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C.C. Hogan

When you write your novel, don't forget the audiobook version

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Paperback, E-Book, Audiobook - they are all now important.

As I work on my own audiobooks, I am struck how much the industry has changed since I last did this in the nineteen-nineties.

Back then, I directed and produced several audiobooks for different clients, all with famous names. Anton Rodgers, the wonderful British actor, persuaded me to direct him recording Inspector Morse short stories for one of the charities dealing with people with sight problems. I recorded several abridged books for The Times, with actors Jenny Agutter, Tim Pigot-Smith and others. 

And, of course, we recorded tons of radio programmes for the Beeb in the studios, including book readings with people like Juliet Stevenson who liked to hit me around the head with her script. It takes all sorts.

In the intervening years with the increased usage of tablets and smartphones, audiobooks have become far more mainstream, and many indie authors are looking to get their precious words recorded.

And this begs a question.

When you write your book, should you be thinking of the audio version up front?

The reason I ask the question is because I didn't, at least not for series one of Dirt. Although I read back all my books out loud, and even speak out loud as I type (yeah, I am weird), that does not proofread the text from the point of view of recording. Tongue twisters, for instance, will easily slip through. And things like "had had" and "an additive" can addle the brain.

As I have been recording Dirt, many of these issues have crept up, so I have made the decision to edit heavily while I record. When I release the audio version, I will update the text versions and ask Amazon to trigger an update. (They will do that for major edits).

But that is not ideal. For series two of Dirt, I thought about this as I wrote, and I hope to have fewer problems.

So, should you?

I think the answer has to be yes. Even if you have no immediate intention of paying me (or whoever) to record your words, it may become an important part of your marketing at a later date. To realise that your text does not read well out loud can be annoying, not just for you but for the poor actor who has to get their head around your sentences. Get it wrong, and your exciting thriller could sound very dull and wooden.

But, how can you check you have this right if you are not an actor?

That is harder. I think there are two ways to do this. The ideal (and not necessarily practical) way, is to get your audiobook recorded before you finalise your print and ebook version so you can incorporate any edits.

Assuming you do not want to go that route, I think it makes sense for you to try and record it yourself. 

Now, this is definitely not the same as reading your words out loud. When you proofread like that, you will stumble and read through problems without even noticing. However, if you have just turned on some recording device, then the pressure is on to do a better job. As soon as you start "presenting" your words, including doing characters, those tongue twisters and other problems will become very obvious indeed.

Sometimes it is just a question of simplifying the language or changing the word order, but occasionally you will end up re-writing a sentence completely, especially dialogue.

One problem I have come across is where a character is making a long speech and suddenly are sounding rather too much like the narrator. Their words have become too neat and predictable, not how we talk at all.

The most common problem is with don't and do not and other similar contractions. In speech, we do them as a matter of course. Recording has forced me to use them much more often in character dialogue.

I won't go through all the issues, and you can probably work them out for yourself.

So, just to wrap up, think about the audiobook as well as your text versions as you write and edit. Not only might it save your bacon later, but it might also improve your book!


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