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Tips & Links you can record yourself

I get it: you ARE your brand. You've worked hard to get name & face recognition.

That means that your audience and clients expect to hear YOUR voice.

And THAT means, my friend, you need to narrate your own book. Probably.

Here are some tips so that you can set up your space in your home and record your book, so it sounds great and won't break the bank.

I've discovered lots of web resources, too - enjoy learning the home recording basics!

Self-Recording Tips

Recording Space = Top Priority!

If you have a great recording space, you can get away with low-quality microphones and free editing/recording software. So make this your top priority.

1) Control Intrusive Noise: First up, you'll need to find a place as free as possible from outside noise (like traffic, screaming kids, furnace fans, etc.).  Your best bet is a small room or walk-in closet, in the quietest place in your house. Often, this will mean you're in the basement, because the most effective way to prevent noise from coming into your space is to be behind thick, concrete walls. Walk around your house, really listening to the ambient noise. My own professional studio is in what was formerly the basement storage room, and it measures 4 ft wide by 6 ft deep. It is the most perfect recording space in my house!

Be aware that you will need to recognize and control intrusive noises during your recording sessions. Most home-studio narrators need to turn off furnace/AC fans, and shut off freezers & any other appliances that have fans & motors. Every decibel of outside noise you can remove counts, so be thorough! You may also need to time your recording session to avoid noisy times of day, such as traffic rush hours or overhead airplanes. Many home-studio narrators record in the middle of the night for that very reason.

You are never, ever going to achieve a "sound-proof" room without paying a lot of money and renovating your space. Unless you plan to make this your new career, just don't go there.

Handy link: 

Techsmith blog

2) Control Echos: Next, you'll want to control the sound echos in your space, so that you don't sound like you're recording in a toilet. Look at the walls, ceiling and floor as a potential echo chamber, and systematically take away any large flat surface that will reflect the sound around your room. This is as simple as hanging moving blankets on all the walls, putting a piece of shag carpet on the floor, and covering your table with a flannel sheet. Remember, you're creating UNEVEN surfaces. Pay particular attention to the corners of your space, and fill them (known as "bass traps"). My wedding dress still hangs in one corner of my studio - best bass trap ever!

Handy link: 

How to Control Sound Reflections in a Voice Over Booth

3) Position Your Equipment: set your chair and microphone so that you're not speaking directly at a wall. Believe me, you'll want to sit - recording an audiobook takes HOURS of studio time. Make sure your chair doesn't squeak (yes, that's a thing), and wear "quiet clothes" that don't make noise (starchy shirts, jangling jewellery).

You will even have to listen for noise made by your computer in the studio. Computers with solid-state drives are (almost) completely quiet; if your computer has a fan, you should set it up outside your booth and use a second monitor, with wireless mouse & keyboard.

Handy link:

Such a Voice - Brian Thon

Recording Equipment = Think Honda, not Mercedes

You need decent recording equipment. Not crappy, but not super-duper, either. Your listeners will stop listening pretty quickly if the recording is awful, but will tolerate "okay" sound. 

1) Microphone - do not use the built-in mic in your laptop. Just don't. Instead, buy (or beg or borrow) a large diaphragm condenser microphone specifically for spoken word recording. There are many, many mics to choose from, and you can expect to pay a few hundred dollars new. I have used an AudioTechnica AT 4040 mic for years (it's a professional-grade workhorse), but if you're just recording one book you don't need that much microphone power. I suggest you visit your local music supply store (like Axe Music, Long & McQuaide, Sweetwater) and chat with their staff about what you're looking for. Don't get all picky about how the mic makes you sound; you're not a diva and no microphone will make you sound like Sean Pratt (insider narrator joke here).

2) Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) - this is the software that you'll be using to record and edit your audiobook. Many beginning narrators use Audacity or even GarageBand, which you can certainly make work. Others use StudioOne (a PreSonus product), ProTools, and Adobe Audition. Decide what you can afford, and check first for on-line resources on how to use the software. Facebook groups exist for all of these DAWs, join one that includes narrators (not just musicians). 

You will make your life much easier if your software allows you to do "Punch & Roll" recording. This little piece of wizardry allows you to correct mistakes as you record, and will save you hours and hours of editing. Take it from me, you will want this.

Handy links:

Steven Jay Cohen's Audacity Punch and Roll (2014)

Why do Pros Use Punch & Roll (Don Baarns and Amanda Rose Smith)

Narrating Your Book - Slow and Easy!

And now you have your recording space set up, it's time to record your book! Here are some performance tips for a great-sounding audiobook:

1) Pace - speak at a conversational pace, not too fast, and not too ponderous

2) Tone - speak like you're talking to your friend, not your "audience voice"

3) Accuracy - you MUST say all the words that are on the page, as written. Do not paraphrase, do not skip words, do not edit on the fly. And the reason for that is because the audio must match the copyrighted, ISBN-numbered text by 96% in order for Audible's WhisperSync feature to work. And you want your audiobook to be able to sync up with your e-book (think add-on sale).

4) Mistakes - even professional narrators make reading errors every two or three MINUTES. If you make a mistake, you must stop, go back to the beginning of the sentence, and re-record. This is where punch & roll recording comes in.

5) Stamina - talking out loud can be hard on your vocal chords. You should plan to record for several hours, and hopefully come out with 1 - 1.5 finished hours of audio. Drink LOTS of water, inhale steam (outside your booth, to protect your electronics), use lip balm.

Handy link:

ACX University - Performance

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