Audiobooks have kept me company on long drives, distracted me while completing mundane chores, and carried me through books that … let’s be honest, I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten through. (Moby Dick, I’m looking at you.)
So, of course, I wanted my own books in audio format! (Though hopefully people want them because they enjoy the story, not for Moby Dick reasons.) Unfortunately, hiring a narrator is expensive. It is possible to split royalties with a narrator instead of paying up front, but then you’re bound to that contract for years.
Because of the cost and the limitations, I ruled out both.
Another indie suggested I generate AI audiobooks. It’s free, and the voices aren’t too unrealistic. You can also make little adjustments to the text the AI voice reads to further improve the sound. However, AI audiobooks are controversial. Some retailers won’t accept them, and some readers don’t like them.
Still, for a little while, that was looking like my best option.
Then I learned about a course that would teach me to narrate my own audiobooks. The course and equipment were about half the cost of hiring a narrator to produce just one of my novels into an audiobook. With that investment, I’m now able to produce as many audiobooks as I want!
The course is called Audiobooks Made Easy, and it lived up to its name. (If you’re interested, here’s my affiliate link to the course, which does give me a commission but also gives you 20% off – a win-win!) I checked off modules and followed the steps. I hung a comforter on the wall of my living room, set up a table, a mic, and my laptop, and was ready to record.
Or was I?
Oral storytelling is an ancient art form, and modern listeners have strong opinions about how it should be done.
ACX, the audiobook subsidiary of Amazon.com, posted a free audiobook narration series on YouTube that shared so much wisdom on how to bring stories (and the characters inside them) to life.
One piece of advice they offered repeatedly?
Study the text to understand the author’s intentions, then use your voice to convey that emotion.
As the author myself, I figured I had a leg up! Encouraged—and better prepared—I started recording.
But the learning didn’t stop there.
I quickly discovered the importance of correctly caring for and using my voice. This involved drinking enough water, working up to reading for longer periods, taking days off, and more.
I also learned through experience how to differentiate one character’s voice from another while also not going overboard. (One of my audiobook pet peeves is when a woman tries to imitate a man’s voice and ends up sounding silly. Thankfully, the ACX tutorials had great tips on this!) Because I got so much better at differentiating voices as I recorded, I ended up redoing the opening after I finished recording the end of the book.
Though the course offered guidance on editing the audio file, I tweaked how I did the noise cancellation effect so the background would be consistently quiet. Oh, and I learned the hard way not to run the washer or dryer while recording.
A normal part of audiobook narration is recording retakes of lines that don’t sound quite right. This, too, turned out to be an art form, since my voice sounds slightly different from one day to the next. Also, if the microphone is placed just a little differently or the background noise is different, the newly recorded line can sound very different than the surrounding audio. Sometimes it took several tries to get it right!
And one last thing I learned? To appreciate what my voice is capable of. In the past, I’ve suffered the same dislike for hearing my recorded voice that I think I lot of people feel. Working in a call center, where our calls were sometimes recorded and played back to us, helped me get past some of that, but it wasn’t until this project that I really learned what my voice can do.
In the end, recording To Bring You Back was far more time-consuming than I expected, but I’m also thrilled with the result. Can you tell? ;)
Writing stories is a personal endeavor. When authors talk about “voice,” we mean all the little choices a writer makes that result in a narrative having a flavor and mood unique to that writer. These choices include wording, tone, point-of-view, focus, and more. Voice is a big reason why one hundred writers could start with the same idea and still produce one hundred different stories. It’s also the reason I think I could pick up an unmarked book tell you whether my favorite author had written it.
Lending my literal voice, with all its nuances, to my writing “voice” adds an additional, very personal layer of my heart to this story that’s so dear to me.
If you give it a listen, I hope you’ll agree that this was a better route than using AI. But more than that, I hope the story will resonate with you more because of the beating heart on the other side of the keyboard and the microphone. And, since I write Christian fiction with strong faith threads, I hope that under it all, you’ll hear the heart of the Father who loves you.
I have plans to record the rest of the Rhythms of Redemption Romances. In the meantime, since it’s new and shorter, I went ahead and recorded Now or Never, and you can find it on Audible (Affiliate link) or Amazon, with other retailers coming any day now. If you don’t see your favorite listed, check! It just might be there.
Did anything about the process of recording an audiobook surprise you? What are your must-haves in an audiobook?