“Trust me, this is a beast for everyone,” Nick said, flushed with compassion. “Even professional voice-over actresses have the hardest time!” Only on our second day in the studio, I already trusted this kid younger than my son. He made insanely delicious tea, wielded an impressive array of techno bells and whistles while multitasking, and came highly recommended by my audiobook publisher, who’d worked with him many times.
Still, Nick had to be exaggerating. Why would anyone do this willingly, shred their eyes, voice, and self-confidence for hours on end for other people’s books? For a JOB? You couldn’t pay me enough.
We’re 70% done, and I love this experience as much as I loathe it. What a dream come true to finally be in a studio recording my writing memoir, Beautiful Writers: A Journey of Big Dreams & Messy Manuscripts—with Tricks of the Trade from Bestselling Authors. I’ve never recorded an audiobook before. I’d always hoped to but hadn’t pushed, or followed up when the opportunity for past books semi-presented itself. There were too many details during those launches. Permissions and legalities, life stuff (moving, mothering, caretaking for my folks, divorce drama). Since those publishers didn’t seem too urgent about it, neither was I.
But times have changed. Audiobooks are IT. I’m obsessed with them, rocking hundreds on my phone. They’re the fastest-growing publishing segment and aren’t dependent upon book timelines. According to a recent report by Writer’s Digest, “Regardless of when your print book debuted, your audiobook could have a longer shelf-life and an audience that is actively looking for their next fix.”
Audiobooks were popular pre-pandemic, but they got a huge boost when the world came crashing to a crawl. And there’s no slowing in sight. Spotify, for example, just budgeted 3.5 billion toward expanding their audiobook and podcast universes.
Meaning there was no way I would f*uck up and miss this opportunity. (Well, I almost did. Launches are nuts busy, and with urgent family stuff to tend to at the same time this past summer, I had yet to see an email from the team asking about my schedule.) Once I realized that my agent and I had let that timely correspondence slip through the cracks for a book I’d poured years of love into and sold at auction with three audiobook publishers bidding, I course-corrected it as if my very voice depended on it.
Little did I know how hard it would be on my voice.
“Why don’t you take a few minutes and jump around outside?” Nick said, seeing my nerves fray as my throat went tight.
“BLESS YOU,” I said, as I untangled my legs from my travel blanky, wobbling out of the recording booth and forcing myself to head for the door rather than face plant on his couch. “WHY is this so hard?” I whined. “It was hard yesterday, but not this hard.” I’d only messed up a line or so every few paragraphs on our first day versus seemingly every few lines today.
“It just is,” Nick said, laughing. “Don’t stress. I swear you’re a pro! I had a guy in here last week, an older gentleman, and we had to redo every single sentence of his entire book!”
Whoa. I breathed, sent ether love to the old man, and vowed to share what I was learning. To make this beast of an experience when you’re the one in front of the mic feel more Disney cartoon than something from Naked and Afraid.
Hint: You’re not reading your story as much as performing it. Boring is bad, but so is overdoing it. You’re going for that sweet spot where you add just the right amount of inflection and emotion to take listeners on a joy ride. No bigs, right?
Assuming you’ll be going into a studio and not doing this on your own (for the love of God, please don’t try this at home—unless you’re a tech nerd or have help), here’s what you may want to lug with you in a bag or suitcase.
Comfort-zone shit to bring:
- A blanket to wrap around your stomach and/or legs, both for warmth and emotional comfort. Think Linus in Peanuts, the writerly version. (Fun fact! Linus has been “voiced” by 23 people since 1965!)
- Throat Coat tea (so tasty AND coating, don’tchaknow). Raw honey (side benefit, vitamin-packed!). Fresh lemon for your tea (clearing). A big mug (and hot water if they don’t have it). There’s a microwave and coffee machine in Nick’s studio but bring a thermos, just in case.
- Apples cut up. Something about eating them lessens saliva. That’s what Nick said, anyway.
- Dairy-free chocolate, a sniffle-free treat.
Here’s what to do beforehand:
- Read your book out loud. Hopefully, you’ve done this several times during the writing and editing process. Nick warned me we’d find “lots” of typos. I told him he was out of his mind, that I’d edited this baby within an inch of her life. So far, 300 pages in, we’ve only found one! Nick told me about one author who found 70 while recording her book. Can you imagine her horror? I can’t even.
- Stay clear of dairy for a few days if you can. Or, maybe years. Lol.
- Exercise early that morning because you’ll be sitting for HOURS and need blood flow. Not to mention, that butt doesn’t lift itself.
- Act like a squirrel and bring food. Raw nuts are great for energy and focus without weighing you down. Getting lightheaded won’t help ground your voice or your mood.
- Remember your creature comforts: lip gloss, dental floss or toothpicks, tissues, a sweater, warm socks, a hat, and reading glasses. The studio should supply the mic, headphones, music stand, or table that holds the iPad or computer you’ll be reading (and scrolling) from, but it’s a good idea to check in with them a few days before you arrive to double check.
I hope my audiobook delivers on all the above promises. We shall see, right? Wheee. I’ll keep you posted! And I’d love to hear any audiobook wisdom or thoughts you have to share over on today’s Facebook or Instagram threads.
Happiest of Holidays to you and yours,
PS. #1 NYT bestselling author Mark Manson is coming on the pod on January 2nd, so keep an eye out (or subscribe if you haven’t already). He’s promoting his new film, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, based on his hit book. We recorded the show last week and had the BEST time talking about how hard it is narrating our audiobooks, so phew. The beast is real. Pray for me. The taming continues. xo
PSS. Members of my Beautiful Writers Group have access to an Expert Interview call with Sean Pratt—one of the foremost audiobook narrators in the world. He shared details with us, like recording a hit audiobook (including how you can ensure your publisher chooses you to record yours!). How many hours should you block out? Techniques for building your narration stamina. And what to do if your publisher doesn’t have a budget for your audio and more. Membership is super affordable at $25 per month. Maybe a good holiday prezzie to self?
PSSS. A bit of holiday magic. After one of our recording days, Nick Tantillo, my producer, had a special author visit from Dr. Jane Goodall, who came to record her new children’s book. Nick had never met Jane, but what were the odds? She lives in England. Nick and I are in Scottsdale. He’s recording my book with Jane’s voice included from my podcast (for the celeb snippets). I leave the studio, and she arrives, and they record her book, again, in her voice. Huh? In what Universe does this happen? Oh, ours!
PSSSS. Priceless and affordable last-minute host gift or stocking stuffer. On sustainable paper too! Show them you believe in their dreams. Sometimes that’s all someone needs. “I see you. You’ve got this,” you’ll be telling them, with the blueprint for the HOW. And, it’s a heck of a lot of fun, too. ❤️ Click here.