Monday, April 14, 2008

Podiobooker - 11 Commandments of Podio Production

This is a direct cut&paste from I plan on following most of these. It depends on my laziness ratio for the week.

11 Commandments of podiobook production

Well, commandments might be a little strong, but I’ve been called egotistical before…
Tips and and Tricks of Success

So you want to make a podiobook, either out of your work or out of some Creative Commons material, do you? Excellent. You’ve made a wise choice in embracing the concept that “information wants to be freed”. The good news is that the path has been well-blazed before you by authors who have learned things the hard way. We highly recommend you do not fight against the tide, but rather stand on the shoulders of giants and embrace these eleven tips for success.

1. Listen to Other Serialized Audiobooks — Forget the fact that
you have the seminal work in your hands for a moment and think about the delivery of the message. After all, that’s why you’ve chose to create your own podiobook — to get your work and your name in front of the masses.
Please understand that the masses have expectations for how you should deliver your missive to them via this method. That’s a long way to say this: listen to other books and give people what they want. I can’t tell you how many times I go through the set up process for new authors, only to discover that they have never listened to any book. I don’t get this.
Hey, I’m all about breaking the rules and marching to the beat of my own drummer, but it pays to at least know the rules and be able to recognize other beats for what they are.

2. Write, Edit, Re-write… and THEN Produce — In That Order
Writing is hard work. Editing is harder still, and re-writing can be — to speak the common tongue — a huge pain in the ass. But all of those steps are important and should not be — must not be — skipped over, skimped on or skimmed over. Yes, there are a few notable examples that fly in the face of that. Yet I can categorically state that your book would be much improved if you took the time to have it edited (by someone other than
your mom, please) and then re-written — an iterative process that need not stop for a few rounds.
In fact, the work and dedication required to self-produce a serialized audiobook version of your works is pretty simple
in comparison. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of work to be done behind the microphone and in front of an audio editor. But don’t assume that mad audio production skills can some how make up for an inferior story that could have been made better with some judicious editing. Make the best written book you possibly can, even if you never plan on it seeing life in printed form. Then you can make it into a podiobook.

3. Find Your Quiet Place — The first step in having quality audio starts with having a quiet source. While it may be impractical to spend a thousand dollars turning your family room into an isolation chamber, it certainly is worth the investment to find a quiet spot to do your recording, as well as ways to minimize ambient noises from your recording equipment (e.g. computers are such noisy things).
A relatively noise-free audio track allows you much more flexibility when producing without having to worry about bring up the background noise, too. Caution: noise reduction software rarely works as well as you would like it to.
Some prior authors have done wonders from recording inside of their walk-in closet (the hanging clothes do a great job of absorbing echoes), making creative use of wall tapestries and investing in computer-less recording devices (like the Zoom H4). Noise should be eliminated (or at least reduced) before coming into the microphone, rather than trying to scrub it out.

4. Treat Yourself To Quality Headphones — Ask any audio recording professional and you’ll get the same answer: quality headphones is the most important piece of equipment you can buy. I’ll go out on a limb and say that editing without using headphones (like using room monitors or your computer’s speakers) is tantamount to taking a photograph without looking through the viewfinder.
Headphones should block out much of the outside world, allowing you to hear the finest detail of your audio. When you hears something that isn’t quite right, like a chair squeak,
barking dog or annoying plosives (as made on the letter “p”) — fix them! I always use headphones when I record — cranked as loud as I can stand it — to catch these noises at the source. I also recommend using headphones and listening to your final file all the way through. Yes, even though you spent an hour editing. Listen again!

5. Buy a Decent Microphone — Notice the word “decent” in that
title. I’m not suggesting that you go spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a microphone. All too often people assume that all of their problems will be solved with One New Microphone. Truth be told, that’s rarely the case. But that doesn’t mean you should be satisfied with the $20 USB headset you use for online gaming, or the stick that came with your computer.
There are many things to consider when shopping for a icrophone, and I’m not going to get into any of them here. Want more information? Buy a book or ask a friend. The arguments on what you should buy will go on forever. My advice? Go to your local music store and try out a Shure SM-58 microphone. That is a quality mic and you would be well suited to start shopping there. After that, try out other models. When you’re happy, figure out a way to integrate it into your current recording setup.
Additional components may be required. And now you know why it’s not my first recommendation to you!

6. Practice Anal-Retentive Audio Editing Skillz — I’m going to
dispel a horrid rumor. This will probably get me kicked out of the podcaster’s club, but here goes: Editing audio is easy.
There. I’ve said it. To go one further, you can achieve fantastic production quality utilizing free audio editing software. Audacity works on PCs and Macs, and unless you have a good reason not to use it (e.g. you have experience with and access to better tools), then you should be using it. Plenty of your Mac-addicted fellow authors also use GarageBand, which is also a fine tool. The trick to both of these (any audio editor, really), is to be incredibly meticulous and methodical in your editing process. In other words, don’t rush through it and don’t try and cram more than one step together. Think of it this way: you don’t try and format your text while you type your chapters, do you? And when you are formatting, you’d correct any misspelled words or subject/verb disagreement, right? Then please do the same in editing your audio. Mispronounce a word? Re-record it and replace it. Hear that unnatural pause when you turned the page? Cut out some of the dead space. Wish you would have left more space for effect? Add it in! Audio editing tools are designed to to just that — edit! Go slow, take your time, and play around until you are as good with your editor as you are your word processor. I promise you that it’s not any harder.

7. The Levelator Is Your Friend — While cutting and pasting
inside of an audio editor is simple, raising and lowering of sound levels inside of the file is less so. And that’s where “The Levelator” comes in. This free piece of software works magic on spoken-word audio files by doing exactly what it says — it levels out the file. Note that I said “spoken-word audio files”. The Levelator is used before you add in sound effects, transition cues or bed music. Using it afterwards is, well… bad. You won’t like it. Trust me. The Levelator also makes your audio file the
correct “loudness” — a trick that many people have a hard time pulling off on their own.
Many audio engineering gods will profess that they can do a better job on their own without using The Levelator. I’m not here to argue against them and have heard many fine recordings where the Levelator was not used. So let me state it this way: If you are not using the Levelator and you do not have a good reason to not use the Levelator, then you should be using The Levelator.

8. Enhance the Experience With Bed Music — In the olden days of audiobooks, adding in music and other effects was strictly verboten. Yeah, well… rules are meant to be broken. This one in particular. If you take a look at the most popular podiobooks, they all feature the appropriate use of bed music before and after the episode. Music — when chosen wisely and applied correctly — can enhance your audience’s listening pleasure buy
setting the tone and tenor of the book. Got a creepy horror book? Use creepy music. Full on bodice-ripper? Bring on the sultry. Check out the Podsafe Music Network and sites like Magnatune for music, and make sure you have the correct rights to use any music you may find.

9. Make a Promo — In case you hadn’t noticed, we have a lot of
books on, and we’re always adding more. If this is your first jaunt into the podosphere, then you may not know it’s a community where your fellow podcasters like to share what they find interesting. And a great way to do this is with a short promo about your book. Keep it under a minute if you can, though slightly longer isn’t going to kill anyone. We’ll list it with your book plus add it to our own podcast feed as well, increasing the chance of someone hearing this tasty morsel and deciding to give your book a chance.

10. Release Weekly Recording and editing audio — while not the most strenuous of activities — does take time and commitment. When your book is in “release” mode, your audience expects to hear new episodes for you each and every week.
Yes, I’m not kidding.
Hey, don’t blame me: that’s an artifact from podcasting that gained support by many of your fellow podcast novelists and authors who figured out what the people wanted and started giving it to them. If you can’t commit to a weekly schedule, then I highly recommend you do the recording and editing for all
episodes before you give them to us. If not, you’re just asking for listener complaints and people canceling their subscriptions early.

11. Interact with Your Fans —
We’re changing the rules
of engagement with this medium. Podcasting gives listeners access to those who create their content in such a way never seen before. Capitalize on this. Embrace this. Look at the popular authors. In almost every case, they have incredible amounts of interaction with their fans. Read comments. Actively seek conversations. Participate in forums. Answer your emails. Go out of your way to embrace and encourage these people to keep spreading your words far and wide.

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