Since the publication of The Locum Life: A Physician's Guide to Locum Tenens, I've received requests for an audiobook version. I've written 4 books but never published an audiobook. Although more people read traditional print books than listen to audiobooks, the audiobook market is growing by leaps and bounds. I figured I'd give it a try and narrate the text myself.
It turns out that recording an audiobook takes a lot more than just reading into a microphone. First, there are a surprising number of technical issues, like which digital audio workstation to use, finding a quiet room, using the best microphone, and a lot of other niggly details. I started with Apple's Garageband software, designed for music composition. Although Garageband is a fantastic program, it didn't provide the granular information, like peak dB measurement and RMS values, to comply with the audiobook's technical requirements. After many frustrating hours, I gave up on Garageband.
Then I discovered Audacity, a widely-used free multi-track audio editor and recorder. I took a very helpful course on Linked-In Learning to figure out how to use it and watched many related tutorials. Initially, there were some Apple Computer-related issues, but I got those worked out. Audacity seemed like the way to go.
There was also the problem of a quiet room. To improve the sound quality of my tiny home office, I attached acoustic foam panels to the walls surrounding my workstation. With every appliance turned off (air conditioning, ceiling fan, fish tank bubbler, washer and dryer), the baseline noise dropped to the level of a Trappist's Monk's cell.
Then I had to study up on microphones. I already had an excellent condenser microphone with a pop screen for my regular podcast, "The Art of Medicine with Dr. Andrew Wilner," so no new purchase was necessary.
In June, I started recording. Compelling narration, it seems, requires a laser focus on each word in the sentence and its meaning while modulating one's voice to engage the listener. It's not the kind of thing you can do at the end of the day or after an on-call week. I tried to get it right the first time because each "do-over" required time-consuming editing. As I practiced, my respect for professional book narrators increased dramatically. With a lot of schedule juggling, I recorded about 4 days a month, usually 1 or 2 chapters each session.
After the narration, each audio file required hours of editing to remove breath sounds, shorten breaks that are too long, lengthen pauses that are too short, and modulate the volume so that the listener doesn't have to fiddle with the volume control.
The learning curve was steep, but soon I got the hang of it. Yesterday, I completed the narration, all 6 hours and 45 minutes! Then I painstakingly uploaded all 24 completed files to ACX, the audiobook publisher.
I'll hear shortly whether any of them didn't meet technical specs. I'm hoping edits are minimal, and the audiobook will be available before the end of the year on Amazon.com.
When that special day comes, I'll be sure to make an announcement! If you sign up at my website, you'll be among the first to know!