The actual learning curve has been an interesting one, for me at least, and while I knew some of this before day one, it's always helpful to have that reminder! So, if you're getting ready to do your first audiobook, here's some tips that I have found to be true. Maybe you have some more suggestions? Share in the comments below!
- Do take very specific notes during your listening sessions. If there's an error, make sure you mark the minute and second and exactly what the problem is RIGHT THEN. You may think you'll remember, but trust me, you won't. If you just tell your narrator that he mispronounced your main character's mother's sister's cousin's last name (and it was said once), they won't know where to go and it will take extra time. Not only that, it's really rude.
- Do listen with a copy of your book in hand. Read along with your narrator. I didn't do this in about the first 8 chapters of my book, and something spurred me into doing it at that point (I can't remember what right now.) I was a little surprised how many human-error glitches I would catch--some things I'd let slide, such as adding or deleting a word in dialogue because it sounds smoother. Substituting articles for each other. But I also caught other human-error glitches that were a bit more serious, such as substituting words that do not equate, such as saying "lawyers" when I'd written "layers." (There were lawyers involved, so it was an understandable substitution, still, it changed the meaning.) In addition to catching your narrator's glitches, you will be surprised at some of the typos you'll find in your own book. I've already had to stop my listening three times to go into my file and correct something that was wrong--usually a missing mark of punctuation.
- Do try to listen when you know you'll have some uninterrupted time. I have two kids at home, and I homeschool, so catching those uninterrupted moments are tricky at best. But if they're playing quietly, or watching a movie, I usually can snag 15 or 20 minutes to listen to a chapter. You definitely need that focus in order to give all your attention to what you're doing. I'm an unusual writer where I can work with a lot of distractions, but for this, I usually don't want distractions, period.
- Don't be afraid to let your narrator when something doesn't live up to your expectations! With my case, I know my narrator is relatively new to this business, so I do let some things slide. But we've had lengthy discussions on accents, attitudes of the characters, where the characters are coming from, etc. Most recently, a new character came into a scene, one who is a continuing character, and my narrator told me ahead of time she was going to give this character an accent. Fine, I knew she (my narrator) was doing what she could to differentiate my characters. But when I listened to the first scene, I wasn't sure she met up to what I'd expected. But because she eventually settled in, and it was a short section with this character, I let it slide. Two chapters later, here's my character again. And this time, I have NO DOUBT that the accent is just not working. Instead of sounding Mexican, it sounds like it's half-Mexican, half-Irish. Which is an unusual combo, I'll give you that, but it would drive me nuts to listen to (and probably my listener-readers, too!) So I had to go back and tell her that we needed to address it. I apologized all over myself in the process, but it goes back to this: if in your gut it doesn't feel right, say something!
- Do enjoy the process. Even though I've been listening to chapters since late September, and I'm definitely not listening in the same way that my readers will, it has been fun to revisit these stories. I've been reminded of things I'd forgotten about where my characters are concerned, which is great since I just finished writing the sequel, and am trying to decide on which book will be written next in the series. Listening to how another person interprets my own words is thrilling, and occasionally unexpected. It's definitely not only been enjoyable, but instructional. Like when my narrator read a certain scene with a character acting scared and nervous, when I'd intended her to be angry. The fact she didn't get that was on me, not her. So that's been a good benefit as well.