I have no budget. It’s zero.
So even though I asked Carrie Underwood’s publicist if she would ask Carrie to narrate my audiobooks for me, I knew I couldn’t afford her. But I’m the kind of gal that needs to be told ‘no’ to be able to move on with my life, so I had to ask.
I knew I needed audiobooks for The MisAdventures of Miss Lilly. They’re too hilarious not to be available as performances. So I dug into research. And by “research” I mean I listened to a million and two audiobook samples. And took copious notes.
I noted two things about the narration performances:
One, when the person reading the book was a professional narrator, there was a sense that they didn’t completely understand the whole of the author’s point at each increment. They did bang up jobs, don’t get me wrong, but it was a “dramatic read” of the book, complete with fake accents in some cases, and it didn’t always convey what it needed to. Not always! Some were dead on and perfect. But I could tell a difference.
Two, when the author read their own book, the majority of them seemed to be bored. I don’t think it was because they were so over the words they’d written, edited, and bled over. I think it was because they maybe thought they needed to play it cool to be professional. It bothered me. As a listener, I don’t want you to be too cool for your message. I know the words were in your head and they had inflection to them when you wrote them. I want to hear that.
So, because I couldn’t afford to hire a professional and then “direct” them on how to read my book, I knew I was going to have to do it myself. I’m not so arrogant to think that I was the best person for the job.
But I was the only person for the job.
That decided, I knew I didn’t want to just read the book, I wanted to act it. So I practiced, and practiced, and practiced. I recorded my voice, I recorded myself (bless me), I consulted my husband (bless him), until I knew I was kind of ready.
I am lucky enough to know good people who own a record company. Not a huge one, but one that houses skills and talents outside my wheelhouse. They agreed to produce the books. I died a happy death. This is important. I’m sure your computer has a great microphone and sounds decent, but nothing beats a soundproof booth and the technical skills of a professional. And a closet full of clothes does not a soundproof booth make. #TrustMe
With two audiobooks with good reviews under my belt, I’m sure I know what I’m doing [insert sarcasm here]. I’m going to share with you my tips and tricks of the trade. You can thank me later.
1. Do not record the whole book in one session. I know when you book studio time, it’s better for the studio to book you a whole block of 8-10 hours. Don’t. You lose yourself, your momentum and your voice at a certain point. I recommend 2-2.5 hour sessions. I found that with about a ten minute warm-up, I really hit my stride, and then started to wane around the 2 hour mark.
2. You have to read aloud the portion you’re due to read before the session. Read aloud. Not just read. I recommend at least twice. That way you know what you want to do with it. You’re acting your book, whether it’s fiction or non, you know sometimes you meant to be droll and sometimes you meant to be irreverent. An audiobook is the only place you can truly nail that for everyone. You need to play with different inflections. What may seem like a waste of time (because you wrote the book!) is truly invaluable. You cannot be overly prepared.
3. A week leading up to your session, drink tea with honey, lemon, and lavender oil. Suck down honey/menthol cough drops like your life depends on it. Reduce the dairy in your life. Guzzle water. The morning of your session, no coffee, no dairy, gargle with salt water, and drink two cups of the tea concoction. Cough drops one after the other. An hour before chew gum that’s not sweet. I also recommend a round of “red leather/yellow leather” to warm up. And I always sing to warm up on the way to the session. Vintage Reba McEntire. This all sounds completely ridiculous. This all works amazingly.
4. Don’t bring your manuscript in hard format. Bring it on an e-Reader. Nothing more annoying than flipping pages heard in the background. It’s very hard to edit those out.
5. Don’t wear anything that may clink. Wear light, comfortable clothes that make no sound. You’ll probably start to sweat ten minutes in. No? Just me, then.
6. Get excited. Really. This is your book, man. Bring it. You can be cool in the car on the way home.
7. Make sure your producer is the real deal and will tell you when you flub stuff up. You don’t want a yes-man telling you that you hit it out of the park when you really stunk it up.
8. When you flub, pause and restart prior to the flub. The producer has to splice your mistakes out and bring it all together. Be kind and make it easy on them.
9. Slow down. No really. Read slower than you think you should. Enunciate. But not too much. You’ll create a lisp. No? Just me.
10. Once the files are done, I recommend using ACX as a distributor. They’ll link up to Amazon, Audible, and iTunes quickly. Your book must already be available on these sites to use, so make sure your print or eBook is already available. All your chapters must be a separate file, and you have to include an intro and opening and closing credits. You must give credit where credit is due. And if you get fancy and have anyone else join you in the recording you must note them.
11. Wait. It takes several weeks for ACX to approve your files and get it out there. Make sure you have an audiobook version of your cover uploaded. I usually just crop my eBook covers a little and resize to a square.
12. Once ACX approves you, the book will be available through each vendor, usually one at a time. ACX will also give you 25 free audiobook codes to give away for beta-listeners.
13. Start all over!
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Got any questions about the process? Need help or recommendations? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org