• StevenF

Learning to Be An Audiobook Producer

So I wrote recently that I have been taking an audiobook narration and production course. It's a month-long course, and I am in week three of it. It is because of my commitment to the course that I haven't had as much time to blog.

In addition to the two weekly live classes (one of which I have to watch later on playback because I can't attend it live due to work), there is an incredible amount of video, audio, and written content to absorb. In addition to all that, there are assignments and homework, so the course and my regular job are taking up much of my time, and I am also tired. So...not much blogging time. Apologies to those of you who are absolutely riveted by the goings-on in my life and the lives of my cats. 😄

The audiobook course was also a bit of a financial investment, so I really am trying to stay on top of it and make it worth my while. The good thing is that all of the content is lifetime accessible, which is nice because I will need to continue reviewing much of it.

As I think I mentioned in the above-mentioned post, I have always been interested in learning how to narrate and produce audiobooks. When the pandemic affected my and Isaias's employment, I had attempted to teach myself how to do it a year and a half ago.

The narration part is something I felt I was already adept at and capable of. I have also heard some pretty terrible audiobook narrators who have managed to get their voices out there, and I knew if they could do it, I certainly could.

What I didn't have was the technical know-how or acoustical knowledge necessary to produce the kind of sound I knew would be acceptable for audiobook production. So I spent a lot of time watching YouTube videos, reading articles, asking advice from friends who do voice-overs (and audiobooks specifically) and friends who are familiar with sound studio production, and I spent a lot of time experimenting and dealing with trial and error.

It was overwhelming at times and sometimes even frustrating. But it was also often fun and satisfying as well. But of course, there is a lot of advice out there, good and bad, helpful and unhelpful, and wading through all of it to find the useful stuff was sometimes daunting.

My first version of a home studio was in our walk in closet. It has a lot of clothes in it, which is good for dampening the sound. I also hung some blankets where the closet doors are, and that helped. Figuring out how to position the condenser mic that Isaias happened to have was a challenge, but I finally started to get a nice sound. However, taking up the closet we both shared wasn't the most convenient thing.

So I moved into the room where I keep my Star Wars collection. I hung some blankets and was happy overall with the sound I was getting.

Isaias had gotten a sound editing and mastering software with his microphone, but I found it complicated and not very user friendly. In trying to find a better solution for my technical skills, Audacity was the software that seemed to fit the criteria.

I also learned about ACX, which is what many self-producers use to find audiobook jobs. But I ultimately never felt confident enough in my skills to pursue audiobook recording. I just felt I could only deliver a serviceable but shoddy product, and I just needed more specifics to feel comfortable.

Isaias had also bought me a portable studio for my birthday last year, and I was excited about it, but found the quality of my sound changed negatively from my makeshift blanket "studio," and then I got the job at Meow Wolf, and so the audiobook stuff sort of got shuffled away.

But it is still something I am interested in and think I could be really good at if I just really knew what I was doing. So when I discovered that ACXMasterclassthe course I am taking—focused both on ACX and Audacity, and when I read the reviews from past students, it sounded like it would be beneficial.

Overall, I have been extremely pleased with the course and instruction. I do think in the end it will have been worth the money spent. O have also received a lot of great feedback and encouragement and am enjoying learning along with my fellow students. The two instructors, David H. Lawrence XVII and Dan O'Day, are very knowledgeable and have provided a lot of useful information and technique. Certainly, the stuff I am being taught and am learning is improving what I was trying to teach myself.

But there is also the question of how much I'm willing to spend to really do this. For example, I think it would be useful to have some acoustic foam and a fanless laptop to help streamline my efforts and improve my sound. But those cost money. I also need to really know how to treat my space to make it as acoustically optimal.

And then I need to find times to record when cats, my husband, and the outside world aren't making noise because what I currently have going is not able to block out all sounds. And I need to get comfortable enough with balancing, recording, editing, and mastering that I am confident enough to take a job if offered.

Tonight's class taught a lot of valuable editing techniques, and I know there is some content coming out this week that hopefully will help me learn to make my setup better and master my sound more professionally.

The course thus far has been exciting, fun, encouraging, and valuable. It's really about deciding how much more I'm willing to invest and how much time and dedication I am willing to put into what I'm learning. But I'm definitely not sorry I invested in this class in the first place.

We'll see where we go from here. So much content this week I know I will need to review and absorb. But I look forward to it.

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