Tag Archives: Audio book

The Audio/Print Link

Imagine these scenarios:

  • Reading your manuscript to a critique group
  • An author reading to an audience
  • Recording an Audio Book of your manuscript

All the listeners are experiencing your words differently than in print. You’re saying “duh!” but I don’t mean auditory vs visual… well, yes, I do, but I really mean the brain centers of these senses.

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Use your voice to catch what your fingers miss!

Different sites in your brain process information from your senses. Visual/reading is completely different than hearing. Listeners are hearing a completely different story than those reading it. Whether it is a richer experience or not depends on their learning style.

For the life of me, I can’t process an audio book. I listened to Sun Dog, by Stephen King, and did not find it scary or interesting. When I read the story, it gave me the creeps. I spoke to a friend who was interesting in my last book and she asked if I had an audio book of it (the answer is, “Yes, in about a month.”)  She said she doesn’t get anything from reading but can listen and absorb it all. This boggles my mind.

So, what does this mean for each of these scenarios?

Reading your manuscript to a critique group

Don’t put too much into the critique of your written story UNLESS the listener has structural input. Even then, ask your critics what their learning style is. It might be better to give advance copies for analysis. On the other hand, it might be informative to it’s fit for an audio book AND reading it out loud will help you. More on that in a moment, but Beta READERS are better for critique.

An author reading to an audience

While this might hook some readers, it might turn off others who would otherwise love the print version of your book.

A couple words of advice for author reading: It’s not an audio book. Be animated, act out your characters, growl, bark, moan, whatever’s appropriate to your story. An author reading is more akin to a radio show than an audio book. Audio books are long form; spikes and dips in volume that work at an author reading are annoying in an audio book. And do not get upset if some listeners don’t like your story. They might if they read it. And let them know that! At the end of your reading, say, “if this story grabbed you, thank you! And buy the book. If the story DIDN’T grab you, you may have a different experience reading it for yourself, so buy the book!”

Recording and Audio Book of your manuscript

Hoo-boy! This is VALUABLE. You will catch:

  • Typos
  • Poorly written sentences (if they’re hard to read out loud, they’re hard to read period)
  • You’ll gain new eyes on your book.

The reason why is you are literally encountering your book anew. You can expect to lose track of your story as you read it out loud. That portion of your brain has never housed the story before (even talking about your story is done in a different place in your brain than reading it).

Even if you don’t record your book for audio, read it out loud for the sake of editing. I’ll never not do that again. Those typos you don’t see when you’re reading silently—because you know what’s supposed to be there—stand out like a beacon in the fresh part of your brain.

Having said that, be wary while reading aloud. You read aloud from a different place in your brain than you write from (or read silently from); as you hear yourself read, it is a fresh place of grey matter. The novelty of hearing/reading your beloved story out loud is that it will feel foreign – don’t think that means it’s bad! Linkages in centers of the brain opposite your learning style don’t occur the way they do in your learning style (it’s admittedly a big assumption that reading/visual is your learning style, but for most writers, I expect it is). Don’t trust listening to it to help you figure out your structure (unless you’re returning to it years after reading it). An outline is still your best bet for structure difficulty.

To sum up:

  • Get critique from the same media you output to. Out loud for audio books; in print for written books.
  • Author readings are more about acting than reciting. Don’t trust audience reaction.
  • Record audio books as part of the final edit process (or read it out loud). Structure changes should be in earlier edits. Here, you’re finding typos and difficult sentences.

The brain is an unusual space. Use it to your advantage.

Creating Audio Books

Audio books are still a bit of a novelty, but the people who buy them tend to be fanatic about it. It’s a growing market, though. I’ve intended to record my novels as audio books but never got around to it. Since my non-fiction book has been published, though, I’ve gotten more than a dozen requests for an audio version.

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Waveforms are pleasing to the eye… and hopefully ear.

Who am I to say no to money?

Some caveats:

  • I’m too cheap to hire someone to do it (it can get expensive, either up front or as 50% of royalties).
  • I don’t really need to. I’ve got a decent voice and an audio set-up, plus a lot of experience in voice-over recording for short instructional videos.
  • It’s time consuming, especially for me since my voice is only good for this type of work in the morning (I get horse mid-afternoon; not so much that its bad for talking, just for recording).

I’m going to share with you my set-up, my experience, and my discoveries.

Set-Up

The old USB condenser microphone I had used to be good but got steadily worse. Sound damping tiles and backdrops didn’t do anything about the echo, so I bit the bullet and bought a Blu Snowball. When I took down the old microphone, it was sticky, so I assume some melting was going on. With the Snowball, no sound tiles, no backdrops, and the slight echo drops out with a simple noise-reduction pass.

The Snowball hangs from a suspended arm, no shock cradle (none needed). The Snowball has a USB plug and two settings: single-user and multiple-user. The Snowball Ice is cheaper and only has the single user option, which is enough for a narrator. I got the Snowball because I got a better deal than the Ice (I ordered the chrome finish but got the black finish. No biggie, no complaint), and I may do some multi-voice recordings eventually.

It’s plugged into a desktop computer with a USB connection. I can’t speak to laptops, which I’ve had poor results with in the past.

I have Adobe Audition but use Audacity as the recording software because it’s a) free and b) very easy to use.

Rather than read from a screen or e-reader, I read the hardcopy book. That means I have to cut out page turn noise, but that’s easy.

Recording a single chapter at a time, I then run noise reduction and edit the mis-reads, breaths, and page turns.

Note: An audio book is submitted in multiple files, front matter and individual chapter files separately. I nonetheless record in one big master file (and click Save a lot!).  The reason is because beyond sound reduction, I’m going to process for equalization, a hint of reverb, and normalization for all files at once. If I do so individually, it will probably be fine, but why risk it?  By keeping each on it’s one timeline, when rendering it, Audacity has a setting to render as individual files.

My Experience

It’s fun a chapter at a time. I make a number of mistakes, but I know if I’m talking too fast or slow and can do a retake easily.

You’ll never be more aware of your spit than when recording long passages. Not a problem in my shorter work, but man, managing swallows and swishing is annoying.

It’s not difficult. Just imagine reading it to a loved one (not a child IF you naturally talk down to a kid). Editing is easy, and since I edit a chapter right after recording it, I remember where the problems are.

Oddly, the hardest part is remembering to leave several seconds of silence before and after the beginning and end of the chapter.

Though recording in stereo, I have to output in mono. Just something to keep in mind.

Discoveries

  • From now on, I’m going to record the audio before publishing the print version. Sentence that are difficult to say out load can be fixed, and typos found.
  • Your audio has to perfectly match the print version to take advantage of Whispersync (this Amazon Kindle feature was very helpful to my dyslexic daughter who could listen and read at the same time to help improve reading). That makes things like footnotes difficult (you read them as endnotes instead), and visual elements such as designs, graphs, and charts are a pain.
  • The Snowball is so good that even though I stopped and waited when jets flew over the house, I found while editing that the Snowball didn’t pick up any jet noise. It only grabs what’s right in front of it.
  • I’ve gained a new understanding of learning styles. I am as non-audio as you can get. Give me visual/read/hands-on and I’m good. Tell me what to do and I’m lost. I have to keep fighting the idea that so much is being missed through audio that the printed word carries; audio learners WILL love it. Trust in that.
  • I will do my first novel as an audio book, but probably not my second novel (it’s very long).

As a writer, what do you think of audio books?

As a reader/listener, what do you think of audio books?