The Blog

Paparazzi on the M1

When Ricky Gervais decided to start charging his listeners for his podcast, we assured our loyal audience that our podcast would remain free for ever. But shortly afterwards we got an email from, the very same company who were producing Gervais’s podcast series. They said they were looking for more comedy content, and that they liked our show. This propelled Georgina and me into something of a quandary. Having announced that we’d continue to podcast free, we were now being offered an opportunity to charge for what we produced. Who knows, maybe we’d make a fortune by marketing our content via Audible?

We went for a meeting with Chris McKee, the MD at Audible UK, and explained our dilemma.
“No problem,” he said. “Carry on producing the free shows, and at the same time make a series for us, which you can charge for.”
This seemed a fair solution, so we immediately brainstormed some ideas with Chris, and very quickly came up with Sowerby and Luff’s Sex Guide, which was to be a series of six 30 minute audio shows in which we talked dirty. The series launched about a month later, and featured Georgina’s and my A-Z of Sex. Not the most original idea we’ve ever come up with but, hey, we needed the money. Last time I looked, Sowerby and Luff’s Sex Guide was still flying high in the iTunes Audiobooks “Self Development” Top 100. Which is funny in itself.

Chris rang me and asked if we had any other content that Audible could market. The only thing I could think of was a novel I’d written a few years before. But I’d have to record it as an audiobook.
“I’ve got this audiobook,” I said.
“Great! What’s it called?”
“It’s called Sex on Legs,” I said.

It took me around two weeks to re-write Sex On Legs to work as an audiobook, and a further eight days to record it. It takes rather longer than you’d imagine to record an entire novel. Every single chapter tends to be riddled with fluffs, breaths, re-takes and the sound of pages turning, so the editing process seems never-ending. When I finally delivered the MP3 files to Audible, Chris came up with an excellent PR idea.
“I’ve looked into it,” he said, “and as far as I can see, this is the first novel to go to premium download audiobook without first being printed in book form.”
I was a little dubious. “Are you sure?” I said.
“Absolutely.  I’ll get our PR chaps to send out a press release straight away!”
The following week, Chris sat in his office with a journalist from The Financial Times, and told the story. To our amazement, during the next couple of days, every single national newspaper picked up the story from the FT, and before long, this appeared in The Times.

Novel release on podcast site

The first audio-only novel has gone on sale, after a British author decided to release his book as a podcast without a paper edition. Sex on Legs, a 75,000-word comic novel is being sold online by Audible UK, the company best known for selling podcasts by Ricky Gervais. Brian Luff, a London-based comedian, by-passed traditional publishing houses by pitching his novel directly to Audible. He believes that listeners will pay £9 for the book, a sci-fi thriller about a sports commentator and the possibility of a zero-minute mile.

I love the way it says, “He believes people will pay £9.” Who would have thought that the most famous newspaper in the world could be so bloody insulting to a budding author.

When The Independent ran the story a couple of days later, they wanted a photograph to accompany the article. They couldn’t find one they liked on the Sowerby and Luff website, so their picture desk rang Audible, who in turn gave them my mobile number. That morning Georgina and I were somewhere on the M1 between North Yorkshire and London, and I was driving, so Georgina answered the phone. She quickly explained to them where we were, then turned to me.
“It’s The Independent, ” she said. “They want to send a photographer, on a motorcycle, to photograph you on the motorway.”

I genuinely thought she was winding me up. 
“No, honestly,” she said. “They want to know if we can pull into the Service Station just outside Leicester, and they’ll take the picture there.”

Feeling like we were at the centre of a small media circus, we pulled into Leicester Services, and a man in a leather jacket sat me in a flowerbed, holding my laptop, and took 400 photographs of me, using a motordrive camera with a satellite dish attached to the top. Moments later he was back on his Yamaha and hurtling towards London.

As more and more press coverage began to appear for my audiobook Sex On Legs, controversy was beginning to brew. In particular, a science fiction author from Detroit called Scott Siegler emailed me to say that it was he who had first podcast an audio novel without initially going into print. Audible argued that he’d been giving his book away for free, whereas we “believed people would pay £9”, but Mr Siegler could not be appeased. Eventually, Audible changed the wording on the online blurb for Sex On Legs, and everyone was happy: