Beyond Naked: My Audiobook Adventure

This morning about 7 AM I emerged from my sound studio having recorded the last word of my Tale of Hope “The Ring and the Flag”, which I’m making into an audiobook. I don’t know about you, but I read my stories to myself all the time. As I write the first draft I tie-break between phrases by hearing them out loud. I speak as I polish, all the time- some chapters I’ve probably chanted ten times over. And if you don’t know, I’m an amateur ham from way back- I’ve acted onstage since I was six (when I was type-cast in my first grade church school skit in the role of Jesus). I heard that audiobooks are cool because they bring in a new audience- the people who don’t read but who do listen to stuff on their way to work, while doing the laundry, and so on. And the websites I’ve looked at say people like hearing a tale narrated by the author. I figured what could happen?

Now I know.

My main publishing platform Smashwords has made an agreement with Podiobooks to link up their e-book pages from the former to audio files at the latter. You can listen to a chapter in your favorite genre for free through any MP3 device. Just like other audio exchanges, you can seek a pro to read your book (and pay them) or do it yourself. First choice easy! I listened to a couple and became somewhat excited- you know the sound quality is first-rate, you can picture the beautiful boom mike with the nice diaphragm to block your spit and soften your “p”s. On the other hand, these folks are almost TOO professional, you know? I was thinking, nice diction, but where’s the passion? I can do this. Hah!

One of my first two tales- back when I was silent.

One of my first two tales- back when I was silent.

So I spent a couple dozen hours in my “studio”- which I will freely confess means I carried my laptop and lapel-pin mike down to the basement of my house. The unfinished basement, with cement walls and floors, the central air vent shooshing a foot over my head and the sound of whoever just flushed the toilet trickling down the pipe to my left for two solid minutes. The cats, of course, have a need to know what on earth I’m doing balancing my water glass on the dryer and putting all these sheets of paper on my daughter’s music stand. Six-fifteen AM, the perfect time to record. Only a cat is insane enough to be awake at the crack of dawn. And if you’ve fed them, they keep reasonably quiet.

Of course I surfaced all the flaws in my writing I missed during the endless rewrites and polishing: reading your story out loud is ESSENTIAL, and I already agreed with the principle, but I keep finding more. Repeated words, that’s the thing that always kills me- for you, maybe something else. But with all that, I must say I come away liking The Ring and the Flag a lot, even more than I did a year ago on publication. It’s a very intact story, has some terrific plot elements, and I’m pleased to note that it lent itself very easily to the audiobook format (they like “chapters” to fit between 20 and 40 minutes ideally, and it was no problem to make my story sections match up in a neat half-dozen). I threw in a couple of special effects, and got to sing the soldiers’ marching-song. Perhaps best of all, the “studio” was only ten feet from the cat litter boxes- so I needed no help imagining the stench of the monster!

I learned to do two or three takes of every paragraph even if the first one sounded fine. Later I was shocked to realize what had transpired around me while I was carried away with the tale. I got the pops and cracks out with just some elbow grease. But the background noise was clearly my worst enemy. I used the Audacity recording utility which is freely available online and has eighteen times the features I could ever understand. Noise Removal was probably a solid six hours of my work, after cuts and choice of takes, just trying to get the hiss (roar, really) of the world down to a reasonable level without making my voice sound like the computer in “War Games”. Even so, I’m not sure what I’ve got here.

But frankly, I’m almost hoping you’re distracted by the equalization levels. Anything to get away from the sound of my own voice! I can’t believe I’m writing this- I’ve always been deeply, madly in love with the sound of my own voice. No fooling, I talk to myself all the time and belly-laugh at how witty I am. It’s pathetic. But to lay your own voice, reading your own tale, out there for the world to judge- well, it’s different. The actor’s nightmare includes appearing without any clothes on. But the thought of my voice on the web is the angst beyond naked. What if people don’t like the story AND think I sound like a dork?

So now there’s a pile of story I’ve heard many times, a paragraph at a go, but I must sit and hear it all again. If I can just bring myself to face the sound of my own voice- which is SO much different than reading out loud live and direct. Survive that, put in a few tags and an intro, and I’ll be ready to post. Hopefully you’ll have it within a week, certainly by Christmas. And if you or any of your friends are the sort who like to hear the tale, by all means let them know when it comes out. I’d be very interested to hear how I can improve. And if you like to listen while you’re in the laundry-room, I guarantee this story will make you feel right at home!

Now I think I’ll go put some clothes on.

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About Will

I'm the chronicler of the Lands of Hope tales, available at all the major online retailers.

Posted on December 3, 2012, in about writing, Authors - Will Hahn, Genre - Fantasy Stories, misc, or browse all books and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I’m so looking forward to hearing this. I plan to see my own stories into audiobook format too, but think that my Scottish accent might be a bit too much for the listeners. I’d probably go the “rent a voice” route with a short intro spoken by myself. But I’ve got to check out the price tags that come with the idea first. Also, there might not be many German speaking readers offering their expertise. Let us know how the selling goes.

  2. Too funny Will! I’m sure your voice sounds amazing, even with toilets flushing in the background 😉

  3. Thanks so much Cat- I tried my best to do Tass properly, but you may be disappointed- he’s a macho man as you know.

    Mary, I’m glad of your good opinion also. What I have to listen for is whether I missed a flush here and there- then I’ll post!

  4. Audio is fun. Every time I listen to my work in audio, I just can’t even believe it’s happening. I hire a narrator right now. I don’t think my voice suits my fiction. Maybe I’ll give a try at my nonfiction someday. Anyway, welcome to audio fiction…as read by Jesus.

  5. Hah! Thanks Tracy, the adventure continues and today I’m leaning towards a complete re-record ! Doesn’t look like Podiobooks is going to move very fast on anything I submit anyway, so Christmas is looking grim. Might as well try for improvement. I must try to listen to one of yours in audio sometime. Let me know what outlets you’re using and whether sales are going alright (enough to pay a narrator? Must be OK!).

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