Tag Archives: on writing

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.


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…


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!




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!


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. 3: Going for Effect

Or did you think finding your own voice was just a metaphor?

My summer project rolls along very well, committing the four novellas of my Shards of Light series to audiobook format as a DIY adventure. In previous chapters I’ve tried to offer some encouragement and a few pointers on the how-to of recording your own voice. As I set down this installment I’m about halfway through: Books 1 and 2 are submitted and I’ve recorded the first few minutes of Book 3. In future chapters I’ll have more to say about the submission process, and a few wild guesses about marketing a-books.

But now, it’s time to think about the effect of your book. I mean, the special effects and other touches you want to add, besides the voice.

To What Can You Aspire?

Adding F/X to your tale probably requires some thought, because the range of things is so wide open. Listening to other books on tape might give you a better idea: my impression is that a LOT of them today are pretty “pure” and just focus on excellent narration quality without white noise. And that’s great, if you have a pro studio and a pro reader. Personally, I hearken back to those tales on LPs that we had as kids (never mind what an LP is, I’m too tired to explain. A huge CD, got me?). There’d be a burst of music at the start, and running up and down between scenes. And some noises, like drums, or explosions or gunshots at the appropriate points. Honestly, the sky’s the limit. And can it be overdone? Yes, yes I’m sure it can! I’m reasonably sure I’ve overdone it too. But purple sound (our version of purple prose) is just a question of taste in the end.

I think we can reasonably deal with four categories of F/X in this post and I’ll try to give a little flavor of each:

  1. F/X that generate purely from Audacity itself
  2. F/X that you find (I’ve been using Freesound.org)
  3. F/X that you create
  4. Music and other licensed material

I won’t be touching on #4 here, except to say yes, it’s serious and you have to get a license to use pretty much any snatch of music you have in mind. I’ve done it once for a trailer and I don’t think it’s cost-effective. Truth to tell, I’m in a musical family and I’m ambitious to get my daughter or wife’s talents on track, and THAT in most cases I WOULD be free to use. But not here. And notice Findaways advises against using music (a rule I have already broken by singing on Book 1. But that’s just me singing, I own it).

Have the Audacity

I’m using this freely available online tool to record my tales, and it has a whopping Effects menu. Some of these you will have to use, like it or not before you publish: these are effects such as Normalize and Compression, and I’ll touch on those next time. But there are about a zillion effects and combinations thereof you can try right out of this one menu. I’ve regularly used about a half dozen including:

  • Amplify (mostly for DE-amplifying sounds)
  • Echo  (terrific for internal dialogue such as when your hero is having conversational thoughts)
  • Paulstretch (a quick way to distort the voice- I used it for times when someone communicated via magic. Speak extra clearly!)
  • Bass Boost (not as easy to use but it can give a little added JamesEarlJones to your track)

There are only two general rules, or warnings, I would give you for any of these effects. First, ALL of them require some experimentation. With Echo, for example, you highlight the section of your track that you want to sound spooky, and select the effect: then you get a sub-menu with choices to make. Guess! The sub-menu usually has a “default” setting and I have found that it’s never right for me. But you can also usually Preview what the first few seconds will sound like. Foozle with it, that’s a technical term we dilettante sound engineers use. And remember Undo. Second, and this could be a little depressing, there is a chance, whenever you highlight an area and do something to it, that you will create a click at the start and end of the section. Oy… but not always, and of course what you have from last time about how to get rid of those clicks still applies. Yeah, it’s work. But it’s not breaking rocks, come on now.


As you might notice there are Effects in the menu called Click Removal and Noise Removal. I’m quite sure these can be used  effectively to do what they say, but I have had zero success with them and have been using the tricks I outlined last time instead. The abilities of this tool are well beyond my skill level. But if you can use them, all hail.

Going Shopping

I confess it’s really fun to use an audio-library like Freesound when searching for effects. Most of the items there are free to use (with citation), and I create a Word doc with a list of each one, the creator’s screenname, the link to the effect, etc. Say something in your tag-file or intro to let folks know. You can also just daydream on a site like this, searching randomly and seeing what’s there that you might want to use.

The method I use is to download the effect, then in Audacity it’s File-Import-Audio and bring in the entire thing. The tool creates a new track at the bottom and puts the effect at the START of your track. Which is probably not where you wanted to use it. Take note of the position of your effect, the place you want it to be (look at the ticker on the bottom that will tell you): then go back to the beginning, highlight the entire effect, Cut, move to the right spot and Paste. Foozle. Undo. You’ll get it. Often-times an effect brought in like this will be quite loud, so use Amplify (with a negative number) to bring down the level. Check the start and end of the effect for clicks, and smooth them off. Often, I only use a few seconds of the effect, just cut and drop the rest.

I can’t say how often I decide to use an effect, whether it’s X per chapter or just something I know would be interesting. I go back to those sound LPs, and try to create the imagery that came to me as I listened to those. Come on, have some fun!

Effects from “official” sites like this are terrific for outdoor-environment, weather and other background noises. You get a lot of synthesizer-driven sounds that are comically wrong for a genre like fantasy, but in another world who knows? It’s incredible how many things people have tried.

DIY Sounds- It Worked When You Were Picking Words

I won’t rant too long, but be aware that sometimes you want to install an effect and the best way is to just do it. Search the libraries, sure, do that; but if it’s a tiny clap, or crumble, or chuckle, just record it yourself. You can lay it in “live” after you have your narration following the same rules: put the cursor a few seconds before the moment, hit Record, a new track starts and then you just do the sound at the right moment. Oops? Undo!

If you add maybe four effects to a half-hour chapter, you will have easily 12 to 20 separate tracks lying all across your screen. No worries, it all collapses down when you create the final file. I advise going back over the chapter several times, again just like proofing a text:

  • Once when you’ve laid in the narration, to be SURE you didn’t include any “aw, crap” or doubled paragraphs, or even extra pauses while you were catching your breath.
  • Once more after you’ve added your effects, just to check them. Back up the view using Ctrl + 3 over and over until you can see across the entire piece on your screen. Position the cursor just before each effect on the lower tracks and play, to be sure there are no entry-clicks or that the sound level isn’t off (use Amplify to back off the effect if it’s too loud)
  • And one last time in “Post Production” which I’ll cover next time, just before you convert the file and set it aside for publication. It’s ALWAYS worth another listen!

I hope this is proving useful to you in the quest to create your own audio-book, or at least amusing as you think about doing so. Next time I’ll quickly cover what you need to do to get your “raw” file ready for publication through online distributors. Ar Aralte!