A Guest Post from Sasha


Hello all,  Sasha here.

Sasha 6


Alpha mom asked me to step in again this week.

May is a busy month here in Vermont, for the humans anyway. It keeps me busy trotting along beside her as she and Alpha Pop plant the gardens, move the summer furniture out, and put the screens back in.  Our chickens arrived too, which take a bit of time. They arrived in April and they’re about my favorite ….    What?


Oh yeah, sorry; I forgot.  Alpha mom says I need to write about how her audio book went live last week, not about how busy she is. That’s what she scheduled to write about, she’s just not got time. As I said, May is a very busy month.


Another home run from my cover designer, Anne McKinsey.
Another home run from my cover designer, Anne McKinsey.



Frankly, I’m not all that impressed that she’s got an audio book. I mean, how would I listen to it?  I’ve got great ears, but I use them mostly for hearing the wild animals that roam through our yards.  Yup, those chipmunks and squirrels think they can just sneak in here and … What? Sorry.

I do seem to be easily distracted.  Focus, focus.


Audio books are the latest craze, you know.  

I did a little research (yes, the apple does not fall far from the tree).  Did you know there has been an enormous jump in audio book sales over the last four years? Me neither. You think eBooks are selling fast, but they’re nothing compared to audio book sales.

While eBooks have enjoyed sales growth of nearly 10% or so*, audiobook sales more than doubled between 2010 and 2012 (from 4,602 title in 2009 to 13,255 in 2012). Then it gets better. For the next three years, sales grew by more than 25% EACH YEAR.

I don’t pull these figures out of my food dish, you know.  I went to the American Association of Publishers for my figures.

Alpha Mom helped.

*eBooks saw growth of only +7.5%  in 2013 and 6% in 2014, which is still better than print books.  Very sad, that.


What?  Too much detail?  OK.  (Alpha Mom is getting a little testy. She says I need to spark it up a bit).

The Wall Street Journal is always good for making a few sparks.  I’ll quote directly from one of their 2013 articles. That’s when audio books were rattling the industry:

The rapid rise of audio books has prompted some hand-wringing about how we consume literature. Print purists doubt that listening to a book while multitasking delivers the same experience as sitting down and silently reading. Scientific studies have repeatedly shown that for competent readers, there is virtually no difference between listening to a story and reading it. The format has little bearing on a reader’s ability to understand and remember a text. Some scholars argue that listening to a text might even improve understanding, especially for difficult works like Shakespeare, where a narrator’s interpretation of the text can help convey the meaning.

I imagine humans would take great pleasure in knowing that.

Personally, I think I’ll go down to the barn and watch the chickens molt.


What? Say again?  Oh, that was Alpha Mom again.  Says I might mention about how to buy her new audio book.


Near as I can figure out, there are three ways to listen to At Home on the Kazakh Steppe:


1.  Audible.com  sells the books for $19.95  (which, frankly, seems a little steep to me.  But that’s the average cost of an audio book these days.  Who knew?)

You could listen to it for FREE with a 30-Day Trial Membership to Audible.  Here are the membership details:
  •    First book free with 30-day trial
  •    $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
  •    Cancel easily anytime
  •    Exchange books you don’t like
  •    All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
They bring over the reviews from Amazon.  But then Amazon owns Audible, which brings us to our second way to listen.



2.  Amazon.com 


Here, the audiobook costs only  $3.47 (if you’ve already purchased the book in some other format). Now, that’s not bad.  And, if you consider the book is still in the top 20 for its subject (memoir, nonfiction travel, former Soviet countries) it’s a good deal.  It’s got all the same information as the Audible site, too.

 Amazon also offers the book through WhisperSync, which is one of those 21st century inventions that let you move back and forth between the eBook version and the audiobook, without skipping a parenthetical phrase.  That’s nice for some folks.


Apple sells At Home on the Kazakh Steppe for $14.95.   AND, because we’ve been in Kindle Select since last fall (I like using WE when talking about Alpha Mom and me) and no longer sell the eBook on iTunes, it’s hard for us to tell if there’d be some discount for the audio book.


I did those handy links to each of the three sites up there for you. Did you see that? Alpha Mom showed me how. 


One thing to look out for on Apple’s iTunes, but not on the other sites, is  ANOTHER Janet L. Givens has a book there.  Yup, it’s not my mom.  It’s a mom in Indiana whose son was injured in Iraq shortly after my JG returned home from the Peace Corps.


I wonder why so many were motivated to go to war back then?  It seemed to my Alpha Mom that if ever we needed a call to peace, it was then.  Sometimes we just can’t figure humans out.   Alpha Mom tells me it’s because humans are not clones; we’re all individuals, she says, and have our own individual values and beliefs. 


Then I asked her about culture, about how  much influence culture played on these choices. (Culture is her thing, you know.  I might chase bears and chipmunks away; she chases the effects of culture like that great blue heron going after the trout in our pond.) She just said that there are many subcultures, and individuals get attracted to certain ones because of those same values and beliefs. 


She says that, back then, even popular culture was pushing for war:  Killing, vengeance, retribution, pay back.  Call it what you will.  Alpha Mom says, go easy on the kid (and his mom, who has her same  name).  They are just dancing to their own drummer.



What?  I’m off track again?


OK, I’m back.  Alpha Mom wants me to say a bit about the process, the narrator she chose, and how it all came to be.


It began on the We Love Memoirs’ Authors Facebook group. Alpha Mom overheard a conversation there last year about how easy it was to get an audio book. No money up front, which definitely appealed to her; just a 50-50 split in royalties with the narrator who also produces the book.  Her friends on the Facebook group sent her to ACX.com


 Here’s a clip on how ACX works.  It’s less than four minutes long.


They make it pretty simple to find a narrator.  Alpha Mom listened to twenty or thirty audition tapes and selected six to ask for a “fifteen minute sample” of the book’s first chapter. Then, she went through a set of questions to to narrow the field further. Finally she chose Caroline Miller.



She’s learned a few things about making audiobooks the best they can be.  But she says I’ve gone on a bit too long for this week and she’ll come back in a few weeks with more information.  Maybe even a clip from the audiobook.  (She’s still figuring out how to make that happen).


It’s been fun, although I was really hoping to write more about my life.   I hope she lets me  do another one.  Then I’ll tell you about the time I ate the compost out of the pig pen.  The vet told us that eating compost is the most common cause of death among dogs. I had no idea.  I thought it was tasty.

Oops. Alpha Mom is cutting me off.




17 Responses

  1. Ian Mathie
    | Reply

    Hello Sasha, Mungo here.

    My boss said he was so impressed with your article he said I could reply for him. At last! I’ve been looking after him for twelve and a half years, and this is the first time he’s let me answer entirely on my own. I expect he’ll come along and correct my spelling, though, if I get any worms rong.

    Chasing the chickens sounds fun. We haven’t got any because my Mum is frightened of birds. But we have plenty of cats to chase, and they’ fun. They don’t half skedaddle when I come round the corner at speed!

    Your bit about audio books sounds fun and I’m going to nag my boss to have a go with some of his books. I love it when he reads passages aloud, and would like to hear more of his stories. He tells some to the grandkids occasionally, but they’re still a bit small to understand properly, so I often don’t get to hear the whole thing. Maybe with audio books…..

    I wonder if it matters if they’re in English or French. He’s been spending a lot of time translating bits recently because he’s off to a bi-lingual literary festival in the Loire next month and wants something to read to the audience in French. I wish he;d just sit down and trans;ate the lot, but he’s busy writing another one at the moment, about growing up in Africa where he used to play with creepy-crawlies and snakes and things.

    Anyway. I hope your Alpha Mom lets you write again soon, Sasha and, by the way, I love the blue ball! Does she mind if you swim in the pond? I love swimming and it usually results in a great fight with a towel after I do it when we’re out walking. Mind you I like the muddy puddles best, a bit like you an compost, I guess.

    Tata for now. Thanks for writing. This has to go out under my boss’s name as I haven’t got an account on this thingy.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hello Mungo

      Sasha is still asleep, but I enjoyed your note so much I thought I’d just go ahead and respond. I hope you don’t mind.

      Yes indeed, she loves the pond. But unlike you, she seems to love her romp with the giant towel afterwards. That is, if she’s coming in the house. In the summer, she’ll just dry off on her own.

      Please tell your boss (I trust he is alpha boss, for all your sakes) that I hope he gives the audio book route a try. ACX makes it rather easy. The trick I think is to not be in too much of a hurry.

      Thanks very much for writing. It was a delight. I’ll be sure to read Sasha your note when she gets up. She might have something else to add.

  2. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    Good luck with your audio book sales!

    I won’t have my cats reply. 🙂

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Sasha wonders, “What’s a cat?”

      Thanks for your good wishes, Merril. I feel like I’ve stumbled into yet another new world. We’ll see how I fare as time goes on.

  3. Kathleen Pooler
    | Reply

    This is a wonderful post, Sasha. You provided a lot of great information about Audiobooks. Tell your Alpha Mom congratulations. Max would have responded but he’s busy chasing rabbits in the garden. Have a great day!

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks, Kathy. I’ll be sure to pass along your compliments.

  4. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    This will be Cliff’s Father’s Day present. I’ll have to return here to find the link though. Busy day in our “pre-move” stage.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      What a great idea. Thanks Marian. And I’m enjoying following your move on your blog. I’ve moved at least six times in my adulthood. There’s something very freeing about the process. Definitely a lightness. Good luck.

  5. Sharon Lippincott
    | Reply

    Sasha, I hope Janet gives you a long leash to keep writing. Your style is refreshing and amusing and I want to read more! I fact, I may look around for a pet to help out with my writing. I like the audiobook idea, and the Google voice input app does a great job of converting voice to text, so maybe a parrot, or parakeet would be a good choice.

    Janet did you give Sasha a juicy bone to chew on in gratitude for a job well done? Or her favorite treat?

    • Ian Mathie
      | Reply

      I can just imagine Adventures of a Chilehaed being read by a parrot in its funny voice. The book’s funny enough, I don’t want to get a hernia by laughing while listening to it! 🙂

      • Sharon Lippincott
        | Reply

        Ian, I’m wiping tears of laughter from my eyes at your misconception. I was not thinking of a parrot as a narrator, but rather an author. Janet has Sasha to help her write. You have Mungo. Although I love visiting dogs, I have no desire to live with one, but a feathered assistant does appeal to me.

        Based on experience with Pete Parakeet, who lived with my family for two of my early years, I’m certain a parakeet or parrot would be up to the challenge. Pete became so adept at picking up phrases and sounds on the fly, he truly did begin making up short stories no human had ever uttered.I have no doubt that if I opened a Word doc on my phone and clicked the Google keyboard over to voice input, a masterpiece could emerge.

        Or wait! I adored the wee capuchin monkey I met on a pier in Lima, Peru one moonlit a few years ago. I instantly knew from her soulful gaze that she has stories to tell. I’d loan her my laptop in a heartbeat.

        But why only one? Pete and Sally. The monkey’s name is Sally. I shall pause to search for rescue parakeets and monkeys right now.

        • Ian Mathie
          | Reply

          How many monkies was it they thought would be necessary to produce the works of Skaespeare? In combination with a parrot that should be a hoot!

          But I do like the idea of a beastie doing the narration. At least with a parrot one might be able to understand some of it. With a Capuchin that might not be so successful as they chitter so much with a funny accent. Most of the audience would be left agape, and their handrwriting is abominable. 🙂

          Look what you started Janet, when you let Sasha loose with your blog! 🙂

          • Sharon Lippincott

            Ian, all I can add is that my Capuchin will be as remarkably gifted and able to translate story to keyboard as Pete Parakeet was at narrating it.

            Yes, here’s to the Animal Kingdom with a few people thrown in.

  6. Janet Givens
    | Reply

    Ian and Sharon. You two are a hoot. Hmmm. Owl metaphor goes wanting.

    Sasha is very excited by your enthusiasm for her writing. I’m going to have to have a talk with her.

    • Ian Mathie
      | Reply

      BE NICE TO HER! She’s a sweetie. 🙂

    • Sharon Lippincott
      | Reply

      Janet, glad you picked up on that hoot. I noticed it too, but it got lost in the heat of the moment. Perhaps wise Ollie owl (my grandmother’s sage spirit?) will hoot softly to Sally, who will tap out Shakespeare Revisited for Pete to narrate.

      Did I get it owl now? NO! The monkey is Minnie, not Sally! It takes a bit to get character names write.

      You had no idea how much playful creativity could result when you unleashed Sasha upon the world. In fact, it’s gone a lot farther than this blog banter. But that’s a story for a post of my own. For now, I’ll end with a Texas-sized THANK YOU!

  7. […] Word From Sasha on Nov. 11, 2015 and A Guest Post from Sasha on May 25, […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a blog you'd like to share? I use CommentLuv Click here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.