How to Record Audiobooks Fit for a King

In the Oscar-winning movie The King’s Speech, England’s reluctant King George VI hated microphones. He had good reason: he stuttered like a Model-A Ford, in need of a tune-up.

The movie is a surprisingly upbeat and watchable journey through the real-life king’s struggle with public speaking. He had to record and broadcast messages to his subjects around the globe during World War II, bolstering support for the war effort. As the next-in-line after his brother King Edward quit the throne, it was George’s sworn duty to take over the family business. In short, he had no other choice.

For King George, the microphone was an intimidating monster with a single glowing red eye to be feared and conquered. As an author, if you’ve taken up the challenge to record your own message in the form of an audiobook, you may relate to the challenge King George faced. But unlike George, you have the twin advantages of technology and technique on your side.

In a previous post, we talked about several reasons to add audiobooks to your line up as an author. In this post, we cover the best practices for recording an excellent performance fit for a king!

Producing a Majestic Performance in a Hurry

You can create a compelling keynote recording, author interview or audiobook by following these few simple guidelines. To help move your audio recording session forward and create an excellent performance, follow these 4 techniques for top quality results with your audio recordings every time.

Technique 1 – Practice Your Material

Even though you wrote the material yourself, you’ll still need to practice sight-reading it before you start recording. Studio time and audio editing time can be expensive, so be prepared. If you’re making the recording yourself, you’ll still need to rehearse the work several times before it will sound natural. Invest time in this crucial step, and you won’t be disappointed.

Technique 2 – Make it Musical

Think like a musician in-studio. Choose your cadence, voice inflection and dramatic flair with care. Don’t be hammy, but likewise, do use some lively intonation. No one wants to hear a flat reading. Breathe life into your text by putting thought behind the words you speak. The object is to sound both engaging and natural at the same time, keeping the finished recording’s focus on the material itself – not on the way it’s presented.

Technique 3 – Maximize Your Voice

Keep your voice warm and fluid. Breathe deeply into your diaphragm. When you breathe, you should be able to feel your lower back expand slightly. Open your mouth and throat when you speak. You should be able to place your voice like a ping pong ball on the center of your tongue, just behind your alveolar ridge – not resonating in your nose or your throat. Relax when you speak. Avoid dairy products before your recording session, because they coat your vocal cords and make you sound froggy. Sip tea or water during your recording session, but not so much that you need frequent bio breaks. Avoid alcohol and excess caffeine, because these will dry-out your throat – and your judgment. Above all, enjoy the session. Your pleasure will come through in the recording.

Technique 4 – Be Consistent

Measure a fixed distance from your microphone, and keep it consistent during your entire recording session. Some like to keep their chin about 2 inches from the microphone. Others prefer about 8 to 10 inches or even more. The distance you choose depends on a number of factors, including the vocal quality you want to achieve, how much room tone or bass proximity effect you want in your recording, the type of microphone you’re using, and the quality of your pop filter. When recording an audio, always speak directly into the microphone. If you turn your head to the side during recording, you’ll be off-mic and the sound quality will suffer. Think of the microphone as an extension of your body, following your voice wherever you go. Play around with your distance from the mic, then stick to the parameters you decide upon. I often suggest that people always keep a 4-finger distance between their chin and the microphone, so your vocal strength is consistent throughout your entire recording session.

Using these performance tips will ensure excellence in your finished audiobook every time. Search my articles for other posts which cover technical side of recording your audiobook from what to wear, to how silence your page turns. For additional performance training from professional storytellers including Les Brown, another resource is The Art of Storytelling audio program.

Bryan Heathman is the President of Made for Success Publishing. Bryan works with best-selling authors in the role of publisher and marketer, including the late Zig Ziglar, Chris Widener and John C. Maxwell. Bryan is the author of Conversion Marketing, a marketing book that condenses knowledge on website conversion from 7-years running an online ad agency. Bryan’s Fortune 500 experience includes running high impact marketing campaigns for Microsoft, Eastman Kodak and Xerox.