July 2023 Newsletter

Greetings from my second home, Oviedo in Northern Spain.

I really hope you don’t mind my sending another newsletter so soon after the last one, but I wanted to tell you about my first audiobook. I confess that I have only listened to very few – I prefer to read from paper or tablet – but I know that a growing number of people like and buy them. Perhaps you?

Free Audiobook!

AI comes to Audibooks

Why haven’t I created an audiobook version of my two books before? Money and time. If I get a professional actor to record it, it’s an expensive investment, and I don’t have any idea of whether it will ever be recouped through sales. If I record it myself, then that’s at least sixteen hours (to record an eight hour audiobook) lurking under a duvet (to cut out extraneous noise), hoping I don’t cough or sputter too much.

But now Artificial Intelligence, AI, has arrived – and with it, auto-narrated audiobooks. All I had to do was upload a file to Google, select a “voice”, and, two hours later, out popped a fully formed and saleable audiobook version of ‘The Repurposed Spy’.

It’s not very good – but it’s not very bad either. The voice sounds like a British male, not like a Dalek. There are a few words he can’t pronounce properly (I did my best to train the computer, but with limited success).

If you like audiobooks, I’d love to have your opinion – and so, for the remainder of July, I am giving it away for free. It’s on Google Play Books, and you can download it using this link: https://play.google.com/redeem?code=2VN3B4BL1VAZD

I’m sure the technology will improve rapidly, but for now it’s not going to replace professionals. However, that said, it does make audiobooks affordable. I see that most cost significantly more than the paperback equivalent – but the auto-narrated version can be sold for the same price or less than an ebook. For those who are blind or have deficient sight, this surely has to be a good development?


Oviedo, my second home, is the capital of the northern ‘principality’ of Asturias. It’s a beautiful and historic small city, with a population of about 200,000, nestling at the foot of a mountain range, the ‘Picos de Europa’. It boasts its own permanent symphony orchestra, choir and brass band, two theatres and an auditorium, so for most of the year there are cultural events most days, many of them free or heavily subsidised. In summer, the events move to the open air – highly optimistic of the council, as the weather here is variable to say the least. I have noticed that it rains less often than it used to (global warming, no doubt) but it’s still wetter than London, and the climate is remarkably similar. The coast, about thirty kilometres north of here, is similar to Cornwall, and attracts millions of tourists – almost all of them from Southern Spain, escaping the heat! So today, as I write this, it’s a sweltering 46 degrees in Seville (115 F) but just 27 here – going down to 21 (and rain) tomorrow.


When I’m here I have a lot of time not only to write but to read as well, and I set myself a goal ten days ago to only read novels by self-published authors – at least for the next few months. This on the basis that us authors need all the help we can get, so I am buying the books and posting reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I’ve finished four so far and am halfway through the fifth. I’ve decided that I will finish ten and then post my general conclusions!

Meanwhile, if you’re interested, you can read my reviews at https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/149048075-oliver-dowson


I owe you an apology. In these newsletters, and on social media, I keep asking for reviews of my books. Then today I read this article https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/jul/10/stop-asking-me-for-feedback-how-am-i-supposed-to-review-a-tea-towel

I think you’ll enjoy reading it – and most, if not all, of us will share Emma Beddington’s opinion. So, whilst I’m not selling tea towels, I’m sorry that I have kept pestering you for reviews. However, if you’ve given one, or are willing to write one, all I can say is thank you, and thank you again. I doubt that leaving a review for a tea towel makes any difference to the vendor’s sales on Amazon – but I know that, for books, more reviews, even not-so-good ones, result in more sales.


While I’m here, I’m writing most days, and now the finish line for the first full draft is in sight!

And finally, I’m one of the millions who have joined the new social media platform, Threads. I’m not a prolific poster on any platform, but please do follow me on any or all of them, and I’ll follow you back. I may not post them myself, but I’m a sucker for a nice cat or family picture!

Email works too – I enjoy staying in touch, so do write, I will always reply.

Best wishes,