Note from Sheri: When Joel came to dinner the other night and started talking about his experience with audio recording, I asked him to write it out for us to share. We hope that you might enjoy it as much as we did.
August July 27, 2011
I have a new book coming out the first of October titled FOLKS, THIS AIN’T NORMAL. Unlike the first seven, this one is being published by a large New York publisher, CenterStreet. It’s one of the four imprints under the Hachette Book Group company.
They want the audio book, kindle, and hard cover to come out on the same day. Normally, they hire professional actors or readers to do the audio recording, but the company has decided it wants my voice on the audio. Consequently, I’ve been holed up in a studio in Staunton for two days reading the book. We started yesterday about 1 p.m. and went to 5. Today we started at 10 a.m. and went to almost 5:30, but we had a glitch between 11:30 and 1:30 when the studio hard drive crashed. We wasted two hours while the engineers worked feverishly to fix everything.
If all goes well the next two days, we should be able to finish by Thursday at 5. The days start at 10 a.m.
The producer is employed by Hachette Book Group. He’s in New York City and actually has an edit team that does the splicing. I’m in a studio room half the size of a bathroom stall. The walls are covered with sponge material to make a perfect acoustical background. The publisher sent a specially-printed copy of the book to these local engineers and to the director, who is in California. This special copy looks more like a college theme than a book. Printed on only one side of the paper, it uses lots of white space to make it easy to read.
The engineers record everything digitally, making notes in the hard copy whenever we redo something. That way the producer will know where to make splices. The director, clearly a veteran of this vocation, has been doing this for 25 years. He started as a young guy using scissors to cut and splice tapes. He follows along on his hard copy and listens. Whenever I bobble, he stops me and we go back to redo the sentence.
His job is to make sure the producer gets clean copy to work with. It’s quite a game to see how big a bobble it takes to make him stop me. I’ve actually gone as long as two pages without being stopped. The producer says that normally there are several redos per page. The director, listening on headphones on the other side of the country, doesn’t miss anything. He has two giant computer dictionaries. So far I’ve mispronounced about 6 words. I think we’ve had 3 words that he said I mispronounced, but after he checked his dictionaries, I was right after all.
I keep sipping water with some lemon in it and take a stretch about every two hours. It’s mentally draining work, trying to focus on the words and the sense to get the right cadence, inflection, and emotion. Once this rough recording is done, it all gets sent to the producer, whose editing team goes to work taking all the redos and electronically splicing them in so that all the pauses sound natural.
I’ve definitely gained a great deal of respect for audio books. This is tedious work, but hopefully it will provide entertainment for lots of people.