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Listen Up! Why Your Book Needs to Sound as Good as it Reads

Audiobook charity Listening Books harnesses the power of the spoken word to make stories accessible for all.

In a recent coaching session with a client who's writing a YA fantasy novel, I recommended they read Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao, a futuristic sci-fi fantasy, set in an alternative Chinese history and oozing gorgeous feminist rage. My client wanted an example of action, pace and high suspense in a YA fantasy and Iron Widow is a perfect fit. The client's immediate response was to download the audiobook, which got me thinking: do all books translate well into audio format? For Iron Widow, I can confirm it does! (I checked.)

When coaching and editing I always advise clients to read their work out loud, to hear the rhythm, cadence and tone of the words. For us as children's authors, this is an even more vital consideration. Children are encouraged to read stories aloud; adults read out loud to children.

But it isn't just children who rely on hearing stories out loud: for many people with disabilities or illnesses, audiobooks are a vital resource and you're writing for them too.

I came across audiobook charity Listening Books a few months ago and absolutely fell in love with what they offer and what they stand for. There are a great number of audiobook providers out there, but this charity really has accessibility and the wellbeing of its listeners at heart.

Listening Books was set up in 1959 to bring books in audio format to people of all ages with illness, mental health conditions, disability or learning difficulties that make it more challenging to read print or hold a book. Today, eligible listeners in the UK can pay as little as £20 a year to access the service with free memberships available for those in financial need, a far more affordable alternative to some of the mainstream audio providers.

In terms of accessibility, Listening Books is leading the way. As well as providing a traditional audiobook service, they also run various projects to reach those most in need such as those in care homes, hospices or hospitals, and children in care.

So, when you're writing your book, think about the accessibility of the story, the way it sounds when it is read out loud. Think about all the different audiences that might access your book in different ways. After all, we are not just writing words on a page, we are writing stories for people to hear.

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