Award-winning podcast host and author Zibby Owens shares some insights on recording the perfect audiobook.
I don’t have all the answers. But as an award-winning podcaster of three shows, I do know my way around a microphone. Here are a few things I learned while recording my audiobook for Moms Don’t Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology.
Bring high energy.
The microphone doesn’t care that you just had a fight with your mother or that you’re stressed out about camp pick-up logistics. When you hit record, you should sit up straight, have a big smile on your face, and project like you’re on stage in seventh grade. Maybe you’ll win an Emmy! Who knows? Turn it on and block out the rest of life. It’ll be there waiting for you.
Invest in a good microphone.
If you’re recording in a fancy studio, ignore this. But if you’re granted permission to record at home like I was, buy a durable, great mic, like the Blue Yeti. Be sure to find a super quiet spot. Then, go back to that same place every time. If you jump from room to room, or closet to bathroom, the sound will be inconsistent. Bring the mic with you and test it out every single time before getting too far along.
You will be asked to re-record if you mispronounce something. Instead of winging it and hoping no one notices, scan each page before you read it out loud. If there’s a word you’re unsure of, go to howtopronounce.com and test it out.
Yes, you have other things to do. But if you rush, you’ll have to redo this, and that’ll be much more time in the long run. So take it slow. Speak as if you’re reading the book to your elderly grandmother. Linger on the words. Listeners can speed it up later. You only get to do this once. Pace yourself. Feel the words on your tongue. Revel in the sentences. Why not?!
You will feel silly.
That’s okay. You still need to bring your A-game as if you’re speaking in a crowded auditorium. Make sure you’re alone when recording to both reduce self-consciousness and to eliminate someone else’s coughs or noises.
You might cry. If the subject matter is personal or moving, expect to get a bit emotional while reading it. There’s something intensely triggering about hearing your own words, even read by you! It will stir up a lot. Book extra therapy sessions the following week. Don’t plan something super important immediately afterwards.
You may need to re-record a few sections over and over again. That’s part of the process. Channel your inner actress and think of this like a role you’re playing. The director may need many takes. He/she may not be satisfied. But perfection is the enemy of completion. After a few takes, decide that it was good enough.
Budget time for edits.
After you submit the audiobook, you will likely get many notes back. Go back to the same place where you originally recorded it. Don’t be offended. It’s okay. You still did a good job! This is part of the process.
Craft a launch strategy.
How will your fans find out about the audiobook? What can you do to promote it? Try to arrange a bunch of free codes before it comes out. Line up friends to rate and review it. Figure out how to do an audiogram Instagram post on the Headliner app, or ask for help. Get the cover image early. Start planning something cool, like a giveaway or ad on social media. Do all this ahead of time!
Take some Claritin.
If you have allergies, stock up on Flonase, Zyrtec and Claritin for a few days around the recording. And if you have a cold, try to push things back until you’re less stuffy.
Or coffee. After all that talking, you’ll get a bit hoarse. Keep your throat wet. No cough drops needed.
Budget time in your calendar.
Then, double it. It takes a while to get the hang of this, and that’s okay. Set aside more than enough time before life comes up. Trust me, you’ll find yourself constantly pushing this back until the deadline looms.
Reread the instructions 10 times.
Seriously. Some of the details are minor but really important. The technical requirements and naming conventions can be a bit confusing, but pay attention and you’ll figure it out.
Your spouse or close friends will think you’re like a movie star complaining about an early call time. This is an awesome, enviable job. Suck it up and save the whining for your diary. Or email me to vent about it. Yes, you will get it done.
Visualize your listeners.
Imagine who is listening and what they’re doing. Are you reading to a busy mom folding her laundry? A corporate executive on a crowded subway? Put yourself in their ear pods. Imagine the influence and impact you’ll have and the intimacy with the strangers who are having a one-way conversation with you. It’s a privilege to speak to them. You aren’t really alone in a room. You’re whispering in the ears of many people, enriching their lives and feeding their souls. Step up. You got this. It’s an honor. Treat it with respect.
This course will demonstrate that the best way to become a good writer is to study the writing of others, especially the work of the masters.