6 Things to Know Before Self-Recording Your First Audiobook
The time has arrived. You've taken the first step of making your book consumable for the masses. In one week, you're self-recording an audiobook in a real studio with real directors and engineers. Lights, camera, act–...pause for tummy gurgles.
Recording your own audiobook can be a fantastic experience. But as with most things, you have to prep and prepare in order to get the most out of the experience. In the studio, time is money. These 6 tips will have you booth-ready and set to record for your session.
1. Read The Dang Book...Out Loud
This may seem like common sense, but trust me, all sense ain't common. "Read the book" means read it aloud. Reading it in your head doesn't do much to prepare you for reading into a microphone.
Also, when reading aloud, you are more apt to find errors because your mouth has to say what your eyes are seeing. Your brain isn't just filling in the gaps. I often tell authors, "Never go to print before narrating the audiobook." Because I promise, you will find errors.
If you're using ghostwriters and copyeditors then this goes doubly for you. I can't tell you how many times authors come to record cold and realize that their voice has been changed in the writing. Sometimes the way a real-life story happened has been completely altered, and you don't want to be blindsided in the booth. That frustration can come through in your recording.
2. Everyday I'm Shuffling
The average person doesn't realize how much they move and shuffle unconsciously. Some people, when nervous, become a bit jittery. The microphones in professional studios PICKUP EVERYTHING.
Leave your fashion statements at home. An audiobook studio is a warm, cozy place for comfort and calmness. Leather, nylon, fleece, wool and jewelry are a big no no. Put on some jeans, quiet sweats or leggings (No Pleather), and a comfy top and call it Billie Ellish day. Otherwise, you'll hear, "We heard a little shuffle. Let's take that again," all day.
Another fun noise maker is your phone. Leave it outside the booth. Better yet, turn on your out of office and separate from your phone until break time. Remember that sensitive mic I mentioned before? It will tell on your muted finger tapping too.
To quote one of our authors who thought he could keep his cellphone on in the booth without us finding out, "This damn mic is so sensitive. Just snitching and $h*t."
3. Hydrate...Yes, More Water...No, MORE WATER!
If you were ever an athlete, then you know all about this. The name of the game is hydration. Lack of hydration leads to fatigue and fatigue is bad for your performance. For athletes, dehydration can lead to cramping. In the narration world, a "clicky" mouth is our version of cramping calves. Yes, you can still perform, be your performance will be severely limited.
It takes a week of drinking water regularly to get hydrated. So DRINK MORE WATER!
Pro Tip: Bring a green apple with you to the session to help with mouth clicks. No one knows why they work. They just do.
4. Avoid The Rumbly In Your Tummy
What you eat the night before and the day of your recording session can have a big influence on your ability to maintain good time in the studio. Try to avoid gassy foods and foods that irritate your stomach.
Remember that snitching ass mic? Yeah, it tells on gurgles too.
In addition to gurgle rich foods, you should also avoid a lot of sweets and dairy. They cause mucus in the back of your throat leading to, you guessed it, more clicky noises.
5. Get Some Rest
Narrating is exhausting. Ask a new narrator, still building their chops. You can't expect to be at the top of your game if you're up all night before your sessions. Again, this isn't like recording music.
You're body is working overtime making sure you are reading the right words, saying them out loud correctly, maintaining your tone and energy, while holding almost perfectly still. Muscles you didn't know you had will hurt, your brain will get foggy, and your eyes may become a bit bleary.
Bonus Tip: Don't argue with the engineer and/or director when they say to take a break. This is especially important if you have two or more days of recording back-to-back. Remember, your body isn't trained for this and those breaks keep you from burning out halfway through day two's session. I promise, they aren't trying to milk your studio time.
6. It's Okay to Suck
After reading your book aloud, you may notice that you really suck at reading your book aloud.
S/N: My fiancée thinks it's childish that I wrote 'suck' in an article, and maybe you do too. But if I had a dollar for every author that said, "I suck at this," during day one's lunch break, I could take a 5-star, beach vacation.
The truth is, some authors realize that they are not good at reading and speaking at the same time AFTER they're already in the studio. This is why it's so important to "Read the Dang Book" like I mentioned before. While everyone wants to believe that they can push through to the end, it's okay to admit that this isn't for you. You may have to swallow your pride and hire a narrator.
But then it won't sound AUTHENTIC!!!
The most common reason authors want to narrate their own book is because they want it to be "authentic." Here's the thing though, hiring the right professional narrator will allow your book to sound both authentic and good. It also saves you time and money, because you aren't charged hourly for their recording.
If you do find that you're pretty bad at reading aloud, but still would like to record your own audio, make sure you have a quality engineer and/or director working with you. They will help to keep you on track, force needed breaks, and coach you up.
Recording your book yourself for the first time is a magical experience. Every single author I've worked with has beamed after completing the task and I know there is a great sense of pride in finishing something so monumental.
It isn't easy for most, and that's okay. The journey may be a bit frustrating at times, but it's worth it at the end.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment. If you'd like more personalized help, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our producers will be in touch.