Category Archives: Alleged Real World

Audiobook Adventures Ch 5: It Is Finished! Well, Sort of…

Thanks, before I finish up this series, for sticking with these posts. I sincerely hope they’ve been helpful to those considering going audiobook DIY, and perhaps amusing to those who aren’t. This is a brave new niche in publishing, not without its frustrations but certainly with potential to do all the things indie authors should want: widening the platform, making new connections, and above all just learning (sometimes in the school of hard knocks but learning all the same).

Here we go then. You’ve recorded every word of the tale entire, it’s been edited, produced and saved over to mp3 in separate chapters. Now you take the steps needed to post your book to Findaway Voices and start on the (long) (and winding) road to fame.

Why Findaway?

I decided to undertake this project because Findaway is acting as an aggregator and distributor for audiobooks in a similar fashion to the way Smashwords distributes your e-books. Submit once to them, pass their technical checks, and they will handle distribution to more than two dozen outlets for audiobooks. Different payment models, different places, technical requirements, all that they take off your plate and return the royalty to you after subtracting their fee. So it’s the classic choice- if you do the work of placing your audiobook yourself, you would make a higher cut of the total without this middleman. But that means you wrestle with their submission procedures, arrange payment from each seller, etc. on your own. THAT’s the real DIY I suppose. Findaway promises a simpler (though not entirely simple) path to widespread distribution.

And libraries. That’s the part you might overlook. If you aren’t already a mid-way famous author maybe with your own publishing house to back you, I don’t know of any way you could get into the major library catalogs.  When readers borrow your book, the library kicks back a kind of rental fee (for my first book, it’s around 35 cents US). That’s been the majority of my sales “hits” so far and I expect it to continue. So something to think about.

But you don’t have to!

So. Many. Files.

I kind of lied when I said you were done recording. As you post your project to Findaway you’re going to need some fairly short additional files. The minimum list is:

  • Title
  • Introduction
  • Sample
  • Tag

I’ll spell out each one for you. I recorded or edited this set of files in about forty minutes all told, so it’s not a huge deal but it is mandatory.

Title-

Simply “This is NAME OF MY BOOK, written by MY NAME and narrated by ALSO MY NAME”. Boom, done. I said “Chronicled by Will Hahn and narrated by himself!” like it was a surprise. Honestly, it still is…

Introduction-

This need be nothing more than the blurb, the dust-cover description of What On Earth Is Happening In This Book. I read that material, and also the dedication if I have one. This is the longest file usually.

Don’t forget to produce these files (Normalize, Compress, etc.) just like the chapters!

 

 

Sample-

Select a brief passage from your chapters (cannot be less than one minute, and the upper limit is around four minutes) to illustrate just how cool a thing the listener is getting into. In three of the four books I simply chose the first 1-2 minutes of the book, but for the finale I went straight into the middle chapter, with what I thought was a good open:

“I stood in the alleyway over the unconscious body of the Devout Teretheny, and thought about the problems that come with leaving bad people alive…”

Not that anyone is likely to be making a purchase decision about BOOK FOUR! But it’s mandatory, so… do it. You can just Save As on the chapter you’ve chosen and cut out the parts you’re not using- but remember to leave some space before and after the section!

Tag-

This file is the one where I can offer the least structural advice. Findaway lists the kind of things you could put into such a file (Bibliography? Really?). I mention that the book fits into the legendarium of my world, point out where they can get other Tales of Hope, and give out the website info with a promo for my sign-up list, Compendium and so forth.

Record each of these files, produce them and get them ready to post. 

 

Now I’ll walk you through the posting process and I’ll try to keep it simple.

Setting Up a Project

If you had your e-book version on Smashwords, you can click a button over there to bring you directly to Findaway Voices and some of your meta-data will already be posted. Cute as a button, but I’m going to assume you come to this site for the first time. Use the home page to set up your account the usual way and then you’ll be brought to a page like this:

In the upper right click the Create New Audiobook button. The next few bits are pretty automatic:

  • Enter the title of your book and click on I Want to Narrate My Own Audiobook. Because you do! Then click Create Project

    See, kinda square
  • On the Projects Metadata page, I can’t tell you everything you need to do but your options are pretty straightforward. The Title Description is essentially the blurb. Upload the cover art (whoop! Remember that one? Your e-book thumbnail is not the right proportion and will be rejected). Pull the ISBNs you have from previous publications (you can leave the audiobook ISBNs empty and Findaway will provide one). Setting the price is a world in itself but they have a link with their advice. I’ve gone lowball deliberately to try and encourage sales. Hit Save!
  • The Distribution page is important but your choice can be simple. I picked everyone. Maybe someday if I see I’m getting ripped off or something I might pull back, but right now what’s the point? So many business models, but I’m going to see where Findaway Voices takes me and how that works out for a while before trying to nuance this. Bear in mind that the Bigs (Audible and Apple for sure) have more stringent technical requirements, so you could find your book gets into some retailers but not others. More on those particular joys below.
  • Now for the file uploads!

Getting the Files Up There- to Stay!

The next page in the Findaway project folio is where you Add Audio Files. The easiest way to do this, in my view, is to open a folder with the mp3 files you want to send, and then click-drag them to the proper boxes.

Opening Credits is what I called the Title file.

Front Matter is the Introduction.

Body Matter is the place to put the chapter files. I simply number them “Book Title Ch1” etc. You can highlight the whole batch and drop them in at once. Then wait.

Yeah, could be awhile…

But what do you care? The big thing, the CRUCIAL thing, is to CHECK THE ORDER when all the files are uploaded.  I have done this four times now, and each time the chapter files were not the way I wanted. Make absolutely sure the chapters appear top-to-bottom on this page in the order you have them in the tale! As the warning says, if you leave them out of order here, that is the way the reader will hear them. In a word, Ack. Click on Chapter 1 and drag it to the top of this section, and so forth until all is well.

Back Matter is an optional slot and I don’t use it.

Closing Credits is what I called the Tag. So, like, put the Tag file there…

Retail Sample is the final drag-and-drop you need. If you try to submit a sample less than one minute long- I mean, two seconds short of one minute- the system will reject it.

After that, you will have arrived. At…

That bright red button, just leering at you like the eye of a demon who knows the answer to the riddle of life. Daring you. Double-dog daring you, to click on it.

Click on it.

Next? Argh, Life Goes On

In a horrible anticlimax you are brought now to a final review page, where the system politely points out there are a couple things you forgot to fill in back on the meta-data page. You fill them in. THEN you are encouraged to “take one last look”, and you do. At the bottom of this page is the button entitled Submit for Publishing. You’re not going to be fooled again so you click this without hesitation. Or much.

Now you deal with Findaway Voices for real.

The Staff is Just Like You! (Competent, Friendly, Over-worked)

I only saw two people on that ship.

The page tells you it will be 7 days before they get back to you about whether your files passed the technical checks.

  • My first two books did not pass on the first try.
  • My third one has been there for more than a week. That has always happened.

You have to be patient. I have never had an unpleasant email from them but there might not be that many people staffing this place…

Rejection- Hey, You Wouldn’t Want to Change That!

It could be your initial efforts are rejected, or have a “technical problem” that will amount to much the same thing. Save your original work, of course.  Consult their technical guide, and I hope these blog posts have proven useful to you as well. I don’t want anyone else to go through needless delay in getting the next audio-masterpiece before the public. Including me. But audiobook publishing, one might say, is a kind of publishing.  Findaway never really says “no”- as a distributor they WANT your tale out there. So deep breath, read the issue again, and fix it.

Next year I intend to post at least one or two more times to report on post-publication matters, how to get reviews, experience with different platforms etc. Take a look in the catalogs for all the Shards of Light series and let me know if you make an odd sighting- like on a pirate site, for instance…

I would be very interested to hear of your experiences, either creating or listening to audiobooks. Especially at this time of year, I wish all the best to everyone within the sound of these words, which is especially strange when you consider what the subject of these posts has been. Together we move forward, and I hope it’s “laughing all the way”.

 

Audiobook Adventures Ch. 1: Getting Started

If you missed my opening post about doing a-books… well, seriously what is wrong with you? But I am, and now I’ll relate a bit of how I got started and operate when making an a-book. I’ll be primarily involved in creating a-book versions of my series Shards of Light during summer 2018, and this post finds me with Book One ready to send off and Book Two well underway.

A-Book Shopping List: Ingredients for Talking the Tale

You will need:

  • Recording/editing software, and I will be referring to the free download Audacity throughout. I’m sure there are others but this came recommended and is one of the leaders. The online help manual is quite good. Tons of stuff in it I don’t use.
  • Quality microphone, and on this point I cannot stress highly enough the importance. If you already have one “lying around” the house, it’s quite possibly not good enough. The laptop inboard mike? Just no. Ask around online, check with a friend, but solve this problem before spending your time recording. Test it out on a two-minute stretch and listen: is there “background noise” that doesn’t exist in your background? Out. My set up was a gift, and the price in euros was three figures long as far as I can tell. The stand and spit-ring are certainly nice-to-haves.
  • A really good tale, which I optimistically assume you already possess. Microphones and recorders are a lot like paper and pens; they’re quite agnostic to genre, length and any number of other factors. Failure to record is a great deal like failure to write– your decision.
  • The voice, how about yours? I’ll be writing as if it’s you doing the talking here, though I suppose you could try:
    • Your spouse (just think of how much you enjoy it when they stand over your shoulder while you do a chore for them, telling you what you’re doing wrong. That will give you a sense of whether this is a good idea.)
    • Your child (cheap labor, certainly, but you might have to pen some excuse notes to teachers. Also could be tough if you’re writing gritty crime-erotica and your kid sounds like Shirley Temple.)
    • A trained macaw, stranger off the street or a really dedicated fan of your work. Certain travel expenses, animal cruelty laws, and the potential for home invasion arrests or restraining orders would be extra
    • Yeah, go with your own voice, lots of advantages. Caring about the way you wrote the tale, for one thing– or did you think that finding your voice was just a metaphor!

Download Audacity, plug your mike into the PC, open the software and look around. I won’t go into detail about the use of Audacity, a lot of it is pretty intuitive. But here’s one tip: check here to be sure it’s using your microphone, and not just defaulting to your PC!

What Am I Looking at Here?

Again, this will be most useful to those using Audacity. The opening screen looks like this:

Once you start recording– click the red button, duh– a track will leap into being with what looks like a scratchy line on it. “Shit” you exclaim, forgetting that it’s a recording. And right there is the swear word, like some kind of seismographic reading.

That’s because what you’re about to do is earth-shaking, get it?

A few more swear-words and some fumbling with the mouse later, you hit the yellow “Stop” button. Click on the green triangle to Play, and you will hear that swear word again, only this time it will sound like James Earl Jones said it, or maybe Dame Judy Dench, or Barney Fife, Roseanne, anyone else, just… that can’t be you, can it?

Not Me, No Way

It’s astonishing to me how many people have never really heard the sound of their own voice. There are two groups of people in this regard, and if you didn’t like what you just heard, you are standing in the group that has 100% of all people in it.

Nobody likes the sound of their own voice*. Not at first.

So. Deal.

  • Because people like to hear tales told by the author, that’s a fact. They buy it.
  • And because this is the way you get the book out for cheap (paying a narrator’s fine, but I’m here to tell you how to do this yourself).
  • And because– I mean this sincerely– this can be a lot of fun.

Listen to the sound of your voice and go ahead, be critical. Change what you can, leave what you can’t. There are people in your life who love you and they probably feel great when they hear you speaking.  You could be one of those people!

Back to the recording, and one of the greatest things about Audacity. Ready for the miracle?

Undo.

Right up under Edit, you can see Undo Recording. Click to remove that naughty word from existence. Then try again. Of course, there will be times when you make a mistake and don’t realize it until later. But there are tons of times when you WILL know, and this is a very handy time-saver. It also works great when you are trying out F/X on a certain section, like Amplify or Echo. Don’t like what you just heard? No worries, Undo and try a different setting or strength.

Narration is Performance, Yo

You can do this as well or as poorly as you like. Again, kind of like writing. Probably the biggest mistake you can make here– maybe the only one– is to think that your reading has to be a finished product the first time out of the box. Is that how you write? No?

So. Prepare. Focus. Smile a little before you talk. And be ready to not worry and try again.

  • Get the mike at a good level and distance for speaking (test it, remember Undo). It is far better to put the mike closer to your mouth and lower the record volume, than it is to have it further away. Try for six inches from mike to mouth, and speak in a full normal tone, watching for the bouncy record bars and making sure they don’t go “in the red” all the time. Back down the recording level until it doesn’t. This is worth the effort because if you keep your mouth two feet away at a higher level, a good mike will pick up more background noise which will be a trial to you when you edit.
  • Personally I like to sit on a stool, because a chair compresses me too much, it inflicts a sag into my middle which prevents me from supporting the sound. Upright would also be fine, but my mike stand is a bit wobbly at that height, and also I can’t reach the PC controls easily. You will find the right height, at which you’re not too pained or relaxed to read your best.
  • Script big enough to easily see. I use my tablet because a) I want the PC screen free to show me what Audacity is recording, plus b) the distance is too far to read where I’m sitting, and c) paper pages make noise! On my Kindle I can size the font easily, plenty of backlight, etc.
  • Glass of water. Trust me.
  • I like to rinse with mouthwash to clear the tongue and throat. Otherwise you can get that sticky-flapping sound when you talk and it’s distracting.
  • THINK about the scene ahead. Listening to other a-books will give you a sense of how far to stretch your voice (it can be overdone, and I think I have overdone it myself at times). But you also want to think about pacing, raising and lowering your own volume, injecting emotion where needed. Avoid rendering the entire chapter in some version of iambic pentameter (you know, da-dump, da-dump, da-dump…). In other words…
  • Read TO an audience. Picture them listening. They haven’t heard this before, they need to know what’s going on.

Laying Out the Track

You. Can’t. Fail. Unless you give up. Read the tale, stop when you want, go back and listen, see if it’s a keeper. It’s no different than using highlight-delete on a rough draft. No, it’s not- and stop arguing with me about this.

One thing to consider is whether you want to lay out “the whole thing” in one track. Let’s say you’re trying for Chapter 1 (could be anything, but I picture chapters coming in around 4-6k words). Some folks say that the listening audience wants something around a half-hour long, and that would be my rough guess but don’t get too hung up on that. So we’re trying for a chapter here.

If you Record, Stop, Undo and Record again, Audacity will lay out a single track for you, one line of seismographic line-bumps. Let’s say you read the first three paragraphs, and after a couple attempts you find something you like. Especially early, it’s important to listen to what you’ve recorded because it will help you see if you’re too close or too far, and also whether there are background noises on your track. To some extent you can’t affect these, but it’s something to consider. My home AC system is a very quiet hum and I don’t think it’s too distracting, but sometimes my refrigerator knocks like an old car and that will kill a take completely. Again, no big deal.

But whenever you decide you have something worth keeping (meaning you don’t Undo it), when you start to Record again, Audacity will immediately create a second track, below the first. If you position the cursor at the end of your first track and hit Record, it will pick up from that point but in a second track. On the replay, it will move right through. This is true if you want to add a sound effect later (don’t worry about it now), the point to keep in mind is that you could end up with a stack-o’-tracks and IT IS FINE. I’ve had dozens in some of my chapters, but the listener doesn’t see that, it all comes out as a single track.

Experiment, get used to the sound of your voice, try again and realize nothing is any more permanent in the recording than it is with your writing. Next time I’ll touch on the editing process where you will need to spend a lot of time . Again, JUST as you do with the writing.

Enjoy!

 

*- When I wrote this statement I was relying only on my personal opinion about what was true. Little did I suspect there’s a TED talk to prove it! Check that out if you doubt me, and also if you want to be horrified by what your voice is already telling people.

In fact, your voice comes to your own ears through your bones. So yeah, sounds different. But the more you record and listen to yourself, I find, the more this difference fades away- whether it’s because I’m modulating my voice or just getting my ear more accustomed, I don’t know.