Adventures in Audiobook Recording

Okay, I’ve wanted to do this for awhile. Several years ago, I read a selection of children’s books at the bookfair and a guy came up to me after and told me he wanted to hear my voice in his head reading science fiction. Compliments like that sustain me for months at a time.

I looked into recording for ACX, but it was looking impossible to get set up with then because of international banking intrigue.

My friend Jeff Parker has asked me to record his memoir of raising a stepson in Taiwan called Know Looking Back. Nothing in life is easy, as his book amply illustrates.

Parker and his stepson Daniel trade chapters to tell stories from their respective perspectives. We toyed with the idea of getting my fourteen year-old son Frank to record Daniel’s parts thinking that would nicely reinforce the father/son dynamic of the book, but in the end Frank decided he was more interested in learning the engineering bits, so he’ll focus on that end of the business when the time comes if he’s still into it.

The question of where to record is a bit trickier. My classroom at school is nice, but the buses outside and the wind trying to get inside are powerful adversaries. I remembered seeing that the National Library of Public Information in Taichung has a digital audio studio which can be rented for NT$1000 per three-hour block. Sign me up!

The library required that I write a proposal stating for how long, for how many, for what use etc. I wanted to use their studio. My wife submitted the proposal and I got an acceptance email from the library. We went to check it out.

The equipment was good, but the acoustics in the studio could have been better. The dead batteries on the wireless keyboard and mouse and the layer of dust on the mixing console suggested a room that did not get much use. The Mac didn’t allow me to switch the OS to English and Logic Pro, while installed, would not launch for pie.

The next day, we received a phone call saying the studio was not available because I’m not a business.

No problem. The library has other quiet rooms which can be reserved. The video studio was open, and we reserved the 9-12 block Saturday morning. We didn’t expect that students would have been arriving at 0700 to queue for prime locations for exam preparation for their first midterms of the spring semester, but there they were anyway, in a line that snaked around the block. A friend’s tongue-in-cheek suggestion that they were lined up for Iron Maiden tickets is not terribly far off the mark.

Students wait outside the National Public Library in Taiwan to rush in and find all the good spots when the doors open at 9:00.

The rear entrance opened 10 minutes later than the early bookworm entrance. Maggie and I waited. When we arrived at the counter at 9:13 we were told that our registration had been cancelled because we were ten minutes late. Later we found out that in addition to losing the reservation, Maggie’s library card was flagged for being late for a reserved space.

La la la can’t hear you, we re-registered for the unwanted room and went to have a look. Good size but had neither chair, nor table, nor an environment designed with audio recording in mind.

This is the vinyl listening room. Couldn’t really stretch out on that couch.

The vinyl LP listening space next door looked inviting with its couch and quiet location. The studying was all happening on the upper levels and the second floor was practically deserted.

Library staff walked by every ten minutes or so to peek in at me while I recorded about fifty pages. When time was up and we prepared to leave for the day, Maggie went to sign up for a session Sunday morning in the same room.

Lo and behold, every session for that room was booked every day of the week for the next two weeks. There had been a run whilst I had been inside the room. I feel like I had been passive-aggressively banned from recording in the library. And that’s a real shame.

Not too bad if I didn’t squeak around in the chair.

Fortunately I have a mother-in-law who gave me use of one of the spare bedrooms in her house and I was able to rerecord the first few chapters in the new environment.

I finished up about two hours ago. I’ve got some work left as far as getting everything formatted for your phones, but at this point I can say “I have finished recording my first audiobook.”

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