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Phew, what a week it’s been.
A few days ago we flew into London from Thailand after a brief layover in Norway (a sentence I fully enjoy being able to write), and I hope you’ll forgive our lack of a post last week because I was in a studio recording the audiobook for Quit Like a Millionaire!
This has been a bizarre experience to say the least. Never in a million years did I ever think I would be sitting in a recording studio reading my own book, about my own life knowing that it was going to turn into an audiobook that thousands of people would later listen to.
To say that it was a nerve-wracking affair would be a massive understatement, but I’m happy to report that 3 days later we got through it! Woo!
But to my surprise, it wasn’t easy work. I thought this would be the easiest gig ever, but it turns out there’s a lot to unexpected complications that comes from being a voice actor. Namely…
There Is a LOT of Science to Recording Audiobooks
It’s not easy to record an audiobook. Actually, scratch that, it’s not easy recording a good audiobook. Any idiot with an iPhone can record themselves reading, but to do it professionally, there’s a whole lot of science that goes into it.
First of all, you have to isolate the sound of your own voice, and for that you really do need a professional recording studio. We recorded ours at a studio in London called Strathmore Publishing, which has a wonderfully sound-proofed studio with double-locking doors in which I did my recording. That thing is built like a submarine, and when you’re in there you really can’t hear anything outside at all. Plus, Sir Ian McKellen did his recording there, so I got to sit in Gendalf’s butt-print, so that was cool. Also, they’ve had a number of other celebrities come through here, including actress Helena Bonham Carter:
I also had a professional sound engineer working with me, and his job was to make my voice sound as warm and intimate as possible. I am not a warm or intimate person, so he had his work cut out for him.
In the end though, I heard the recordings we made and I really do sound like I’m just sitting next to you talking one-on-one. I’m not sure how they did that, but hey that’s why the pay him the big bucks.
You Realize You Suck At Reading
You’d think that reading your own book should come as second nature, but nope!
You end up tripping on your own words, or not emphasizing the right syllable, or the words not flowing together properly. When you read for extended periods of time, it’s easy for your eyes to glaze over and for your voice to drop to a dull monotone, and it’s actually quite common for recordings you did at the beginning of the day to sound completely different from the recordings you did at the end. Fatigue and monotony are your enemies here.
Fortunately, that’s where your producer comes in. She’s sitting in the booth with a copy of your manuscript listening intently to how your pronounce every single word, and her job is to make sure you give your best performance on every single sentence.
It’s her job to cut you off and make you do a reading over. “Again, but more emphasis on the word money.” “Let’s try to flow that a bit better.” “You just mispronounced your own name.”
And believe me, these directions came really really frequently for me. I think during my reading, I screwed up, on average, every second sentence, and our producer had to go back and re-record it.
And at the end of the day, they send these recordings over to LA so they can edit this giant mess together into a single reading that makes me sound like I know what the Hell I’m talking about. Again, they have their work cut out for them.
You Become Paranoid About Your Vocal Cords
When we flew into London, our schedule was packed. Not only did we have the recording to do, we had a movie premiere to go to (we’ll write about that next week), and then right afterwards we’re heading to the UK Chautauqua. So our margin of error is nonexistent.
That made me extremely paranoid about losing my voice. The entire flight over here, I was eyeing everyone around me suspiciously every time someone coughed, and I was Purelling like I was about scrub into open heart surgery. “I can’t lose my voice, I can’t lose my voice” was all I could think.
But even after we landed and I didn’t get sick, I had to make sure I didn’t lose my voice while I was recording, which is apparently a really common thing. Fortunately, the studio had all sorts of herbal teas and throat lozenges to help soothe those aching vocal cords.
But the key, as it turns out from reading all these articles on how singers keep their vocal cords healthy, is to give your voice time to heal in the evening. So whenever we went out with friends after recording sessions and we were in a loud restaurant where we had to shout at each other, I had to make a special effort to stay silent. And that was hard, since we had flown all this way to see people and now that we were here I couldn’t talk!
Fortunately, Wanderer was there to take one for the team, and did all the talking for me. Whenever I needed to say something, I would lean over and whisper to him, and he would then shout it at everyone so they could hear. Wanderer became jokingly known as the “FIRECracker Whisperer.”
The GodFather Makes Everything Better
But in the end, help came from the most unexpected corner: JL Collins “The Godfather.”
I knew Jim was going to be in the UK, but as it turns out he had changed his travel plans to come hang out with us in London while we were recording!
Jim’s advice really helped me get through this, as he had done a similar marathon recording session when he produced his audiobook for The Simple Path to Wealth. Plus, he had generously agreed to come in to record his awesome awesome forword for us, for which we will be eternally grateful and possibly owe us our firstborn.
It Ain’t Easy, But It IS Fun
So in the end, we ended up making it to the end of our recording session without getting sick, or losing my voice. Phew! That’s a relief!
And while this experience was a bit nerve-wracking, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I got to record my own audiobook! How cool is that? Extremely.
I’d like to give a big hug and a thank you to Penguin Random House Audio and Strathmore Studios for having us. To Allie, our Grammy-nominated producer, thank you for forcing me to give it my all every single day, and to Joe, our audio engineer, thank you for making me sound awesome.
Oh, and by the way, thank YOU, our audience for supporting us during our pre-order campaign, because look at what happened…
Wow! That is amazing! And we haven’t even started our actual marketing blitz yet!
Awesome things are happening, my friends, and I for one can’t wait to share our experiences of it with all of you. So stay tuned, more awesome things are coming down the pipe!
FIRECracker signing off, for now.
UPDATE: Our Audiobook is now available! Check out a clip here!
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