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Audio-book Publisher Targets TV Fans

Image courtesy Buzzy Multimedia.

What do you get when you mix avid television fans and the series stars who inspire their fervor?

Chances are you didn't answer "an audio-book publishing company." Yet mixing stars and their fans has proved a winning combination for Buzzy Multimedia.

Buzzy Multimedia specializes in pairing authors and actors with fan followings to create audio-books with guaranteed sales. "That's how we pulled P.N. Elrod and Nigel Bennett together, and that's how we paired James Marsters with Jim Butcher," Joy Poger, president of the Scarsdale, New York, company said.

The company first took shape in the mid-1990s with the release of the audio-tape of The Keeper of the King, a vampire novel co-authored by Elrod and Bennett, and narrated by Bennett. But according to Poger, the right combination of science fiction audio-book publishing and fan events such as Jim Butcher's signings at Dragon*Con 2003 only began to jell over the past year.

Unlike many television producers and writers who seem to relish disappointing fan expectations, Poger and June Williams, Buzzy's vice president, seek to reinforce the connection between fan and product. "Instead of spending a fortune on advertising in magazines, we put our money into our Web site, MediaFans.com."

In addition to prominent links to Buzzy Multimedia products, Mediafans.com hosts fan fiction, photo galleries, fan links and cast information on over 40 television series, from Andromeda to X-Files. It also connects viewers to movie and television news, often spotlighting items related to Buzzy Multimedia products in some way.

For example, one current link seeks to build fan support for a TV series featuring Angel and Buffy, the Vampire Slayer star Marsters as the Jim Butcher character he narrates on two Buzzy CD sets. Another link advises Forever Knight fans that the series' first DVD collection will go on sale October 21. The 1992-1996 TV series featured Keeper of the King narrator Nigel Bennett as the anti-hero vampire Lucien LaCroix.

Jim Butcher discusses his Harry Dresden series with fans at the Buzzy Multimedia booth at DragonCon 2003 in Atlanta, Sept. 7. Sales of Butcher's books and related CDs (narrated by James Marsters) were so brisk, Buzzy Multimedia needed to ship in additional boxes of books to meet customer demand. (Photo by Jean Marie Ward)

"One of the perks we have on Mediafans.com is talking fan fiction," Poger said. "The voice is still a little mechanical. We're looking for a grant writer to help us get funding to develop the technology for the fan fiction, which in turn, would help the visually impaired fans."

Poger added: "It's amazing technology. It's not a sound file, so it doesn't take up that much space in the transfer feed."

Until the site's fan fiction reader can be developed further, however, Poger and Williams plan to use the MP3 format to present digitized, audio versions of their favorite fan fiction. All with the authors' permission, Poger quickly adds.

For those not familiar with the terms, "fan fiction" (or "fan fic") consists of stories based on novels, movies, television shows, legends and works of literature written by people not connected with the original author or franchise. That means, fan fiction authors (and Web site hosts) cannot publish it for profit.

The writing quality ranges from the highly sophisticated stories of professional writers who hated to see a series character go the way of all reruns to the first, stumbling efforts of very young, very inexperienced writers. Most stories fall somewhere in the middle. But enough astoundingly awful material exists to inspire live journals, blogs and news groups dedicated to seeking out and sharing the very worst.

"All our fan fiction is based on television shows. We read just about everything that goes on Mediafans.com," Poger said. "Unlike other fan fiction sites for specific shows, we'll take just about everything, but we'll only recommend a few of them -- the ones we think the best.

"And since we picked Jim Butcher and Sarah A. Hoyt for our audio-books, we think we've got great taste," Poger said with a laugh.

Buzzy Multimedia plans to release the audio-book of Hoyt's Ill Met by Moonlight, a fantasy about William Shakespeare's life before he became a playwright, in early October.

"The actor who recorded [Ill Met by Moonlight] is Jason Carter, the actor who played Marcus Cole in Babylon 5," Poger said. "He's got a beautiful, great voice and a great following. There's a Web site called the Marcus Cole Estrogen Brigade, and you know you've got guaranteed sales when you see how many flaming hearts and arrows are on the site."

Image courtesy Buzzy Multimedia.

Also high on Pogers' and Williams' priority list: matching the perfect actor to Interlopers, Alan Dean Foster's fast-paced tale of trans-dimensional creatures who feed on human pain and suffering. Poger and Williams hope to release an Interlopers audio-book by early 2004. However, production schedules can -- and do-- change.

Charismatic character actors, such as Cole, Marsters and Bennett, shuttle between film, television and stage projects. Not only does this create scheduling challenges, it also affects their recording style.

"Voice-over actors will record a book of that length over a week and a half, working three to four hours a day," Poger noted. "But these actors are so pressed for time, they tend to scrunch the recording into a period of several days. Ill Met by Moonlight took three days, whereas a voice-over actor might have taken five or six days to record it.

"That's why when we look for the actors, we make sure that they have professional voice training and experience, so their voices will not crack under pressure," Poger said.

Even without a bottom line to worry about, Poger and Williams would hate it if that happened. Like their customers, they're sf/fantasy fans, too.

Click here to learn more about Buzzy Multimedia Publishing Corporation.

Click here to learn more about Mediafans.com.

Jean Marie Ward