Since embarking on my indie journey on 30 January 2022 and publishing my first book The Cuckoo's Song, my goal has been publishing in as many formats as possible. To this end I've been focussed on creating my audiobook backlist.
I've been incredibly fortunate to cast an amazing narrator Nina Nikolic who has completed narration of my first audiobook for Sabiha's Dilemma and is working on the second Alma's Loyalty. And I have recently cast Alec O'Shea to do a dual narration with Nina of The Climb, and he'll then be the voice of Jesse in Jesse's Triumph, the third in my Sassy Saints Series.
As I have built my confidence in audiobook production, a thought rose in me. I should get my traditionally published memoir produced as an audiobook. After running the idea by a few of my friends, they kept telling me that I should narrate it myself. Reading stories of other authors who narrated their memoirs such as Anna Spargo-Ryan and Amani Haydar, I screwed up my courage and launched into it.
This is going to be a excruciatingly detailed step by step list of the process for all those who wanted to know.
The first step was seeing whether my published Barry Scott and Transit Lounge would allow me the rights. When I sold my memoir I sold worldwide rights in all formats, a standard expectation of publishers these days.
When I emailed him asking about the audiobook Barry was very generous in giving me the rights to produce the audiobook.
I decided to hire a studio to produce the audiobook. While I might have been able to try and do it myself, this would have required buying equipment and software and I still would have had to hire a producer to edit the software and remove any sounds. Also files have to be produced to certain specifications or they won't be accepted by distributors like Findaway Voices and Banana Republic so I didn't want to take any chances.
As time is my most precious resource I wanted this done properly the first time and to have confidence that I was working with professionals. I sought a few quotes and decided on SquareSound for a few reasons:
1-When I'd been casting The Climb I met with the co-founder and producer Maryanne Plazzer and was impressed with her professionalism, generosity and knowledge.
2-SquareSound have produced so many traditionally and indie authored audiobooks I was familiar with.
3-The studios are located in Port Melbourne which is very convenient to me.
The studio was booked and Maryanne was very helpful in accomodating my schedule of being on long service leave and school pick up and drop off. She sent me a brochure about preparation for the audiobook that included instructions about how to make sure my throat was well prepared including bringing water with lemon slices in it and not drinking dairy or orange juice before the recording. As well as a template for the credits which I filled in so that they could be recorded.
The process of recording is interesting. There is a studio and within it a recording booth. I was allocated a direct who sat outside the recording booth and listened to my recording. She would give me instructions and feedback about pronunciation, projection, tone.
When recording narrators are able to sit or stand. I chose to stand as I have back issues that preclude me sitting too long. While I have developed good stamina in standing, I didn't realise the narrating standing would be so arduous. I had to stand in one place without moving my feet while recording. On the second day my calves were sore and my feet struggled a bit. I learnt I had to do weights each day and this helped with my muscles, and I built stamina as I went.
The first day was the most arduous. It's quite a skill to narrate, to maintain projection and tone, and then there are words where you think you know how to say them, but you don't. What made it more challenging is that I was switching between Bosnian words and accents, to English, so would muddle up pronunciations to regular words.
And also I realised I'm an incredibly pretentious writer who uses so many words that I don't actually use in my every day, so there were a whole bunch of words that I'd somehow learnt to spell, but didn't actually know how to speak.
The mic picks up everything, including stomach gurgles. I'd come prepared though with a flask of peach tea, a water bottle with sliced lemon, sandwiches, snacks, and cough lollies. I had to eat every hour and took a 15 minute break to eat lunch. When paying for a studio you only have the set amount you booked it so you really have to utilise this time well, so prepare all your food and snacks.
Before recording I'd been drinking lemonade over the weekend and drank it every morning and night and this really helped keep my throat lubricated. I also suffer from hay fever and allergies so every night I took Zyrtec and sprayed my nose in the morning with my steroid nasal drip so it wouldn't be watery and ruin takes.
It's important to wear comfortable clothes that don't make sound. I tied my hair back every day as I had to wear both glasses and headphones. I wore soft tracksuit pants and runners as I was standing.
The studio provided an iPad that they had downloaded the Erub file I sent so I was able to read from that and narrate. I also had to work on the lights. The first day my eyes got very fatigued and they became bleary, so the second day I learnt to turn on all the soft lights in the studio and position them for myself and had no issues with my eyes.
The studio took some photos and this prompted me to think about promoting my audiobook production. They had a ring-light in the recording booth and shared some examples of authors promoting their narrating. One of them live-streamed the whole recording. I wasn't that brave, but I did record myself narrating chapters or sections of chapters so that I could upload on YouTube and promote, and to have as memories.
Once the audiobook is published I'll create professional audiobook reels of the final product and promote.
After recording I went to bed for a few days and binge-watched stuff as I recovered. It's been seriously exhausting.
After recording the files will be sent to a proofreader who will note any issues with the file. The director will go through and edit, and for example if I mispronounce a word, she'll try to find me saying it elsewhere and copy in.
I might have to do pick ups, so go in to re-record words or sentences, and have the studio booked if this is required for 30 minutes.
I've been using Findaway Voices for production and have been preparing the metadata for publication for all my books, so I'll be doing the same.
The studio will share the final files with me via a shared drive and I'll upload them onto FV and publish. It takes a few months for this to filter across the distribution channels. In FV you enter the ISBN of the ebook and paperback so these are all linked in the metadata in retailers.
I created a audiobook cover I was going to use, but was then thinking about promotional opportunities for all formats. I emailed my published and asked if he could pay his graphic designer to produce a audiobook cover from the original cover that I could use, and that way have it consistent across all formats. He has agreed to do this.
I have also created a contract for use as my imprint and will sign a contract for the production of the audiobook. This is so that if there are any issues with copyright I can produce the contract to prove my right to create the audiobook. I'm doing this as indie authors have experienced issues if they have their books published by a trad publisher and then they do their own publication.
So that's it. I'll be posting a follow up when it's published. Exciting.
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Amra Pajalić is an award-winning author, an editor and teacher who draws on her Bosnian cultural heritage to write own voices stories for young people, who like her, are searching to mediate their identity and take pride in their diverse culture. She writes memoir, young adult and romance under the pen name Mae Archer.
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