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Podcast - 28 Sep 2012
  • Starting in a couple of weeks, there will be an additional "half-podcast" appearing in your podcast feed that will feature on of the new titles in our catalog.
  • OBA titles are now starting to appear in Overdrive's Content Reserve system, making them available in dozens of additional retailers and, most excitedly, over 17K libraries worldwide. 
  • Amazon and Audible announce WhisperSync voice for audiobooks.

Audiobook Sample

Our audiobook sample for this podcast is Mogworld by Yahtzee Croshaw. (Apologies to Yahtzee for mis-pronouncing his last name on the podcast!)

 Andrew Recommends

What We've Been Reading

Marketing Moment

Blog Entry - 6 Sep 2012
Why Authors Should (Almost) Never Read Their Own Audiobooks
Audiobook Club Selection for -: Why Authors Should (Almost) Never Read Their Own Audiobooks
Over the last week, I have had three separate conversations with three separate individuals about audiobooks that are narrated by the author.  In each case the individual with whom I spoke was an “avid” audiobook listener, which I define as someone who listens to 12 or more audiobooks a year.
 
“I’ve been listening to this really great book,” said one friend. “The subject matter is fascinating, but I can barely stand to listen to the thing because it’s narrated by the author. He reads everything like it ends with an exclamation point. He’s just way too excited. It drives me crazy.”
 
“I love audiobooks,” said another, “But I flat-out won’t listen to any audiobook that is narrated by the author. I’ve never heard one that was worth my time. There are too many good books out there to waste time listening to books that drive me crazy because the narrator didn’t know what he was doing.”
 
“I don’t think authors should ever narrate their own books,” said a third friend, an author herself. “They’re just too close to the material.  And if they are any good at narrating audiobooks (which they usually aren’t), they end up overemphasizing everything so nothing is important.  It’s better to have someone who knows what they’re doing record the audiobook version.”
 
Since Open Book Audio opened for business several years ago, we have had the opportunity to interact with literally hundreds and hundreds of new authors.  Many are trying their hands at writing for the first time. Most have a story they want to tell—a story of fact or fiction, of fantasy or reality. And, like most artists, they are passionate about their work.  It’s their story. I’ve learned first-hand over the last year that writing a book is extremely hard work. For those who manage to type the last punctuation mark on the final paragraph, it is only natural that the completion of such a monumental task comes with a deep and abiding sense of ownership.
 
That’s to be expected, of course.  But as any successful artist will tell you, the act of creation is a collaborative effort.  Read the liner notes of any album (assuming, of course, that you can even find an album with liner notes anymore) and you’ll see dozens of names associated with the production of that album: producers, engineers, musicians, songwriters, etc.  Sit through the credits of any major motion picture, and you’ll see a list of hundreds, if not thousands, of people who worked to help make the film.  
 
Writing, in many respects, is a far more solitary creative exercise.  Most novels or autobiographies aren’t written by committee.  The author sits alone in a room in front of a computer, typewriter, or pad of paper, and translates their thoughts and imaginings into words on the page. But even then, it is rare for a published author to simply take the result of that labor and release it “as is” to the world.  Those words are passed through the hands of editors and proofreaders who help to refine and shape it.  It’s passed through the hands of specially-selected readers who give feedback and offer suggestion. This process of collaboration—even in an art form many consider to be so solitary—is an invaluable part of the creative process.
 
Narrating an audiobook is, much like writing a book, more of a solitary art form.  And make no mistake—audiobook narration is an art. It used to be that a narrator would drive to a studio and sit down in a recording booth while, in the control room, the recording engineer and the director and/or producers would sit in on the session, making notes and corrections along the way.  It still happens that way some, but the model is very quickly changing. The rise of home recording has made it easy, and not very expensive, to get adequate equipment and record an audiobook yourself.  Many audiobook narrators work from home, charge a flat rate per finished hour of audio, record on their own, and then ship the files back to the producer or director.  Many times they do this without any input from the director or author along the way.  It can be a very solitary creation process.
 
Audiobooks, much like the printed words, can start off as a solitary process, but like any art form, audiobooks can benefit drastically from the collaborative process.  Narrators who know their craft, engineers who know how to work the recording equipment well, and directors who know how to coax a high-quality performance out of a narrator can turn a ho-hum audiobook into a masterpiece…a masterpiece that likely would not have been possible if everything were done by a single person.  And despite the ease of getting the equipment and putting your voice down on a computer, there’s one thing to keep in mind: narrating audiobooks is HARD.  
 
I have an undergraduate degree in Musical Theatre. The day after I graduated from college, I began my very first professional performing job.  Over the next several years I did countless musicals, straight plays, guest shots on television shows, commercials, voiceover work, studio work, and even a couple of small films.  A rarity in the performing world, I NEVER stopped working.  I had more success in five years than many actors do in their entire life.  And I did this without ever once setting foot in Los Angeles or New York.
 
I don’t say this to brag. Quite the contrary. Despite all of my success, all of the work I did as a professional performer, I can honestly say that recording audiobooks is one of the hardest disciplines I have undertaken as an actor.  Narrating an audiobook is not just about reading out loud as if you were reading a bedtime story to your children.  It’s a craft, something that is learned, refined, and honed.  
 
There is so much involved in recording an audiobook and doing it well.  When you’re recording, you have to:
  • Ensure that you are speaking clearly, trying to make as few mistakes as possible
  • Ensure that your pace is not too fast and not too slow
  • Try to minimize loud breath sounds, lip smacks, tongue clicks, and other noises
  • Make sure you’re keeping characters, voices, and accents consistent, without making them too over-the-top or cartoony
  • Imbue the narrative (non-dialogue) portions of the audiobook with enough inflection and variation to be both understandable and interesting
  • Keep the energy of performance consistent
  • Properly support your voice to allow for long recording sessions
  • Ensure that you’re using correct microphone technique
  • Portray the emotion and meaning of the text without getting in the way of the emotion or meaning
  • Do all of this without drawing attention to yourself as the narrator
  • Make sure the tone and quality of your voice is pleasant to listen to
 
And that’s just the part about the actual performance.  If you’re recording the audiobook on your own recording equipment you also need to make sure that:
  • The levels are set correctly on your equipment
  • The microphones are correctly and consistently placed
  • There’s no background or environmental noise interfering with the recording
  • The recording computer is functioning correctly
  • There are no plosive pops the mic or peaking in the audio path
  • You are editing/post processing the audio correctly and providing the final files in a format that is usable by retailers and customers.
 
Trying to do all of these things simultaneously is hard, even if you know what you’re doing.  If you don’t, it can become nearly impossible.  All too often, the result of attempting to narrate an audiobook when you don’t really know how is a product that can be painfully sub-par.
 
Here at Open Book Audio, rarely a week goes by when we don’t receive a sample from an author that we have to reject due to quality issues.  Sometimes, it was recorded on poor equipment like a cheap headset microphone or digital voice recorder, and simply isn’t high enough quality to sell. Sometimes the audio levels vary widely between chapters or even sentences if the narrator didn’t know how to “work the mic.” Sometimes, the room in which the book was recorded was so full of echoes that it sounds like the recording was done in a cave.  Sometimes the post processing is so poor that the recording is barely comprehensible. Sometimes the narrator makes mistakes in the recording that never get fixed.  Sometimes the levels are set incorrectly, and the sound gets distorted from the audio levels peaking.  Worst of all, sometimes the quality of the narration is so poor in and of itself that the audiobook is un-listenable.  

In one particularly heart-breaking instance, we had to reject a title that was nearly 30 hours long because the author, who also narrated, stumbled over his words constantly and recorded the audiobook in such a way that it could barely be heard.  He had spent well over 100 hours of his own time working on it, and had spent thousands of dollars paying for studio time from a friend who didn’t actually know how to use his own equipment.  While the author had a pleasant-enough voice, simply having a good voice didn't provide him with the tools he needed to record a high-quality audiobook.  The resulting book was so poor that we ended up having to exclude it from our catalog.

 
You’d think that recording a single voice would be simple, but if it’s not done well, it can sound really bad. Of those authors who do a pretty good job of narrating their own titles on their own equipment, it is far more common that the final audio never went through proper mixing and mastering, and so is still unsuitable for submission to retailers.  Mixing and mastering are engineering skills that can take years to learn, and the difference between a basic track and a track that has been properly mixed and mastered can be quite dramatic.
 
Then there is performance quality. There are very, very few authors in this world who have the chops to record their own audiobook and have the final product be on par with the work done by a professional audiobook narrator.  Many audiobook aficionados have so come to loathe books narrated by the author that they will avoid them on principle. Narrating a book you wrote yourself usually works fairly well if the book is an autobiography, if you have some experience in front of a studio microphone, and your sessions are being engineered by someone who knows what they’re doing.  Or, if you’re someone like Neil Gaiman, who, aside from having narrated dozens of his own books, also works as a narrator for other authors.  But if not, you need to take a long, hard look at whether it’s a good idea to narrate your own book.
 
If you’re interested in narrating your own audiobook, then there are a few things you may want to try first.
  • Try recording an audiobook of a text that you didn't write.  For experience, you can go to Librivox.com and try narrating a public domain title.  You’ll learn a great deal as part of that first experience.
  • Listen to audiobooks narrated by the greats.  Look up Simon Vance, Scott Brick, Stefan Rudnicki, or Kate Reading. Find the narrators who have won the Golden Earphones, and listen to the titles they do.  Try to emulate that.  Pay attention to their cadence, their voice inflection, their pacing, and how they handle the portions of the text where there is no dialogue.  I’m surprised at the number of audiobooks we receive that are recorded by people who don’t even listen to audiobooks. Find out what you’re competing against, and what the market expects from titles.
  • Practice.  Don’t try recording the whole thing at once. Record a few pages.  Edit those pages and listen to them back.  Listen in the car or on your phone walking the dog. Get an idea of what it will sound like in different environments. Go to YouTube and watch tutorials on how to mix and master your audio. Practice doing that.
  • Record with a director. Have someone sit in on your recording sessions who can give you direction and help shape your performance.  Make sure your director knows audiobooks inside and out.
  • If you don’t know your recording equipment, find someone who does. Compression, Limiting, EQ, Bitrates, Gain, Levels, Peaking, Dithering—if you don’t know what these mean, chances are that you’re not going to get the best quality audio out of your system.  Have someone who knows what they’re doing help you set up and learn your system.  Then, when you’re done, send your files off to a mixing/mastering engineer to get them to standard levels. 
  • Ask professionals in the industry to review your work. See if you can find a working professional who will provide you with honest feedback about your recording.  Try to find a mentor. Take audiobook narration classes (they exist!). Unless you are one of those incredibly uncommon people who are good at analyzing their own work objectively, you really do need some practiced ears on your side.
 
Remember, as a self-publishing author, chances are that not a lot of people are going to know your title.  If they find you, it will probably be from a recommendation or word of mouth, or by stumbling across the title while browsing. If a prospective customer goes to an audiobook retail site, and your title looks interesting, one of the first things they’ll do is click the “Listen to a Sample” button.  You’ve got about 5 seconds to catch their attention.  And here’s the tricky part:  most audiobook retailers don’t let you determine what sample gets used.  They will simply take a 30-60 second clip out of the audiobook and post it on the website.  If your recording sounds amateurish, awkward, or unpleasant, you’ve lost a sale.  Likewise, most retailers also allow listeners to leave a rating for the title after it has been purchased. One of the aspects of your title that gets rated is the quality of the narration.  It’s amazing how much difference a high narrator rating will make toward the sale of an unknown title.  If I come across a title that looks interesting, but has a 2 out of 5-star rating, I’m probably going to skip it.  If it has a 4 out of 5-star rating, chances are good that I’ll give it a try. You can’t get a high rating with a bad performance.
 
What you have to say as an author is obviously important enough that you took the time to actually write it. After it was completed, you probably read your words over and over again—making tons of edits and re-writes along the way. You may have sent it to editors or proofreaders.  You probably had friends and family read different drafts or even the final draft and got feedback.  You may have hired someone to design the cover art. You probably did research to figure out how to format or typeset your book for printing through on-demand publishers or eBook sales. You’ve poured your heart and soul into the title, and you did your homework.  Don’t lose potential audiobook listeners by letting all that hard work go to waste by releasing a poorly executed audiobook product.  Don’t use your own precious words as an experiment in audiobook creation.  If you don’t care enough to do the same level of homework on your audiobook as you did on the original book, then leave the narration to someone who already did the homework and can provide you with a product worthy of your words.
 
Podcast - 26 Aug 2012

OBA has signed an agreement with Overdrive to include the Open Book Audio catalog as available for sale for all Overdrive partners and retail outlets, including Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, and over 15,000 libraries worldwide.

Audiobook

Sample

Campaigns of the Civil War, Volume 1: Outbreak of Rebellion

Written by John G. Nicolay and Narrated by Christopher Lee Philips

We are excited to invite Kevin Readdean as a regular contributor of audiobook reviews for the OBA Podcast.  We are also accepting submissions for at least one additional reviewer who can provide us with a recorded audio review of an audiobook once every two months.  As compensation, OBA will be providing a reviewer with a total of six free audiobooks from Audible.com.

What We've Been Reading

 

 

News

Publisher's Weekly is having a massive audiobook giveaway: http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/ListenUp/?p=2805

Podcast - 12 Jul 2012

News

 


Podcast Sponsor: The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream

What We've Been Reading

  • Andrew likes to actually read printed books on vacation
  • Books 6-7 of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan

Sample: Islands, Oceans, and Dreams by Michael Salvaneschi and read by Andrew Parker


Podcast - 20 Jun 2012

News

 


Podcast Sponsor: Rockettes, Rockstars, and Rockbottom by Keltie Colleen

Audiobook Club Selection

 The audiobook club selection for May and June is Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go by Dale E. Basye, and read by Bronson Pinchot.  Go here to find links to the book and a place to comment.
 

What We've Been Reading


Sample: Titanic: The Most Complete Story Ever Told ​by Matthew Vollbrecht


 

Podcast - 7 May 2012

News

Audiobook Club Review

 
A Pleasure to Burn by Ray Bradbury, Read by Scott Brick
 


Podcast Sponsor: Rockettes, Rockstars, and Rockbottom by Keltie Colleen

Audiobook Club Selection

 The audiobook club selection for May and June is Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go by Dale E. Basye, and read by Bronson Pinchot.  Go here to find links to the book and a place to comment.
 
 


Sample: Billy: Messenger of Powers by Michaelbrent Collings


 

Audiobook Club Selection - 7 May 2012

When Milton and Marlo Fauster die in a marshmallow-bear explosion, they get sent straight to Heck, an otherworldly reform school. Milton can understand why his kleptomaniac sister is here, but Milton is—or was—a model citizen. Has a mistake been made? Not according to Bea “Elsa” Bubb, the Principal of Darkness. She doesn’t make mistakes. She personally sees to it that Heck—whether it be home-ec class with Lizzie Borden, ethics with Richard Nixon, or gym with Blackbeard the pirate—is especially, well, heckish for the Fausters. Will Milton and Marlo find a way to escape? Or are they stuck here for all eternity, or until they turn 18, whichever comes first?

​Update: Because we're big slackers (and it's summer) we're going to extend the book club by one month, and will discuss it on the podcast we record during the first week of August.

Podcast - 9 Apr 2012

News

Sponsor

Audiobook Club Selection for March & April

Audible Link: http://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B0071D0SOM

You can join us for our discussion of A Pleasure to Burn by Ray Bradbury here.

We've Been Reading

  • Elantris by Brandon Sanderson, Narrated by Jack Garrett.  (Audible Link)
  • The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan, Narrated by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading (Audible Link)
  • The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan, Narrated by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading (Audible Link)
  • The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor, Narrated by Gerard Doyle (Audible Link)
  • Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor, Narrated by Gerard Doyle (Audible Link)
Audiobook Club Selection - 15 Mar 2012
Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 is an enduring masterwork of 20th-century American literature - a chilling vision of a dystopian future built on the foundations of ignorance, censorship, and brutal repression. The origins and evolution of Bradbury’s darkly magnificent tale are explored in A Pleasure to Burn, a collection of 16 selected shorter works that prefigure the grand master’s landmark novel. With classic, thematically interrelated stories alongside many crucial lesser-known ones - including, at the collection’s heart, the novellas “Long after Midnight” and “The Fireman” - A Pleasure to Burn is an indispensable companion to the most powerful work of America’s preeminent storyteller and a wondrous confirmation of the inimitable Bradbury’s brilliance, magic, and fire.
 
Ray Bradbury, one of the most popular science fiction writers in the world, is the author of more than five hundred short stories, novels, plays, and poems. He has won many awards, including the National Book Award and the Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Audible Link: http://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B0071D0SOM

Make sure to join in the conversation by posting your thoughts on the book here on this page in the comments, or send them to us to discuss on the podcast.  We'll discuss this book on the March podcast, so send in your thoughts by the first Wednesday of May.

Podcast - 15 Mar 2012

News

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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Open Book Audio:

Audiobook Club

Audible Link: http://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B004KAQK4Q

 

Audiobook Club Selection for March & April

Audible Link: http://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B0071D0SOM

You can join us for our discussion of A Pleasure to Burn by Ray Bradbury here.

© Copyright 2012 Open Book Audio LLC.  Released under a Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0) License. Some Rights Reserved

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