Thursday, September 2, 2010

Guest Post: Author Joe Swope On Recording Your Own Audio Book

Having recently published his first fantasy novel Need for Magic, Author Joe Swope produced and recorded his own audio book. Here, he shares how he did it and how other authors can too. Please also check out the audio samples on his website:


Recording Your Own Audio Book

While I am not ready to agree that print is a dead media, I can’t help but notice that most of the people I see not only have a cell phone or iPod on them at all times, they are actively using it most of the time. So how does a writer compete? Simple - turn the book into an audio book.

I did it and you can too. Let me first say, it is not easy. In fact, it can be very time consuming. Still, there is something almost magical about hearing your words come to life with emotion, accents and energy.

There are several things you will need. The first is a voice. While it is perfectly okay to use your own voice, (who knows your story better?) there are advantages to using someone else's. A friend or fellow writer is an obvious choice. An overlooked source of voice talent is young actors. Most community colleges and universities have drama departments. There are tons of students who would jump at the chance to practice their skills and generate the necessary drama that might make your story something special. Of course, there is the issue of compensation. Young actors who do not have a lot of work opportunities might work cheap, including simply the promise of exposure as you promote your work. A percentage of revenue might also be appropriate. Whatever you do, if it involves someone else, get everything in writing.

The next thing you will need is equipment. A surprisingly little amount of equipment is needed. Any computer (desktop, laptop or net-book) will do. Even better than that, there is plenty of audio editing software that is free and easily downloadable. I used Audacity. It was easy to use, flexible and powerful. It allows for detailed editing, deleting, cutting pasting and other functions. The next piece of equipment you will need is a quality microphone. I used a high quality USB enabled microphone by Logictech. Don’t be afraid to spend a little money here. A good microphone will allow your story to sound rich. A bad one will not. After you have a computer, (if you don’t how are you reading this?), the software and a microphone it is time to record.

OK, now that it is time to record, you must find the space to record. This is perhaps the most difficult aspect. Despite the necessity of finding a recording space with good acoustics, remember that you are not recording music and that the bar can be lowered considerably from that standard. The first thing you need to recognize is that almost any room in any modern building has air vents that push air in and pull air out. That quality microphone you just bought will pick up that sound. Once you know the worst culprit of background noise it is easy to eliminate it. Either find a room without vents or turn off the system. The next acoustic threat is echoes. Most tables are hard and you will probably set your microphone on a table as you sit to read your writing into the microphone. Cover the table with a thick towel or blanket. Make sure the floor is covered with a rug or carpet. Hard walls will, of course, echo. Cinder block will echo more than more absorbent drywall. Cover at least half of the walls with sound absorbing material. A thick blanket will work. Check stores that sell bedding supplies. Egg crate foam that goes under mattresses can easily be attached to and removed from most walls. If the table, floor and most of the walls are covered, you are probably ready. The ceiling shouldn’t need to be covered. Of course you might need to experiment. A word of caution here: most audio editing software packages can do a lot of things, but if the background noise is too much, even the best software cannot take out the noise without ruining the recording.
One of the unanticipated but powerful benefits of creating an audio version of your writing is that by reading it or hearing it read by others, you are going over it with the finest tooth comb possible. Typos, grammar issues and other imperfections cannot hide when all of your words are said allowed and examined.

Perhaps the most important tip for writers who are considering this is to listen to audio books. Often writer create stories in genres with which they are familiar. That makes sense and allows for a better story. Take some time, rent or buy a few audio books. Listen to them and enjoy them. More importantly, study them; focus on the voice, the cadence, the sound quality. What about a good audio book makes you forget you’re listening? Find that quality and put it into your own version.

It might take a while to get the hang of deleting coughs, giggles, and other unwanted noises. Have a bit of patience and you will soon be able to enjoy and share your writing in a new and enjoyable way.

Joe Swope
Author of Need for Magic

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