Image: Arild Andersen at Creative Commons
Apparently concerned that not enough of the world is quite as much in love with the sound of my own voice as I am, I recently produced my own audiobook. As my autobiography is still in the early stages of drafting (Being Briony: One Girl’s Inspiring Struggle Against Endless Privilege, Love, Support and Opportunity), I had to record someone else’s book instead.
The book was an interesting self-help guide called Following Through (try saying that seventeen times per chapter without corpsing), and it was really quite an easy, fun read. Sadly, producing your own audiobook is very different to arriving at a professional studio, being given a nice coffee by someone called Dom, and just doing the easy reading bit while someone else called Chris fiddles with sound editing software in a glass booth. You become Chris and Dom, except you’re not a trained sound editor and your coffee isn’t even that nice.
The first thing was getting the set-up right. Plugging everything in is quite straightforward, like that song about bones: the microphone connects to the – audio interface. The audio interface connects to the – laptop. The audio interface also connects to the – headphones, etc. Then you have to soundproof the place, which in my world means standing squares of foam in a sort of rickety card house around the mic on my desk and putting my head in it. The bent spine connects to the – neck-ache. After this follows hours of actually quite lonely work, talking to yourself in your foam house without so much as a friendly nod from Chris in his glass booth.
Now, if I were Chris, I’d just have left everything exactly where it was from the beginning of the project till the end, so that the quality of the sound stayed exactly the same. But I’m not Chris, and my foam house kept falling down, and that made my microphone fall over, and I may have fiddled with the volume knobs a bit, and I had to put it all away and get it all out again a couple of times because someone needed the room. So I ended up with about eight chapters with a horrible background hiss, several others with an inexplicable squealing whine (no, not my voice, ha ha), and a chapter three that sounded like it had been recorded under the sea.
In my utter idiocy, I had quoted a price for the job based only upon the number of hours it should take to read the entire book at a normal speaking pace. So not only had I not taken into account the time required to edit inevitable stumbles while reading, and time to upload the finished product; I was certainly not covered for hours spent attempting to make the uploads actually work, hours of internet research into editing sound, hours of implementing this research and hastily attempting to undo the botched results, hours of arguing with file types, bit rates and bps (what do they mean??), and the hour I spent crying down the phone to my mum. In the end, I sent it all to my friend who is a Chris (well, he’s a Tom, but you know), and paid him most of my already by now laughable fee to sort them out for me.
Luckily, the authors were extremely patient with me and very pleased with the eventual result. They have even (astonishingly) recommended me to colleagues of theirs. So the entire thing sort of turned into a weeks-long, emotionally traumatic training course led by a complete simpleton, that cost me hours and hours of lost earnings but taught me some extremely useful lessons. I might even approach doing another audiobook in the future when the emotional scars have healed – and at least it’s great material for Being Briony.