Category Archives: Audiobook

Knowing when to give up….

Although perseverance is the most important quality that a writer should have, I think that there comes a point in whatever project you’re devoting time and energy to, where you say to yourself: “That’s good enough.”

Perfection is impossible. No publisher in the world has ever said to an author: “You know, your manuscript is perfect, it needed no editing, we’ll publish it as it is.” No matter how many times you trawl through your completed story seeking mistakes, there’ll always be some that you miss.

This dilemma has been brought home to me recently, as I’ve been editing chapters of my first audiobook. As fellow narrators will confirm, fettling an audio file into perfect shape can become an obsessive pursuit. Although I learnt how to apply the required modifications to satisfy Amazon’s ACX scrutiny in one fell swoop, this doesn’t involve such things as intonation, pauses, breathing and applying dramatic effect by varying the speed you narrate a sentence or paragraph. Audiophiles can be fussy about the details of narrating. Take breathing. If a character is arguing about something, then including their gasps adds to the drama. But, what about hearing the narrator breathe? Some experts recommend removing every trace of the narrator reloading their lungs with oxygen, while others permit a certain amount to prevent the audiobook from sounding like it’s read by a cyborg! :robot-face:

I was dealing with this last night, when I recalled an advice book I read in the spring. Seth Godin is a marketing guru. I subscribed to his blog a couple of years ago, in the hope that something he says will inspire me how to market my books. His short book The Dip: the extraordinary benefits of knowing when to quit (and when to stick) offers thought-provoking advice about what to do when you’ve entered a creative cul-de-sac and are faced with a dead end. If you want to be successful, get out of there and try a different route. At the very least, admit that you’ve done all that you can. Refocus your energies.

As Godin says:

Winners quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt”

That doesn’t mean that I’m giving up on mastering the recording of my novel. It’s rather, I’m going to prevent myself getting bogged down on a repetitive task. I could spend the rest of 2020 making the audiobook of my first Cornish Detective novel Who Kills A Nudist? totally perfect, but to what end? Will it sell any more copies? Striving for perfection will hold me back. I’ve four other novels to narrate, as well as novellas and short stories.

The same applies to other tasks to do with writing—editing, formatting, designing book covers, self-publishing and querying literary agents. There’s an awful lot of repetition involved in being an author, isn’t there?

Have you ever reached a point where you’ve decided that what you’ve done is as good as it gets and it’s time to move on?

What was that task?


Narrating Blues: Part 5

I’m a big fan of the punch and roll method of correcting mistakes, which saves hours when re-recording. I’m delighted when I find that I had the common sense to immediately narrate a section again if I mucked it up, as I sound exactly the same.

Using Punch and Record for audiobooks

Narrating my first audiobook has been a steep learning curve. One is forced to become a geek playing around with effects and spacing of words, sentences and paragraphs. I know my story by heart after twelve weeks of listening to it!

If you decide to narrate your own book and are worried about the ACX quality control check, there’s useful advice on Reddit and Quora:


Audiobook Creation Exchange: – Quora

I offer a few thoughts and tips in this post about narrating, mastering and the process of uploading sound files to ACX.

Recording a story is an informative way of learning a lot of things about your writing. When reading to yourself or out loud, your brain plays tricks by adding missing words and ignoring repetition. Audacity is free to use and you could use your computer’s microphone to record. Listening to your work reveals errors and problems in pacing.

I was mortified to discover two major mistakes that I hadn’t noticed in 100 editing trawls, where I’d misnamed the murder victim and then sent a detective to two different locations at the same time in one chapter.

I’m pleased to have completed my first audiobook. A huge weight lifted from my shoulders once I’d uploaded the final sound file to ACX, and they sent me a confirmation email. I adore writing new stories, but while creating an audiobook, I didn’t feel like a writer. Learning how to narrate a book develops an awareness of how you breathe and lots of voice acting techniques, but after you’ve recorded and mastered the same passage nine times you’ll feel trapped.

It’s certainly masochistic.

ACX is the place where your audiobook is assessed to decide if it’s of good enough quality to be admitted to Audible—KDP’s talking book operation.


Your recorded story sound files could pass ACX plugins, but still be rejected after a living person listens to it. You might have to wait a month for that decision, as they have a backlog of work because during lockdown many frustrated writers decided to complete that book they’d abandoned, then recording and uploading it to generate income.

The ACX website looks clear and helpful, but it’s poor at giving information about the audiobook cover. This has to be of a square format, at least 2,400 x 2,400 pixels. I use IrfanView image viewing and manipulating converter, which is basic enough for me to understand without confusion. It’s good at altering the size of an image unless it’s to a square! :mad: After much teeth-gnashing, I found a superb app to resize an image to whatever dimensions you need:

Online Image Resizer – Crop, Resize & Compress Images, Photos and Pictures for FREE

How to upload to ACX feels like a secret if you look for information on their site. This video helped allay my confusion:

As George Smolinski explains, to upload your sound files, you have to attach your audiobook to the KDP eBook by claiming the rights to it. Doing this usefully downloads the chapter headings you used in the eBook (NB some may be repeated…don’t know why, but it made me panic, thinking I’d done this in the eBook—I hadn’t!:rolleyes:) so you can place your sound file in the right place.

You can’t upload an audiobook without already having the eBook version on KDP.

Remember: each chapter is a separate sound file, and the opening credits (title, place in a series, name of author and name of narrator) and the closing credits (usually just The End) are each in a sound file, as is the Retail Audio Sampler…an up to five-minute snippet used to promote the book. The order I uploaded was as presented to me: Opening Credits, the 50 chapters, Closing Credits, then the Retail Audio Sampler.

It took me about 90 minutes, but that might be affected by how busy the site is. My book was eight hours, thirty-eight minutes duration.

Before doing all of this, you need to provide your financial information, which will likely be the same as you gave when joining KDP. I did everything myself, so it was relatively easy to complete, but if you employed a narrator and a sound engineer, you’ll need their details.

I guess that creating my first audiobook is an achievement, but, as with anything in writing, if no one knows it exists as a product no one is going to buy it.

Thus, I’m returning to self-promotion.

Onwards and…where the hell am I going next?!


Narrating Blues: Part 4

One thing this lark has shown me is why the voice of a narrator varies ever so slightly between sections of a chapter. It’s because of re-recording. I’ve found that it’s more likely I’ll get away with it if there’s dialogue in between my narration.

I’m in the final stages of fettling my recordings. For reasons that I don’t understand some sound files (each chapter is a sound file) that previously passed the ACX plugin test were now failing it. All the effects I’d used before to make things right now didn’t work. After taking a break to prevent myself putting a fist through the laptop screen, :mad: I chanced upon the solution!

This worked for me:

These instructions are in short-form: Location > Tool: Options > OK

Select the whole reading or chapter by clicking just right of the up arrow button (on the left).

Effect > Filter Curve > Manage > Factory Presets > Low roll-off for speech > OK.
Effect > RMS Normalize: Target RMS Level -20dB > OK.
Effect > Limiter: Soft Limit, 0, 0, -3.5dB, 10, No > OK.

Analyze > ACX-Check.

Once the Audacity aup files have satisfied the ACX check, they can be converted to MP3 format. Create a folder on your desktop labelled MP3. The conversion is easily done in the latest version of Audacity by clicking:

File > Export > Export as MP3. Send the files to your MP3 folder. Remember, opening credits and closing credits (The End) need to be in separate files. The opening credits need to be the same as those on your eBook.

While doing this, a newsletter came in from ACX. It told of one new and one recent quality control tests. The latest is called Audio Lab, whilst Audio Analysis has been around for a few months. So far as I can see, Audio Lab is simply an expansion of the ACX plugin to be used when you’re finished, whilst Audio Analysis is aimed at those unsure of settings and their microphone for them to check what they’re recorded so far.

* Audio Lab – Sound Check: Audio Lab Launches on ACX

* Audio Analysis – ACX Audio Analysis Tool FAQ’s

As you can tell from my recent posts, narrating, editing and mastering an audiobook takes a long time and is exasperating.

My recorded chapters have passed the ACX check, the Audio Lab and Audio Analysis without any problems, but they could still fail at the Human Quality Control. There are hundreds of ways of mastering what you’ve recorded and yet, there’s this dire warning on the ACX website:

Human Quality Control at ACX (the theatrical test after you pass ACX-Check technical test) does not like heavy processing. You should be as gentle as you can with as few corrections as possible. Don’t even think of submitting readings that sound like a bad cellphone, speaking into a wineglass or reading in a bathroom.
The AudioBook metaphor is listening to someone telling
 you a story over cups of tea. Anything that distracts from that ideal should be avoided.

They don’t define what “few corrections” means! How few? :rolleyes: 🙄


Narrating Blues: Part 3

I’m in the final stages of getting my first audiobook ready to upload to ACX, the vetting arm of Audible.

The pervading sensation of narrating, mastering and preparing the project to fit ACX’s requirements is of seemingly endless repetition. I haven’t felt like a writer for the last four months, more a slave to the process. Fine-tuning a short paragraph that can be read in 90 seconds might take ten minutes initially, then another ten minutes weeks later when I realised that, for some reason, I’d speeded up my narration and it sounds wrong.

Yesterday, I finally completed re-recording ten sections where my voice altered. These were all parts in which I’d re-recorded a sentence and spliced it into a paragraph. This doesn’t work! Re-recording the whole paragraph and maybe those before and after it is the way to go if you want to maintain continuity as a narrator. It takes more time, but it works.

Last night, I spent a dispiriting couple of hours converting the sound files for 50 chapters from Audacity’s aup format to MP3. Fortunately, it’s easy to do, as the latest version of Audacity includes a converter that exports the files in MP3. But, it’s repetitive and time-consuming. Those words again!

ACX only accepts audiobooks in separate sound files for each chapter, with separate files for the opening credits—title, place in a series and author and narrator (these should be the same as the eBook)—and end credits, which are simply The End. I’ll be uploading them today. Although my sound files passed an Audacity ACX plugin check, this is no guarantee they’ll be acceptable after being listened to by their robot or even a living and breathing human being. It might take them a month to get back to me.

To add to the fun, ACX requires an audiobook cover in a square size of no less than 2,400 x 2,400 pixels….similar to how a CD cover looks. The cover that I designed for the eBook is paperback-shaped, so unacceptable. For continuity, I wanted to use the same seagull I’d used for the eBook and POD paperback. I found those designs straight away, but it took me an hour to track down the original photograph, which I had the presence of mind (thanks, brain!) to save on Google’s Drive.

Faffing about with IrfanView, I made a couple of versions for the audiobook.

Since returning to creative writing in 2013, I’ve done every aspect of the work involved to produce and publish a book myself. This was partly down to my cantankerous nature and poverty.

It costs a small fortune to hire experts to create an audiobook. Unless you’re wealthy, forget hiring famous actors or voice actors (who might do voice-overs for commercials as well) or experienced narrators with a good track record of sales.

It’s advised that debut narrators charge a minimum of $80/£61 an hour, meaning my eight and a half hour novel would have cost me $680/£518 to be told by someone as unknown as me! Once more experienced at narrating, audio experts suggest a rate of $225/£174 per 10,000 words, meaning my 80,000-word book would cost $1,800/1,392.

Well-known narrators charge much more.

But, what would you do if you hated the end result?

There are ways of saving money, by sharing the profits with the narrator:


Then, you’ve got the expense of mastering your recorded sound files by an experienced audio engineer. That would be a minimum of $1,000/£772…likely two or three times more for 80,000 words.

As you can see, the expenses mount up, but paying experts will save you a lot of heartache and time. I’m proud of my first audiobook, but it’s taken me four months to reach a point where I think it’s ready to publish. I’ve done no creative writing since April.

If you’re interested in creating an audiobook, take a look at this:

How long does it take to produce an audiobook? – Quora

Should you venture down this rocky trail remember to back up your work! You will devote hundreds of hours to narrating and mastering the recordings. Do you really want to do it all again?


Narrating Blues: Part 2

Narrating a book is a peculiar activity as it requires you to balance tension and relaxation. You need to pay attention to detail while being calm enough to sound natural in the delivery of what’s going on and what your characters are saying.

It made me think of sports psychology books written by master archer Jackson Morisawa. In The Secret of the Target and One Arrow, One Life, Archery, Enlightenment he discusses how to take a relaxed Zen approach to focusing on the target. There’s a phenomenon called the ‘yips’ in sport which makes accomplished athletes tense up and miss a shot.

Yips – Wikipedia

Something similar happens with narrating, where you know there’s a difficult word or hard to say phrase coming up—yet you pronounce it perfectly—only to stumble over easy words at the end of the sentence.

TOP TIP: When you make a mistake and curse out loud, bemoaning your idiocy, leave the rude words in for when you re-record it. Laughing at yourself is restorative!

Ssssssss….got a problem with sibilance? :snake:There’s an app to calm the hissing caused by an excess of the letter S. It’s called a ‘de-esser’ and has been around since 2014. The inventor Paul L also made a ‘de-clicker’ to remove the many irritating clicks that appear on a recording from movement and lip smacking by the narrator.

I downloaded both apps, storing them in the Effect Menu for easy access. I’ve been listening to my audiobook again, applying the de-esser to good effect. I wish that I’d found the de-clicker weeks ago, as I removed all my clicks by hand! :rolleyes:

Updated De-Clicker and new De-esser for speech – Audacity Forum



Narrating Blues: Part 1

Maya Angelou said:

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with the shades of deeper meaning.”

She’s right, but I’m damned sure that she never mastered her recordings of her books.

I’ve previously mentioned what sound equipment I bought. After several weeks of narrating, I purchased what’s called a pop screen.

My Røde microphone has a built-in pop screen, but I found that I have massive plosives (makes for a lousy pick-up line!) which intruded on the recording when I said words such as “Tart”. The accessory pop screen mutes these peaks.

Narrating and mastering the recordings of 50 chapters of an 80,000-word novel was massively time-consuming. It makes editing the manuscript feel like a picnic in the park. It took me five months to write Who Kills A Nudist? Another month to edit the story. Turning it into an audiobook has taken 14 weeks, so far, as I’m sure that I’ll hear things that still need correcting when I listen to it.

I estimate that I’ve devoted 900 hours to narrating and mastering since April as I’ve put in eight to sixteen-hour days. I haven’t done any creative writing in that time.

If you’re thinking of doing an audiobook set aside several months. It would be possible to rush the job, but it’s likely that Audible’s ACX check would reject your submission. Reading aloud is something many of us do if we have children or a loving partner, but narrating is different, requiring voice acting and pauses for emphasis and varying the pace depending on what’s happening in a scene. This is a job that takes the time it takes.

I’m glad to have turned my first crime novel into an audiobook, but, believe me, my happiness is more a sense of relief from having completed the task, rather than pride at what I’ve done. Returning to mastering each day felt like cleaning the grouting of an Olympics-sized swimming pool armed with a toothbrush. :( Trapped in an endless task, the only way out was through.

How I did it

* I set my portable recording booth atop a box on a bedside table to bring it to a level with my mouth. The microphone is connected to my laptop by the USB port. The lead is 78”/198 cm long, so it would be possible to position it away from the mic (to avoid fan noise) though that would be a stretch to operate the Audacity controls.

* Each chapter is treated as a separate sound file by ACX. I used this stipulation as a way of noting recording errors on each chapter text with a different colour. If I repeatedly stumbled over a particular word or phrase, I increased the font size.

* To minimise the chance of extraneous noises, I read from a tablet. Reading from rustling paper would be impossible, I’d imagine, as the microphone picks up on everything.

How I did it

* I set my portable recording booth atop a box on a bedside table to bring it to a level with my mouth. The microphone is connected to my laptop by the USB port. The lead is 78”/198 cm long, so it would be possible to position it away from the mic (to avoid fan noise) though that would be a stretch to operate the Audacity controls.

* Each chapter is treated as a separate sound file by ACX. I used this stipulation as a way of noting recording errors on each chapter text with a different colour. If I repeatedly stumbled over a particular word or phrase, I increased the font size.

* To minimise the chance of extraneous noises, I read from a tablet. Reading from rustling paper would be impossible, I’d imagine, as the microphone picks up on everything.


Clear your tubes out! I used Olbas Oil, Fisherman’s Friends lozenges and some Jakemans’ menthol sweets. I bought a box of the much-praised Vocalzone pastilles, but they weren’t superior and were three-times the price.

* Have water to drink nearby. Sometimes you’ll struggle with an excess of saliva, but mostly your voice will start to sound like a lizard crossing the Gobi Desert! You can pause the recording while taking on lubrication.

* Wear clothing that doesn’t rustle. This doesn’t affect me in my sweltering rooftop flat, as I become the Nude Novelist in summer, now the Nude Narrator! :rolleyes:

* Limit what you do…tackle the work in manageable stages or you’ll quickly hate what you’re doing. This will happen anyway. :mad: but, especially when starting out take it easy on your voice. My throat felt like I’d shoved a red-hot poker down it after early recording sessions.

Odd things

* The sound of your voice will bewilder you. You’ll hate it at times, though sometimes you’ll forget it’s you talking and think that your narration works very well indeed. Remember, narrating your book is part of the process of selling yourself. Some audiobook fans are drawn towards novels told by their creators.

* Narrating your book is the best way of noticing mistakes that you’ve previously missed in editing. It makes you feel like a fool. I’d edited Who Kills A Nudist? One hundred times (I kept count) and it has been enjoyed by three beta readers. Despite this, while listening to it, I found I’d misnamed the dead nudist at one point, and in another chapter, I’d sent a detective to two different places eighty miles apart!

* No one much will care that you’ve created an audiobook, although it will haunt your waking and sleeping thoughts.

* Many times, I cursed myself for writing such long sentences, as I ran out of breath yet again.

* Writing 500-word children’s books suddenly looks attractive to me.

Noises Off

Narrating and recording a book soon makes you obsessed with noise. I live in a noisy location, at a petrol station on a main road, next to the flight path to Newquay Airport and with a car repair workshop nearby. The lockdown was a blessing for me when I started recording. Since restrictions have eased, I’ve been reminded of how intrusive slamming car doors, exhaust notes and aeroplanes are. I love motorcycles, but waiting for wailing two-stroke exhaust noise to cease, as it passes through three sentences, tried my patience.

They are the noisy noises, but my sensitive mic hears things I’m unaware of while narrating, as I have earbuds in to hear my voice. Thus, when listening back, I hear:

* Knees knocking on the bedside table supporting the recording booth.

* Strange booming from brushing the mic lead with my arm.

* Breathing! Most sounds that need removing are your breathing. On the Audacity soundwave they appear as tiny vertical ‘bristles’ or little squiggles or mini sausages on the horizontal baseline. It takes many hours to delete them. Some barely make a noise, but others sound like the gasp of a drowning man!

* Rather than reach a point where I’m running out of breath and my voice is croaking, I pause and take a lungful of air, pausing before narrating again. The deep breath can be edited out.

* You’ll find that some of the tiny marks on the soundwave aren’t breaths, but the very end of words. Audacity has a scroll back feature which replaces them.

I was puzzled by a charming tinkling sound as if a silver carriage full of fairies was passing by. It occurred a few times, increasing in intensity. It wasn’t until I stopped recording, that I heard the sparrow fledglings cheeping in the wall space, as they begged for food.

With soundproofing, I think my portable recording booth is the way to go. It was affordable and does most of what a full-sized cubicle would do. That would be pricey to construct and take up a lot of space. It wouldn’t be any more protection from exhaust notes.


* If a scene has several characters use different coloured colours to delineate who’s speaking.

* I’ve seen it recommended that breathing points are marked on the manuscript, but I don’t know how that would work, as you’d have to be robotic to achieve it. NB unwanted breathing noises can be removed from the recording…you don’t have to go back to the beginning and do it all again!

* The best way of correcting mistakes is to re-record them. You might think, that as you’re still you and that your recording equipment is identical and in the same room, that you’ll sound exactly the same. It’s probable that you won’t be a precise match. Instead, you’ll sound like your younger brother or someone who could be your cousin.

* The worst thing to do is what I wasted several weeks doing: that is, to re-record snippets, a sentence or phrase. It makes the recording sound uneven. One paragraph I corrected sounded like four people were narrating it! Far better a technique, in the long run, is to re-record the entire paragraph. This cushions your slightly different-sounding voice.

*Sounds obvious, but you’re going to be dealing with lots and lots of manuscript files and sound files, so label them in the same layout, so they stay in order.


* There are thousands of helpful and dreadful advice videos on YouTube. Whatever you watch to do with Audacity and Audible make sure it’s relatively new and applicable to your version. The same goes for articles and forums

Here are some of the better ones that helped me:

Standard chain settings for ACX production – Audacity Forum

AudioBook Mastering version 4 – Audacity Forum

Booth Junkie videos

I’ve yet to listen to the ultimate version of my first audiobook. I did five editing sweeps through the whole thing, improving it each time. Sound interference I’d previously left in as barely noticeable, I removed as I became more critical. This task would be ideal for someone with OCD!

One thing that surprised me, was how long my audiobook is. Reading it silently to myself takes five and a half hours. Totalling the fifty chapter sound files makes for eight hours and twenty minutes.

The next task is to scrutinise the ACX requirements and upload my talking book to Audible. I’m not expecting a leap in sales, but it may help to spread my name as an author. Writing is a terrible way of making money. If I’ve devoted 900 hours to the audiobook and I charge £20 or £15 for it…my hourly income is laughable.
I am dreading turning Book 2 The Perfect Murderer into an audiobook, as it’s 139,000 words long! I may join the French Foreign Legion instead. :camel:

If anyone needs any advice, give me a shout and I’ll see if I can remember what I did.


What to do next?

Prioritising work is fiendishly difficult. How to decide what’s important and needs to be tackled first?

There’s no way of telling what will work in publishing until is does. My original intention as 2020 started was to promote myself as a writer and my Cornish Detective series as crime stories worth reading. I already had a blog about writing, a website devoted to my protagonist and various social media profiles. Adding posts to them might support my publishing career. Last Christmas, I uploaded the first four titles to KDP Select, a commitment I’d previously avoided. Book 5 would appear to coincide with holidaymakers appearing in Cornwall at Easter. I was 50,000 words into completing the sixth story. I had a plan! :rolleyes:

Then, everything went bonkers. While updating my Linux Mint operating system, it somehow gobbled up every document on the desktop. My fault, I think, as I inadvertently had another update running at the same time. Somehow, I’d saved everything to the Cloud except my work in progress! I wasted two months attempting to recover it, without result. As I struggled, the coronavirus took hold of the world. Slowly, I realised that the manuscript would have been unusable, as the story was set in 2020.

Slightly deterred, but not crestfallen, I refocused my energies to add another string to my bow by learning how to narrate and record my novels as audiobooks. The lockdown had further stimulated this sector of publishing which was already growing exponentially.

I chose Audacity as a digital audio workstation (DAW), which is free to use. I spent several hundred quid acquiring equipment. The Olympus LS-P4 Hi-Res Audio Recorder I bought wasn’t needed for home recording, but I intend to use it with a digital SLR camera I got to film videos about the stories out in the field.

I’ve been learning how to record audio files that satisfy Amazon’s ACX vetting procedure. The advice I received from Colony members who preceded me on this mind-blowing obstacle course was invaluable. My audio-files have finally passed ACX. All I have to master now is how to pronounce words perfectly!

Each novel will take at least a month to narrate and master, so that’s most of the rest of the year gone. I record in the evening, as the place where I live is quietest then.

Other activities I could be getting on with, include blogging, writing articles for the Cornish Detective website, making myself known on Twitter, my Facebook business page, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram and LinkedIn. I’m also writing the third novella in a series about an American Civil War veteran. I should be querying literary agents, my least favourite part of being a writer.

There’s always something to do being a writer!

How do you prioritise what to do next?

Do you have a set daily routine?

Or, do you mix and match?


Recording an Audiobook

I’m contemplating recording audiobook versions of my five Cornish Detective novels.

I’m picking your brains for advice. I’ve been looking at microphones for sale. This evening, I opened a newsletter from Yanko Design (worth subscribing to) to see an article on an affordable microphone from Rode:

It’s pricier than the quoted $91. In rip-off Britain traders on eBay and Amazon are asking £109.99, but it looks easy to use and has good reviews.

I live at what used to be one of the noisiest places in Cornwall, during the day, at a petrol station on the flight path to Newquay Airport. In normal times, it’s very quiet after 7.00 p.m. These days it’s silent! I wouldn’t be disturbed by aeroplanes or passing vehicles. My room is compact at 18’ x 12’ with sloping ceilings, so I don’t think I’d need to build a recording booth. But, what do I know?

Will I need sound-absorbing material on the walls, a book stand, a microphone stand or a digital audio workstation to mix and edit?

What can you tell me?


It’s commonly said that we’re surprised by how our voice sounds when we hear it on the playback of a recording. Usually, it sounds higher than we think it does. This article discusses the problem:

The real reason the sound of your own voice makes you cringe

I’ve been told several times over the years, that I have an attractive talking and singing voice, which gives me a little confidence to narrate my books. At the moment, I’m researching microphones and such things as polar patterns. It looks like I need a cardioid pattern mic.

I remember reading advice that it’s best to slow down one’s narration, as it’s easy to gallop through a story.

For those of you who’ve created audiobooks, were you surprised by the sound of your voice? What about the dilemma of imitating foreign accents? I get the impression that extraneous noises can sometimes be edited out. But, what about the microphone’s sensitivity—can it pick up the sound of the narrator sipping water?

I know that book narration isn’t making a radio play, but have you ever included sound effects? Way back in the 1970s, I worked as a motorcycle dispatch rider. One of the regular clients was a Foley engineer who added sound effects to films and videos. Her recording studio could be a surprisingly messy place. I was shocked one day, when I arrived with a package, to find her slashing a pumpkin to pieces with a machete, the pulp flying everywhere. This was to simulate a stabbing scene in a horror film. I’ve never looked at pumpkins in the same way since!

I’ve also been investigating affordable video cameras. This assumes that I can bear the thought of appearing online.

Who knows where I’ll end up?

What about listening to your audiobook? Which headphones or earbuds do you favour?

I listen to music while writing. For years, I used cheap earbuds, favouring those that fitted into my ear canal, rather than models which perched in my ear as I found them uncomfortable, and they allowed too much sound leakage in and out.

Such budget plastic earbuds don’t last forever—one earbud fails—I’m a decent solderer, but the wires are finer than human hair and difficult to connect if you’re thinking of joining two working earbuds.

Frustrated by their short life, I decided to splash out a tenner on a pair of wooden earbuds. This sounded like a gimmick to me, but, to my astonishment, the sound quality was brilliant! Playing songs, I could hear notes I didn’t know existed with the cheap earbuds. They also have a long lead, which makes moving around easier. Best tenner I’ve ever spent.

ZIOFEN Premium Earphones – Wood Design – Noise-isolating Ear Buds – Storage Bag. | eBay

I like them a lot, but wonder if over-ear headphones would be better for creating audiobooks.

Do you have any recommendations?

After missing out on an eBay auction, I decided to bite the bullet and buy new. I investigated alternatives to the much-recommended Zoom H4N Pro Handy Recorder—it’s a brilliant device—but stretches my budget. I found good reviews of the Olympus LS-P4 Hi Res Audio Recorder, which an eBay trader was selling for £99.99…new, but in an opened box.
I bought it, along with the Rode NT-USB microphone for £105 and a clip-on suspension boom mic holder for £9.95 (reduced from £24.95).

Goodbye £214.94

I feel faint!

I’ll let you know how things go.

I’ve been watching the Booth Junkie videos on YouTube. He really knows his stuff and can explain things well.
Losing my virginity as a narrator is proving to be a costly business. I bought the Rode microphone and Olympus audio recorder under the misapprehension that I could use the former as an external mic for the latter. It turns out that I don’t need to. It is possible to attach an external mic to the recorder, but to do so with the Rode would need a strange lead with a 3.5 mm jack plug on one end and a mini USB plug on the other.

I’m happy with both bits of kit and have made test recordings with each of them. From advice, I read, it’s thought to be risky to record onto a laptop hard drive, as the fan noise will intrude. It hasn’t, so far, but the temperature in my flat reaches 90F/36C in summer, so it’s likely to.

As a way around this problem, I bought a cheap tablet. I intend to use it for reading the manuscript too, to avoid making scrolling noises with my laptop mouse or paper sounds from turning pages. The Ibowin 10.1” tablet is made in China and cost me £58.99. It’s the first tablet I’ve owned, and I was impressed with the quality of it. What didn’t impress me, is how damn difficult it is to connect to the internet using my GiffGaff dongle. The tablet uses the Android operating system and is designed to connect to Wi-Fi. I’m not alone in having difficulties—try Googling it. Apparently, there’s a way around the problem by ‘rooting’ the device, but this may not work and it voids the one-year warranty.

Feeling frustrated, I did more investigating and found that what I needed is a Mi-Fi router, a portable Wi-Fi hotspot, into which I insert the GiffGaff SIM which will allow me to connect my tablet and the laptop and up to six other devices. I found a refurbished model on eBay for £18.99. I hope that it works.

My test recordings, which I did without any sound insulation, showed that the ambient noise was surprisingly high. I had a brainwave to make a portable recording booth. When I work, I rest my feet on a black plastic recycling box, which looked the right size. Then, I looked at YouTube to see that a Canadian chap had done just the same thing!

Back to eBay to buy spray adhesive (£5.40) and acoustic panels (£13.88) to line the box with. Experimenting (which is free!), I lined the box with pillows and cushions and made two recordings of the same chapter with the mic and with the Olympus audio recorder. The portable booth worked really well with no ambient noise and my voice sounded fuller and more bass.

This is a very good thing, as in the first recordings, I sounded like a cross between Stephen Fry being haughty and Kaa the snake from Disney’s version of The Jungle Book. I don’t think that sounding like a snobby hissing anaconda is desirable as a narrator. :rolleyes:

I’ll keep you posted on developments.