How to Record an Audio Book With More Consistent Vocal Quality
Got a great question from one of my Udemy students about sounding different on different days of recording, and from chapter to chapter, for an audio book. This is a legitimate concern because ACX (Amazon’s Audiobook Creation Exchange audio book publishing platform) requires consistency throughout the entire audio book.
Let’s examine why it happens and what can be done about it.
Practice, Performance and Persistence
Recording an audio book is a performance art. This is why ACX and other audio book publishing platforms usually suggest that authors hire professional narrators.
But some of the connection between author and reader is lost when someone other than the author reads it. Some readers actually prefer audio books where the narrator is the author. The only exception would be when the author is extremely bad at narrating.
So you, as an author, have a choice to make if your reading performance skills aren’t where they need to be: Either hire a narrator, or persistently practice your performance craft until you can narrate your book yourself.
The two key words are practice and persistence. This is a skill, a physical skill, that must be exercised regularly.
It is unlikely that you’ll get it right on your first recording. Maybe not even on your hundredth. It is only by doing it regularly that you will gain confidence and perfect your delivery.
And here’s another aspect of narration. Unlike podcasting which might be a totally off script affair, narration must be true to the actual written word. Not only is this so that your readers will receive a faithful reading of your book, but because on ACX, your eBook edition and audio edition must sync up to take advantage of the Kindle Whispersync feature. Whispersync allows readers to listen to the audio edition and then be able to pick up in the eBook edition where they left off.
So start practicing! Record yourself reading from one of your books every day. What you’ll find over time is that you’ll fall into a rhythm of reading that’s comfortable for you and provides a pleasant experience for your reader listeners. You’ll also find that the quality of your voice (volume, pausing, speed, enunciation, pronunciation, emphasis, etc.) will become more consistent over time.
Caring for Your Voice
Like any public speaker, actor, or singer, you need to start taking care of your voice to become an author-narrator.
Some things aggravate and impact your voice and may be out of your control, like the weather, stress, allergies, or getting a cold. It’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth making yourself feel worse. Could using your voice worsen your health condition, or frustrate you to the point of worsening your emotional health? Would you be better off waiting so that you don’t have to re-record a bad recording?
I’ve also found that keeping cool to lukewarm water handy at all times while recording, is helpful. Pause occasionally to take a drink to help eliminate throat dryness and scratchiness. Plus, it can help make your voice sound more fluid... literally.
How Can You Know If Your Voice is Good Enough?
The advice for improving the quality of your audio book is the same as for your text-based books: Practice effective self editing and enlist the help of beta readers (or listeners in this case).
As you record each chapter for your book, refrain from getting stuck on any particular chapter. Finish your recording and put it away for a few days. You’ll be able to hear it with new ears, edit more effectively, and make a less emotional decision about the necessity of re-recording it.
Avoid being hypercritical of your work and performance. Most authors and artists are their own worst critics. They obsess about this or that detail when an outside eye (or ear) would simply not be concerned about it. This is where beta readers/listeners can be of great help.
After you’ve completed recording and editing your audio book to what you feel is the best version of it, have a beta reader listen to your book and tell them to make notes about their experience with EACH chapter. Do not tell them what concerns you about your recording. That’s like telling someone to not think of a pink elephant, and all they can think about after that is a pink elephant. Those concerns you personally had might be completely irrelevant to your readers. See if they identify the same things you do.
Because you are more concerned about the audio quality of your book, tell your beta readers to only make notes about that. Since your book might be the audio edition of an existing book, you are not looking for commentary on the actual content. You only want feedback on the performance.
The Real Test of Vocal Quality for Your Audio Book
The real test of whether your audio book is good enough quality to be sold is whether it passes the quality test for your audio book publishing platform (ACX or whatever platform you’re using). They will tell you if your files pass their requirements. If they don’t pass, then you can decide whether it’s worth re-recording or just making additional quality adjustments to your existing files.
So that you can get a feel for whether your audio quality might be accepted by ACX, you might want to publish the audio edition of a short book or eBook you’ve already published, or a completely new short work. This would be strongly recommended if the primary book that you want in audio form is a very long book. You would hate to spend so much time recording this longer work, only to find out that you’ll need to put in a lot more practice and need to re-record it.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
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© 2018 Heidi Thorne