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Behind The Scenes with Diana Croft – audio book narrator

16th February 2021

Diana Croft - audio book narratorBehind The Scenes with Diana Croft – audio book narrator…

Mic at good position – check

Mic levels – check

Manuscript position – check

Software ready to hit record – check

Water – check

Right, ready to start recording….

There’s a lot more that goes into recording an audiobook than just sitting at the mic and reading. Much of the work goes on before and after you sit down to read, so let me backtrack a couple of weeks to the point where I sign my contract –

So, up to this point, a narrator will have auditioned for several titles in the hope of winning at least one or they may have been asked to narrate via a publisher or production company that they’ve worked with before.

So you have now been sent your manuscript of the book so that you can “prep” the book, and given your contract to sign.

Now every narrator has their own process for “prepping” their manuscript so I’ll now refer to MY process. My first step is to read through the entire book so I know the story, who’s who etc. Now I will go back and discover more about each character – where are they from/ what accent would they have, what is their back story, what is their objective, age, race, relationship to others… Then I will work out their voices and practise saying them out loud while I highlight their dialogue in different colours so that when I come to record I can see straight away who is speaking and to whom. I will also make notes of any words that I don’t know or am not sure of how to pronounce so that I can do a bit of research to help me out. And accents – no actor immediately knows how to do every accent so sometimes it’s necessary to do some research or take some coaching to try to master a certain accent. Some books contain characters from all over the world!

With my prep done, I’m ready to record! Into the booth I go…

This is the best bit – telling the story and recreating my interpretation of what I envisaged when I first read it for myself. With my mind’s eye I like to see the scenes unfolding and visualize the characters and their parts that they play in each scene and immerse myself in their individual thoughts and feelings. Now not every narrator  will work the same as me. Some will prefer to just tell the story objectively and let the listener do all the work and some listeners may prefer that style. But for me, I started off in the theatre so I would find it very hard to not “become” each character as I read. There’s no right or wrong way, just opinions and preferences – it’s still all storytelling.

Besides the creative element, there’s also a fair amount of technical things to observe when recording in the booth. One must stay hydrated to keep mouth noises to a minimum. We all naturally make noises with our tongues, lips, teeth, saliva etc so it’s important to try to make as little mouth noise as possible. The mic picks IT ALL UP!! Urgh! Also noisy clothing is a no no as is grumbly tummies and extra loud breathing! Damn that microphone!!

Now once the book is recorded, it’s time for editing.

The first step is to make sure that no mistakes, re-reads and extraneous noises (like my heavy footed teenage son) are left in. We now have a clean read of exactly what is on the manuscript.

Sometimes, if the job pays enough, I will outsource the next steps and pay a professional sound engineer/editor/proofer. Other times I will do it myself. If I’m working for a publisher/production company they may do all that in house. Either way it has to be done.

Hiring a proofer is always best, as listening back to yourself doesn’t always work as you’ll still miss things because you’re still emotionally invested in the creative side of things however hard you try not to be. It’s important to make sure that you haven’t misread something, added a word or mixed words up. All easy to do when your brain gets tired.

Then back to the engineer (or myself) for more editing and mastering. The recording needs to have even levels so your ears don’t suddenly get blasted, besides other treatments to create a smooth warm sound that is pleasurable to listen to. Once technical specs are reached, It all gets sent off ready for distribution.

Diana Croft

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