Or did you think finding your own voice was just a metaphor?
We’re deep into this mad adventure now and I hope you’re enjoying it half as much as I am. As of this writing, my first book is “fully distributed” by Findaways and the second is awaiting approval. Having tripped over my own shoelaces with The Ring and the Flag I do feel my chances with Fencing Reputation are pretty good. But the time factor! Approval takes FOREVER, and that’s something I have to consider more carefully in future. Maybe just like with e-books and paper, having a stockpile before you release would be advisable. But for now, I soldier on with the first quarter or so of Book 3 Perilous Embraces, and it is proving to have its own challenges.
This installment assumes you have reached your second “done” line. The first came when you finished recording every word of narration. The second phase was going through that, cutting out bad spots, choosing the best takes, and even adding sound FX.
So now you have a smooth, complete chapter. No narration is missing, and all the added sounds, ambiance, environment and other things you wanted to hear in there, are there now. Great.
Get ready to produce this sucker.
Prepping the Track for Publication
I’m speaking in all this to the use of the recording utility Audacity specifically for the Findaways distribution service. To briefly recap– you can upload files to Findaways once and if they pass inspection, they will handle distribution to nearly 30 different audio-book outlets for you. Set a price once, and Findaways will handle the splits (including their own of course) sending you the rest.
But the files have to be ready-ready, I mean really ready. Here’s how.
Normalize and Compressor
These are two standard effects you find in the Audacity Effect menu, and you need to apply them both and in that order. I am no engineer but I can tell you that the impact of using these on your track will be to boost the sound level up generally (but guard against over-amping the level so that it doesn’t make a screech) and to some extent it smooths over the background white noise that’s there.
Click on Effect-Normalize, and take a look at this menu:
Make sure the top two boxes are checked (which helps keep the sound in a decent level) and set the dB box to -1.0. You don’t have to highlight any part of your file, it will automatically apply it to the entire thing (and this could take a half-minute or so). Done. You should see that the narration line has ballooned up to fill the width of the track– this is normal, and it may sound a bit louder overall as well (but like I said, it won’t be too loud). If you have places where your character shouted or screamed, you might click to those quickly and see if they still work OK for you.
Compression is just about the same routine. Click Effect-Compressor and gander at this enormous vista (DON’T PANIC!):
There are probably eighteen cool things you could do to make the sound a tweak better on this screen. Play with it by all means. But I recommend you make sure the top slider is set to read -21 dB (I believe it can be as low as -50 dB). The first box at the bottom was checked and I left it that way. But if your compression is not set to a range between -21 and -50 then your files will be rejected by Audible, the toughest of the online distributors as far as I can tell (and it takes them weeks to figure this out over at Findaways). So. Do this.
Once again it applies to the entire chapter and takes a half-minute or so to complete. The wavy lines get even fatter, most of the time, looking like they will burst out of their tracks soon. Which in a way is absolutely true– and the world has never heard anything like this! Indulge yourself in a hearty laugh of victory at this point. Then save the file, you fool.
Now one last step.
Listen to It Again
I know I already told you to do that before, several times. This is THE last time you have to do it (the rest are all optional, if you’re like me and can’t stand not to check again and again). But do yourself this favor, especially if you have added FX: I’m not 100% sure why but on a fairly frequent basis the sound levels get off-kilter when you Normalize and Compress. Here’s what I do:
Go to the start of the file and click on the space BETWEEN the tracks, just like the rows and columns in Excel or in a Word document table. You can click and drag each track UP so that it’s a quarter of its original size. Don’t worry, the sounds aren’t getting hurt. This way, you drag up all the tracks and you can SEE THEM ALL AT ONCE. Pretty bright, you get me? Now click Ctrl + 3 to Zoom out and voila! You have a wide view of your entire file, maybe a half-hour at a time. Click right to where your FX are coming in on the lower tracks and listen to a few seconds each time. Sometimes the FX you download and use are in stereo, or have a more professional quality to them– those tend to “bounce up” in volume and become too loud, even after you used Amplify earlier to shush them. Now you just have to shush them again, that’s all. Depending how many FX you have, it might be you don’t have to change anything, but it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.
Got it? All Normalized, Compressed and re-Leveled? Deep breath. And hit Save again.
Time to make the finished file.
Creating the MP3
Man, this is it! The final step to create a finished chapter that’s suitable for upload to Findaways, and from there all over the listening universe. Feeling proud? You should be!
From the Audacity menu with your finished file open, click File-Export. A menu pops up that looks a lot like a Save-As menu in MS Word. You will do several things on this page and they’re all important. The LAST thing you will do is click on the “Save” button over to the right. The last.
First- click into the File Name menu and give your raw file a clear name. How about “Title-of-My-Book_year-Ch1”? Anything like that should do, just remember in some distributors the file name could be visible. Also if you send out copies as ARC for review.
Second, click in “Save as Type” below that to choose “MP3 files”. Because Duh.
STILL NOT CLICKING SAVE. Click on the bottom right button “Options”:
Try Bit Rate Mode: Constant, and be sure to drop-down the Quality menu to select 192 kbps. The default setting is 144 and that is not good enough for Audible, it will result in rejection. Select Channel Mode: Stereo, and then click OK.
Congrats. You saved yourself 3-5 weeks again!
Back at the main Export menu, you may NOW click Save. This takes you to the Edit Metadata menu where I advise you to fill in some of the rows for yourself, or at least blank out what’s there.
Edit Metadata gives you plenty of fields to enter info:
Artist Name: Yours, the Author/Narrator (Will Hahn, in my case)
Track Title: Title of the Book (“Perilous Embraces”)
Album Title: Here’s where I put the series name and book number (“Shards of Light, Book 3”)
Track Number: I use the chapter number here (1, 2, 3 etc.)
Year: This one!
Genre: Click into the box and see a drop-down menu, mostly different music types. You could choose “Podcast”, but I just typed in “Fantasy A-Book”
Comments: I wish I had thought of it earlier, but this would be a good spot to credit places like Findaways (in general) or other help you had making this file. Or you could put in the dedication to your book.
Whatever you choose, look at this menu if only to remove some things that might have crept in there. If for example you grabbed a sound off Findaways that was recorded by a pro, they might have done this metadata thing and you’ll see that your entire chapter already has an artist and a name!
OK, so fill in this menu… hurry up, already, this is the big finish… and then click on OK, which might bring you one more message saying essentially “Hey, just so you know, we’re going to crunch down all these tracks into a single track, just saying” and if you see it you can click OK to THAT. Because it is.
And finally, the utility goes to work and it takes maybe a minute to complete its job.
The fill-bar disappears and your file looks completely unchanged. Because it is. But back in the Audacity folder there is now a MP3 file with the the title you gave it.
Next and last installment, I’ll show you how to post all your project files to Findaways and hopefully avoid some of the face-flops I encountered.
I used to say you can do this. Now you already have.