Category Archives: YouTube

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.




I entered the throes of narrating and recording and mastering my first Cornish Detective novel on April 23rd. Who Kills A Nudist is 79,000 words long with 50 chapters, meaning they average 1,580 words. It takes me about twenty minutes to narrate each chapter, but editing/mastering the recording consumes 60 – 70 minutes. The work involved is repetitive and nit-picking, as I remove a sliver of one-tenth of a second between words, then play it back to hear if it sounds more listenable. My wrist soon started to ache from concentrated activity. I use Audacity, which looks complicated, but is easy once a few commands are mastered. It took me a couple of weeks to work out how to do that. :rolleyes:

It would be possible to do a rush job, but it wouldn’t meet ACX criteria and would be riddled with mistakes. I reckon that it’s completely impossible to narrate a chapter without stumbling over pronunciation, mucking up an emphasis on a word or using the wrong voice for a character. That’s without taking into account noises that intrude – brushing the microphone lead with a knee or knocking the table with your knee, and then there are motorcycle exhausts whining away.

Most of the work I do is to remove the sound of me taking a breath. It’s OK to leave breaths in if a character is talking passionately, but the narrator needs to be talking from a quiet place.

The portable recording booth I made cost me about £20 to construct, but I already had a black plastic recycling bin of the right size. A good quality microphone is essential. The Røde microphone cost me £105 and plugs into a USB port. The other essential piece of equipment, to my mind, is a tablet to read the manuscript from; my Android model cost less than £60. It would be possible to use your desk computer or laptop to read from, but there’s a high chance that the cooling fan will come on…you won’t hear it, but the microphone will! Forget reading from paper, as all the rustles will be recorded.

Thus, for about £200, I set myself up as a narrator. An expense that I hope will pay off, as audiobook sales have grown 31% this year.

I long ago decided that everything in life takes longer to do than you think it will—except for spending money and making love! :rolleyes: It’s particularly true of anything to do with writing and publishing. Learning how to narrate and record and edit looks overwhelming when you first think about doing so. Even once you’ve got an idea of what to do, it’s still very time-consuming.

There are scores of helpful and confusing guidance videos on YouTube giving basic and advanced tips. It won’t take you long watching these videos for you to realise that audio experts are total geeks!

NB When watching videos, check the date that they were made. Audacity is regularly updated, meaning advice for one version may not apply to more recent versions. I’m using the latest version 2.4.1

The thing is, you really don’t have to comprehend what terms like compression, normalisation and noise reduction mean. All you have to do is apply these effects in the correct order to make your recording sound as it should—it won’t sound any different to you—but, it will conform to the technical requirements of ACX, which is the vetting procedure that an audiobook has to pass to be allowed onto Audible, the audiobook division of KDP.

There are several plugins that need to be added to Audacity to make things easier, including one called ACX Check which analyses your manuscript.
I’ll write a post about what I’ve done and how to apply the effects.

NB Even if your story passes the ACX Check, it still might be rejected by the Audible team for other transgressions, apparently, one can wait several weeks for a response.


She wouldn’t get away with it today!

We’ve previously discussed the semicolon in a couple of threads:

Today, while reading A Biography of Loneliness, by Fay Bound Alberti, I found a quote from Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary which she’d used as a chapter epigraph:

I have entered into a sanctuary; a nunnery; had a religious retreat; of great agony once; and always some terror; so afraid one is of loneliness; of seeing to the bottom of the vessel. That is one of the experiences I have had here in some Augusts; and got then to a consciousness of what I call ‘reality’: a thing I see before me: something abstract; but residing in the downs or the sky; beside which nothing matters; in which I shall rest and continue to exist.”

That’s a plethora of semicolons!

I felt bold when I once used two semicolons in a sentence.

Do you think she’d get away with it today?

Wouldn’t a 21st-century editor wield their red pen?

I wanna be adored

Apologies to The Stone Roses for stealing the title of one of their songs from their breakout album, which I acquired yesterday at a car boot sale. I hadn’t listened to it for a while, but I wanna be adored made me think about how we sell ourselves as writers. Lead singer Ian Brown wrote the song to admit that he’d sold out, by going for a more commercial sound—to be liked by more music fans.

In the 21st-century, we’re expected to share details of our lives as part of the process of marketing our writing. Having a blog and a website devoted to our books is practically compulsory, expected by one’s literary agent, publisher and readers. And, what about your social media posts, where you scintillate and captivate new readers?

No one likes a grouch, however good their writing. You have to play nice, at least occasionally when interviewed, if you’re going to improve sales of your books. Some people are naturally charming while retaining a depth of intelligence that shows they’re not being smarmy. I think of J.K. Rowling, Philip Pullman, Ian Rankin, Walter Mosley and Jeanette Winterson when I say this. I’m sure that you can think of other examples of accessible authors who you enjoy hearing talking about the creative process.

I’ve spent most of 2019 building an author platform, attempting to come across as nice, for want of a better word, as well as someone worth reading. Having spent the last decade living in a flat at a petrol station, socialising and dating not at all, my life has been devoted to reading and writing. I have lots of imaginary friends! :rolleyes: The concept of being adored is laughable, but whether I self-publish my Cornish Detective series or I get picked up by Hodder & Stoughton’s The Future Bookshelf publishing opportunity, I need to ingratiate myself with potential readers.

Some will hate my books, others will think them OK, while a few may adore them. And me?

It would be a strange situation to be in, where your fans believed in you more than you believed in yourself, demanding more and more from you.

Best not to take yourself too seriously. Neil Gaiman put it well in an interview:

You have a very open relationship with your fans.”

“Yes. We have an open relationship. Obviously, they can see other authors if they want, and I can see other readers.”

Do you want to be adored?

Offending Mark Zuckerberg!

I haven’t dated in ten years, so naughtiness has been absent from my life, but I’ve just put my foot in it with Facebook.

To celebrate becoming a pensioner in July, I bought a copy of Nick Cave’s Push The Sky Away album on eBay. I love the title track, which is a song of hope. It kept playing in my mind, as I slogged through building a blog and a website devoted to my crime novel series.

The cover shows him ordering his ex-model wife Susie Bick from the room…she’s totally nude.

Image result for nick cave susie bick

It was an impromptu shot snapped by the photographer between posed sessions, which they preferred for the cover.

I’d played the song on YouTube, so decided to post it on Facebook. I chose a full-length version, not thinking too much about the nudity, for the shot was taken from 30′ away and you can’t see anything much.

It’s a running joke that Mark Zuckerberg is terrified of nipples, as so many innocent pics featuring them have been banned.

Apparently, he’s scared of pubic hair too, for though Susie Bick’s minge is barely discernible, it got my post shunted off into the sin bin for contravening Facebook’s Community Standards. A few pixels of pubes made me naughty again!

Now, where did I put my magnifying glass?

Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Police

I’m currently having my own crisis of conscience about doing business with an unscrupulous corporation, and this article on the Plagiarism Today website does little to reassure me:

In 2018, Jeff Bezos stated that his company would eventually fail:

His prediction struck me as wise in an Ozymandias way:

But, it neatly deflected attention from criticism that Amazon was expanding too fast and needed to be more tightly regulated owing to their absurd power over markets—it’s reckoned that 48% of all online sales in the USA in 2019 will be from Amazon.

If you’re crushing the opposition as a business, there may well be bargains for buyers, but there are detrimental knock-on effects. In Cornwall, where I live, I know of many high streets that are plagued with empty shop units, owing to a huge supermarket being built on the edge of town.

Amazon, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have been criticized for plagiarism and promoting extreme, offensive and illegal viewpoints. Attempting to police what’s uploaded to their sites is difficult. The Plagiarism Today article mentions a figure of 3,000 hours of content being uploaded to YouTube every hour. Who’s going to watch such vast amounts of footage on social media sites to decide if it contravenes regulations?

The answer is low-paid workers who wind up with PTSD:

Such hideousness makes any concerns I have pale into insignificance, but as writers, we should still be watchful.

Really, there’s not a lot we can do to prevent someone ripping us off by plagiarising our books, certainly if it happens in a foreign language. I’ve previously mentioned how an author acquaintance was told by friends travelling in India and China that her MG stories had been counterfeited. One of her friends had designed the book covers, which she noticed on a market stall, the heads changed to have Asian features. They were also available on Amazon.

Although I’ve had profiles on most social media sites for a long time, I’m currently delving into the intricacies of how they work. Facebook bewilders me in many ways, for it operates in a slow and obstructive way, yet as a parasite trading on the insecurities of users who post content for free adding to Mark Zuckerberg’s wealth it’s a brilliant con trick—as well as being an intelligence agency that rivals the FBI, CIA and MI5.

I’m also in the process of building a business page on Facebook for my crime novels, which I’ve put in maintenance mode, so it’s not searchable. This state is agitating Facebook, who keep on reminding me to make it go live, as well as pushing me to buy ad space. It’s fun baiting them!

Whatever you do on social media, don’t overshare. A friend was burgled last year, after revealing she was going away for two weeks holiday. She’d previously posted many photos showing her house, its windows, its door locks, no nearby neighbours and no burglar alarm. She had contents insurance, but her insurers checked her Facebook presence and only offered a partial payout.

How much do you use YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon?

Has it been to your benefit as a person and as a writer?