What you need to know about podcasting narration?

Elvis Elvis

Before you start recording, you’ll want to decide some things about narration. First, will you be doing straight narration or will you be creating more of a radio play out of your book?

Those are the two extremes with many variations in the middle. For example, you can do straight narration with nothing fancy at all. You can do straight narration with guest voices. Or you can change up your own voice. (Some of this you can do yourself just by altering your vocal delivery; some of it you can do with various tools in post production.) You can also add sound effects and music.

Whatever level of complication you choose though, you’re going to have to commit to it for the entirety of the novel. Nothing looks more amateur than to start off episode 1 with an impressive radio play format, and by episode 10 it’s just straight narration.

But unforeseen things can happen. It’s probably wise to have 10-12 episodes completely finished and ready to go before you start airing the first episode. And if somewhere along the way you lose some voice actors, and you can’t replace them with new voices, that creates an uneven-ness in the production, but it may have been unavoidable.

These are things to think about upfront, while you’re in the planning stages. If you use voice talent help, you might only want to use it for smaller roles, and have all their recordings in hand before you start producing the main podcast itself. That way you know you have the voice work for the whole novel for any given character.

Having other voice talent can create interest and variety for your podcast, and there are a lot of talented voice actors doing podcasts out there. Some have built up fans around their voice talents and you may gain new listeners who initially show up just to hear someone they like in your podcast.

Many podcasters work in trade, “I’ll help you on your podcast if you help me on mine.” This can be great because it creates cross-promotion opportunities and helps with networking.

It can also create difficulties if the people you choose to work with don’t have working styles similar to your own. Or if you’re under a tight deadline and the people helping you don’t feel the same pressure to record as quickly. After all, it isn’t their podcast, and they naturally aren’t as emotionally invested in it as you are.

This is why some prefer to do straight narration with only their own voice. Because then they only have to depend on themselves. Even without using guest voices, you can still cross-promote with others in the podcasting community. Or you can pick a middle road and have occasional guest voices for smaller roles.

What you need to know about podcasting narration?

You may “have” to use voice actors

If your own voice is grating, or otherwise unpleasant for the average listener and it’s not something you can clean up or “fix,” it’ll be a problem and a road block to enjoying your ficion.

Record it and test it out on people who are not your family or best friends. Family and friends are biased or won’t want to hurt your feelings. So if they say it’s great, you don’t have much more information than you started out with. You can’t be sure that it’s really great.

Is your voice monotone? Do you have a sense of pacing when you read aloud? Do you have the ability to do dramatic readings that don’t sound boring or over the top?

Some things can be fixed in post production, but not everything can. If you don’t have a voice suited to recording and don’t have a good sense of what makes narration sound good, then you have a couple of options:

1. You can try to get voice talent and figure out a way to compensate them. I say “figure out a way” because I don’t know who you know, who you’ll network with, or what their specific creative needs and your creative talents are. Bartering services is always a unique situation depending on the people involved.

2. You can take a class/workshop on audio recording, or something related to DJing or other radio work. Something pertinent to the skill set you’re trying to develop.

Part of it is aptitude. Just like not everybody can write good fiction, even with a lot of classes, not everybody can produce a quality audio recording. But sometimes it’s hard to tell without a class whether you have the aptitude and can become better at it or not. Some people have a natural feel for something and some people have to go through a lot of formal training to get to that same level. But both had similar overall aptitude.

You may or may not be invested in doing a podcast if it requires that much of you. But it would be better to take the necessary steps to produce a quality podcast, or not produce one. Because if the podcast isn’t at least the same calibur as the book itself, it will drive away potential readers who can’t get past the bad audio to appreciate the story.