Doug McDonald is an independent audiobook producer and narrator in Medford, Oregon. He is a graduate of Knox College in 1970 with degree in Theater Arts and had a career in the computer software industry where, among other things he created instructional videos for customers.
Since 2017, he has been working as an audiobook narrator and producer specializing often working with authors who choose to narrate their own books. You can visit his website at voiceimages.net
Ed Battistella: Welcome, Doug. I’m curious about what an audiobook producer does? What goes into the process of making an audiobook?
Doug McDonald: Essentially an audiobook is produced by having a narrator record the print-version, usually word-for-word to match the print version. The narrator may be a professional or an author who can be engaging and easily understood, or even an amateur who is telling their own life-story. Once recording is finished an audiobook production company or producer such as myself will 1) proof the audio files to ensure they match the print version; 2) edit out mistakes, distracting noises such as mouth-clicks, bumps, thumps, etc.; 3)any sections of audio that can’t be fixed cleanly or misreads, mispronunciations, etc. that were caught in proofing are re-recorded and integrated into the previously recorded audio; 4)after proofing/editing is complete the audio is ‘mastered’ with audio software enhancement tools to even out the volume, pacing and ‘presence’ of the speaker’s voice and ensure the background sound level is not distracting; 5)and lastly, each audio file such as the Credits, Introduction, each Chapter and so on is created to industry production file specs, such as Audible or iTunes or many others require, and then uploaded to a distribution platform.
EB: How did you get into the audiobook business?
DM: In 2016 I was contemplating retiring from my job with Procare Software, where at the time I was creating instructional videos for our customers. I learned that audio quality in producing these videos was as important or more important than the video portion when it came to retention of the content. I studied how to make the audio better, which led me into the software tools that are used in audiobook production. Upon retiring, I started auditioning and got several books almost right away. I’ve been at it now for almost 6 years and love it!
EB: What services do you offer to potential clients?
DM: I offer everything described above – narration (or casting a narrator), editing, proofing, mastering, and uploading the files. I also offer extra tools for authors who want to narrate their own works, such as a memoir or personal-brand business or life-coach approach to a common problem. I have recording equipment I loan out as needed or offer suggestions on what they need to buy. I offer live direction of the author-narrator during recording to ensure consistency and engagement/energy levels, and to proof the text as they record. I then perform the production steps for the finished audio.
EB: Your company, Voice Images, specialize in working with authors who want to narrate their own work. What do they need to know about the narration process? It seems like it would be easy to flub if you are inexperienced.
DM: A great author-narrator is one who can be easily understood, has a clear approach to delivering their message, and most importantly is engaging the listener in their message! Recording technique can be taught pretty easily, but may require them to practice if they are new to it. I have found that authors who do public speaking and lectures for their books usually have the chops for an audiobook – it’s just a matter of teaching them the technical details. One caveat is that narration is physically taxing, so it’s easy to run out of steam. It takes a lot of concentration and effort. This is where live direction helps them know when to take a break and recharge.
EB: Do authors need a sound studio and special equipment?
DM: They need a consistently quiet recording space, with no distractions and good acoustics, and a good-quality microphone and computer audio interface. The recording software I have my clients use is free and I teach them how to use it. If they live in a quiet neighborhood with an isolated section of the house (perhaps a walk-in closet) where they can set up their equipment and the acoustics work, that usually works fine; if not, they can usually record at a local sound studio for a cost of around $60-$75 per hour. If they are local, I can help to set up their equipment in their own space.
EB: Are there some types of books that don’t make good audiobooks? I imagine math would be tough. I listened to a book on cosmology once and it was hard to follow.
DM: Yes! Math and science books with many graphs, charts, or complex ideas are not great candidates. Cookbooks with recipes are challenging as well. For author-narrated works, unless the author is a well-known personality or has great acting chops, I recommend they don’t try to record fiction, action- adventure, suspense/thriller, mysteries and so on that require great acting technique. But personal memoirs or poetry or personal-brand works are usually good candidates for self-narration.
EB: What do you listen to? Do you have some favorite audiobooks?
DM: I listen to all kinds of audiobooks, but usually non-fiction or well-narrated fiction, and I usually listen in the car while driving. At home, I like reading my kindle or regular paperback. In the last six months I’ve listened to Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow, The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom, American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris, Educated by Tara Westover, and Becoming by Michelle Obama.
EB: How can people get in touch with you?
DM: I can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 541-840-2189. My website is voiceimages.net
EB: Thanks for talking with us.
DM: The pleasure was all mine. Thanks so much, Ed!