Q: Please introduce yourself to the readers
I'm Mike Dennis from Key West. I've been narrating and producing audiobooks out of my home studio down here for a couple of years now. Prior to that I was a professional musician (piano/30 years) and a professional poker player (6 years). I also wrote six novels and two novelettes, all in the crime/noir fiction genre. The two novelettes and one of my novels were in the private eye sub-genre.
Q: Tell us about the road to get I, the Jury done as an audiobook
Last summer, while trolling Amazon one day, I was shocked to discover Mickey Spillane's I, The Jury was not available as a modern downloadable audiobook. This of course was Spillane's first novel and the introduction of Mike Hammer. They had released an audiocassette (remember those?) back in the 1980s, I think, and they were no longer available except used copies from 3rd party vendors on Amazon. Plus, it was heavily abridged. I looked at the other Hammer novels and they were all available in downloadable audio format, with the great Stacy Keach as the narrator. I looked again to be sure I hadn't made a mistake and sure enough, no audiobook for I, The Jury.
Well, I set out to locate the holder of the audio rights and eventually discovered they were in the hands of Simon & Schuster. After much painstaking work, I finally dug up the name of S&S's audiobook division chief (they don't really want you to know who these people are), and I tried calling him on the phone. After many attempts, I finally got him on the line and told him who I was and that I wanted the opportunity to narrate and produce this great Spillane novel.
Naturally, he could've easily told me to get lost. Key West? Home studio? Very little track record? Are you kidding me? Buzz off!
Instead, I told him I had prepared a brief recorded sample from I, The Jury and could I send it to him. He paused, then said, "Okay." I sent it to him immediately and then waited. And waited. And waited.
Did I say I waited?
A couple of months went by and he emailed me back and said he had sent my sample off to the audiobook production chief and she would be listening to it. So I waited again.
After another month or so, the production chief emailed me and requested a finished recording of the entire first chapter. I put it together with great care and sent it off to her.
A month or two later, she wrote back and said they wanted me to do the whole book. Naturally, I was thrilled beyond words. We agreed on the terms, I signed a contract, and I recorded the entire novel. I uploaded it to them around the middle of April. As a result, I will be the new voice of Mike Hammer.
The moral of the story is: cold querying works!
Q: Who are your favorite private eyes?
My favorite PIs are not surprising. Mike Hammer (of course), Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, and James Crumley's CW Sughrue.
Q: What challenges do you encounter getting an audiobook done?
The biggest challenge for me in getting an audiobook done is maintaining a consistent sound quality throughout. It takes me many days to actually record a complete novel in "raw file" form, so I have to make sure the conditions are similar each time I sit down to record. My voice has to sound the same and if it doesn't — for example, I might be very tired or slightly congested — I can't record that day. Then in the editing and mastering phases, which I also do, I have to ensure a consistent, seamless sound through the entire novel.
Another big challenge is narrating a poorly written or poorly edited book. It is really tough going if the book is not well-written. Fortunately, of course, that problem didn't exist with I, The Jury.
Q: What is coming up next for you?
Because of my success with I, The Jury, I've cold-queried a few other big novels which I've noticed do not have modern audiobooks attached to them. I'm hoping to hit at least one of them. I'll keep you posted.