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The Butcher

So my author friends struck up a conversation on the woes of abridged audio books.  I’ve heard them whine whine whine about this before, but never paid attention. After all . . . I’ve never had an audio book, and I feel they should be grateful to have something so cool.

Except now things are a little different. I am slated for an audio book for the novel, Eyes Like Mine, coming out in February. I am so wicked thrilled to have an audio book. I grin stupidly every time I think about it.

The thing is . . . it’s abridged.  The book is just over 90,000 words. The abridged version–45,000 words.

Yeah. My math isn’t so hot, but even *I* know that means HALF. Yes, gentle readers, half is a lot of words. And then once I cut all those words out, I have to try to piece it back together in some way that makes sense, with a logical flow of plot development and proper character depth and motivation. I owe all my friends chocolate and apologies. How do you cut a book in half and expect it to be the same?

It’s like the baby brought before King Solomon.  No good mother wants to see her child chopped in half. No good author wants to see their book butchered, and worse–have to be the one doing the butchering.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m still excited about the audio book. It’s the pain I’m afraid of. I determined I’d better get started soon because I have the sneaking feeling this is going to take some serious time.

But I can’t start this week . . .  or next. Tomorrow, I am speaking at a youth conference and really should be working on my presentation so I don’t bore several hundred teenagers to sleep. And for the rest of this month I have to finish my work in progress just so I can say I did.  It may not be a good draft, but it’ll be a done draft. Good can always come later, right?

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20 Responses
  1. Kimberly says:

    Half?! Good grief woman, that’s madness!

    And I can’t help but giggle a bit over the good draft/done draft bit. Having done Nanowrimo I certainly know what that feels like!

  2. Annette Lyon says:

    Bwahahaaaa! As one of those you laughed at before, I must mock you. (Once I had to cut a book down from 116,000. There was blood everywhere.) The good news? You might actually get 53,000 (ask!) because they’re no longer doing cassettes at Covenant, and CDs hold more. Hey, 5,000 words is 5,000 words.

    Yes, it is painful, but you’ll do it, and you’ll do a great job of it.

    And afterwards you’ll huddle into a ball and whimper.

  3. Tamra Norton says:

    YAY–an audio book! I’m so excited for you!!! I’m so thankful CFI never asked for an abridged version of my YA novels. Where does one even start? A pinky toe here, a double chin there…

    I’m sure you’ll make it look (sound) all pretty in the end. Everything you do turns out bee-youtiful in the end. Good luck!!!

  4. Karlene says:

    You know, I totally get the profit margin thing on the audio books–you can only charge so much and the actors who read it cost a lot, and you’re not going to sell as many audios as actual books, and blah, blah, blah. But if you cut it too much, you lose the integrity of the story and then you lose future readers. Tough decision.

  5. Stephanie says:

    Wow! Half? And I work so hard to get the word count up to an acceptable level for a novel. It must be torture cutting all those hard earned words in half. Good luck. i know you’ll do a great job.

  6. Anna says:

    Okay, I’m where you were. Jealous of the audio book. Half, that’s tough though.

  7. Hard to imagine you whining. 😉

  8. Jennie says:

    Julie, here’s one of those misery loves company comments. I’m cutting my 102,000 word manuscript to 54,000 now too. I always start out thinking it can’t be done, but somehow it happens. I really, really hate chopping half of my books out. On my first book I discovered that after the first few chapters, their 10,000 words had become 14,000. I’ve cried and thrown two-year-old style tantrums, swore that if something wasn’t necessary I wouldn’t have put it in the manuscript in the first place, my husband walks on tip toes while I’m condensing, but after about two weeks of this misery I have the word count right, but who knows if it still makes sense. Good luck and at least I know someone else out there is going through the condensing nightmare too.

  9. The sad thing is, the audience doesn’t like them either. I’ve heard some great unabridged novels as I commute to and from work. I tried some abridged ones, and you are right–they were butchered. I will never listen to one again. The slaughter was most evident with the four books I listened to as abridgements from a regional publisher. I couldn’t even keep straight who the characters were or why I should care. These were by an author whose works I normally love. Too bad, all for a few dollars the publisher lost a steady curstomer in me when they went to slash and destroy mode on their abridgements.

  10. Blue says:

    i infinitely prefer unabridged. is there any way you can refuse to cut it? what would the problem be with just doing the whole thing. that’s what readers want. though i know it’s not entirely in your hands, maybe you could change the industry by taking a stand. okay, i’m only half joking. i don’t know, that’s a tough one. is the financial benefit worth the cost to your readers and your time and effort?

    that all said, how exciting for you too! i loved the book. you’re such a fun teller of stories.
    &hearts to you mydear jule!

  11. Brillig says:


    So… um… yeah. Good luck with that!

  12. TJ Hirst says:

    The analogy really fits well, doesn’t it? I missed the part that it is you who has to do the butchering. But when I finally got that part ths line was even better, “No good author wants to see their book butchered, and worse–have to be the one doing the butchering.”

  13. hi jules!

    that is so awesome that you are speaking in youth conference again. you make such an impact when you do that 🙂

    may it go well what you need to do to get your book to what the audio publisher wants. chocolate blessings to you that it can go smooth for you. yea, it sounds like a pain. but it is so cool that you get to participate in this product. it’s another door of opportunity for you to embrace and enjoy.

    take care girl, kathleenybeany 🙂

  14. Julie says:

    Jennie, the misery loves company thing works every time. I cannot imagine writing over 100,000 words for one novel. And J Scott, are you insinuating I whine a lot? Well I don’t. Do you hear me? I don’t ever whine. I don’t I don’t I don’t I don’t! Annette, I am sorry I ever mocked you. but I am glad to join your very cool ranks. Yay! I have an audio book coming out!!!!

  15. Don says:

    I always wonder what I’m getting when listening to an abridged audio book, and I listen to a lot of books. But knowing that HALF of the book is gone – that’s rough!

    I mean, sure – cut out the “he said, she said” and use different voices for each character. That sounds better, anyway. But no book is half dialog tags. Ouch.

  16. Oh, Julie! How awful and wonderful at the same time. Makes me envious and yet–not. Good luck. I’m sure you can do it.

  17. By the way, if you have a son or daughter writer wannabe, I have a writing contest for kids going on at my blog,

  18. I am sorry for you that you have to cut the book to half, but I’m so stinkin’ happy for you at the same time, it’s hard to feel *too* sorry.

  19. Janet says:

    Julie – I can’t wait to both read & listen to Eyes Like Mine. I have a feeling they will both be fabulous! 🙂

  20. Shanna says:

    I want to say “man that stinks” but I’m so excited that you have an audiobook coming out! Good luck!

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