You know how I said staring at a bunch of photos of myself was the worst thing I’ve had to do in this process of self publishing? Yeah, well, listening to my own voice is a pretty close second.
I’m hoping it doesn’t turn out to be the same for other people, though.
See, I believe in accessibility, and one of the things that makes books immensely more accessible is audio books. People with all sorts of vision impairments, learning disabilities, people who need to multitask, and people who just enjoy absorbing their stories audibly all deserve access to books, so I always hoped I would be able to provide audio books when I published. Amazon’s Audible is making that possible, and I decided to try my own hand at doing the recording.
Now, I’m not completely new to this: I used to record Vacancy as a podcast/audio drama thing. (I stopped because it wasn’t profitable and selfish me wanted to start focusing on stories I could monetize.) I added in music and sound effects, though, and I didn’t have any kind of quality check on on the files–I just did what I thought sounded good. Recording for Audible is a very different game.
If you’re interested in narrating your own audio books, this isn’t a tutorial, but I’ll include some of the links at the bottom of this post that I used to start up. What I can offer you here is a little of my experience. And oh boy.
I want to be clear, too, I didn’t have to do this–I could have hired a narrator and either paid them up front or shared royalties with them, but they are expensive (as they should be), and I really wanted to try it out myself. I don’t have the most pleasant voice, and I’m not trained in enunciation or anything, but I think I can emote vocally at a slightly above-average level when I’m all alone in my bedroom and I have an infinite amount of takes. Also, I know how the lines I wrote should sound.
So I’ve been up to my vocal cords in plugins and herbal teas trying to make it happen. First, I had to find a place that was quiet enough to meet the Audible file requirements. I probably looked like a crazy person just walking around my house and stopping to listen to the quality of the room. If you’ve never done this, you should, just for fun! It’s crazy how different one room will sound from another. But also, maybe don’t because once you hear something new, like the extremely distant but constant hum of a highway that’s miles away, you might not ever be able to unhear it, and you might actually go crazy.
I found that the master bedroom had the best noise absorption which is unfortunate because I have to set up and take down a mini recording studio between the bed and closet every day. I’ve got a desk I move in there, a computer for recording audio and a second one for reading my manuscript, a microphone and pop filter, and a chair. I hang a blanket on the wall and the back of the door, and I hope my cat’s heavy breathing isn’t being picked up on the mic.
My room isn’t soundproof though. I have to stop for frequent airplanes (we’re relatively close to a local airport, and I never noticed how many planes there are until I needed consistent quiet), the giant work trucks that hit the speed bump out in front of my house, and our fucking neighbor who decided he needed to use his leaf blower for three hours straight on Wednesday. The leaves are all gone, Frank, fuck off! There’s also the little issue of my cats. I’ve got a character called Diocles and a cat called Diocletian and he thinks he’s being called every time I say that name then he hangs around and scratched the back of my chair at the most inopportune times.
But when it finally is quiet enough for recording, there’s the actual, like, recording part. I tend to talk fast, so I have to pace myself. I also have to make no mouth sounds or take any audible breaths, and not stutter through or mispronounce anything all while staying on script exactly. I’m not saying this because I’m particularly good at any of this–there are about a million takes of me fucking up and swearing–I’m saying it because it’s hard. Seriously, major props to professional narrators and voice actors. This is grueling and tedious, and I really don’t even know the half of it!
But the benefits of doing this far outweigh the problems, for me. I’m rereading my book a last time before it goes out into the world, and I’m finding two things from hearing the words out loud: mistakes that have been missed in every beta read and edit, and stuff that just doesn’t sound quite right. They’re admittedly very tiny things, an “it” instead of “is” or two words that are better if they’re switched, but I’m so freaking glad I have the chance to fix them before The Korinniad goes live (which, Dear Reader, is fingers crossed this Saturday!) I don’t know that it’s going to be mistake-free and perfect, but it’s going to be damn close.
And I’m also having a really good time recording it. Sure, my throat is pissed, but I love these characters and scenes, and getting to express them in this way is just a little bonus to this whole experience. People might hate it in the end–I’m prepared for that, I’m not a professional narrator, but I’m also not a professional writer, and my book is coming out regardless, SO THERE.
So if you’re a self published author, I’d like to encourage you to consider getting your books out there as audio books too. I’m not saying you have to or even should record them yourselves, I just think that if you can, you should try and dabble in that market for accessibility’s sake. You might even find a whole new audience. Dear Reader and Dear Listener.