starting work on Lost and Not Found audiobook

I’ve begun work on recording the audio version of Lost and Not Found this month. I recorded the first 14 pages or so, though I need to re-listen to them … I think I may have been reading a little too quickly. I want to set a good pace, speak clearly, and really create a professional product. The current plan is to record at least half a dozen episodes and at least one promo and get it started online on under their “normal model” – which is to say, one episode a week until it’s done, somewhere between a normal podcast and a limited run series. They require 5 episodes done before they’ll start you, anyway, so that’s easy enough. Theoretically I could record them all in a week or so and get started as soon as they get the book started online. Due to some system changes they happened to be putting into effect at the exact time I submitted it, it was several weeks after I submitted it that they put Dragons’ Truth online. Since I’m known, since I’m already set up in the system, and especially because I hold myself to such a high personal quality standard (I really want to be putting out as professional quality of work as I can), it shouldn’t take as long with Lost and Not Found.

Depending on how recording goes and how quickly I read and how long each episode is (there are no chapter breaks in Lost and Not Found, so I have to find places in the story where it makes sense to stop), I expect to have somewhere in the vicinity of fifteen to twenty-five episodes for the full book. This puts the length of time for the serialized release at roughly three to six months. I would like to have the novel I’m currently working on come out concurrent with or prior to the completion of that audio program, since it is almost -but not quite- a sequel to Lost and Not Found, and the cross-promotion should probably be helpful. Also, since I expect to be able to do most or all of the recording of the audio version of this new novel during that period as well, so that people could start listening to one immediately after finishing the other. I’m trying to build an audience, see?

In order to get even a single episode of the audio book ready for publication I need both the text of the book recorded and to [select|compose] a [piece|pieces] of music for the opening, closing, and as a bridge in between different sections of the same episode. There is also the question of “bed music,” which I understand means music which plays softly in the background of the entire audiobook. Bed music has the benefit of covering the tiny amount of background noise which cannot be avoided without [buying thousands of dollars of gear plus building a soundproof recording booth | removing it in post-production and somewhat distorting the sound of your voice in the process], but also represents the challenge of finding music which relates to the story and setting without becoming distracting or annoying to readers, plus that of finding thirty to sixty minutes’ worth of it for each episode (depending on the length of your episodes). On one hand, I’d like to have bed music, to create the perception of a better recording. On the other hand…

Well, on the other hand, I don’t like to select music, I like to compose it myself. Not that I have any experience composing music – I’m certainly not trained, and I’d pause before describing myself as self-taught. I haven’t even looked up a basic how-to online. I just like to screw around once in a while, whistling, with an instrument, or in GarageBand on my iBook – and I’ve only spent perhaps a total of a few weeks in my life (a day here, a couple days there) doing anything musical at all before this year. On the other hand, I sit in front of an piano or pick up an accordion or a guitar and, after a few minutes of re-acquainting myself with the interface, music comes out. I sit down with an instrument and melodies build from my fingers. Not proper songs, usually, but in opposition to what I’ve seen happen with other people at untrained instruments (how do they get it to sound so bad?), something musical. Anyway, starting with Dragons’ Truth I began composing my own music and I plan to do so for my future audio releases.

For the purpose of opening, closing, and bridge music I only need about sixty seconds of music, max. For podcasts it’s a good idea not to put more than about thirty seconds of anything in before getting to the story itself, or more than about sixty seconds of anything at the end. More than that, and people tend to skip it. For some listeners, even sixty seconds it pushing it for a closing. Most promos (which theoretically I could get other podcasts to play in their episodes) are sixty seconds or less, as well. So for these things you don’t need more music than this. Easy, right?

Would you believe I spent the better part of last week (nearly four full days) working on the music I want to use for Lost and Not Found, and the end result -at four thirty in the morning yesterday- was a sixty second audio file? What if I told you it was just a first draft? That I spent the first three days scrawling in a notebook, obsessively crunching non-base10 math by hand, creating page after page of numbers, up to 24 digits in length (so far), and that I spent the fourth day transcoding the results into the computer as music? Music that I couldn’t guess the sound of before I was finished entering it in and hit play. Music that I think I like with a little faster tempo so maybe I’ll have to do another several hours’ math to get to a full minute again. Oh, and incidentally, music the math for which also creates the possibility of a generic sort of non-repeating but boundless melody, which I may be able to use as bed music? Which simple mathematical variations on could change the tone to match the four different stories in the novel that I’d like to each have individualized music? Hooray, crazy! Hooray, math! Maybe.

I’ll have to spend a couple more days entering the numbers into the system in various configurations to see if the calculations continue to sound good or if I’ll need to start from scratch (or worse, just modify this melody system heavily – I prefer the beauty of math right now) to create working music. And once the music is ready, it can be combined with the spoken word recordings of the book’s text and the book’s promos, and once that’s done I can submit it and start serializing it. Which reminds me, I really need to write a promo for Lost and Not Found. If you’ve read it, how do you think I could sell it to new [readers|listeners]?

One other little thing on the subject of the audiobook – since we don’t really have the room (or the money) to create a dedicated (or even isolated) recording space, I’ve set up in the bedroom. The other day while trying to adjust after working so that people could get by, a piece of equipment fell down and the jack on my headphones broke. These are relatively nice, closed ear headphones of sufficient quality to do near-professional quality audio work (really, my ears aren’t trained to do well enough to know the difference between these headphones and the ones that cost 5x-10x), and the only thing wrong with them right now is they can’t plug in to an audio source. All they need is the jack cut off and a new one spliced/soldered on, though I don’t trust myself to do a good enough job repairing them to end up with quality sound. So I took them to a local repair shop Monday (and called a second one) and the cost to have a professional repair it is the same as the cost to order another set online (depending on shipping cost). Sigh. I can’t really record any more until I have [new|repaired] headphones. So in reality it’s a good thing I’m spending days and weeks on the musical portion of this project right now, since I can’t get any more done on the spoken portion.

I’m sure I’ll post again when I have a promo. Oh, and when I have a site design for, which I would like to be able to launch simultaneously with the Podiobook, and whose design should allow for the new book to be advertised along side it. Sigh. What should that look like? What should it do?