Richard Haywood is not a trucker. Nor is he a cowboy. But he knows all he needs to know about the two lifestyles to produce Western-themed audio books that have recently become all the rage with truck drivers.
Before starting his audiobook business in 1993, Haywood, a former gas and oil appraiser, had no interest in listening to books on tape. "I enjoy getting lost in a novel," the avid reader says. But his brother's bid for a seat in the Texas Senate changed everything.
On the campaign trail, Tom Haywood spent a lot of time in his car and got into the habit of checking out audio books from the library to pass the time. So in 1993, Tom suggested they research the industry to see if it would be a profitable business. The numbers looked promising, and that same year, the siblings debuted their business, Spellbinders Inc., in Dallas (Richard as since bought his brother out).
Though the company publishes and sells all kinds of audio books in bookstores and truck stops nationwide, Spellbinders is known for the Westerns written specifically for truck drivers, who, according Haywood's research, comprise the largest group of audiobook users
Surprising? "Most people have a perception of truck drivers as illiterate," says Haywood, 58. "It's unfortunate because there are a lot of [people with] master's degrees out there driving trucks." As for their appetite for Westerns" Well, Haywood explains, they consider themselves "the last of the cowboys."
Spellbinders' fans are eating up the cowboy sagas as fast as Haywood can buy the rights to local authors' books and hire local actors to record them. Haywood estimates 1995 sales at $250,000-not bad for a guy who wasn't interested in audio books in the first place.