I’ve been asked lately by several people in NZ simply, “How to do Audio Books?” So, I’m thinking I should give a bit of a run down and I’ll call it, ‘the ‘Billy basic’s of creating audiobooks’.
There is a lot to it and nearly anybody can do it… in fact I know of a couple of legally blind people who have a passion to read for others and they are simply loved by those other, blind people who cannot read. I personally don’t know how they read while blind except by reading brail and speaking that into the microphone. Right there is the most difficult part of audiobooks… speaking into an electronic device, which can be quite a shock, if you’re not used to it. Listening to your own recorded voice also raises up the heckles and brings the worst critic out… Yourself!
Just because you might hate your own recorded voice, does that mean everyone else will too? No, that does not! In fact, you would be surprised who will love it! Even if you happen to have a natural wisp or some defect in the way you speak, it doesn’t matter. There are plenty of people out there who really will love you voice. Just swallow and nod, ok… and believe me.
First obstacle (obvious).
You need to be able to read and to speak and you will need to be able to read a few words ahead of what you speak. Scanning (text) and speaking as if in a conversation. Try doing this without a microphone, for example… read a story to your kids, surely you can do that? Of course you will need to have fairly clear dictation and articulation too, but these things can be practiced and improved upon. A simple exercise you can do to improve these things is by using a pencil and putting it right into your mouth, like a dog with a bone. Then begin speaking a line (or a paragraph) of text/dialogue with the pencil in your mouth. This obstacle (pencil) forces you to over exaggerate the shape of your lips, palate, tongue and the movement of all general mouth and facial muscles you need to use, for communicating. It’s also a brilliant warming up exercise.
You might be a person who is able to put on various accents, tempos and voices to create different characters. Also, you will need to put the expressions in at the right places and times. No one will listen to a monotone monologue for very long and enjoy it. Here is a quick arcanum to create multiple characters on the fly. The rule of P.A.A.D
Pitch, Age, Accent, Defects
Pitch: Is this character a male of female? Males can do female characters and females can do male characters, just adjust your pitch a little. Ask things like… is he/she a relaxed hippy or a stressed professor? Does he/she talk ten-to the dozen or slowly and precisely, or menacingly? These are the sort of questions you need to ask of your characters.
Age: Old, or young? How old/young? A teenager or a child? Middle aged or ancient? If you can picture someone in your mind and even copy/paste this character into your script (in the places where this person speaks) this can go a long way to helping you recall that character throughout the story you’re reading so that you can perform them quickly and with ease.
Accent: Are you good at doing various accents? How is your Scottish, or Irish? What about your Maori, or Texan? The big key with accents is that you need to consider your audience and whether you can maintain whatever accent you’re imitating for ‘long-form reading’. If you are narrating a book specifically set in South Africa and the book is written to that audience. If the characters need to be recognised as coming from that area, then you will need to think about (and correctly learn) certain pronunciations of, for example place names, rivers, tribal names or artefacts. By going on youtube you can learn many pronunciations of foreign words and to become a successful narrator, you will need to be convincing.
Defects: Does your character (even your narrator, if the story is told from the narrator’s perspective) have a lisp, or a jutting jaw? Do they have some missing teeth, or have they had a stroke? Do they tend to be short of breath? What level of education have they received? Are they even human? You can find clues and hints from the story text for things like this and you should take note of them to make a believable character come across the sound waves, because that is all you have to tell a story via an audiobook… your voice.
You also have your physical body, and this is an important thing to consider also when you are performing a character in your narration. If your character has a jutting jaw then actually, physically jut out your jaw when reading this character’s words. This act alone will create to the listener a very unique sounding voice. If your character has a hunch in his spine, then hunch your back as you perform this character. You will be amazed how different the sound of your character will come across to the listener by physicalising the characters defects.
Second obstacle, Equipment.
The bare minimum you will need is a computer with audio engineering software loaded onto it. Either a DAW, Digital Audio Workstation, or a Sound Editing Programme. A microphone (I strongly recommend a digital USB interface and XLR microphone, rather than just a USB microphone because this will give you more control of what is being recorded to your computer and also a better quality final result). You will also need a quiet place to record, preferably in a space that you don’t have to keep pulling apart and putting back together again, whenever you go to do your recording.
Now, this area can take a whole lot of explaining, so I think I’ll leave this info for another blog because, even if you have the equipment there is still plenty of prep work you’ll need to do before you even record your first paragraph.
However, I will give you some great tools to get you started…
DAW – I use and highly recommend Tracktion 6 (or T6). because it is FREE and incredibly advanced. There is nothing you cannot do with this programme. There are other DAW’s out there which are cheap, and some are very expensive. This T6 tops many of them.
Sound Editor – I also use and recommend Audacity. (P.C. only) This too, is free and easy to use BUT it is much more limited than T6 in many ways. I do, however use both programmes because you can record with either and edit with either and each have their own ‘certain features’ that you just need. Besides, they work with each other very well.
That fruity computer company… usually comes with Garage Band but I’m not familiar with this programme although I know it is also an excellent Sound Editor to use for Audio Books.
The Best book I have found to learn so much about turning your novels into Audio Books is Making Tracks, by Dan Sawyers (my Man)
This is one serious book you MUST read if you want to make a go of narrating. I reference this book often. And there is another brilliant book I highly recommend too, and it’s this one Audio Engineering 101 — by Tim Dittmar.
Now, I have run out of time to tell you more about ‘How to do the Audio Book thing’ in this article, but I will share some more with you soon. In the meantime, before I add to this I thoroughly recommend you get hold of some audiobooks yourselves and begin listening!
You can get them from your local library and you can download them directly to your phone, or whatever you would normally listen to ‘audio stuff’ with. They usually stay on your device for two weeks before they expire and disappear. Or, you can get registered with many audiobook distributors and even buy them, one at a time.
Now, if you wish to hear from me from time to time, with any newsletters, blogs or interviews (and of course ‘training’) that I’m going to be doing… then I have a deal for you to get you started right away with audiobooks! I will give you two FREE audiobooks of my own, as a ‘thank you for subscribing’ gesture. Click here to subscribe and I will send you immediately, two short stories (written, narrated and produced by ‘yours truly’) to download and keep forever. (I promise not to spam you and you can opt out whenever you’ve had enough of me, lol!)
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