Recording an audiobook at home is quite a project. The scope is much bigger than anything else you will do as a voice actor. I remember when I first started, I would become a slave to my internal anxiety. I didn’t even realize how secretly freaked out I was under the surface; it was this low-grade anxiety that would follow me around and be under my skin for days. Recording an entire book by myself felt like such a huge responsibility: I want it to be great and there’s no director or anyone giving feedback and it’s taking so long and I have to juggle all my other work and…it’s TAKING SO LONG and…ai yai yai…a recipe for a not so fun time. I would end up working every waking hour, pulling all-nighters, eating junk food and getting no sleep or exercise. My mindset was kind of like: Let’s just hunker down and get through this!
Thankfully, after two years I’ve figured out some coping strategies to quell that anxiety and make the entire experience more sane and enjoyable! There’s lots of great articles on how to actually prep an audiobook for record, but lately I’ve been thinking about how I’ve learned to prep myself for the task at hand. Here are five things I do to set the stage for success.
Give myself time. I used to think I had to rush into the actual recording almost as soon as I got the book. I would race through reading it so that I could start recording – potentially missing things and making myself crazy in the process. Now I always check in with the publisher to find out how much time I actually have. Is there a hard deadline? Maybe I have more time than I think! Based on the word count of the book and how difficult is it (how many accents/dialects, for example), I estimate how long both the reading and recording will take. Then I try to give myself a few days wiggle room just in case something comes up to throw off my schedule or slow me down. I try for at least 3 days to prep a book. The more time and focus I put into prepping the book, the easier recording is. It also makes the work deeper and more resonant…and you don’t miss those pesky details, like finding out the main character has a Southern twang- which is mentioned only once– in Chapter 11!
Stock up. The day before I start recording, I go to the store and buy healthy prepared foods for the week. I need nutritious grab and go food available for my breaks…and for anytime the hunger monster strikes. It’s too much to have to think about meal prep while I’m recording an audiobook and I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t have good food ready, I eat crappy. And that makes me feel crappy. I also make sure I have plenty of beverages on hand. Coffee is a no-brainer, but I also like Kombucha, ginger tea and/or Kefir, to help keep my energy up. One well placed Ginger Kombucha can keep me going for the rest of a session without having to eat again and again! And my secret weapon is to have some type of raw vegan cacao energy treats in the freezer. I keep them in the freezer so I won’t eat too many at once! They can really help me push through if I start fading, providing hours of sustained energy…and they just make me happy!
Clear the decks. I tell my family and friends I’ll be working on a book and therefore somewhat MIA, so they know if I don’t pick up the phone not to worry or be offended. It’s not the week for doing extra things, like lunch with a friend or coffee with an aspiring VO. I need to focus my time and attention on getting the job done well and efficiently. I’m also sure to stock the kitchen with easy meals and snacks for my family so I know they won’t suffer while I’m working…and I don’t have to feel guilty!
Plan my schedule. As someone who juggles voice over and audiobook narration, this is crucial. Ditto that for someone who works from home. I schedule myself in 6 hour increments and make a commitment to those times. Inevitably, things come up – an audition or a booking – and I might need to make changes, but at least I have a plan that I can try to stick to. This frees me up to know that for that block of time, I’m working and after that, I’m done – so my whole life doesn’t become about the book. I’m also careful to choose my yoga classes and dog walk breaks for the week, so I know I’ll be getting exercise. There are few things worse for my body than sitting in a chair for days on end with no movement!
Be good. I try to get lots of sleep and to stay hydrated for a few nights before recording. No tequila benders for me, and no loud bars or clubs where I have to shout to be heard. Recording an audiobook is a marathon. I need to be energetic, healthy and at the top of my game from the start.
If you’re new to narrating audiobooks, trying some of these tips might help the entire process become a bit more manageable. Good luck and as always, I’m curious to hear what works for you!