Thursday, January 16, 2014

Audio Editing

This year's new endeavor is the world of audio books. I'd always thought this was far too expensive to be within reach, but after a friend explained ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange), I discovered there was a way to give it a try at no cost to me. Since I started the process, I've had 4 books go live with one more in production.

What does this mean for a writer? First, it opens your audience base. Just like there are those who want print over digital, or vice-versa, there are "readers" who prefer to listen to books. And, with a wider audience base, there's the potential for increased income, which is rarely a bad thing.

As writers, we're aware of the importance of a good editor. How do you "edit" an audio book? There are some authors who say they simply sit back and listen. I couldn't do that. Here's my process.


With the ACX site open along with both my manuscript and a new document for notes, I close the door, pour a cup of coffee (okay, sometimes something a tad stronger, depending on the time of day, but snacking on things that crunch, even a little, won't work), and I start listening. What am I listening for? Of course, I'm listening for accuracy. The words the narrator says have to match the ones in the manuscript. I listen for inflection, for whether it's clear who the character is (all those admonitions to avoid too many speaker tags can kill an audio book passage), for whether the character is thinking or speaking (italics don't show up in audio, either), and for things like whether the character's 'voice' matches my vision of the character.

Unless there's a genuine problem with characterization, I don't usually say anything. In one book, the narrator had read a scene with cockiness when I thought it should be tenderness. We discussed it, she agreed, and rerecorded. But it's a LOT of work, and unless it's glaring, or clearly wrong (such as if I've said the character has a French accent and the narrator reads it with a German one), I'll leave it alone. Since I'm doing the royalty share option, I'm not the 'boss.' It's a partnership, and the narrator's opinions are just as likely to be right as mine are.


The word matching is 'easy' – if the narrator has made a mistake, I will mark the time, copy the paragraph, and highlight the mistake. Sometimes, the mistake is one that doesn't make a difference, such as reading "a" for "the".  If it's no big deal, I'll change it on my end. Because, going in, I know there are going to be mistakes in the manuscript. There's always a typo. Maybe it's just comma placement, but this listening process is probably the best editorial pass you can give your own work. And, since these are indie books, I can fix things, then upload the new version.

Sometimes, the narrator will read exactly what's written, but it'll be wrong. Then, I'll flag it and ask (as nicely as I can) if she'd mind redoing that passage. Rerecording is a lot more complex than using a keyboard to replace a word.

It's a time consuming process. There's no way to move any faster than the narrator reads. If a chapter takes 19 minutes to narrate, it's going to take 19 minutes to listen to it, and that assumes there's no stopping to annotate corrections.

One thing I've learned. I'm not an auditory person. I have to force myself to pay attention and not get distracted while I'm listening. I'm reading along, but I have to keep slowing down, as I automatically read at "my" reading speed, and the narrator is reading at a "storytelling" pace. But I'm very glad there are people out there who do enjoy listening. And if you're one of them, you can find my audio books at audible.com, Amazon, and the iTunes store.

Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, mystery novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She’s the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists, the Pine Hills Police series, set in a small Oregon town, and the Mapleton Mystery series, featuring a reluctant police chief in a small Colorado town. To see all her books, visit her website. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.

10 comments :

  1. This is a really good piece, Terry, and so informative. I've wondered several times how to get an audio book, and you've covered it right here.

    Question: I understand that italicized words can be emphasized when read aloud, but how does the narrator convey internal dialogue? I occasionally let the reader of hard copy inside the head of my character, and this is indicated by italics so the reader knows it's a silent thought. Also, does the narrator pause briefly between scenes to indicate that change?

    Thank you so much for sharing this valuable information! I can hardly wait to learn more. :-)

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    1. I use a LOT of internal monologue in my books, Linda. When I was auditioning narrators, I made a point of choosing passages with both dialogue and interior monologue, and used that as a critical criterion for choosing which narrator to use. If you click on the link to audible.com you can hear short samples. And yes, mine pause between scenes, and I assume others do as well.

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    2. Thank you, Terry. I'm definitely going to look into this.

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  2. I would love to have audio versions. Another useful audio tool is to have your manuscript read back to you. Finding friends to do so is tricky, but there is a program (with free and advanced versions) http://www.naturalreaders.com/. You upload your manuscript and it reads it to you. Great way to proofread. Voice quality is not good enough for audiobooks. It does sound mechanical.

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    1. If putting a book into audio teaches you ANYTHING, it's the importance of 'hearing' your book before you publish. The eye doesn't see clunkers, and the brain fills in what it expects.

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  3. I love audio books. I listen to them at the gym and on long car rides. They make the time go faster for me. I am definitely an auditory person because when I really get into an audio book I'm maybe not watching my driving as much as I should be. Yikes!

    In one of my critiques groups, we read a passage from our work aloud to the group. It's amazing how much you pick up. If something is clunky, or a sentence is too long, I'll definitely hear it as I read.

    I'd love to try putting together an audio book version of my books. I think that would be an exciting project!

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    1. Jana - good to know you enjoy them. Finding a new audience is one of the challenges. Hope you'll check out some of mine. And by all means, using ACX makes the whole process very simple.

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  4. Very helpful article, Terry. I keep getting side-tracked from my efforts to get my books into audio, so this was the boost I needed.

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    1. Same thing happened to me. An author friend told me I HAD to get my books into audio. It does take time, though, so be prepared for that.

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  5. Breaking News! ACX just sent me a batch of coupon codes for free downloads from audible.com. If anyone wants to listen to one of my audio books, let me know which one and a way to get in touch with you. (A review after you listen would be appreciated, of course)

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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