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  • Writer's picturePatrick Dylan

And the Award Goes to...

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

Safe, Wanted, and Loved was named a finalist for an Audie Award, a competition people liken to the Oscars for audiobooks. What a wonderful honor!

It's up against memoirs by Molly Shannon, Billy Porter, and Delia Ephron, all of whom perform their own narration. Oh, and a memoir about Paul Newman narrated by people like Jeff Daniels and Newman's own family members. All of these titles are “Editor’s Picks” on Amazon with over 1500 ratings each! The odds of actually winning are pretty low, but just being nominated is a huge victory.

For those who don’t know, awards such as these are more like marketing strategies than competitions. I mean, you still need to be selected above other entrants, but you have to pay an entrance fee. It makes sense, as these organizations must expend money to sponsor their events. They have judges and trophies and their own marketing costs. But it’s not like you receive a surprise notification out of the blue. And if no one pays the entrance fee, your audiobook won’t even be considered.

Most of the books submitted to the Audies are sponsored by the big publishing houses. These companies go through their titles and select those they believe have the highest chance of success. It works the same for other awards shows, too. Remember when “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” failed to win an Oscar? That’s because the deadline to submit came before the song became a hit, and Disney entered a different song from Encanto for consideration. Too bad; I think Lin Manuel-Miranda deserved EGOT status, and “Bruno” probably would have gotten him there.

Like so many things in life, winning an Audie is only possible if you have sufficient resources. It’s not a fortune to enter, but it does cost a couple of hundred bucks. For Indie authors who don’t have a large company footing the bill, the decision to participate isn’t easy. But very few paths exist for us to market our novels. Winning awards provides credibility and exposure, and it might even get your title mentioned in an article. Without these, convincing anyone to invest time with your story borders on the impossible.

My wife and I published our story with the hope that it might contribute to ending the stigma that surrounds psychosis. Perhaps people who had never experienced serious mental illness could learn about it through us. If so, we might convince them that conditions of the brain should be treated with the same compassion as diseases elsewhere in the body. But if no one ever picked up the book, we’d be hard pressed to achieve that goal.

That’s why we decided to produce an audio version—to reach more people. When we persuaded the über-talented Raúl Esparza to become our narrator it was like winning the lottery. I’m proud of the book, but what caught the attention of the Audie judges was undoubtedly Raúl’s ability to bring the story to life. I’ve read the printed copy a million times, but it’s truly remarkable when I listen to the audiobook. Raúl has the amazing ability to transport me right back to those challenging times.

However, this makes the audiobook a heartbreaking rollercoaster of an experience. In a way, that was the intention—loving someone who is suffering from serious mental illness brings with it an incredible amount of emotional upheaval. But the heavy subject matter means it may not be first on someone’s download list. And that’s why paying the entrance fee for the Audies was an easy decision. We were hopeful that the judges would recognize the brilliance of Raúl’s narration, too, and help us reach people who otherwise might hesitate to give the audiobook a try. Listening to a difficult story is one thing; hearing a brilliant performance is something entirely different.

And it worked! But then again, it shouldn't have been a surprise. As I stated when I announced the audiobook last fall, Raúl surpassed even our highest expectations. He captures the story perfectly--expressing the emotions, crafting the scenes, and giving voice to the many characters involved.

Sure, a big gala is planned where the winners will be named, and they’ll garner the most media attention. The big publishing houses will use their accolades to sell more copies and cover advances. But we’ve already won. Our self-published memoir is being ranked alongside celebrity books supported by huge companies with sizable marketing budgets. The fact that we’re even in the conversation is simply astounding.

Thank you, Raúl, for you time and talent. For those still unaware of this actor’s prodigious skill, here’s what New York Magazine had to say about him years ago:

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