Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Audiobooks - A Narrator's Job ( Part One)

When I tell people that I'm an Audiobook Narrator, I often get the response, 'Oh, so you just read books then?'.  There's just a teensy bit more to it than that!

I thought I'd share with you the steps I take in producing an Audiobook, beginning with the all important Preparation.

My prep work begins with downloading the manuscript onto iAnnotate on my iPad, whilst I make a cup of tea (I'm British through and through). iAnnotate is a fantastic App that enables you to read, mark up and add comments to PDF's and other Word documents. It even has the function to record your own voice, and leave the recording over a particular word for you to listen to later on. It has streamlined my prep processes, and leaves everything in one place. I haven't worked off a paper  copy of an actual book in a long time. Utilizing my iPad means that when I come to record, there are no pages to turn, and if you are careful, little sound from scrolling the page.

Before I get stuck in reading the book, I'll try to find out as much as I can about the Author, and any other books in the series if they exist. This gives me an insight into their common readerships, which may inform my interpretation of the book. I'll most often reach out to the Rights Holder or Author to find out if there are any preferences for pronunciation, and to build a rapport (which really helps when it comes to marketing and promotion).

Then I get settled comfortably, and begin to read. As I read, I mark up any words I am unfamiliar with, and I can access a dictionary, thesaurus and even a sound file of pronunciation, right from iAnnotate (although these are not 100% accurate). I then check for further info on, and If I'm working on a US title, I use, and if I am working on a British book, I use the Oxford English Dictionary online. More info about these can be found in my guest blog for Voiceover Herald.

I'll mark up my findings on the iAnnotate file, usually by spelling them out phonetically, and leaving a comment about where I heard the word said. Occasionally with place names, I have to do a real dig around on Google, and YouTube to find exactly what you need. I have been known to call a local tourist office for advice on how to correctly say a town or little known village in some far off place in the world.

I keep beside me an A4 pad, where I list every character that I come across, and any characteristic
details I can find about them throughout the story. I can't stress enough how important it is to read the whole book. In one of the first books I ever worked on, the author revealed in the final chapter, that one of three female first person narrators in the book had a 'light Russian accent!'  I get all the characters down in my list, and when I have pieced together all the clues left by the writer, I then look at who appears when and with whom throughout the story. I try to work out which accents or speech rhythms or intonations would suit who, and how to balance these out so that they are all distinct. In many ways it is like creating a score of music - what sits where and when. I give a lot of consideration to where the 'narrator' of the book will sit in my vocal range, to try to ensure that it is fairly close to my usual speaking voice, as this is the voice that will be with me for many hours in the booth, and I want to ensure I minimise any potential vocal strain.

Sometimes it is necessary to employ a researcher if I am short on prep time, or if the book contains technical, medical or religious jargon that I am unfamiliar with. I will get them to do all the leg work on finding out about place names and pronunciations, and add them to the file for me. I will always do the character work though.

Once I'm done reading the whole book, I give myself time to think and absorb the story and characters before I dive in, if my schedule allows. Often I'll prep a book in the evenings, whilst I am focusing on recording another during the day. I think about what the author is trying to say, and to whom. I give thought to the sub text of the conversations, and on how to create the emotional mood of the story from one scene or chapter to the next.

Once I've completed my read, I sometimes need to reconnect with the Rights Holder or Author to check in with any queries I have. I have been known to have Skype sessions when jargon or names have been particularly unusual. Once or twice I have asked them to record themselves saying the names, so that I have something concrete to remind me when I begin in the booth.

In an ideal world, I would have time for a second read, but being booked out so much already this year, I am going to have to make sure I am extra through first time round.

Before I begin the whole book I might have a play around with recording some of the character voice ideas, and saving the files for reference. This can be particularly useful if I narrate a book which later becomes a series- I can return quickly and easily to the character audio file and delve straight back in to how they sounded in Book One.

And then I'm ready to get recording.

Read more in Audiobooks - A Narrator's Job (Part Two)