I've been a fan of Audio Books for years, and the introduction of podcasting books has ushered in a new wave of No cost, freely down-loadable audio books. This is a good thing. Mostly. Varying quality in readings and production value, amongst other factors, make for many well written books, not having a chance in audio format.
To help aspiring authors in avoiding this problem I've decided to make a list of do's and don'ts for amateur perspective Audio/Podio book authors, to give their work the best chance of doing what their audio production should: Entertain the listener, and attract a publisher. (Disclaimer: I'm not an expert, but I have been in podcasting since 2005, and understand the work that goes into producing a quality audio production and listening to audio books longer than that.)
1. Should you read your book yourself?
This is a serious question you need to ask yourself. You have heard the phrase "a face for radio"? well the same applies for audio as well. Some people just don't have the voice for audio. So be objective, and make the right choice. This is more important for fiction, but in some cases a trained voice is the best choice.
2. Speaking of which, In a work of fiction, the reader of book should be the same sex as the Main Character.
Yes, there are some readers that can pull off the opposite sex vocally, but if the main voice of the narrative is read by the opposite sex of the character, it pulls the listener out of the story. Secondary characters are fielders choice, whether you want to have different people read the different parts, or have the one reader do voices, is a judgement call you'll have to make. Many authors straddle the line between straight reading and full out audio theater production Which brings us to...
3. Sound effects.
Again, mostly for works of fiction, a few well places sound effect and mood/background music can be used to draw the reader/listener in to your world. On the flip side of that coin, badly placed, inappropriate sounds and music can ruin an otherwise good audio book.
Being a good foley artist isn't easy, and unless you have some experience with sound effects, you may want to just leave the sounds out. As for mood/background music the same rules apply. They say in movies a well produced soundtrack isn't even noticed. I've listened to more than one book where, as soon as some action is hinted at, loud "action" music swells from nowhere and totally ruins any tension that was building in my imagination, again ripping me from the story.
So, if you are going to put in a few sounds or background ambiance or mood music, make sure they are mixed in correctly, and if you have to make a mistake in volume, err on the side of too soft, the words are the important part of the production after all.
4. Recording/sound Quality.
Good quality Audio counts.
You need to start simple, If you are doing it yourself, and don't have a lot of money to spend on production (like most of us) at the minimum, pick up a good USB headset mic, and find a quiet place to record. If you have a few more dollars to spend, a decent mixer and mic set up can be had in the 150 dollar range.
The Quality of the audio you record sets the stage for how good the end product will be. Start Simple and when you have got the basics down, then, and only then, think about adding production value, while keeping the quality at a level you would be happy to listen to yourself.
5. Edit content for audio?
Again, this is for mainly Fiction. Reading a conversation is different from hearing a conversation. The "He said"s and "She said"" needed for the written word really detract from the story, especially if you are using separate voice actors or specific voices for each character. You may want to edit your work to reflect the style of production.
6. Multiple RSS feeds
There are two main ways to make your Book available for download, By this I mean Straight Podiobook, where the audio file is just the book, with a short "You can find more information at www... " at the end of each chapter. and the other is Full on Podcast Release, where you intro each episode with a summery of What happened last time, and end each episode with listener feed back and announcements of contests and other blog type information.
I recommend... both. Yes both.
Releasing the book in weekly installments in full podcast mode, is a great way to build an audience and get the buzz going for your work. Scott Sigler, Mur lafferty, JC Hutchins, Tee Morris and Christiana Ellis have used this model with great results. The problem with using only this method, is these files will be on line, well forever, and having 1/3 of your audio book news and information that is 2-3 years old just gets annoying, and will just pull those future listeners from the story.
The solution is to have 2 RSS feeds. One for the podcast, and the other a pure Audiobook reading. Mur Lafferty did (is doing) this with 'Playing for Keeps" with the Podcast feed full of Listener and fan produced content as well as the book itself.
The Point of this list is to help you to create a viable promotional tool for your work. Your Listeners/readers are not going stick around, no matter how great your story is, if it's painful to listen to your audio. Poor sound quality, bad/inconsistent volume levels, an irritating voice, and bad use of music and sound effects will have readers hitting delete after the first chapter.
If you don't think you can handle the recording and production of the final products, There are other options. Perhaps you know someone who wants to help, and if not there are always professional services and Podiobooks.com also offers these services for a reasonable fee.
I hope this helps, It's not a complete list, but it's a good start to a successful Podiobook.