Well I just finished narrating a 411-page book about the French and Indian War. The completed recording is nearly 18 hours long from start to finish. I began the project in mid June and completed it at the end of September, working, not full time, but steadily the entire time. This was a particularly challenging project, not only because of the seemingly endless hours of recording, and the fact that I had to cut the printed book apart to record it rather than using a PDF or Word file on a screen; I also had to look up hundreds of pronunciations of French names, titles and places.
As if that were not enough to tax one’s endurance, creating a credible vocal performance of a book is by no means the end of the story. The producer is still responsible for creating a “clean” recording with no omissions, extraneous sounds (stomach growls are picked up and rendered with uncanny accuracy, for example), audible editing clicks, air conditioning hum, street noise, long pauses, mouth sounds, barking dogs and roaring motorcycles out on the street, to name a few of the sources of objectionable noises that can creep into a recording.
There are also a number of technical processes to execute that will enable you to meet the exacting audio parameters specified by the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), which vets the project and clears it for posting to Audible. Using special software, the recording is run through several steps that apply adjustments to the equalization, normalization, compression and limiting processes of said recording. (I just do it; I don’t know what they mean, really.)
And, oh yes! There is still the small matter of listening to the entire recorded book, manuscript in hand, to make sure that it is a completely faithful rendition of the printed text. (Or, as in my case, asking my wife to take on this tedious assignment.)
In other words the narrator also functions as editor, sound engineer, producer, proofer, and quality assurance coordinator.
Once the recording undergoes this lengthy regimen of processing, it is converted to an MP3 file and uploaded to the project’s ACX web page. The ball is now in the court of the rights holder. He or she, or sometimes they, will check the recording and either approve it as submitted, or enumerate changes that need to be made by the producer before it is officially accepted and made available to the public for release.
This approval process for a short book—say two to three finished hours—may consist of the rights holder listening to the recording in its entirety. For longer projects, like my 17-plus-hour project, it is far more likely that there will be a thorough spot check of the recording with an assumption that the consistency of the producer will kick in to render a product that can safely be put up for sale on Amazon, iTunes, and elsewhere.
The technical aspects of audiobook production are not that difficult to master with perhaps a little help from someone with a modicum of technical background to guide you through the weeds here and there. But there is a lot of time involved in completing these and other post-production activities, all of which take place after the heavy lifting of recording is finished.
Only when the rights holder has pronounced the project acceptable can the producer/narrator breathe a sigh of relief, turn out the lights in the announce booth and take a much needed break.