Since many indie authors and smaller publishers are new to the world of audiobooks, I thought you might like to have a quick overview of the 7 players on an audiobook production team:
1. Rights Holder
5. Sound Engineer
6. Audio Editor
7. Proof Listener
One person may be responsible for several phases of the process. For instance, on ACX.com, Audible’s marketplace connecting rights holders with narrators, I’m the audiobook producer in addition to being the narrator.
My husband Drew serves as both the director and sound engineer in all of my recording sessions. Most narrators working in their own studios don’t have the luxury of a second set of ears listening as they record. When I’m the producer, I hire the audio editor and proof listener, so all aspects of production are included in my fee.
1. The Rights Holder owns the audio rights to the text. This person may be the author, a literary agent, an estate attorney, or a publisher. In some cases, the book may be in the public domain, meaning that anyone may use it for any purpose they wish without compensating the author.
2. The Producer is the audiobook project manager. She sets the schedule for completion and may contract with a studio for recording time and a sound engineer. In audio production companies, the producer also listens to actors to cast a voice that works with the story and hires the rest of the team needed to create the audiobook.
3. The Director helps shape the performance. He is familiar with the story arc and assists the narrator in choosing character voices and an acting style that serves the book.
As the narrator speaks the words, the director is closely following the text along with her and offering spontaneous feedback and coaching to improve her performance. In addition to detecting mis-reads, the director will tell the narrator if her character voices are inconsistent or she isn’t emotionally connected to the author’s words. It’s more efficient to fix such problems at the moment they occur rather than re-do them later as a correction.
4. The Narrator is the recording artist who performs every word in the book out loud in front of the microphone. Before recording, the narrator has already read the book at least once and made notes to understand the premise, the characters, and the all-important subtext. The best narrators do not merely speak the words; they inhabit the characters’ minds and take the listener on a journey.
5. The Sound Engineer manages the technical side of the recording sessions. He chooses the microphone and sets the volume. He runs the hardware and software controls to ensure that the equipment and digital audio workstation (DAW) software are picking up the clean signal from the mic. If the narrator makes a mistake and must re-record a sentence, the engineer restarts the software and cues the narrator for her entrance.
6. The Audio Editor perfects the recordings. She listens to every word in the recorded files and makes adjustments for pacing. For instance, she might add dead air to a pause to make it more dramatic. She also listens for and removes disruptive mouth noises and gaspy breaths. After she inserts any corrected recordings from the narrator into the original files, she processes all of the audio files in the book so that the finished sound is uniform and pleasing to the ear.
7. The Proof Listener is the last person to hear the recorded book before it becomes a retail product. She listens to the entire book while looking at the manuscript. As she detects any misreads or other errors, she marks these corrections so the narrator can re-record them.
As I mentioned previously, the production roles may overlap, such as:
Sound Engineer/Audio Editor/Proof Listener
The rights holder may also act as producer and/or proof listener. However, the rights holder usually does not act as the director, instead leaving all aspects of the recording process to the professionals hired for the task.
Given this summary of the 7 players on an audiobook production team, you can better appreciate the time and skills needed to create the audiobook edition of a book. In my next article for authors, I’ll look at the 12 steps in producing an audiobook using ACX.com.
In the meantime, please let me know your questions about audiobooks or the production process by leaving a comment below.