Proofing an audiobook is very different from proofing a book

Last Friday, I had a pleasant surprise when I woke up. Michael Bakkensen had sent me the narrated version, aka audiobook, of my first novel, Family Ties. This is my first venture into audio books, and I had never before listened to an audio book either. I feel like a mammal in a new pool. Very much out of his comfort zone. Michael has been great answering my questions in the process, but now that the book is fully narrated, it’s up to me to make sure I like the result.

Michael Bakkensen, the voice of author Hans M Hirschi

I am using my own publishing house for my audio books, so you could say I’m back in the self-publishing industry. Exciting and scary at the same time. However, when you’ve never proofed an audio book, you’re in for a few surprises. First of all, you have to get used to your voice actor’s narrative style. While I had listened to his audition tape and the reading of the first chapter, that doesn’t quite prepare you for how he would interpret various other characters in the book, from children to women, and how he would read funny scenes, or sad scenes or dramatic scenes.

At times, I found myself choking, sometimes I was laughing, and at times I was even dumbfounded (for lack of a better word). I’m almost through, thanks to a six hour drive this weekend, I only have a few chapters left to listen to. But at 70+ chapters, it’s a long list. I’ve only found a couple of tiny things I’m considering changing. I’ll need to talk to Michael about those once I’m done.

Here’s how I’ve tackled the proofing:

  • I don’t compare his reading to the book, i.e. I’m not line editing. I’d never get through the book otherwise. I just trust Michael.
  • I will not edit his narration, how he enunciates things. I accept that the audiobook is NOT the same as the novel. Michael is an artist, and just as a film script will by necessity deviate from a novel it is based on, so will – to a smaller degree – an audiobook. Not that the vocal artist changes the words of the novel, but the way they read the book, is how they interpret the novel, which is as they see it, through their eyes, not mine. This is the main reason why I put Michael’s name on the cover of the audio book. This is HIS story now, his artistic vision for it, based on my story. I would also suggest that you consider this aspect when you have people audition for your books…
  • Listening to the book is different than reading. When you read, you automatically become absorbed, because our eyes to the work. We are so dependent of our eyes… But when we listen, our eyes are free to focus on other things, from the computer to say driving a car. I just listened (as I’m typing this) to a very cathartic chapter (aptly named Catharsis) and I had to stop writing, because I had to focus on the emotional impact of the reading. Keep that in mind.

Listening to an audio book is not necessarily my thing. I’m not sure I can focus enough. When I’m on public transport, it’s easy enough for me to read, get absorbed into the story, but to listen to anything but music is difficult, because my eyes easily get distracted by other things, thoughts and all of a sudden I’m not listening any more.

The cover for the coming audiobook of Family Ties, my first. I look forward to the release. It will be available on Audible, Amazon, iTunes etc.

Having studied psychology, and things like perception, I am fully aware of just how limited our consciousness is, what we can focus on. How does this work for you? Are you able to focus on an audio book or are they just a replacement for music?

My first audio book has no specific release date but hopefully, depending on how Michael and I are able to deal with the changes I’m considering, we might be able to get it out before the end of the week. We’ll see. I honestly don’t know how quickly ACX works. Maybe you know? Feels free to comment.

Needless to say, it’s an interesting experience, and one I hope to repeat soon, with novel #2, Jonathan’s Hope. That one is, after all, my most popular one, closely followed by novel #3… Meanwhile, there’s little time for writing, as I’m also heading into a final round of proofreading Last Winter’s Snow. ARCs were sent out to reviewers last week, and we’re three and a half weeks out from the publication date. I really look forward to this story.

Have a great week.

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Hans

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