We’ve finally caught our breath after our favorite time of year — the week of APAC and the elegant Audies Gala. This year, out of about 1200 submitted audiobooks, 160 titles in 31 categories competed for an esteemed Audie Award. Out of so many great performances and so many fantastic stories, how were the winners chosen?
Audies judging is no easy feat. Here’s how the annual awards process happens — from title submission to the bestowing of the coveted Audie.
The call for title entries goes out to publishers annually, in July or August. Publishers or rights-holders submit their titles for consideration, paying a fee for each title’s entry (it’s more affordable for APA members, of course!).
First, the Competition Committee vets entries for eligibility and proper category assignments. Next, the Competition Committee collects information from about 200 volunteer judges, who are carefully selected based on their demonstrated ability to listen closely and critically.
Round 1 of the Audies competition begins. About 1200 titles are considered in — this year — 31 categories. (Categories are reconsidered and refined annually.) Categories with more than 20 titles are broken into sub-groups. Then, three demographically diverse judges are assigned to listen to between 15 and 25 titles —150 to 250 hours of listening. (That’s why you should take time to thank the Audies judges! Their job is enormous!) Each judge independently ranks their top seven choices, and the titles with the best rankings move on to the finalist round.
In Round 2, three different judges listen to all the category finalists, and critique them, ranking the audiobooks in order to choose the very best. Though the listening commitment is shorter, this is clearly the tougher round.
In both Round 1 and Round 2, the judges report their findings via an online survey, and the Competition Committee calculates their findings.
Want a little more detail about what the judges are listening for?
The judging criteria is based on four factors, including performance, direction, production, and overall quality.
—— The narrator presents a professional performance that is believable and convincing.
—— The characters are clearly and consistently differentiated through tone, inflection, pacing, etc., and the narrator has avoided condescending mannerisms and style.
—— The narrator has skillfully and consistently represented any applicable variations in gender and/or accent(s) of the characters.
—— The narrator has accurately pronounced all words, including proper nouns, place names, character names, and technical and foreign words and phrases.
—— The pace is maintained throughout and the plot flows without interruption.
—— If used, music and/or sound effects are a positive enhancement, not a distraction.
—— The material lends itself to audio presentation, and the audio presentation enhances the text.
—— The recording is free of blatant edits and technical flaws and is of good quality (no humming, distortion or electronic interference).
—— Signal, voice, and music levels are conducive to audiobook listening conditions.
—— Multi-voice or dramatized productions effectively project the original print material.
4. Overall quality
—— All elements have been integrated to provide a compelling listening experience, and the judge would confidently recommend the title.
Two Audie Awards categories have different judging criteria — Distinguished Achievement in Production and Audiobook of the Year.
For these titles, publishers submit their titles. Distinguished Achievement in Production has no special requirements, but for submissions for Audiobook of the Year, the publisher must also submit a binder of information, including sales data and details on how the title was marketed. Production, Sales, and Marketing are equally weighted for this category.
The Competition Committee chooses a five-person jury for each award. The Distinguished Achievement in Production jury meets via conference call, and the Audiobook of the Year jury meets in person. Jury members have extensive experience in audiobook production and critique, and have often served on other award juries. The same criteria are applied as with the other awards (with the aforementioned additions to Audiobook of the Year), but the process is via discussion rather than survey vote.
The jury members listen to all submissions, nominate their top titles, and then each jury member is asked to “champion” a title for the final discussion. The category finalists and the winner are determined at the same time, and the number of finalists is more flexible – typically between three and six. Jury members are sworn to secrecy, and the finalists are announced to the public.
This annual awards ceremony is, obviously, a massive undertaking, requiring skillful coordination and organization, judging integrity, listening stamina, and committed contributors. The APA is grateful to everyone — passionate publishers who submit their best work, APA board members who coordinate the judging process, devoted volunteers who critique countless hours of content, talented voice actors who create strong performances, writers who craft wonderful material to translate to audio — all of those who work together to make the Audies a celebration of the very best in audiobooks!