Diane Farr: Adventures in Audiobookland

I write (mostly) romantic tales set in Regency England. But even if you know my books, you might not know that my first artistic career wasn’t on a page, but on the stage! Years of training, a degree in Drama, a move to Hollywood, an actual union card…so yeah, seriously, I was an actress. And more to the point, in addition to my stage work, I did voiceovers. I had something called “instant talent”—a knack for picking up a script and reading it “cold,” switching regional accents on command, that sort of thing.

You’ll notice I am using the past tense. I’ve been out of the business for a long time now, writing. But I’ve often thought it would be fun to record my books. And when Amazon acquired Audible, and then launched the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX)—bringing their expertise in self-publishing to the production of audiobooks—I knew it was just a matter of time before I jumped on the bandwagon.

I jumped in 2013.

And discovered that producing one’s own audiobook is just a tad different from walking into a studio, grabbing a script, putting on a pair of headphones and following someone else’s direction. I’d always thought that voiceover work was the easiest gig in show business. I now learned that what made it so easy was all the heavy lifting being done by the people surrounding the actor! In the brave new world of indie publishing, I had to do all the hard stuff in addition to the easy stuff.

And the easy stuff wasn’t that easy, either. I began with a novella—a lightweight bit of romantic fluff called Dashing Through the Snow—because, duh, it was the shortest piece I had. I thought of it as a sort of warm-up exercise. But I soon realized that a sustained reading of 20,000 words is a bit more difficult than voicing a 30-second commercial.

I swallowed. I breathed. I muffed my words from time to time. My voice cracked. Once I accidentally bonked the microphone with my tea cup. A couple of times I had to stop to clear my throat. All this vocal crapola had to be carefully edited out, and I didn’t have an editor. Or a recording engineer. Or a director. Or a sound technician. I had to wear all the hats. It’s tough to read out loud for hours on end while wearing multiple hats.

Oh, and did I mention that I don’t happen to own a recording studio? I have two cats, a husband and a washing machine, all reliably making noise at varying levels. The farthest point from the action in my house is the master bathroom. I closed the bedroom door and the bathroom door, huddled on a stool, and read into my newly-acquired Porta-Booth—which was balanced on a second stool, facing me.

With all this going on, I wasn’t able to tackle the gigantic problem rearing its hoary head—the one that had kept me from trying this during all the time I had wished I could. I am (a) female and (b) American. Many of my most important characters are (a) male and (b) English.

The marketing geniuses at ACX assured me that their audience wanted to hear books read by the author, no matter what. In their view, the fact that the narrator had also written the book outweighed any trifling consideration of accent or gender. So I forged ahead, perched in my bathroom with hot tea at my elbow and a microphone seated in a foam box before my face.

And then spent many an evening going over the recording with a fine-toothed comb, editing out the pops and gaps and odd noises, watching (and then applying) “how-to” videos on audio compression, and equalization, and blah-blah-blah. I got pretty good at blah-blah-blah.

dashingWould I recommend the experience to other authors? Yes and no. Yes, if you are technologically savvy or don’t mind becoming technologically savvy. And if you like to read out loud. And if other people enjoy hearing you read out loud. And if you’re a total cheapskate who would rather do all the work yourself than pay someone else to do it for you.

If you answer “no”—or even “I’m not sure”—to any of those questions, my recommendation would be to visit ACX and offer your books to the hungry voiceover actors who may audition for you. There are actors who are willing to read your book for a share of your royalties. There are even producers who are willing to produce said actor’s work for a share of your royalties.

Dashing through the Snow went on sale through Audible, Amazon and iTunes on November 1, 3013 and I received my first royalty check yesterday—with no share deducted for anyone other than myself. So for me, was it worth the hours spent cursing under my breath and hating the sound of my own voice? I would have to say yes!

Available

Audible

About the Author

diane_headshotDiane Farr was first published at the age of eight when the Bakersfield Californian printed one of her poems. She has spent most of her life with her nose in a book — sometimes reading, sometimes writing. Eventually she produced eight historical romances and a novella, all published by Signet Books, a division of Penguin Putnam. Her latest adventure is a teen paranormal series: The Spellspinners. All her books are now available as e-books as well as in print.

3 thoughts on “Diane Farr: Adventures in Audiobookland

  1. Hi Diane,
    I’m also a “retired” actress who’s turned to writing, and I love reading aloud to folks, and they encourage me to do it, so I’m going to assume I do it well. Your post on recording your own stuff has confirmed my worst fears. I rot at technology–absolutely rot. Guess I won’t be recording my own stuff–but have you tried hooking up with a studio that does audiobooks? Do they exist?

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  2. Oh, you should never let technology intimidate you … at least without giving it a hard look! What I found difficult may be a breeze for you, after all. There are helpful videos on YouTube about recording narration, and the nice people at acx.com have videos too: http://www.acx.com/help/authors-as-narrators/200626860

    Frankly, unless you are a big-name author, an upfront investment in studio time may not pay off for a long time. ACX doesn’t seem to have Amazon’s “chops” yet, in the realm of making your work discoverable. I trust they are working on that, but in the meantime, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of “if you liked this, you might like that” outreach going on. This is why, so far, I’ve been glad I don’t have to split my royalties with a producer and/or narrator.

    And once you acquire the skills and get into the rhythm of it, the process does get smoother. I was just such a newbie-!

    Good luck to you!

    Diane

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