Listening to an audiobook is, by its very nature, a sensory experience—and for the past decade, GraphicAudio, an imprint of the Bethesda, Md.–based Cutting Corp., has been targeting listeners’ senses in a big way. The company creates full-cast audio dramas based on comic book novelizations and genre fiction, enhanced with sound effects and cinematic musical scores. GraphicAudio officially turned 10 last month, “but we’ve been celebrating all year with our customers and fans,” says executive producer Anji Cornette.
Looking back to GraphicAudio’s origins offers a peek into the history of the Cutting Corp., which opened its doors in 1971. “There is a Mr. and Mrs. Cutting,” says Cornette. In their company’s early years, the Cuttings produced a series of six classic children’s stories, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Wizard of Oz, for the yellow Fisher Price Spellbinder Cassette Tape Recorder that was popular at that time. Those stories performed well, and the Cuttings went on to work on another project for Fisher Price in the 1980s—a Classic Comics line, including packaged Marvel comics with audio cassettes, also for the Spellbinder recorder. “Then things really took off,” says Cornette.
The Cutting Corp. expanded its production and duplication operations and in the 1980s created an Archival Sound Lab, which offers audio preservation services. Cornette joined the company in 1989 as a recording engineer and has been managing the GraphicAudio imprint—which includes wearing marketing, editorial, and production hats—since it debuted in October 2004. “We started with four titles a month, and we’ve grown to roughly seven to nine titles per month on average,” says Cornette. There are currently close to 1,000 titles in the imprint’s catalogue. As part of that growth, Cornette notes that GraphicAudio has expanded its action adventure genres and now publishes “everything from westerns to horror fiction.” The imprint’s audio editions of titles from DC Comics and Marvel Comics are also a key portion of the product mix.
In order to grow, GraphicAudio has had to keep pace with technological advances to offer listeners the best audio experience possible. Last year, the imprint launched a new website that offers high-quality download formats like FLAC. And by the end of 2013, GraphicAudio introduced its GraphicAudio Access app for on-the-go listening and published its first 5.1 Surround Sound productions: Marvel’s Spider-Man Drowned in Thunder and the first title in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy. Another recent Surround Sound release is Cemetery Girl 1: The Pretender by Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden, the imprint’s first-ever direct-from-graphic-novel project. “In this case, the sound effects really took over and became a main character in the production,” Cornette says.
According to Cornette, the past 10 years have been very much about building GraphicAudio’s brand. “We want to tell or retell a story in a compelling movie-in-your-mind format,” she says, citing the imprint’s objective—and its tagline. Having a full cast, sound effects, and cinematic music (some of which are originally composed for specific titles)—the GraphicAudio hallmarks—“really enrich the listening experience,” says Cornette. “We hope we can deliver the kind of entertainment that has listeners grabbing cotton candy and popcorn while they listen. We want them to feel like they are in the middle of the action.”
To mark its first-decade milestone, GraphicAudio has been giving away bonus merchandise since earlier this year in the form of T-shirts, hoodies, thermal mugs, duffel bags, hats, and more. Retail stores received 10th-anniversary magnets with Graphic-Audio products to distribute to customers. And, adds Cornette, “we did a very fun customer send-in video campaign called, ‘I Want My Graphic-Audio.’ ”
The birthday celebration is not all about looking back, however. Cornette speaks enthusiastically about new projects on the horizon, including more Surround Sound titles and a collaboration with Delta Airlines, in which GraphicAudio productions will be offered on an on-demand radio channel on all flights in January and February 2015. “We’re proud to be an independent U.S. publisher,” says Cornette, “and when you believe in your product, the work is fun, even though it’s not always easy.” She points to heartfelt feedback from fans all over the world as confirmation that things are moving ahead on the right track. “There are some people we hear from who get a fire going in the fireplace, dim the lights, and blare GraphicAudio as their home entertainment,” she says. “That’s exciting. I’m looking forward to the next 10 years and beyond.”