I mean from back in the pre-TV days (yes, Virginia, the actually was such a time) when folks would gather around their radios (see picture below)
much like their distant ancestors gathered around crackling campfires and listened to tall tales while slicing up saber-tooth tiger steaks or gnawing on mastodon knuckles.
See, there's a lot you can do with just words and a few sound effects and maybe some appropriate music and, most of all, the listeners' imagination. It can take you places TV and the movies can't. Plus you can take it with you (on cross-country drives or climbing up a stairmaster or whatever) and it's great to hear epic stories told by great [OK, and not-so-great] actor/storyteller voices
spiked here and there with the inevitable and sometimes hilarious commercial interruptions ("Friends, do you suffer from bad breath, bad skin, excessive body odor or ingrown toenails?")
BTW, bonus points if you can identify the pre-broadcast meeting taking place in the picture directly above.
Anyhow, we happened to stumble into the Right Guy to help us put it all together at Road America last summer: the sharp, talented & experienced Josh Richter of Victorian Recording Studios, who has the motorsports bug bigtime, loves the books and has been invaluable in moving this from a wild idea to an actual, in-progress project.
Just yesterday, Carol and I listened to the "rough cut" of the first couple chapters, complete with different actors doing the dialogue voices, sound effects, etc.
It flat blew us away!
I read the bulk of the narration myself (I'm hopefully not too awful) but the different characters and the car-shop and track sound effects really make it come alive!
I can't tell you how excited we are about it!
Sure, there's a long way to go and who knows if we can maintain the feel and quality and integrity of the thing over the long haul until it's finished (I figure 6 months at the very least), but we're sure going to give it our best shot. And, if it comes out half as good as I think it's going to be, it'll be just the thing to listen to when you're pounding down the interstate on your way to your next race or car event.
Or when you're flat on your back underneath a drooling oil pan or a recalcitrant transmission on your home-garage floor. Or working out at the gym, trying to turn some of that six-pack beer flab into six-pack abs. Or just laying out in a hammock on the patio on a warm summer evening...
Plus I know there are some folks out there who don't much care for reading (see "THOSE people don't read!" on the back of most of our dust jackets), and this will be a chance to reach out to them and make Buddy's story accessible.
And take their money, too...
Which brings us to some history:
We actually broke a little Fresh Ground in the publishing world back in the summer of 1999 (really we did) when we introduced the second novel in The Last Open Road series at Road America. It was a matter of pure desperation, to be honest. By then the first book was in its third printing: two self-published out of our own pocket--again, out of sheer desperation--and the third thanks to bigtime New Yawk publisher St. Martin's Press, who on the one hand were wonderful for validating all of our hard work and faith in that first book (Thankyou! Thankyou! Thankyou!), but never really did much with it promotion-wise once they had it in their catalog.
By that point it'd already dawned on us (and by "us," I mean wife Carol and I, who had both become sorely accustomed to extravagant indulgences like food, shelter and clothing) that the existing business model in the book-publishing world was, to sum it up in but a single word...bullshit.
Let me explain. You had to lay out all this dough in front to produce the damn thing (15-20 grand, most likely) and then try to make it back 25 or 30 bucks at a time while traveling all over the map trying to find places where potential buyers/readers might be in attendance. And don't even get me started on the longed-for (HAH!) mainstream bookstore market. Or distributor discounts (as much as 60%). Or their payment terms (90-120 days) or how they hold back a percentage against possible returns and make you take back those effing returns (in damn near any condition) for 100% credit and while picking up the freight both ways...
I think you get the idea.
So, for Montezuma's Ferrari, I had the bright idea of funding a book project on the well-known motorsports model. Or, in other words, with sponsorships and advertising. And, as many of you know, it worked incredibly well, got us the seed money we needed to publish Montezuma's Ferrari and do a little advertising, traveling and promotion in the bargain. Not to mention a few write-ups in the publishing-trade press and giving us the wherewithall to buy back the rights and remaining copies of the first book from St. Martin's Press (who'd pretty much given up on it by then). BTW, The Last Open Road is now heading into its TENTH (!!!) hardcover printing with something like 50,000 copies sold...
In any case, I'm proud to say that "novel" idea also won Montezuma's Ferrari a Benjamin Franklin "Book of the Year" award that year for "innovation in publishing and marketing" and represented a bit of a new wrinkle in the book-publishing business.
So what has all of this got to do with anything???
My original audiobook concept was to have 1950s-style radio ads between the chapters of The Last Open Road (some real period ads
some paid ads for actual TLOR audiobook sponsors and advertisers plus some of our usual, crazy-bullshit "WTF???"ads just for the blessed fun of it. I thought it would also be a great way to raise the necessary budget dollars to defray the costs of talent compensation, production, manufacturing and, of course, spreading the word once the project was finished.
But it was Carol who pointed out that such a thing might easily interrupt and interfere with the flow of the narrative. "Break the spell," if you will.
And damn if she wasn't right.
So we've had a rethink and have decided to try something else instead. We're currently looking at having one or two "Presenting Sponsors" (I'm thinking something like $3000 each) who will be featured prominently on the packaging and have an actual, professionally produced audio commercial for their product, service or organization at the beginning and at the end of the completed production.
Beyond that, we have 19 chapters in the book, and we're going to solicit sponsors for each chapter ("Chapter One: The Old Man's Sinclair, brought to you by...") at $500 each. These sponsors can be individuals, businesses, products, services, clubs, race teams, shops, co-sponsoring groups of friends, memorials...whatever.
I'm hoping they'll want to get involved because:
a) they like the books
b) they want the exposure
c) it's never been done before
d) we've got a proven product with a really enthusiastic following in the motorsports and classic-car communities, and an opportunity for it to reach a whole new (and potentially far larger and moreover world-wide) group of people
d) it will be FUN!
That's it in a nutshell. And, even though we're many months away from a finished product, I thought I'd get the concept out there and see what kind of response it elicits. Or suggestions. Or sputtering, fuming outrage. Or????
So let us know.
And wish us a little luck, too...
Like I said, it's never been done before.