DID YOU KNOW...? Vol. 2
This week we're reposting another Did You Know...? written by Karen White, which was originally featured in our handy dandy newsletter in May 2018. This post includes tons of helpful insights about publishing in audio that we thought were worth re-sharing. Check it out below!
For the author just dipping a toe into the Audiobook Pubbing Pool:
Last month we explained the Per Finished Hour rate structure. This time we’ll look at all the different elements that go into producing an audiobook (and just so you know, most of the people who perform these roles are paid PFH as well).
Besides the narration, the main production jobs are: engineering, proofing, editing and mastering. There are some narrators who wear all these hats, but this is unusual in a professional scenario. Individuals tend to specialize and increase their skills in the various areas. Additionally, it can be useful to have a number of ears on a project to keep errors low and production values high.
In the past, almost all audiobooks also had a producer to oversee the various roles, including casting, as well as a director who would be in the recording studio with the actor during the whole recording process. Due to budget constraints and evolving technology, these roles are quite often taken on by narrators.
Here’s a quick overview:
Studio Engineer – this person sets up the studio space and the recording equipment, making sure that microphone placement and equipment levels are just right. A narrator with a home studio will often hire an engineer to set everything up and then keep it consistent for all projects.
Proofer – this person listens to the audio while reading the manuscript and records any errors the narrator makes, including mispronunciations, misreads and/or extraneous noises. The narrator is sent a list as well as “voice match” audio files and then re-records those sections. This is called doing “corrections” or “pickups”.
Editor – this person digitally removes extraneous sounds, adjusts the lengths of silence between chapters and sections, and edits in any corrections. In the olden days, an editor would start with a “straight record” and have to remove all the bad takes/mistakes. (In the olden olden days, this was done with a razor blade on actual tape!). These days, most narrators do a “punch record”, which allows them to turn in only the final takes.
Mastering Engineer - I got a little help from Romance Narrator Aiden Snow on this definition (because I’ve never really understood what strange magic these people do): “Without using terms most people don’t understand anyway, Mastering is the final process that sweetens the sound, provides crispness and clarity to the voice and evens out the whole recording to ensure a consistency in the listening experience. Like Umami for the ears, you can’t tell exactly what it is but it is what makes the “dish” stand out.” Romance Narrator David Brenin adds, “It's also particularly crucial for books with more than one narrator. Even if it's one narrator per chapter, each chapter needs to be consistent with all the others.”
Director – this person listens to the narrator while she records, making sure that character choices and pronunciations are consistent. He may also consult with the narrator on tone and pacing. While many professional narrators now self-direct, we all have found working with a director in the past or on occasion very helpful. Sometimes directors will even work remotely via Skype.
For the author who is already doing laps in the Audiobook Waters:
Although last time I said that we’d move on to casting options, I realized that there are two additional distributors that authors might want to know about. Like Author’s Republic and Big Happy Family, these distributors can be utilized in addition to or instead of ACX.
Findaway has been a part of the audiobook universe since 2004, primarily as a distributor via its Playaway device, which you may have seen in libraries. More recently, they have delved into creating content, including providing an ACX-like service to authors. However, you can also bring them a finished product and only use them as a world-wide digital distributor.
Another distributor worth looking into, especially if you have a publishing scenario that doesn’t fit neatly into the ACX format – that is, you are from a country that ACX doesn’t yet serve, or you want to do a Royalty Share project with more than one narrator – is Spoken Realms. This is a newer company, created to serve those unique situations. You can also do your production entirely through Spoken Realms, or simply use them as a distributor.
Next time, we’ll delve into ways to find narrators, with some ideas to simplify the process while finding the best voice (or voices) for your book.