Today’s 16th annual Audiobook Tea, presented at BEA by the Audio Publishers Association, features megaselling authors Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven King, Scholastic), Terry McMillan (I Almost Forgot About You, Penguin Random House), John Scalzi (The Dispatcher, Audible), and emcee Michael Koryta (Rise the Dark, Hachette).

“The audiobook industry has grown exponentially since the tea was first introduced,” says Katherine Punia, public relations and events committee chair for the APA, as well as director of publicity for Penguin Random House Audio. “The event began as a way to highlight and increase awareness for the audio format, and it certainly still does that. The tea also provides authors who are audiobook advocates a platform to share their stories of going into the recording studio, and their relationships with the actors who narrate their work.” The tea attracts big names and nearly always has a sellout crowd, typically attracting up to 350 guests each year.

Michael Koryta is delighted with the different styles in this year’s group of authors. “I hope to provide a forum for the writers on the panel to talk about the sound on the page, the way rhythm and tone matters to them as they write,” he says. “It’s one of the most critical elements of narrative voice, and often ignored. I’m also curious about what they hear when they write, if there is a sense of different actors or a single storyteller. This is a fun opportunity.” Booksellers will be among the attendees, of course, but so will audiobook fans, industry colleagues, and many librarians. “They’ve been longtime advocates of the audio format,” Punia says.

Audiobook casting is specific to every book. “There is no one cookie-cutter process for this,” says Punia. “Each project is unique, and requires different skills of the actor narrating. At Penguin Random House Audio, each book is assigned a producer who works with the author to find the best storyteller for the book, matching the text with a narrator whose skills can bring to life the characters, accents or dialects, and atmosphere of the story.”

Listening to an actor read a book “is both surreal and humbling,” Koryta says. “I’ve been fortunate to have exceptional narrators on my work—Scott Brick and Robert Petkoff—and what is at first jarring can be enlightening.” He credits the actors with sometimes improving the tone of his books. “Those two have propped up some wooden sentences for me, certainly,” he notes. “I can remember one instance where Petkoff absolutely saved me by hitting a repeated word in different ways so the echo wasn’t cumbersome. I was very impressed.”

Founded in 1987, APA is the first and only nonprofit trade organization for the audiobook industry in the United States. Its mission is to “advocate the common, collective business interests of audio publishers.” Says Punia, “It’s incredibly meaningful to have such a high profile opportunity to celebrate storytelling and the spoken word at BEA, the publishing industry’s largest event.”

Tea will be 3:30–4:30 p.m., in room W183.

This article appeared in the May 13, 2016 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.