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Creating your first audiobook is no mean feat. Not only do you need to be able to act and read aloud fluently and clearly, but you also need to be able to strike the balance between speaking with the right amount of emotion and keeping things as natural as possible. If you’re a writer, then reading out loud in front of other people must feel like the ultimate test of courage. And yet, performing your own material isn’t all that different from putting on a one-man show. You just have more props.
Research, Research, Research
This applies to all creative endeavors, whether you’re writing a book, creating a film, or producing a podcast. If you’re not familiar with your subject matter, it’s going to show in your work. Before you even begin narrating your book, you should get a good idea of the plot, characters, and themes that book is trying to explore. This will help you get inside the head of your characters, and it’ll make you a better narrator if you can clearly visualize what’s happening in each scene. This also applies to the technical aspects of your audio production. Make sure to find out what format your book is being recorded in and what equipment is being used. This will help you get familiar with the sound of your audiobook and make you less likely to make mistakes when it comes time to record.
This is a really important one. If you’re not confident in your abilities to read aloud, it’ll show in your performance. There’s nothing worse than feeling self-conscious while recording, so make sure you feel prepared before you begin. If you’re recording in a studio, make friends with the engineers. They’ll be there throughout the recording process and can help you feel more at ease. If you’re doing remote recordings, make sure you’re well-prepared and have everything you need before you begin. You don’t want to freak yourself out by being unprepared or distracted. Once you’ve finished your recording, take a break, get some water, and come back to the piece feeling refreshed.
Know Your Vocabulary Words
This is particularly important if you’re reading a children’s book. If you make a mistake with a word, the producer will probably correct you and ask you to start again. However, if you make the same mistake twice, they might replace your entire audio track with the audio track recorded by the next narrator in line. While it may be tempting to just roll with it and say, “Oh, corky,” if you don’t know what “corky” means, you’ll be caught red-handed. If there’s a word that you’re not sure how to pronounce, make sure you go into the recording knowing how to say it. Otherwise, you run the risk of mispronouncing it and having to redo the entire track.
Don’t Forget to Breathe!
When you’re reading aloud, you might feel like you’re trying to push air out of a clogged pipe. You want to make sure you’re breathing from your diaphragm and not your throat. If you’re trying to force air out of your throat, it might sound like you’re wheezing, and that’s going to be really distracting. Make sure you’re breathing from your stomach, and your voice will sound much more natural and controlled. If you’re having trouble breathing while you read, try reading aloud while sitting up or even standing up. This will help get your diaphragm into the equation, and you’ll be able to speak much more naturally.
Record a Dry Run First
If you’re recording your own audiobook, make sure you record a dry run before you record the actual narration. This will allow you to iron out any kinks in your performance and make you less likely to stutter or stumble over words. If you’re not recording your own audiobook, then make sure you do the same thing with the person who’s producing your audiobook. You want to make sure you’re both on the same page with your interpretation of the scene, and this will also give you a chance to see how your performance will sound and let you know if there are any parts where you need to improve.
Don’t Be Afraid of Silence
Silence is your friend. It gives your narration a sense of pacing and a feeling of naturalism. However, this can be really hard to do when you’re used to filling every second of a page with words. Remember, while you’re recording your audiobook, you don’t have the physical page in front of you to guide you. This means you can use silence to your advantage to bring out certain emotions or to give your narration a nice breather and reprieve from bombarding your listeners with words. However, just because you don’t have to fill every second of your audiobook with words, it doesn’t mean you can use this as an excuse to ramble on and bore your listeners. Make sure you’re using silence to your advantage and that you’re not just letting your words trail off and die.
Record a Final Run
Once you’ve recorded your first and second run-throughs, take a break. Get some water, call a friend, go for a walk, and then come back to your narration with a fresh pair of ears. This will give you a chance to step back and see what you can improve upon and help you record your best narration yet. If you’re recording your own audiobook, you may also want to consider asking someone you trust for their feedback on your performance. You want to make sure you’re being as genuine as possible, and sometimes it’s hard to see your own mistakes and weaknesses.
If you’ve never narrated an audiobook before, then creating your first audiobook is a nerve-wracking experience. However, if you follow these tips, you’ll feel more prepared and confident when the time comes to record your first audio production. Remember, once you’ve finished, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor.