Once you’ve selected a narrator, here are some tips for preparing for the production process
- Ask the narrator to read the entire book before beginning recording.
I don’t believe this is standard procedure, but it can’t hurt to ask—my narrator agreed to this, and said she found it helpful.
- Provide the narrator with a brief biography of each character (gender, age, personality, accent).
This will avoid the unfortunate situation of a narrator not finding out until Chapter 5 that the character has a French accent.
- Send links to pronunciations of odd words, local place names, proper names, etc. Stick with one reputable source when possible, to help with consistency.
Don’t expect your narrator to know how to pronounce “Schuylkill” if they don’t live near Philadelphia (and maybe even if they do). Also consider that there are lots of words that a well-read reader recognizes, but that one hardly ever hears spoken (“objet d’art”), and so the pronunciation may not be clear. Also, keep in mind that your narrator may not have the same assumptions about pronunciations of proper names as you do. The last name of several of my characters in The Sense of Reckoning is “Lynam”—it never occurred to me to pronounce that any way other than “LIE-num” and it never occurred to my narrator to pronounce it any way other than “LI-num.”
And some tips for the production process itself …
- Listen to entire recording!
I gather that there are authors who, once they are satisfied with the narrator’s general approach, never listen to the full book, but I can’t imagine not applying this quality assurance check. After recording for hour after hour, the inevitable mistake is bound to slip through—words transposed, “brother” substituted for “sister,” some audio glitch. You wouldn’t send out an ebook or print book without a proofread—make sure you give your audiobook a “proof listen.”
- Listen as the narrator finishes each chapter (not when he/she is done).
Fortunately, I caught the “LI-num / LIE-num” issue before the narrator had recorded too many chapters, so it was relatively easy for her to make the changes (or so she graciously claimed).
- Create a spreadsheet to track changes needed.
I recommend you log Status (Open, Ready for Review, Closed), Location (chapter and timestamp), Change (a description of what you want to have changed), Date Logged, and Miscellaneous Notes.
If you can share this tracking spreadsheet with the narrator via a mechanism like Dropbox, all the better.
- Limit changes to things that are objectively incorrect—remember, your narrator is a creative, too!
I’ll admit to one time when I violated this rule—early in The Sense of Death there is a scene involving an argument between a father and a son which sets up the chain of events which is central to the story. When I wrote the scene, I pictured the father being angry and frustrated with his son, whom he considers a screw-up, but the narrator read it as if the father was being cruel to his son. I waffled a bit on whether to request a change to this, but I eventually decided to ask the narrator about it and she agreed (again graciously) to re-record that section. However, in retrospect it wouldn’t have made a great deal of difference—the characterization of the father in the audiobook would have been different from what I had intended, but not necessarily wrong. (I do think that this issue won’t have arisen if I had instituted my own tip, which I started only with my second book, to ask the narrator to read entire book before beginning recording. I think she would have come to the understanding that the father wasn’t a cruel man, just a frustrated one.)
Things I learned from my audiobook creation experience:
- Hearing someone else’s interpretation of what you’ve written shows how many ways even a carefully crafted sentence—or even an entire scene—can be interpreted (as illustrated by the characterization of the father referenced above).
- I need to be a little less sparing with my use of commas—it was clear that a few more punctuation markers in a sentence would have given my narrator, and probably my reader, some useful guidance.
- Swear words are a lot more jarring when you hear them than when you read them (or write them).
- It’s possible to choked up by a sad part or have your heart speed up at a suspenseful part when listening to an audiobook, even when it’s your own.
Best of luck with your own audiobook—please go to www.theindyauthor.com to the About & Contact tab and drop me a note about your experience!