do.
Sarah: That’s so cool!
Nita: It’s, like, a fascinating thing. And then I, like, I’m trying to think. Like, some of the other things that I found really interesting were that, I think we can all kind of guess that audiobooks are being listened to primarily in cars on road trips. Like, that’s sort of what you would – I mean, hopefully you are not driving a car and also reading a print book? Like, do you, but, like, at a certain point –
Nita: – maybe don’t do that? But, but also, so cars are definitely dominating, but, like, in a close second is just listening at home. Like, just listening to audiobooks at home. Not even commute; like, commute is, like, a third, but number two is strictly listening to audiobooks at home. Like, those at-home devices, like the creepy spy ones, the Alexa and, like, Google Home and stuff?
Nita: I don’t know if I should be calling them creepy spy ones, but I kind of think they are. [Laughs] And it’s most, a lot of people, and it’s a growing audience, are listening to audiobooks through their Alexa and Google Home or just on their phone, like, lying on their couch. Like, that’s actually increasing, and that, I, I think that’s really interesting, and I also think it’s kind of, like, kind of indicative of where people are nowadays, too? ‘Cause going to conferences like the ones that you and I have seen each other at and just, like, kind of talking to people, like, so many people are starting to listen to audiobooks ‘cause they’re, like, coming home, and they’re like, I can’t look at a thing; I don’t want to, like, speak to a human; I, like, I can’t; I’m just going to lie here on the couch sideways and listen to my audiobook, ‘cause my eyes are closed, I can just take in the information –
Nita: – and not deal with the outside world. And I think that’s so fascinating, and it’s interesting how, like, audiobook demographics and data can tell us so much about, can tell us a little bit about, like, what people are doing and how people are relaxing nowadays.
Sarah: I know that I listen in my house when I am cross-stitching. I’m doing something with my hands, and it calms the, what I call the Jack Russell Terrier part of my brain.
Sarah: When it’s like, oh, you forgot to do this! Oh, you forgot to do this! You – the, the audiobook will calm that part of my brain so that I can relax and listen and then do the, the pattern that I’m doing, which doesn’t require me to read anything. I love the part where it feels like someone’s telling me a story, especially if it’s a narrator who has that sort of vocal confidence of, okay, I am going to tell you this story, and you’re going to be really into it.
Nita: Right. Yeah. No, it’s amazing.
Sarah: So it, it doesn’t surprise me that people listen at home, ‘cause that’s definitely how I listen? I personally absolutely love it when I am listening in the car and I’m also navigating, because sometimes the navigation will interrupt in the perfect moment.
Sarah: Like, he grabbed her passionately, and then he looked her in the eye and said –
Nita: Turn left!
Sarah: – turn right in two miles!
Sarah: And sometimes if it’s a woman’s voice, Google’s voice will sound very similar, and it’s outstanding! I love it.
Nita: [Laughs] In the middle of a sex scene, can you imagine?
Sarah: It has happened, and I loved every minute.
Nita: It’s so great. Someone should just write that book, too.
Nita: Where that happens, like, mid-sex-scene?
Sarah: The Google Maps romance, yeah.
Nita: Right, exactly! I would love that.
Sarah: So are audiobooks growing continuous-, continuing to grow –
Nita: Oh, they’re –
Sarah: – as a, as a market?
Nita: Yeah, no, they’re totally growing. I think there were, there were a couple surveys. There was a big survey done about a month ago, and they were talking about how, like, now one in five Americans are now listening to audiobooks? So it went from fourteen percent to twenty percent?
Nita: Right? Like, just listening wise. And then I know that PW recently did a, a survey that’s really interesting, and they were talking about how the sales have increased by, like, twenty-four percent. So it’s definite- –
Nita: – it’s like a, it’s, that’s a massive boom. It’s –
Sarah: That’s quite big!
Nita: – definitely growing, yeah. And it’s interesting, ‘cause the demographic is skewing younger, too. Which is great. I mean, like, that’s what you want, but it is very interesting ‘cause I think a lot of times we think, like, books on tape, like Grandma with books on tape, like, crocheting – which is, like, also great, like, no shame – but you know, it’s, it’s so much of a younger audience coming to it too? Like, now, now the audience, I think the majority is like eighteen to forty-four?
Nita: Which is kind of fascinating, and I was trying to think about it, and this is not backed up by data. This is just backed up by my own opinion, but I kind of think some of it has to do with podcasts? Because we’re –
Sarah: Oh! I agree with you totally.
Nita: Yeah, ‘cause, like, podcasts are such a big part of our community and people are always listening to them. Everyone’s looking for, like, a new podcast, and it’s like a bite-size kind of, right? ‘Cause, like, I think they say the best podcasts are, like, like, under an hour or something, and so –
Nita: – I think people are getting used to listening to podcasts, and then that becomes a really good gateway for them to listen to an audiobook, which is obviously much longer. But they sort of get attached to that voice, they get attached to getting information, they get attached to that experience of being read to, being talked to –
Nita: – while doing other things, and so I think that’s probably why the younger audience is kind of gravitating towards audiobooks the way that they are. But that’s just my –
Sarah: That’s fascinating. And I know from a marketing perspective, that’s great, because you have a community that will continue, you hope, to buy as they age.
Nita: Exactly. Yeah, for sure. And I was at New York Comic Con just a few weeks ago, and they just – we, we were not selling at the booth this year, but we were – selling physical books, I should say, at the booth – and people were coming up saying, oh, I’m really interested in this; is this available on audio? You know, I, like, mostly listen to audiobooks. Like, is it, could I buy it on my phone for, on the audio edition? Which is really, really amazing, that they’re coming up unprompted, just saying that this is, well, this is really great, and I like print books, but it’s just much easier for me to listen to the audio version. Like, I’m on the subway, I have motion sickness, I drive a lot, you know –
Nita: – I, I, like, cook for my family, so I don’t have time to sit down and read a book, so hearing it while I’m, like, preparing food – and then the other thing I wanted to mention too was a lot of younger people, and I thought this was amazing, are listening to audiobooks while, like, going on Instagram. Like, Instagram, Twitter – because you don’t need a lot of brainpower to go through, like, your friends’, like, dog photos? But you, like, still want to go through them for hours, so –
Sarah: Oh, that’s fascinating! Yeah.
Nita: But, you know, and then you’re listening to this story while you’re going through Instagram, and you kind of feel like you’re a little bit more productive as a human being while you’re doing that too, but –
Sarah: That is really interesting! And it makes total sense.
Sarah: I mean, I can’t listen to words and read words. I will stop with one of them, either the, the words that I’m reading won’t make sense or the words that I’m hearing won’t make sense, which is why I can cross-stitch and look at a pattern or I can do something that isn’t word-related with my hands while I’m listening –
Sarah: – like cooking. I definitely listen to audiobooks, a lot of nonfiction, while I’m cooking.
Nita: Oh, that’s interesting!
Sarah: So yeah, I –
Nita: See, I’m, I’m a terrible cook, and cooking brings me so much anxiety –
Nita: – so, like, everything needs to be silent; I need to be, like, zeroed in. It’s like –
Nita: – it’s just terrible.
Sarah: I must have total focus. Like –
Sarah: – like a, like a surgical theater: everything must be –
Nita: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I’m performing surgery while making pasta. Like, it’s –
Sarah: So do you have demographic data about gender regarding audiobooks? Male, female, nonbinary, gender fluid: is there, is there any strong indication of one group growing more than another?
Nita: I would say that right now we don’t have a lot of data as far as nonbinary and gender fluid. I, but also, so we only have male/female, because I think it’s, it’s a little bit of old data and it, and it needs to catch up a little bit, but I will say that I think it’s interesting because it did say female-skewed fifty-three percent? So it actually seems very even-handed, which is interesting because that’s very different from what you generally tend to get in terms of demographic for other books. You know what I mean? Like, it’s very –
Nita: – predominantly male, predominantly female, and so I think, I think it sort of speaks more to the accessibility of it, right? Because –
Nita: – it becomes much more, it just, it’s, it’s just much more accessible for everybody, for, like, male, female, gender fluid, nonbinary, and it’s really people kind of following their narrator, to be honest. Like, big audiobook fans, they’re, they’re following the author, obviously, but they’re primarily following the narrator. Like, the amount of times, if the narrator shifts mid-series, sometimes it works, and, you know, they’re always very talented narrators, but people love specific narrators, and so –
Sarah: Oh, I’ve seen this, yeah!
Nita: Yeah, and they’ll, they’ll complain. They’ll, like, write angry – I mean, I was going to say letters, but nobody writes letters anymore – they, like, write angry tweets – [laughs] – you know, like –
Nita: – @HachetteAudio, why is this narrated by this person? And if it’s a big enough title it might even be re-recorded, but yeah, like, people are just, they, I, you get attached to a voice. You get attached to who is reading you the story, right, so.
Sarah: Oh, of course! I find that with, with podcasting, people recognize me by my voice. Like, I’ll talk in an elevator, and someone will turn around and be like, I know you! Like, ahhh!
Nita: Sure, yeah!
Sarah: Voice –
Nita: I didn’t do it!
Sarah: Voice is – yeah, exactly! [Laughs] Voice is very intimate. You’re like, you’re in someone’s eardrums, and I think it was Caitlin Schiller from the podcast Simplify who said that her theory about podcasting was that we’re all eavesdropping on conversations when we listen to podcasts –
Sarah: – that aren’t a single narrator, so we’re listening in on a conversation, which is something we’re not supposed to do, and then we can refine what conversations we’re listening to by, you know, topic, when you’re picking the shows you want to listen to. With audiobooks, you have that, if it’s dual narrator or it’s a cast, you’re, you’re listening in on dialogue, and you’re listening in on conversations and a story at the same time. It’s, it’s very intimate.
Nita: Yeah. No, I definitely agree with that. I also think something that podcasts and audiobooks both do very well, on a little bit more of a serious note, are for people who for some reason are having a lot of social anxiety or, like –
Sarah: Oh, for sure.
Nita: – just have difficulty communicating with people, it helps them – I remember reading this once in Blackout by Sarah Hepola, which is a book that’s amazing. It’s a very heavy book, but it was, it was life-changing for me, and in there she starts talking about how when she was kind of confronted with – she’s in recovery – when she’s confronted with starting to talk to people again, but, like, without any assistance, right? And, and she forgot how to do that. Like, she actually forgot how to carry on conversations. So she was sitting there listening to podcasts and listening to people talk to each other, and that was kind of how she –
Nita: – relearned how to talk to people. And I know, like, I’ve had my, my moments of social anxiety in the past too, and so that was really helpful. And I also think the other thing that audiobooks and podcasts both do is, like, if you don’t know how to pronounce certain words, right? Like, you, you, you learn cadence; you learn this – you just learn dialogue skills that you don’t really learn in school. You learn by talking to people, but if that’s not a thing that you have an avenue to do, if you have a lot of anxiety around it, like, that sort of –
Nita: – gives you that ability.
Sarah: One of the things that I am doing right now is I purchased an eighteen-hour course on the history of language, because I –
Nita: Oh, fascinating!
Sarah: – I’m going to nerd out hardcore! And the, well, the ins-, I was actually searching on different, you know, forums like Reddit and other recommendation engines, what are online courses that are audio that people really like? Like The Great Courses and some of the other online learning things that are audio only, which ones are really good? The, the, the professor is really good because he’s into what he’s doing, so that enthusiasm is contagious, but I’m also learning how pronunciation changes and has changed, so I am learning more about pronouncing words too. It’s, you’re so right, because when you can hear people say things it, it, it sort of amplifies and expands the amount of knowledge and language that you have.
Nita: Yeah. And also context, right? You then learn, oh, this is how you use that word? [Laughs] You know, there’s –
Nita: – so many times where you, you know, we all read, I mean – and everyone listening to this presumably reads; it would be a little odd if they didn’t, I think, but, but you know, whatever, do you, but it, like, you, you know these words, but it’s, it’s in the process of reading and the process of listening, you kind of learn how to put them together, and you kind of learn –
Nita: – how to become a little bit more articulate and how to express yourself in a more accurate and more authentic way, right? In, in, in listening –
Nita: – and in, and in getting other people’s voices. That’s, that’s primarily how people learn.
Sarah: Yes, and that, yeah, that and the, the intimacy of listening –
Sarah: – and especially if you’re listening to material that’s really heavy or heartfelt or difficult, that’s going to also engage, you know, empathy and increase empathy, which is always a good thing.
Nita: Right, yeah. Right. Anything we can do to increase empathy nowadays!
Sarah: God, yes, thank you please! So have you noticed any shifts in popularity between single narrator, dual narrator, or cast recordings?
Nita: I think it depends on content. I think there isn’t, like, market, there isn’t, like, a blanket market fact on that? I think it really, really –
Nita: – depends on content. So for memoirs in general, like, author reads are great, because for memoirs especially, right, it is incredibly intimate. Like, that is the most intimate experience –
Nita: – and so then to have someone read to you their story is just, it, it’s, it’s something that you’re getting – like, hearing David Sedaris read David Sedaris’s stuff is, is an, an amazing experience that you –
Nita: – can’t get from reading the print book. Like, you just can’t get that experience. And so, so for memoirs, yeah, definitely author reads are much more popular if, if that’s something the author can do. It’s, it’s a grilling experience too, to have to go through and read an audiobook, so.
Sarah: It’s hard; it’s very hard!
Nita: Yes, it’s hard; it’s super hard. I would say that I’ve seen, across the board from reviewers and, and just a lot of consumers that in romance specifically, they really like the dual narration, but sometimes, sometimes that’s like too much too. Like, some people are just very attached to, like, nonfiction or having, like, a literary fiction, having one person read through it. You know, they want to be told –
Nita: – the story by one person, but having something that’s romance, because romance, as you know, is primarily, it’s more than just being like, oh, it’s a book where sexytimes happen, which, like, they are, and we want that, but – [laughs] – it’s also a book about relationships, you know, and, and romance books are books about interacting with people and interpersonal relationships, so having that dual narration gives you that. That literally gives you that experience –
Nita: – of having two people interact with each other, which is, again, something you’re not really getting from the print. So it, like, the, the short answer, as I said, is I think it depends on the genre itself. But when we did, like, The President Is Missing by James Patterson, and it had a whole cast of characters to, not as a drama, but it just, a multi-cast, and Teeth in the Mist –
Nita: – as I was saying, was also multi-cast as well, so it, it really varies on the atmosphere that you’re trying to have.
Sarah: It’s really interesting to see how preference, how strong listener preferences are, too. I, when I, when I ask people about, you know, do you like dual or single? Do you like a cast? People have very strong opinions. I, I wonder if that’s also a, an outcome of the intimacy of listening, that, that people get attached not only to the narrator but the format too.
Nita: Yeah. Yeah. I –
Nita: – I think – [laughs] – I’ve seen a lot of reviews where, like, people will complain that there is too much music leading into – sometimes we’ll have, like, music in the beginning of a chapter, like Chapter One and music –
Sarah: Yeah! Mm-hmm!
Nita: – and some people will complain about that and be like, this is taking me out of my experience, and I was like, oh, okay. Like, cool. [Laughs]
Nita: Ooh, sorry! You know, but then some people, ‘cause we do, we do these Booktrack editions for certain books where we work with Booktracks where they have original music that accompanies the audiobook, and we have some people who prefer that, too, you know, where they want the music going –
Nita: – and it’s more, much more of a cinematic experience to have, like – it, it’s like a book score, right? Which, like –
Nita: – I don’t know if anyone else reads print books the way I do, but when I read a print book I always have, like, music playing in the background? But, like, it has to be music that kind of go –
Sarah: Oh, me too.
Nita: Okay, great. I was, like, am I, like, a little weird, but –
Sarah: You are not alone in that.
Nita: It was like, and it has to be, like, the right music, ‘cause, like, I don’t want to be listening –
Nita: – to, like, really sad music while listening, while reading, like, a murder book, you know, but it, it, so it provides this original score for the audiobook, and some people prefer that by far, because they feel like –
Sarah: Oh yeah!
Nita: – oh, this is a cinematic experience. It’s like watching a film but with my ears, you know, which is great –
Nita: – and then other people are like, no, I just want to be read my bedtime story. I want to be read –
Nita: – my bedtime story; this is my, like, thing, and this is the way I want to take in my stories, so. I mean, it, it, it’s so heavy on preference, and it’s so heavy on what you’re looking for too. Like, if you just want that, like, bedtime story experience – and I’m not saying that to even devalue that. Like, I’m, I certainly am one of those people where if I’m listening to an audiobook, I really just want to sit there and listen to it. Like, I, I very seldomly listen while doing other things. There are, there are certain things I will do while listening to an audiobook, but –
Nita: – it very much is meant to be a very low-key experience for me personally –
Nita: – so having too much stuff going on is fine –
Nita: – if I’m, like, signing up for that and I’m like, I want to check this out. Like, Teeth in the Mist I listened to because I really wanted to see how that played out, but in general –
Nita: – it’s not how I personally listen.
Sarah: Have you listened to more audiobooks since you started working with them two years ago?
Nita: I mean, yes and no? I used to drive a lot when I didn’t live in the city, and I used to drive a lot, and I probably listened to the most audiobooks then, when I drove –
Nita: – obviously, and then for a while I had, like, a data entry job, so, like, I listened to the most audiobooks –
Sarah: Oh yeah!
Nita: – during that time, because, like –
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Nita: – you’re just copy-pasting into Excel. So, so I would say probably more then? I think I’m probably a little bit more well-versed in audiobooks now, obviously – I mean, let’s hope –
Nita: – than I was when I wasn’t working in it? It’s kind of a crapshoot, because a lot of times I’m reading the manuscript for things or the galleys for things before they become an audiobook. Or I’ll read, like, the first fifty pages just so I have a general idea for marketing reasons, and then I’m like, I’m not, not going to touch this. I really want to listen to it when it comes out. So –
Nita: – so it, like, it, it, it varies, but I, I would say overall, like, I’ve always been an audiobooks listener, so I wouldn’t say that it changed that much for me.
Sarah: Very cool! Now, I know from following you on Instagram – hi –
Sarah: – that you are currently training for a marathon, and you get up at the absolute butt crack of dawn –
Sarah: – to go, to go on some long-ass runs.
Sarah: Do you, do you listen to audiobooks while you’re running?
Nita: So, yes and no, sometimes. So I do for the long runs. For the really long runs, like I did a twenty-mile run on Sunday –
Nita: [Laughs] It felt like oy – and I, and I listened to an audiobook then. And so for the long runs I find they’re much more meditative. You’re not really that focused on speed. I think if you’re, if you’re, like, pro, you’re obviously doing something different, but, like, if you’re, if you’re just doing this recreationally, your long runs are, are a little bit more, they’re just, they’re distance, and it’s like –
Nita: – what gets you through the distance? So I find that audiobooks help for that, much like podcasts would, but podcasts are just not long enough. So it’s just much easier to queue up an audiobook on your phone, because you’re going to be out for, like, two, three hours, right?
Nita: And then for shorter runs, like if I’m doing like a two-, three-mile run in the morning, then it’s music, because I’m just trying to – like, and it’s usually something heavy with a really fast beat, you know, just to try to give me a little bit of an edge to get through, ‘cause sometimes, like, the fast beat helps –
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Nita: – at least for me, but I think some people, like, they’ll work out to, like, heavy metal music and stuff or, like, pop music. So really just for the long runs or anything where I’m not really focused on speed and I’m just focused on distance or just kind of enjoying the scenery too. Like, over where –
Nita: – I live in Queens, there are a few, like Forest Park, Cunningham Park, where they’re not like Central Park? Like, it’s very woodsy, which is kind of nice?
Nita: A little bit of woods in the middle of the city, and, and for those I’ll listen to an audiobook, ‘cause it’s just, like, a nicer experience, and, and it feels a lot more intimate, and there’s an atmosphere, and I’ll usually listen to, like, some sort of like outdoorsy memoir too. Like, I’m heavy into, like, atmosphere, so.
Sarah: That’s cool!
Sarah: Do you have any tips for anyone who’s thinking about running a marathon or training for longer runs? Do you have any tips for folks who are like –
Sarah: – oh yeah, that’s me?
Nita: I want to do that! I would say the, the men-, not to underestimate the mental, the mental fortitude that it takes. Like, it’s physical, for sure, but, like, your body adapts. Your body –
Nita: – can do anything that you really want to focus your body on doing. And if it can’t physically, like, it will find, you can find a way. Like, there is a way to do a thing that you want to do, whether or not you do it in a traditional, physical manner, right?
Nita: But the mental strain of doing that for so long – and it’s a very solitary activity, too. Like –
Nita: – it’s not like hiking with – I mean, I guess people hike by themselves. I don’t tend to, but it’s not like a group activity, a group sport that you’re doing? So I would say that understanding that, like especially for a marathon distance, you’re spending a lot of time by yourself in your own head. And so really getting comfortable with that, and, and for some people that’s – listening to emotional music and crying it out. For me, I listen to really sad books – [laughs] – and then I just –
Nita: – cry all my feelings. I’m always, like, that person who’s, like, crying out at the riverside by the waterfront at the end of my run, and people think, like, it was a really bad run, and they’re like, I’m okay, it’s fine! I was like, no, but sad things are happening!
Nita: It’s absurd, but it’s, it’s just that mental, it’s, it’s that mental strength, and, and being –
Nita: – okay with yourself. Like, it, it just, whatever comes up – I did, on a side note, I did Kilimanjaro earlier this year, and at one point, some, the night before –
Sarah: As in you climbed to the top of it.
Nita: Yes. And –
Sarah: Holy cow! Wow!
Nita: [Laughs] And the night before the summit, we were asking people for advice, and people were emailing me, like, little, like, encouragement stuff, like, I believe you can do it, but if you can’t, like, that’s also fine, you know. And, and some of the best advice I got was people who were actually kind of warning me a little? And they weren’t even –
Nita: – warning about altitude, ‘cause you, like, hear that stuff all the time, but they were like, when you go up there, understand that whatever you have buried inside of you, that’s coming up. Like, stuff you –
Nita: – don’t want to think about, whatever you push down, that’s coming up, so just understand that that’s going to happen, and be prepared for that.
Nita: And just be prepared to work through that. And then I remember I had someone who emailed me and said, and then feel com-, feel free to leave some of that behind. Like, just leave it on the mountain. And I would say the same thing for a marathon, too. Like, that stuff comes up. Like, in that twenty-mile run, I was thinking about insecurities that I had not thought about in a while, and –
Nita: – you know, and I was like –
Sarah: Great fun! Thanks, brain!
Nita: I know! It was, no, it was like, oh, Fourteen-Year-Old Nita is, like, finally popping up! But, you know, and, and that it feels so cathartic, too, ‘cause then at the end you’re like, your body’s tired, you know –
Nita: – ‘cause you just did this thing, and, and the race is no different, but these long runs, like, your body’s just tired, and if you just kind of accept that experience, then it almost feels like you’ve worked through it and you can kind of like leave it behind. So the mental strength, for sure.
Sarah: Wow! That’s fascinating. When you said you, you did Kilimanjaro, I’m like, wait, is that a run, a race that I don’t know about?
Nita: No! It’s a mountain!
Sarah: It took, it took me a second. Like, you –
Nita: Right! Also, fun audiobook fact on that: we were in a hiker’s lodge – hiker’s, like, coffee shop – and it was in – it’s not like a hiker’s coffee shop, but just coffee shop with a lot of hikers in it – but –
Nita: – [laughs] – we were talking to some people, and a lot of people for that last climb up – because, like, altitude, you don’t want to talk to anybody. You’re also climbing –
Nita: – at, like, midnight, so, like –
Nita: – nobody wants to talk to anyone at that hour anyway –
Nita: – when you have to wake up then to go do something, and so a lot of people, because it’s hours up, you know, and if you’re, like, super fast you can do it in four hours maybe, but, like, if you’re not, like me, it took you, like, closer to, like, six or seven, and it, a lot of us were just listening to audiobooks, and a lot of people had said that too. They were like, well, while you’re still in civilization, maybe download something that you can listen to. And so I, like, listened to – I’m trying to even remember now. I think I was, I think I listened to, like, a murder mystery, which is, like, by the way, the worst idea to do in the middle of the night. Do not advocate doing that, but –
Nita: – but it was, it was – oh, I was listening to The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey, which is a great book, but, like, I was convinced I was getting murdered in the middle of the night on this mountain by, like, I don’t know, bandits? I don’t know what I thought was going to happen. But it was, it’s such a great experience to listen to something. Somebody else was listening to a romance book, and I think she had a much better climb than I did.
Nita: She was definitely in a better state of mind. But people are doing that ‘cause they just, then it was something to focus on, ‘cause it’s one foot in front of the other, and for that particular climb it’s, like, going as slow as possible, that they, like, make you walk, they said like wedding march speed? Because of the altitude?
Nita: ‘Cause you’re going straight up?
Nita: And so –
Nita: And that’s boring. And it’s dark; you can’t see anything. It’s boring! And to do that for hours at a time without talking to anyone, it’s just so much easier to listen to something. And then just to go –
Nita: Yeah. So fun fact! So if you’re going to do that, download an audiobook before you go.
Sarah: Uh, yeah, yeah! Oh, totally!
Nita: But don’t download murder books. No murder books on mountains. That’s, that’s –
Sarah: [Laughs] You want the hot and sexy romances.
Nita: Yes. Hot and sexy romances only.
Sarah: Oh! Or time-travel Jesus murder mysteries.
Nita: Well, when that comes out, everyone should listen to it, I think. Hundred percent!
Sarah: And climb mountains, right. [Laughs]
Nita: Yes, exactly.
Sarah: So after the marathon that you’re training for, are you going to climb another mountain?
Nita: I’m hoping to do, this summer, my boyfriend and I have been talking about doing the TMB? Which is the Tour du Mont Blanc, and it’s a hundred and ten miles, and it’s not a climb up Mont Blanc, which is the biggest mountain in the Alps, but the TMB circuit is going around the mountain.
Sarah: Whoa, cool!
Sarah: And super ugly and utterly hideous to look at, I’m sure.
Nita: I’m, yeah, no, no views whatsoever.
Nita: I will say, though, whenever I look at GoPro videos of the whole amazing hike, there’s always, like, an angry cow, like, walking into the shot.
Nita: So amazing!
Sarah: Fuck off my mountain! What the hell are you doing here?!
Nita: [Laughs] What the fuck are you doing here? It’s some –
Nita: – the angriest cows I’ve ever seen in videos. But, so we’re hoping to do that. And it goes through – it’s, like, supposed to be great – it goes through France, Italy, Switzerland, so. I think after –
Nita: – the marathon I’m going to take a little bit of a rest and then start training for that.
Sarah: That’s incredible. So I did, I do ask, I like to ask my guests, you know, what things you do to look after yourself. Is this what you do to look after yourself?
Nita: [Laughs] Yeah, or, like, hate myself, like, depending? But, but yeah, no, for – right, like, depending on how my body’s feeling – but overall, I would say, yeah, a lot of physical activity, but I’m a big crafter, really. And, and I will do a lot of crafting while listening to audio as well, so, like, for me, especially if I’m recovering from something or just having, like, a Thursday night, it’ll be a lot of like cross-stitching. A lot of times cross-stitching profanity, because, like –
Nita: – stabbing needles and, like, writing FUCK –
Nita: – is sometimes so cathartic after a really –
Nita: – bad day?
Sarah: That is why I do it!
Nita: Right? It’s amazing! And so I do a lot of cross-stitching. I’ll do some, I’ll do chainmail jewelry, and I’m trying to learn macramé now, because I’ve decided I want to be an old lady. And so –
Sarah: Go for it!
Nita: Right? I just, and my walls are bare, so let’s just cover it in macramé. So I, I like to do a lot of that too, just as a sort of treat to myself and, and not forcing my body to do stupid stuff.
Sarah: That’s so cool.
Nita: Yeah. And that’s a good time to listen to murder books, because you’re, like, safe!
Sarah: I love listening to murder mysteries while I’m sitting in – when it’s daylight; if it’s night, I get a little skeevy sitting next to the window, like –
Nita: [Laughs] Right.
Sarah: – what’s going on out there? But yeah, absolutely –
Nita: Yeah, in the daytime.
Sarah: – especially if, especially if they’re super atmospheric; those are my favorite.
Sarah: So what – I always ask – what books are you reading, or listening to, that you want to tell people about?
Nita: So two, because I always listen to a book, and then I always read one. I’m currently reading the ARC for Abby Jimenez’s Happy Ever After, Happy Ever, yeah, The Happy Ever After Playlist, because I loved The Friend Zone so much, and so I was debating waiting for the audio, but I was like, I can’t wait a year. So –
Nita: – like, I’ll probably listen to it still, but, like, I just had to read it, so I just started it, and I’m already loving it, and I, I just love her voice, and I love rom-coms, and I just, I love every-, I loved The Friend Zone so much, and I, like, sobbed hysterically and had all these feels, so I’m really excited for that one.
And, and I’m listening to Stephen Fry’s Mythos, which I highly recommend, even if you don’t care about Greek mythology, mainly ‘cause Stephen Fry. But –
Nita: – he –
Sarah: So true!
Nita: – it’s, he’s just telling you stor-, I mean, basically, he’s telling you stories about Greek mythology, which is very interesting, but also he’s amazing. He’s a great narrator. He excels at dialogue, and they totally knew that going into this. Like, he does such a great job with the dialogue between the gods and, like – Greek mythology’s, like, really fucking weird, let’s be real. You know, like –
Sarah: Oh yeah.
Nita: – like, Zeus is, like –
Sarah: A little rape-y.
Nita: – a little rape-y – Zeus is, like, banging everybody and, like, getting everybody preggo, and, like, he des such a great job of just telling you all of those stories and the interactions between the gods, which, like, when I learned about it in school I was really interested in, but you don’t get that interplay, really? You just get, like –
Nita: – Zeus turned into rain and then banged some chick as rain –
Nita: – which is confusing, but, you know, you don’t really see, like, the rain talking to the girl part, so it’s really cool hearing it from his voice, so I highly recommend that one.
Sarah: That is cool.
Sarah: Are there any books coming out from Hachette that you want to be sure to mention?
Nita: I definitely, well, want to mention Catch and Kill, just ‘cause I think, especially in, like, the #MeToo movement, like, it’s such an important book –
Nita: – to talk about, and Ronan Farrow just does a great job of, like, telling that whole story.
But I do want to mention The Queen of Nothing for Holly Black fans. It’s, like, the final book in that series, The Cruel Prince and then The Wicked King, and this is the third, and everyone’s, like, going crazy for it next month.
And then of course the new Lindy West, ‘cause I think we all love Shrill. I think if you don’t love Shrill you’re kind of a bad person, and – just –
Nita: – just, just putting it out there – and The Witches Are Coming is coming out next month, and we’re super, super excited for it, and it’s just, I, it’s – I don’t know if you know the premise behind it, but, like, it’s, it’s about the #MeToo movement, and it’s based on, like, all of the dudebros being like, this is a witch hunt! Waah! And so she’s basically like, you’re right; this is a witch hunt. We’re the witches, and we’re hunting you. And it’s –
Sarah: Sounds great; I’m in.
Nita: Exactly. It’s so great, so everybody should listen to that.
Sarah: And that brings us to the end of this episode. Thank you to Nita Basu for hanging out with me and talking about really astonishing things that you do in your spare time, and about audiobooks.
Like I said in the intro, I am curious about you. What do you do when you’re listening to audiobooks or podcasts or both? What are the things that you’re doing while you listen? I am always doing something when I listen; I very rarely just sit still and zone out, unless I’m also walking, and then I’m still doing something, so I’m curious. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!
I will have links in the show notes about where you can find Nita if you’d like to follow her on Twitter or on Instagram, and I will have links to all the books she mentioned and some of the places where you can get audiobooks if you’re interested in trying them.
Coming up on Smart Bitches this week, we have new reviews! We will have a Bachelor recap from Elyse, because this season is really, really something. We’ll also have Help a Bitch Out and Books on Sale every day. Come hang out with us, because we’re usually up to something silly, and you can find us at smartbitchestrashybooks.com.
Now, as always, I end each episode with a really bad joke. This one comes from my older son, who is known on the internet as Freebird. This is quite terrible and made my husband guffaw while he was driving, so I hope you enjoy this as much as we did.
Did you know that Rick Astley will lend you any movie from his Disney Pixar collection except one?
It’s true. He’s never going to give you Up.
[Laughs] That’s so dumb! I think you, I think I and you got Rick-rolled by a really bad joke!
On behalf of Nita and myself and all of the mammals currently in my office staring at me – [whispers] they’re all staring at me! – we wish you the very best of reading and listening! Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you back here next week.
Smart Podcast, Trashy Books is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find more shows to enjoy at frolic.media/podcasts.
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This podcast transcript was handcrafted with meticulous skill by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.