Catherine O’Brien’s Essential Venture

By FIN

By Emma Boskovski

Devoted to the art of bringing the words of authors to life using narration, Fire Islander Catherine O’Brien has launched her own audio book company, Essential Audiobooks. Her brand delivers her own voice to linger in the ears of listeners, accompanied by the voices of the most talented narrators in the business.

In our fast paced world, we often forget to fortify ourselves with literature. The audio book industry makes this even simpler, as our own thoughts can float freely while listening to the words of our favorite authors in any environment. Within the first moments of my phone call with O’Brien I was instantly soothed by the sound of her voice.

O’Brien’s career in the audio book industry began like many others – she had time on her hands. Her husband (FIN columnist Hugh O’Brien) remarked one day that her English accent, beloved by Americans, would entice listeners. O’Brien took lessons in New York City in a training studio. It was not long before she auditioned, and was ultimately contracted to narrate multiple audio titles.

After six years of working with several publishing companies, she came to thoroughly understand the value in audio book production. Audio book publishing has become one of the fastest growing sectors in the publishing industry. The Audio Publishers Association (APA) sales and survey reports show a 33.9 percent increase in audio books sold in 2016.

Recent headlines show the popularity, as The New York Times ran a story with the headline, “Audiobooks for Those Long Summer Drives, Without the Kids,” in May, and another in June published by The Washington Post, “Best Audio Books for Summer Car Trips of 2018.” The New York Times now also has a section of its best seller list devoted to the best sellers of audio books.

“No other sector of the publishing industry comes close to this kind of growth,” said O’Brien. “I saw there was a gap in the market for very highend audio books – the best books carefully matched with the most talented professional narrators.”

As she devoted herself to working to assemble a team of voice actors, editors, composers and artists, Essential Audiobooks came to be born. With great care, attention to detail and quality of all productions, Essential Audiobooks fills a niche in the growing industry.

With the widespread availability of technology, audio book recording can be done by anybody, but not just anybody can compete with professional work. “There is an enormous difference between an amateur production recorded on a USB mic and a professionally produced audio book,” O’Brien explained. “Audio book narration is a professional type of acting, with quite different skills from stage, screen, or even radio acting. Those who seek to extend their careers and are attracted to the concept of working from home need to study how to adopt their skills for audio book narration.”

O’Brien described choosing the perfect narrator almost as if it is a science. “I listen to people all day,” she explained. “My ear is tuned to voices.” While the narrators themselves must be exceptionally talented, they must fit the text of the book in order to create a believable and enjoyable listening experience.

“When I’m selecting a narrator, having read the script, I can immediately tell what sort of voice I am looking for,” O’Brien said. “Sometimes finding the perfect voice proves to be a difficult task.”

Original music is commissioned to introduce the audio books. The main composer, Alistair Robertson, “painstakingly researched music of the period and uses instruments that would have been used at the time,” explained O’Brien. The music for “Brushstrokes in Time” came to be through research of different Chinese instruments, and they were used to create the theme that sets the scene for the text through unique melodies.

Artwork is specially designed for each audio book cover, created by Winnie O’Brien. The beautifully drawn and eye-catching artwork sets each audio book apart from one another, and is evidently inspired by the unique work of each narrator. “We wanted to create a strong Essential Audiobooks look with a difference.”

So audio book lovers out there, keep an eye out for Essential Audiobooks, a company that takes this industry up a notch. Visit essentialaudiobooks.com to view titles available for purchase.

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