Author David Gaughran shares his experience in producing an audiobook through Draft2Digital’s partner, Findaway Voices.

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David Gaughran: 00:00 My name is David Gaughran, as you said. I’m medium height. I’m quite hairy. I write historical fiction under this name, science-fiction under another name and nonfiction under this name as well. If that doesn’t get too confusing.
Q: What was your introduction to the whole process?
David Gaughran: 00:22 Why I found the whole process extremely interesting because I had done one audio book before back in 2014 or ’15, but it was with kind of a friend of mine, so I didn’t go through the normal process that people would normally do. Um, so this was all kind of new to me. Um, but the whole process was, was pretty slick. Like I think there’s like a little microphone symbol or something now on the, on the Draft2Digital dashboard. If you click that it ports you across directly to Findaway Voices and it actually copies across the metadata that book categories. I think even the book file as well. So you know, if you’re doing and make sure, you know, the latest version of your book file is there, cause that’s what the narrator will work from. But, um, in terms of which book I decided to go for Strangers to Superfans and I think I definitely think I read made the right choice because, um, it’s, it’s a book that I think is going to be quite evergreen. It’s not something, um, like a book about ad tactics or something which might have to be updated every year. I think this, because this is more about marketing theory, even though it’s quite a hands on book and it’s more of a marketing theory and how you need to kind of restructure your business and how you need to think about readers and how you’re marketing.
Q:  What was the process like?
David Gaughran: 01:47 The thing that struck me as interesting, um, right from the start was that Findaway asked some really, really interesting questions about what kind of narrator you were looking for. Um, some of them I expected things like, you know, as a tone or pitch or the gender or you know if you need various accents for your book. It was just much more detailed than I expected like, and it really made me think about that in a way that I hadn’t before. So it was just going through that process made me realize that’s the kind of things that I actually wanted from a narrator cause I didn’t really know cause to be honest with you, I don’t listen to a lot of audio books personally. So I didn’t know what kind of qualities I needed in a narrator.
David Gaughran: 02:28 But the actual questionnaire, that they make you fill out actually really made me think about it and really made me kind of realize that I wanted different things out of a narrator than I thought. Like for example, like as I said, this is a book about marketing theory, which on the face would isn’t the most exciting topic in the world. But my, my style with this kind of book tends to be a little bit irreverent. And, uh, there’s, there’s a lot of humor in the books and kind of asides, which don’t really, uh, kind of nonsequitors you know, I’m trying to just to try and keep the, the interesting and stop people falling asleep along the way when you’re talking about marketing theory. Um, so I wanted a narrator what I realized after, after, you know, going through the questionnaire process, they make you fill out, but I, I wanted to narrator who had a very warm tone so you could kind of bring the text to life because, you know, it’s nonfiction, it’s a technical subject. It’s not like a novel which has inbuilt drama that that’s going to keep people kind of, you know, glued to the page.
David Gaughran: 03:25 Um, so yeah and what was fascinating to me was, um, I think find a way, came back after about a week with a short list of maybe 10 narrators. And, and even though I could see straight away that some of them were suitable and what I was looking for, and some of them were less suitable. I could see why they picked each one of them. Do you know what I mean? Like it maps. I could see that guy was because I ticked this box or I answered that question that way. That’s why they selected this guy and they all, they all had similar qualities but on a kind of a spectrum. So some of them would have a very like warm or kind of honey voice. Um, some of them had a very playful or lighter or irreverent tone cause they were the things that I’d selected along the way.
Q: How did you choose your narrator?
David Gaughran: 04:11 I actually didn’t select, I didn’t express a gender preference during the questionnaire process because, um, I wasn’t totally sure I had a slight preference for picking a female narrator, but I wanted to, I wanted to hear all the auditions before I totally decided that. And I was thinking, you know, that, um, cause I’ve, I’ve, I’ve actually been thinking of, of recording some audio books myself and, and I might do that for fiction even though that’s, that’s quite an involved process and I’m not sure if I want to go down that route, but I was thinking if it’s not going to be me narrating the book, then it should be someone who’s really not me. Like, and so then when I heard the shortlist of people, I knew it had to be an American woman that was going to be perfect. It just kind of worked like there was, there was actually one or two lines that we nixed along the way just because they didn’t translate into audio.
David Gaughran: 05:00 And it’s really interesting hearing that. Hearing your book in different contexts. You realize there’s some textual jokes you might make that don’t work in audio, but the narrator was actually really good at highlighting those as well, or sometimes just improvising the way around them. But yeah, I like it. There was only one part of the book where I thought it was odd that I was speaking with a female American voice, but most of the time it worked perfectly well. When you get your, I think, I don’t know if everyone gets a shortlist of 10 I had, I did a short list of 10 narrators and at this point that you, you haven’t heard any of them read your book yet. They just have on there, they have their bio that they had, the narrators filled out themselves explaining what kind of work they do and what they specialize in, and then you can listen to samples from everything that they’ve actually recorded previously with Findaway.
David Gaughran: 05:47 So I think it’s probably the retail sample or maybe they choose the sample themselves to just to display a range of their work. So I could actually go in and listen for each narrator and they might’ve five or six different samples, um, different types of nonfiction, also fiction. If I wanted to listen to those just to see the different things they could do with their voice. And it was really surprising to me how much these guys could change their voice depending on what they’re reading. So you know, like the tone in a in a travel and a travel book might be very different to a book on spirituality for example. And seeing that flexibility actually kind of made the decision harder because, you know, you’d listened to one sample from a guy and you think, Oh, he’s not the, he’s not the guy, you know, you often know straight away whether someone’s a good candidate or not.
David Gaughran: 06:33 Um, but then you’ve listened to a different sample of their work and you’re like, Ooh, I liked that one. So it’s actually, I think it’s, it’s good to go through and listen to all, all the samples. Even if you know, you’re recording a book on marketing and I think listen to their samples for their, their thriller and science fiction stuff, just to get a really good feel for the narrator. But at that point then you can round it down if you want to pick one, right? Or just pick one or two to, to narrow it down at that point you can. But I actually, I picked five and you pick a section of your book that you want them to record so you can actually hear them reading your text and then you get, you have a much clearer idea who is going to work.
David Gaughran: 07:12 And um, I think it defaults to, I think the introduction of your book unless you actively select something. But I decided to actively select something because the book is a mixture between kind of jargon and theory in technical terms, but also the, you know, kind of slightly addled humor, um, if you want to put it that way. So I want them to get a chapter which actually had all of that to see how the narrator could handle the switch in tone. And, you know, going from a lighthearted joke to some kind of technical and marketing speak. And so I picked a chapter which would kind of capture all of that over the space of a few pages and asked five of them to, to record that form.
David Gaughran: 07:51 When I heard my five shortlisted candidates, there was two that stood out straight away and one of them was a man actually. And the other one was, was Melinda who I ultimately chose. But, um, yeah, no, Melinda and Melinda just nailed it. Actually. I like the first time I heard her sample, her recording of, of my texts, I knew she was, she was the right narrative. Actually I to tell them to tell the full un-varnish truth. As soon as I read her bio, I suspected she was going to be my narrator because she has a really, really interesting bio aside from, um, working as an actress and, uh, recording a lot of audio books and working as a narrator for quite awhile. And I think theater as well, she was also appeared in celebrity Deathmatch. Um, as Pamela Anderson, I don’t know if you remember celebrity Deathmatch match the old MTV show. I think she was in grand theft auto five. I think she played Paris Hilton in that. So as soon as I saw that, I was like, she’s probably going to be my narrator. But it ended up, she was by far the most suitable anyway. Like she just had the right, the right kind of tone with the right kind of irreverence, in reading the text that I knew she was going to be, the narrator straight away.
Q: Was it time-intensive to review your audio files?
David Gaughran: 09:00 I was actually painting, and not like, you know, a landscape or anything. I was supposed to, I was painting some walls and it was actually the perfect thing to have in the background. And um, but then every so often I would hear, you know, there wasn’t that many errors to catch or things that I wanted to pronounce differently or whatever. But every so often I would catch one and I’d be covered with paint. So I’d be like, try to hit the space bar with my elbow or something. And then, you know, going to wash the hands and cause you have to note, down the time, you know, it’s just so the narrator can, can get to it quickly, you know, chapter five, 30 seconds in and then you know, whatever you want to flag for that. The set up, um, like, cause I don’t know how other other companies handle this because I didn’t go through the regular process with my, with my first ever audiobook.
David Gaughran: 09:42 But the, the system on Findaway is pretty cool. Like the, the, um, the interface is, the interface is pretty, pretty slick because you can actually put in comments by chapter. So like the audiobook is broken down into, you know, if you’ve 30 chapters, it’ll be 30 or so separate files and each one is there in the interface. And you can put in comments directly and each time you comments on a chapter, the narrator gets emailed. So they know straight away that you’re looking at it and reviewing it and they can reply underneath, you know, asking for clarification. For example, like, you know, if something like, like my surname for example, um, give her a, I had to record a little sample of, of me saying it so she knew how to pronounce it. Or if there was a word that I want to pronounce differently or stress differently, I could link to an example of it and I make a kind of chat in each chapter in the, in the little comment area. So that was quite handy. And um, yeah, the whole system works surprisingly well. I didn’t think it was going to be that sick, but um, it was, it was really cool.
Q:  Was there anything about the process that you’d change if you could?
David Gaughran: 10:45 Um, mostly on my side just because of my lack of experience, sometimes held things off a little bit. Um, I didn’t realize, for example, I think, you know, the narrator told me right away that, um, when she was going to be available to do the recording, so I didn’t, I, there was a couple of things I wanted to change in terms of um, some things about the book file because with a nonfiction book uhm you’re often linking to things, you know, directly from the ebook, you might be linking to various websites or a resource with more information on something. And that’s obviously very difficult to do with an audio book. So I had a little bit of thinking to do about how I was going to handle it. And what I ended up doing was building a page on my website, a resources page just for audio book listeners and something would an easy URL that the narrator could read a couple of times. Um, but it was little things like that that I hadn’t, um, I hadn’t uploaded the final file and I made a few things, uh, because the narrator wasn’t available until June. I didn’t realize that the narrator would actually like to look at the text in advance. And kind of prepare themselves before they actually do the recording.
Q:  What was your favorite thing about the experience?
David Gaughran: 11:54 My favorite thing about the experience was how surprisingly high touch it was. For example, when I selected one of the narrators that I was interested in, someone from Findaway emailed me straight away to say that narrator would be unavailable until September and would I like to select someone else. Instead, there was just, there was a personal touch to the whole way along. If I dropped the ball in terms of, you know, uploading revisions by a certain time, someone would email me and go, Hey, just in case this lifted a net and the narrator’s waiting, waiting for someone, waiting for you to upload the file, and it just, it felt like humans were involved in the process all the way along and they actually cared about the experience you were having.