OP-ED More Black Audiobooks Please

I have been an avid reader since I was a child. I could do a whole dissertation on how reading changed my life, but that’s not why we’re here. For the past three or four years I’ve been heavy into audiobooks. At the time, I was in the middle of double master’s program, working full-time, and taking care of my family and I found myself having less and less time to read for pleasure. I had plenty to read for school and I spent a lot of time studying industry trends for the company I worked for at the time. I felt immense guilt every time I read for pleasure. Surely, there’s something I should be reading for school or work instead of escaping into a romance or mystery novel (we’ll tackle the importance of guilt-free self-care and simple indulgences at a later date).

I stopped reading for fun. I simply couldn’t justify the time.

My brother-in-law had been telling me to download Audible for months. He tried to close me on listening to an audiobook on my drive home, but I vehemently shot him down. No self-respecting reader is going to listen to a book. I’d already compromised on the eBook versus print book debate, and I was addicted to my Kindle. I vowed I would not give up on the written word.

Until he got me a gift card to Audible and started me on the Harry Potter series narrated by Jim Dale. And now, I can count one hand how many books (digital or otherwise) I’ve read in the past year. I usually listen to two-three audiobooks a month while I drive, clean or when I unwind at night. I had my escape back. Even though I’ve definitely heard some duds, I truly enjoy the audio experience.

By far the biggest disappointment is the lack of black audio stories. They do exist, and I’ve found a few faves. Anything narrated by Wesleigh Siobhan, and Jakobi Diem are almost always guaranteed to hit. Christina C. Jones is my new favorite black romance writer (guess who she normally books for narration. Hint: look up). However, when compared to the number of eBooks and print books available from black authors, the audio selection leaves a lot to be desired. As someone who loves black stories, loves black love, their absence is palpable.

I imagine the main culprit as a lot to do with access, resources, and knowledge. It is certainly easier (not easy) to produce an eBook. A quality audiobook requires hiring a quality narrator, determining a pay agreement, etc. I challenge black indie or self-published authors to add audio to their content release. A 2020 survey from the Audio Publishers Association showed that audiobook revenue grew by 16% in 2019, totaling $1.2 billion. The study also found that “for the third year in a row, more than 50% of audiobook listeners say they are making ‘new’ time to listen to audiobooks and consuming more books.”  Audio is the new frontier in publishing. The audience is there, and we want to hear your stories.


About the Author

Amber L. Tucker is the director of marketing for RTM360° where she is responsible for developing and implementing client programs to their messages with the African American community. In addition, she is responsible for developing and maintaining the brand identity and strategy for various RTM brand with specific focuses on the Michigan Chronicle and Who’s Who In Black. Amber is a marketing professional with more than 10 years of experience developing and creating content marketing strategies to educate consumers and convert them into loyal customers. She believes that every person and every company has a compelling story to tell and with a people-centric view, they can develop content with an emotional impact.

Amber holds a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Grand Valley State University and is pursuing a double master’s degree from University of Houston-Victoria. She publishes books under the pen name Shaii Wright, and her debut novel releases this year. Follow her on Instagram @IamShaiiWright.


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