Wednesday, 5 February 2020

The Rise of the Audiobook - Guest Post Diane Jeffrey

I'm so lucky to have had such great guests on my blog recently. Today it's the turn of psychological thriller author, Diane Jeffrey. Diane lives in France but will be coming over to England for the 'Killer Women' festival in London next month so I'm hoping we'll be able to meet in real life. Both Diane and I have been lucky enough to have had our novels made into audiobooks, a format that is becoming increasingly popular, and I asked her to share with us her thoughts on the new kid on the block.

Over to you, Diane.

Listen Up!
The Rise of the Audiobook.

Audiobooks are increasingly popular and look set to continue to expand even as sales of physical books are dropping. Publishers are more and more creative and ambitious with their production of audiobooks. So, what makes a good audiobook and why are more and more people drawn to this format?


Surely the first advantage of audiobooks is that we can listen while we're doing something else. With our ever-busier lifestyles, there just aren't enough hours in the day to read all the books on our to-be-read piles. But we can listen to books in the car on a commute, while we work out or do the housework. They make the journey go faster or the ironing less tedious and they keep us company.

Furthermore, for many of us, our working day involves sitting for hours in front of a computer screen. When we get home, listening can be more relaxing than reading, especially from a tablet or an electronic reader.

Secondly, while audiobooks might provide an alternative format for many readers, they also are attracting new audiences: children and adults with dyslexia, for example, or the visually impaired. According to Nielsen Book statistics, there has been a huge increase in downloads of audiobooks by males aged 25-45, who weren't big on buying books until now. Although many men in this age group aren't keen on reading books, they seem to enjoy listening to them being read.

Finally, studies have shown that listening to stories stimulates the parts of the brain that are associated with attention, memory, language and mood. Audiobooks are also an efficient way to learn a foreign language. I teach English at a secondary school in Lyon, France, and one of the set books this year is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. My pupils are reading and listening to the book at the same time and it helps them with both comprehension and pronunciation.


The first audiobooks I listened to were David Walliams's children's stories. My kids and I used to listen to them every day in the car on the way to and from swimming training – an hour's round trip. They're brilliantly narrated – by David Walliams himself – complete with sound effects. We all preferred that to music, which we could never agree on!
Then an author friend of mine gifted me her book in audio format. I started listening to it while I was walking the dog. The narrator had a voice that I found both grating and soporific. I couldn't get into the book at all, so instead I bought the ebook and devoured it.

These two experiences highlighted for me the importance of having a good voice actor. At the end of last year, my third psychological thriller, The Guilty Mother, was selected as one of the Daily Mirror's Top Ten audiobooks of 2019, largely thanks, I believe, to the narrators, Charlie Sanderson and Philip Stevens. Charlie read the chapters written from the perspective of Melissa, a woman convicted of killing one of her children, and Philip read the chapters written by Jon, a journalist investigating this possible miscarriage of justice. Both Charlie and Philip affected slight Bristolian accents as the story is set in Bristol and they both did a fantastic job.

It's no secret that voice is vital. People leave reviews specifically for audio versions of books and sometimes even select an audiobook because they have become fans of a particular narrator rather than the author. Celebrities are attracting listeners to the audiobooks they have narrated just as they attract viewers to films that they have starred in. I've listened to Becoming by Michelle Obama, which she recorded herself, and The Handmaid's Tale read by Elisabeth Moss. I would highly recommend anything that Stephen Fry has narrated.

It's a relatively new format and yet it echoes an old custom – stories were passed down orally from generation to generation, long before the written word. And in our own lifetimes, our parents used to read us bedtime stories. Perhaps that has something to do with why we like audiobooks. There have always been stories – throughout our lives and throughout history. In a strange way, new technology has come full circle and recreated this oral tradition.

Diane Jeffrey has published three psychological thrillers with HQ / HarperCollins all of which have been Kindle bestsellers in the UK, the USA, Australia and Canada. THE GUILTY MOTHER, Diane's third book, was published in 2019 and was a USA Today bestseller.

Diane grew up in North Devon, in the United Kingdom. She now lives in Lyon, France, with her husband and their three children, Labrador and cat. Diane is an English teacher. When she's not working or writing, she likes swimming, running and reading. She loves chocolate, beer and holidays.
Above all, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends.

Author website:
Readers can also follow Diane on Twitter @dianefjeffrey
or on


  1. Great post. I'm a massive fan of audiobooks and always have one on the go in the car. I've listened to over a 100 now, but a good narrator does make all the difference!

    1. I agree, Karen. My husband listens to audio books on his journey to and from work and says the narrator is so important to the enjoyment.

  2. I gave up on one where the Australian narrator was attempting a Yorkshire accent!

  3. It can be a great introduction to a new-to-you author, I think. Sympathetic narrator voice essential!