fixing the audiobook backlog: why it may take a while
Recently Del Rey has announced a new series of rereleases called the Essential Legends Collection, part of this new collection is a move to rerelease unabridged audiobooks for books that never had that treatment. So far Shatterpoint has had a new unabridged audiobook released and X-wing: Rogue Squadron has one on the way. This has gotten a lot of people excited that they are going to fill the backlog of books that don't have an unabridged audiobook.
For me, I am very excited about this possibility as I quite enjoy audiobooks and detest the fact that for some great stories there are only abridged versions that cut out important parts. In fact if you are interested in why this happened Meg Reviews recently released a video about the subject a few days ago that I'd recommend you watch. However, I think there is something that people aren't taking into consideration with all this excitement. That filling the backlog will take time.
By my count there are 81 Star Wars Legends novels without a publicly available unabridged audiobook, 82 if you don't count Rogue Squadron which at the time of writing this isn't available. But lets just say 80 to keep the numbers simple.
Now I admittedly don't know much about the process of creating audiobooks but I did have a chat with the people at Random House (the company that produces these) at Celebration in 2015 about this topic, and at the time they said they simply don't have the time to do so. At the time I didn't quite know what they meant but now thinking about it I believe I do.
I calculated the average length of a Star wars Legends Unabridged audiobook from the 44 that are currently available at 12 hours and 11 minutes, so to make it simple lets assume 12 for a nice round number. That is 12 hours that someone needs to record themselves reading a book. In a perfect scenario someone could theoretically do this in one sitting but let me ask you if think you could record 12 hours of yourself reading a book completely perfectly, doing different distinct voices for each of the characters without once messing up? Realistically this would probably take several days and multiple takes. And that is just for recording, that isn't considering prep work to familiarize yourself with the book, the pronunciations of certain words (as Random House has gone on record as saying they check to get the proper pronunciations for names and places), and get the voices for the characters. So let's say a week to do all of this, you then need to edit all of that into the audiobook. Even if all that was sent to the editors was the 12 hours of perfect audio you also have to add sound effects and music cues at the appropriate times. You'd probably have to listen to the full audiobook multiple times to accomplish this. Since I know some of you who read this have Youtube channels yourselves and have editing experience how long do you think a task like this would take you? I'm going to say about a week and a half to two weeks, and mind you there is probably a few people that edit these, each with their own roll that are passing the files between each other, which further increases the time needed to put this together.
With all of this the best case scenario is that you could get a new audiobook out in a bit under a month. But that was best case scenario so it is more likely that this process takes a full month, and that isn't counting the time to get it up on audible. Now consider the fact that the publishing industry is currently downsizing. Meaning you most likely don't have that many employees to work on this. Even if you can get the voice actors to record their stuff on their own you still have a limited number of editors and people who actually have to upload the stuff to audible. And remember that Random House doesn't just make Star Wars audiobooks. With all of this in mind I wouldn't be surprised if they could only work on one Star Wars audiobook a month.
(Amazon search for Random House Audio)
Finally consider that there are new books continuing to come out. These have to take priority over rereleasing the old stuff as they have to have it ready by the time the physical book is out, and likely don't get it until maybe a month or so before it is due. Meaning that if you were working on rereleasing an old book you would have to drop it as soon as the new one came in to get it out on time. According to this site there are 57 unabridged audiobooks of new canon star wars books as of October 2020, that's over 8 new books a year that need to have audiobooks made.
Now Del Rey is pulling back the number of new releases, so lets say that halves, which again is a very generous assumption. That means you have 4 books that need to be made that take a month each to make an audiobook. That gives you 8 months left in this best case scenario to redo the older book, again each taking a month itself. Meaning you could get 8 books off the back log every year in this perfect best case scenario situation. To then finish the backlog at this rate would take 10 years. That is if you can get one book out a month and if Del Rey continues to not release that many new books a year. In our reality They've been coming out every 3 months so far, so 4 a year which is half the best case scenario estimate meaning the wait time for the full unabridged backlog being filled is more like 20 years, if they continue at that rate and nothing changes. For the record I think we are on the right track with getting the backlog completed. I also think that it is very important to show our support for this to ensure we get more. But it is going to take a lot of time to get to the point that the backlog will be filled, and I fear people may get too impatient and start biting the hand that feeds them. If at any point Del Rey changes their mind on this we are back waiting again, and a lot can happen in 10-20 years. So please support these new releases, but also be patient as it may be a while for your favorite books to get the unabridged treatment.
Those are just my thoughts and assumptions about the industry. I'd love to know any of yours if you have any. As a side note no this isn't the thing I've been working on that I have been teasing on streams this past month. That will come out on Monday the 9th. I already have 16 articles written for the series that will be coming out over the next two months. (you can thank Matt and his insistence on being months ahead on articles for the delays).
So check back on Monday for the first article in my new series EU by the Numbers.
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