Where to spend
There is, of course, a minimum outlay involved in this. Isn’t there always? I’m going to assume that you have a decent-spec computer or laptop. The biggest expense for me was the microphone, but even that wasn’t too expensive. A decent USB microphone is essential. Do a bit of research before buying one. There are several different types. I gave a Fifine Studio condenser mic, which I paid about twenty quid for. If you intend to use the mic for podcasts with other people a bidirectional mic may be a better purchase – though you will pay a lot more. A pop filter is essential too, but these are cheap enough.
The last essential is a set of good headphones. I picked up a pair of Sony monitoring headphones a few years back in a half-price sale. I only paid thirty-five pounds for them. What you need is a set of overhead phones with as little bias as possible.
Where to save
Software. You don’t need a high-end studio to record simple vocal tracks. Audacity is free and powerful. I use it, and I’m certain I’ll never use all of its features. There are also good quality free plug-ins available to enhance the program.
Audacity is simple to use once it’s going, but I’ll admit I found it a little intimidating at first. But that’s no reason not to do it. Writing was intimidating at first. The gym was intimidating at first. Releasing my work was intimidating at first. Everything is. Thankfully there are tons of free video tutorials on YouTube, which I’ve made liberal use of.
Where to record
I’m lucky that the front room of my house is quiet enough to allow me to record. It’s also large enough that my voice doesn’t echo from the walls into my microphone. During term-time it’s ideal. During the holidays... during the holidays I cut back on writing activities and spend more time with my kids. I can write in the evening’s but the house is never quiet enough to record in. If I’m working to a deadline there are offices above my local library for hire at thirty pounds a day. They’re run by a local co-operative. If you don’t have a suitable space at home it’s worth you finding out what local facilities you have.
Recording an audiobook is a much longer task than I expected. You won’t do it in one sitting – that much is obvious. Less obvious is the difference in sound between one recording session and another, if you’ve had to remove your equipment and set it out again. It’s essential to have the equipment set up in the same way each time you sit down to record, and to sit/stand the same distance and angle from the mic as before. A few discreet marks on the surface holding the mic can serve as a reminder of how to set it up again. If this is not possible then measure and make a diagram of the recording set up. This sounds like a hassle, but will ensure the finished product sounds like one professional recording rather than a series of recordings edited together.
Where to sit
Do a few test recordings to find the best place to sit and the best angle for the mic. You’ll want to be close to the mic to get as ‘dry’ a recording as possible. Try different angles to get as clear as sound as you can without the harsher p, b, and s sounds ‘popping’.
A word about posture. You should sit upright. Slouching will affect the quality of your recording and make the reading more difficult. I found I had to concentrate on my breathing as much as the words when I first started. Regular breaths, deep and steady, are the way to go. Sitting upright, or even standing, helps this immensely.
What to read
I find it easiest to read from the Kindle. It’s easier to prop up in a readable fashion, the text is scalable, and it has no pages to rustle. I find it easiest to read each short story or chapter in one continuous take, editing out all the mistakes afterwards.
What to wear
This may not seem important, but the more comfortable you are when you record the easier you’ll find the experience – and the better the final product will be. Wear something loose, and not too hot or cold.
You’ll also need to be aware of any jewellery you’re wearing. If anything clinks or rattles the mic will pick it up.
What to drink.
Water is best. Keep a beaker handy, and drink regularly when recording. Little and often is the best way to keep your throat moist when reading or speaking all day. A coffee or tea is okay too, though I find I need to leave the mic more often when I’m drinking caffeine. Avoid sugary drinks. They’ll give you a claggy throat and affect your recording.
When to record
This one’s up to you. I prefer to record in the mornings once the kids have gone to school. I’ll usually do two or three hours’ worth before moving on to another task – writing, drafting, social media, editing or mastering the recording. Try recording at different times of the day, and for different lengths of time to see what works best for you.
Those are my ten tips for recording your audiobooks and podcasts. If you have any to add please leave a comment!
The Tor will hopefully be releases on Audible before Christmas. The Soul Bazaar is undergoing post-production.
My bookstore can be found here.