Airshow engineers Jon Gold and Anna Frick joined me to explore how we can deploy Airshow’s resources to support independent authors in audiobook production. In Part I, we raised a series of questions an author will want to address in pre-production. In this post, we share recording tips a narrator will find useful, and describe the post-production steps that will yield a finished, professional audiobook. In the next post, we’ll apply all the production steps to a 200-page, 50,000-word audiobook and arrive at a budget.
The following tips are gleaned from authors and engineers to make the most of your studio time and save on post-production time and expense.
Recording tips for self-producing and narrating authors
1. Be ready for recording. Rehearse by reading your book aloud—a lot. Make notes in your script about points to emphasize, tricky phrases to pronounce, and pacing. Make sure your script is easy to read—that it’s double-spaced in a large enough font, with extra space where there should be an audible pause. If you come to the session very well prepared, expect recording to take about 2+ times the content length. In other words, for an hour of audio content, expect to spend two or more hours in the studio. This allows for voice rest, content review, and some overdubbing/retakes.
2. Use pro readers’ recording tricks:
• Keep recording sessions to a manageable length so that your performance stays consistent and doesn’t deteriorate over time. Try working in half-hour segments for no more than a few hours on any given day.
• Read when your voice is at its best. It may be mornings or later; once you know, stick with your voice’s best time of day.
• Surrender to your producer (or your collaborating engineer) while in the recording studio. If he or she calls for a retake or offers a suggestion, go with the flow.
• Have your studio menu in mind: drink cranberry juice or eat apple slices between takes to reduce clicks and other mouth sounds that are expensive to edit and often lead to retakes.
• Keep working. Taking weeks-long breaks between sessions can result in an uneven performance. If retakes are done weeks after the original session, they may be harder to edit smoothly into the earlier recording.
Post-production and mastering
Post-production includes editing, overdubs, and retakes. Music interludes, if used, are added in post-production. Mastering yields sonic continuity and includes placement of chapter breaks and other track markers. Mastering tasks include adding room tone in places where there is breathing space, and editing the tops and tails of each chapter, track, or CD-length file to ensure they are faded correctly. Expect post-production and mastering studio time to take about 4 to 6 times the amount of final audio for a polished audiobook.
If you are the audiobook producer, you can reduce the time spent in post-production by reviewing the recorded content against your script and making very detailed notes to your engineer for each edit: note the elapsed time, sentence, and word that requires editing. If you hire a professional producer, your producer may also edit the content; the engineer makes only final sonic changes, like smoothing out the producer’s edits and mastering the finished recording.
By laying down your best performance during production and reducing retakes, you will save time and money in post-production.
Your audiobook will have track marks that may—or may not-—mirror chapters or subchapters. They enable a listener to keep track of where they are and provide a natural stopping point in playback. If your audiobook has exercises, for example, it helps the listener if each exercise has its own track marker so the listener can easily navigate to it. Know where you want to place your track marks.
Audiobook release formats have different specs for file size or track length. Know your technical parameters. Once all of your content markers have been placed and the audiobook is divided up into sections, you can make decisions regarding CD breaks, which should be the final set of decisions you make about your content.
Read on to Part III to see our example budget for a 200-page book narrated by the author, and get some ideas for building your own revenue model.