The dramatized audiobook
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Written by Eline

Published: February 2, 2020


Last update: June 19, 2024

The Dramatized audiobook

On communities like Reddit you often read questions from people looking for:

‘Audio books with music and sound effects’

‘Audiobooks with sound effects and various voice actors’

‘Audiobooks with voice acting and sound effects’

‘Audiobooks that have actors and sound effects’

‘Actors/Sound effects/Music in an audiobook’

You could say that what they are looking for is an audio drama. After all, audio dramas, radio dramas or audio plays can be adaptations from books, like The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia, adding different voices for the characters, sound effects and music.

Since we published the audio dramas The Witch Hunter Chronicles and The Will of the Woods on YouTube and won an honourable mention and Gold Ogle Award with them we’ve been part of an international audio drama community online. At one point we even started a collaboration. But then it became obvious that we had different visions about how we would approach an audio project.

To inspire us how it should be done we were sent a horror audio drama that should have been scary but we both didn’t expierence it as such. There was this monster at some point. You didn’t know what it looked like. When it attacked it was just a mix of screams and sounds of footsteps, people running and bumping into things, some scratches and growls. It almost seemed silly. We both wondered what the problem was, as the production quality was astonishing!

Missing the narrator

After a long conversation Domien and I realized that we missed the narrator. We’d always had one and we thought it contributed a lot to an audio story. Some called audio dramas movies without visuals but we just didn’t believe in that. Audio is just fundamentally different from visuals and can never replace it. You would need a narrator describing to you what things look like in order to experience ‘a movie in your mind’, as Graphic Audio calls it. But that would feel superficial.

We really enjoyed the BBC radio dramas because they succeeded in making you experience the story in your mind, and, of course, the Graphic Audio productions. However, it feels like if these kinds of audio productions were burgers, Graphic audio creates them with two pieces of meat and a lot more sauce, while we stick to one piece of meat and add more pickles. Ours is not a better approach. It’s different. It has our specific flavour. Perhaps the difference is that it’s more European? Or maybe it’s just more ‘us’, I’m not sure.

We were missing the narrator in a lot of audio dramas so we ended up being the odd ones out again (story of our lives) in the audio drama community, changing our approach to create dramatized audiobooks. That move was not received very well. Some were just dissapointed that we’d replaced the 3,5 hour Witch Hunter Chronicles audio drama (that is only available on Patreon) with a 13 hour dramatized audiobook based on an actual novel. Others made it clear that they really HATED narrators in audio. A lot of people in that community no longer consider a story an audio drama as soon as there is a narrator involved.

Bridge the gap between audio drama and audiobook

Bridge between audio drama and audiobook

When we started creating dramatized audiobooks we were simply trying to bridge the gap between audio drama and audiobook. People who struggled with audio drama (without a narrator) complained that it was often very confusing to listen to. People who didn’t like audiobooks said one narrator often felt draining ang boring. They asked what the point was to listening to an audiobook if there was only one narrator. After all, they could read a story aloud themselves. And what if they disliked that voice? Then they were stuck with it for the entire journey.

Our dramatized audiobooks

We heard all of these little annoyances and could relate to them. So we started off with a novel and added different voice actors, sound effects and music. We were lucky to have Peter Van Riet for that back then. At first we were considering two narrators: a male and a female narrator. We could alterate narrators each chapter. But in the end we decided that was not a good idea. I love my husband’s narration voice and I could never top that. I also think it would made our stories more confusing. In stead, we kept one narrator and tried to give all characters a different voice, whether by changing ours or by involving other actors. Aside from the narration, Domien did all the male characters and I did all the female voices, and some creatures, where it was appropriate…

Thus, we gradually developed our own method from the first audio dramas Domien created with his friend, Olivier, to the projects we create together as a couple together today. 

Presentation by Audio Epics 17 March 2021
Presentation Audio Epics Marriage
Presentation Audio Epics kids

We felt we needed chapter devisions to make it clear that a new ‘scene’ or ‘part’ of the story was coming up. So we introduced the iconic transition involving a fragment of Peter’s music before each new chapter. That we, we thought it was clear enough without having to resort to using cheesy jingles or chimes that we often heard in the fairytale cassette tapes we devoured during our childhood.

That’s how Witch Hunter the dramatized audiobook was born. Today is the 7th birthday of the release of its last episode on YouTube.

Potato Potahto

In the audio drama community there are a lot of people who hate narrators, so they refuse to call it audio drama as soon as there is a narrator involved. Since we do understand their point of view, we call it ‘dramatized audiobooks’ if it’s just the novel’s text with at least two voice actors or more, sound effects and music. I believe Bluefax, who narrated The Hobbit, calls it ‘theatrical audiobooks’. And Graphic Audio calls it “a mooovieee iiin yooouuuuur miiiiiiind!” 😀
It’s my favourite medium to enjoy an immersive story IF it is well done.

Still, there are often mix-ups between dramatized audiobooks and audio dramas, since the term “full cast dramatisation” tends to be used for both.

We want to use the term ‘audiobook’ since that’s essentially what it it. This creates the expectation of an 11 to 15 hours (or more) audio project. The term ‘dramatized’ is important to us to indicate it’s not just a ‘reading’ of a novel, but it’s created to fully immerse you in the story by using different character voices, sound effects and music.

Some audiobook lovers argue that the extras are what pulls them out of the story, but we don’t share this, especially with the right balance of voice, sound and music. But after all, it is a very subjective experience. What works best for you, may be very specific and personal.

The philosophy behind creating these audio stories

In the end, what we want to achieve with our stories is just create a world and characters of our own, to entertain people and have them immersed in our stories and setting. We don’t intend to allegorize or shove messages down our audienc’s throat. We just create what we love and like to share this with others. 

In the past, great stories have helped us cope with the toughest situations and pulled us through the roughest patches of our lives. If our stories can do this for our audience, we could not be happier. 

Public launch on Patreon

On Wednesday March 17th, we presented our vision and ideas for a Patreon page to our local business network online, along with a number of international guests, like Jack Ward from the Sonic Society, a very talented audio drama writer and producer from Nova Scotia, Canada. Movie director Tim Yates joined us in that online meeting to watch our presentation and Karim Kromfli, an established voice actor in the audio drama community, who played count Edelhart in The Beast of the Western Wilds. Our accountant, Nele, was also present. She is the one who convinced us to finally put our Patreon idea into practise and out of gratitude, we named two characters after her and her husband Piet in The Treasure of Boneyard Bay.

The public launch of our Patreon page was four days later on Sunday the 21st. It was probably not the best idea to launch on a Sunday, but we just wanted to launch soon after the pre-launch on Wednesday and still have some time to review our tiers and goals.

As soon as we made our Patreon reward system known to our YouTube community 8 people joined us as patrons on that very same day. [edit: 7 of them are still with us 2 years later]

Step 1…

Our Patreon page is the first step in finding proper financial support to help us create more content. I work fulltime as a freelance copywriter and voice-over and Domien works part-time as an assistant librarian in a law firm. He’s also a part-time sound editor and voice-over. Moreover we’re both parents to two amazing little boys who need and deserve a lot of our attention.

Being a small entrepreneur in Belgium is a big struggle, especially for two INFP-Ts. It’s expensive and the paperwork is boring and time consuming. Belgium is a very tax heavy country.  Needless to say that starting your own business won’t grant you a lot of extra time or resources. But it beats everything else in terms of freedom!

So the thing that provides us with the least income, creating our own full-lenght fantasy audiobooks, is what gives us joy and is most fulfilling in our lives. We hope to be able to grow it into a business that will pay for food, our rental appartment, our car and the electricity bills without needing our ‘Clark Kent jobs’ anymore, as Jack Ward puts it superbly. 

Right now, we use our Patreon earnings to pay for our software, sound effects and music. Besides the fact that it would save us a lot of money we really want to stay away from A.I. and support actual creators instead. We have kept our financial support on Patreon more or less steady for the last couple of years [edit: 2024]. Should our amount of Patrons grow, we would love to buy us more time to create.

Call us dreamers but we hope we’ll be able to do this full-time one day. We have at least 10 solid story ideas waiting in line to be written and dramatized. Some of them already have detailed plot outlines. Being able to dedicate our lives to creating audio epics would make us better friends, spouses, parents and people. Patreon is step one in achieving that goal.

Accessible to all!

We have thought this over long and hard… And we always wanted to make supporting us accessible. If all of our listeners on YouTube who loved our stories and let us know would support us for a mere $ 1, that would make a big difference. So we made it interesting just to be part of the Patreon Community for that amount with exclusive news, polls, fun facts and other content.

Since we know we can’t deliver new story content each month, we made sure we had exclusive merchandise on Patreon. The cut from our profit by the Patreon platform is well worth it as we would feel bad if that kind of loyal support from our listeners didn’t get properly rewarded.

Higher quality

A second reason why we started a Patreon page is because we want to aim for higher quality audio projects with each new release! We can invest the money in new legal sound effects, music and plugins for Adobe Audition.

[edit 2023: We actually did  that and if you compare our most recent pre-Patreon project, The Beast of the Western Wilds, with our most recent post- Patreon project The Treasure of Boneyard Bay, you WILL notice the difference!]

We would also like to invest in uniform professional book covers by an illustrator [edit 2024: We did, in fact, have covers made last year, for The Beast of the Western Wilds and The Treasure of Boneyard Bay, by Dragan Ciric (no A.I.!)]. Maybe we could even launch illustrated editions in the future, and create more physical media like mp3 discs or usb drives or new merchandize available for people outside of Patreon…

If that sounds great to you, please consider supporting us in any way you prefer. It doesn’t even have to cost you a penny if you have nothing to spare.

Patreon tiers sidebar
Patreon logo Audio Epics

Our patrons inspire us every day to create more content and help us expand our fantasy universe. Moreover, whenever we’re in doubt or we get stuck, we ask for their input, feedback or opinion. On our Patreon page there are polls, exclusive updates on our progress, fun facts and other exclusive content. And there is merchandize that you can’t get anywhere else!

Become a Patron

Join our Patreon community and receive great benefits, both at the moment you join and with the release of each new project. Become a Guardsman ($ 1), Captain of the Guard ($ 3), Witch Hunter ($ 5), Witch Hunter Master ($ 10), Grand General ($ 15), Saint ($ 25) or Creator ($ 50) , Check out which reward you would love the most!

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