A New Bag for Old Tricks: I Attempt an Audiobook

The other night I set up mic, mixer, and preamp to record a couple of demos of new songs, and I figured, “Hey, why not try to make an audiobook?” It seemed easy enough. It’s been awhile, but I’ve been paid actual money in the past for voice over work and I know how to read, so what could go wrong?

It’s me. Making an audiobook. While the neighbors
blast “Brick House.”

Audible.com, to which I have been addicted for several years now, has set up the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), and since I’ve been writing a lot of prose of late, just released a short story digitally for the first time, and will have at least one novel coming out in the next year, I figured the short story would be a good candidate for a kind of dry run. The ACX allows authors to either upload their own performances of their work in audiobook format, or allows authors, producers, and voice talent to connect for projects. It’s pretty great.

Here are lessons I learned from my attempt at making an audiobook:

1. Read too fast is both easy, and bad. I speak fairly slowly (I’m from the South), but read aloud just fast enough to scramble words together when I’m not paying enough attention.
2. It’s exhausting. On the ACX site, they have a video with pointers for people trying this for the first time, and the guy on the video says “This is grueling work.”  So, like a dummy, I scoffed and thought “Grueling? Come on.”  Ok, it’s not grueling…I’m going to save that classification for perilous physical labor…but it is far more draining than I expected.
3. You gotta commit to voices, or leave them at home. About 90% of the audiobooks I listen to have the performers doing some kind of voices for different characters, though some are only very slight modulations of their regular reading voices. You gotta make up your mind BEFORE you sit down what your voices are going to be, not by the seat-of-your-pants.
4. Singing into a microphone and reading into a microphone = way different. It even felt far different from acting, since with a script you’ll prepare intentions for each line, etc. But even with a short story — let alone a full-length novel, you have to find a different way in.
5. Warm-ups are important. I always, always do vocal warm-ups before I sing. Why I thought I could get away with not doing it before recording an audiobook, I don’t know. I’ve got 25 minutes of lip-smacking reminding me to not cut corners, now.
6. Your neighbor’s party? Yeah, you’ll be able to hear it. I love my neighbors. They’re the best. But “Brick House” and “Rolling in the Deep” do not make a very good soundtrack for my short story.

So in the end, I was right: attempting my new short story was a good dry run. But it’s a dry run that’s going to stay locked away in an archive folder on my computer. Now I need to do it again…but for real, this time.

I guess it goes to show, even though I’ve done lots of things *like* this, I’d never really done it before, and it was nice to be able to dip my toes in before committing to eight hours or however long a short novel will eventually take.

Anyway, you can check out my story, The Lennox Kid, here for Kindle, and please leave a review if you’re so inclined.

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