It’s December 23rd 2020, the author coming in to read his book, “Man With A Van“, is TV’s very own Salvage Hunter, Drew Pritchard.
We’re in the middle of a pandemic and national lockdown, so our studios have been thoroughly disinfected and cleaned before Drew’s arrival.
On meeting him for the first time, he seems very friendly and ready to begin recording. Which is great news. I have to admit, I’m probably the only person I’ve spoken to who has never heard of Drew Pritchard or watched Salvage Hunters. Maybe that’s a good thing, as I then have no pre-conceived ideas of who people are before I meet and record them.
Before we start we have a bit of banter and I do some initial mic tests to set him up properly. Then we start recording.
But there’s a problem.
He seems to be struggling with how the book is written. Which seems odd, especially considering he’s the author. He then tells me that it’s been over 12 months since he looked at this book and he feels like he’s reading it in Chinese.
We laugh together and he proceeds to make amendments to the script before we begin again.
Then, I realise all is not what it seems.
After 30 minutes of reading, I’m starting to really worry about Drew, he’s getting very stressed and upset about reading the book. And, although I reassure him that he just needs to relax and enjoy the process. I can see that it’s slowly turning into his worst nightmare.
Then, after an hour or so, we take a break and Drew calls his agent. He’s not happy and I think he may cancel the booking altogether.
The discipline of reading audiobooks
What’s important to say at this point, is that reading a book for pleasure and reading an audiobook are two opposite disciplines. Reading for pleasure is flexible and often very enjoyable, reading on your own terms and in your own environment.
But reading audiobooks is very focused and disciplined work, requiring intense concentration for long periods of time.
For instance, when you read an audiobook you have to keep perfectly still, any noise that is made by movements will be picked up on the microphone and will make certain sections of the the recording hard to understand. So, if you’re the type of person who gesticulates a lot, then you may struggle to work in this medium. But why? Mainly because you have to stay very still, keeping movement noise to an absolute minimum.
Plus, to be a good audiobook reader, you have to be a fairly good sight reader who can anticipate changes in the storyline ahead of time. Otherwise, the book can sound too much like it’s being read and not sound natural. Now, maybe this is fine if you’re reading short scripts for an hour, but audiobooks can take up to a week to record in full.
Meaning, you can be in the studio recording for 8 hours a day. This takes real discipline and extreme concentration. So, by the end of the day you will probably have sore eyes and feel really tired.
And, because the recording has to be completely silent, the whole experience can feel even more intense. As every nuance of your voice is picked up, from mouth clicks, stumbles and mis-pronunciations. Including the dreaded tummy rumbles, adding extra pressure to not only how you sound, but how you feel.
Okay, so, is it still wise to read your own book if you’re an author? This really depends on how well informed you are about what’s required and if you’re really keen to do it.
What many authors say to me is, “If I’m the author, I have to read my own book“. If you’re heavily tied to the storyline and the book is an autobiography, this is probably what you believe. But, believe it or not it’s not a requirement.
Let’s think about this seriously. Does J.K. Rowling the writer of the Harry Potter series read her own audiobooks? Do musicians like Elton John read his own autobiography?
No, they do not. Not that they couldn’t, but they leave the expertise of reading audiobooks to the professional actors.
Now, I’m not saying you should never read your own book, as we do make a comfortable living from recording authors. But, if you’re really keen to read your own book, then you must equip yourself with the knowledge first.
So, ask the publisher to send you a list of what will be required and tell them to be bluntly honest with you about the process. Maybe even ask for guidance notes from the recording studio. If after knowing all the facts you still wish to record your book, then do it, you may even really enjoy it.
But, make sure you read the book at least a week before recording it, and make notes on how you wish to read certain sections of the book by annotating the manuscript on your tablet or computer. Then, all of your notes will be ready for you when you begin recording each new chapter.
If you’ve never read an audiobook before, here’s some guidance notes
- Wear comfortable clothes that do not make any movement noises, big offenders are clothes made of polyester material.
- Do not consume any dairy before the recording, it congeals the voice, any drink with milk is to be avoided at all costs. This includes any cereal with milk, coffee or tea with milk etc.
- Practice reading the book out loud for at least 30 minutes non-stop each day. Reading slowly and clearly in your natural voice. This will prepare you for the endurance of reading.
- Mark up any notes on the manuscript that you wish to remember or say a certain way. Including any unfamiliar words or phrases.
- To avoid tummy rumbles eat a substantial breakfast at least an hour before the recording, a breakfast that will keep tummy rumbles at bay until at least midday.
- Bring along a substantial lunch to eat, something that will keep you going for the rest of the afternoon. But bring along snacks like bananas to keep you going when the odd rumble comes.
This little bit of preparation goes a long way to helping you read confidently and comfortably. And remember, reading audiobooks is a marathon, so you have to pace yourself and prepare in advance.
Drew’s now come off the phone to his agent and we have a private discussion about how he’s feeling.
It’s fair to say that he’s been completely surprised by how hard he’s found it. And later in the book I find out just why it became such a problem for him.
We then have a good laugh about it all and continue with the rest of the day’s recordings. Drew then comes back to our studio a few weeks later to finish off reading his book and I’m happy to say that he’s much more prepared and the recordings go a lot smoother.
In total we spent three days together, which is pretty good considering how it all began. Over this time we built up quite a good relationship and the audiobook which has now been published, has had a great response.
I don’t think you’d ever know that it nearly never happened. But, we’re all professional and knew that this great story had to be told by the man himself.
So, if you’re a fan of Drew’s, then grab yourself a copy of your chosen media. You won’t be disappointed, it’s a great story.