Podcasting Fiction

So when I first started serializing Pay Me, Bug! one thing I knew I wanted to do was to provide a podcast of each chapter shortly after the chapter went up. I continued that with The Points Between, and started to do it for Curveball but I held off because at the same time I started Curveball I discovered Podiobooks.com and I wanted to get my podcasts into a format where they could be published there, and it's taken some time to get that right.

My first podcasts were, well, not good. They weren't ridiculously horrible, but they were obviously amateurish in a slightly uncomfortable way. They've improved. They're still not stellar, but I'm a lot more comfortable reading fiction into a microphone and the overall quality of the recording has improved.

Last night I learned something new--more accurately, I rediscovered something I should have remembered from my theatre days, but didn't. And that something is very simple: when you're narrating, record standing up.

The reasons are pretty simple: diction and breath control. Standing up gives you the greatest breath control, and you'll be astounded how easy it is run out of breath in what looks like a short sentence. It also helps you project, and while volume isn't really important when you're speaking into a microphone, diction is, and "projecting" forces you to speak more clearly. As I've been going through my podcasts I find that the faster I speak, the harder it is to pronounce words correctly... so I would force myself to slow down, and sometimes that worked well, and sometimes it would kill the momentum in a story. Last night when I recorded standing up I found that I could project a little--I wasn't shouting, or projecting like I was on stage, but my voice was noticeably stronger without feeling forced, and my words were clearer (still need to work on that though) and I could go faster when necessary.

It's amazing how much more control I had over my speech when I was standing up.

The last thing about it, and this may just be relevant to me, but when I was standing up reading the chapter it felt more like I was performing, and because of that it was a lot easier to slip into the performance aspect of it.

I think it'll be a loooooong while before people are clamoring for me to narrate their books for Audible :D but I'm pretty self-critical when it comes to my podcast performances and I have to say that the simple act of standing up improved last night's recording by leaps and bounds. If I were in a situation where I was on a podcast where I was just talking about stuff, I'd probably do it sitting down, because that's a more conversational situation--it's not that it's not a performance, but it's a much less formal performance, and the audience is expecting more of the natural rhythms and verbal trips that accompany regular day-to-day speech. But I think from now on I'll be recording all my fiction podcasts standing.

Hmm this is really interesting. I'd never actually considered doing podcasts of fiction, but it makes so much sense that you do. Personally I probably never could since my accent is difficult to understand for a lot of people haha, but that's great that you do. I'm one of those people that has a really hard time staring at a screen to read as well as the kind of person who rarely has the freetime to sit down and do it. Making podcasts really alleviates that as I could just listen while I'm working on something else. What a fantastic idea :D

And that's awesome that you've figured out the best way to do it. I never would have thought of that. Though I've also never been a performer in any way, shape or form...So what do I know? If I may, what kind of recording equipment do you use?

I use Audacity to record everything. Unfortunately I have to be windows-side to use it, because there are latency issues on my Linux partition. I keep trying to move to a 100% linux publishing solution and currently the podcasting is the only thing preventing me from making it so. (I have fond hopes of my windows partition someday being used for games only. Almost...)

I use a USB mic that was specifically marketed for podcasting. It was a gift. It works extremely well: it's much higher quality than the standard headset, but it's not ridiculously high end which would probably work against me since the really expensive mics pick up all kinds of ambient noise. (At one point in time, USB mics weren't great because they used more system resources than your basic analog mics, but computers are so powerful now that it's not very noticeable).

I have almost-studio-quality headphones that I use for "treating" the recording afterwards. This is the part where I'm prone to make the most mistakes because years and years of good music have contributed mightily to hearing loss, but Audacity has some pretty good leveling and balancing tools that even out your mix.

Then I save it as an MP3. Audacity lets me add meta tags to the mp3, and I have another program that lets me add an image to it. This wasn't important initially, but Podiobooks is very picky about how you submit it.

Hopefully in the next few weeks I'll start releasing podcasts for Curveball on Podiobooks. I'm going to need to re-record the podcasts for Pay Me, Bug! and The Points Between in order to get them in the right format/at the right quality. That'll take a while...

Thanks for the info! I've been interesting in podcasting. I'm not an audio person, though I had some audio training back in film school, so I have some minimum idea of the recording end.

I've been working at a standing desk for some time, and yes, I can see where standing would improve your vocal quality. (Heck, when I talk, I tend to jump up out of my chair like an excited member of the UK parliament.)

I've been thinking of just recording classic poetry or short stories as practice -- even as crappy YouTube videos. But I do think that Misplaced Hero would be fun to record.

Oh... and I meant to ask: make and model of that mic?


I'll have to wait till I get home to tell you that.

Uber - I'd like to see you blog about this kind of stuff. Add a little more info on "why" you decided to do it, "how it improved your audience reach" or "potential reach" and it becomes a really good blog on "alternative platforms to finding fans."

I actually also wanted to ask you about time and cost to startup and maintain. Also, what's an ideal length for an installment, etc. etc.

As for standing up - yeah, all voiceover artists I've seen in studios or in footage generally stand with space between them. Not just so they can stand, but they can do certain things like stretch or move inp lace to help with the projection issue :>

And totally want to see picture of your mike too!

Well the "how it improved my audience reach" is one of those things I really need to keep better track of. Mostly I do things because I think they're neat. I know that for Pay Me, Bug! I had people who were exclusively listening to the podcasts, and used the RSS Feeds to check for updates. I might have some data on that.

I can go into the technical aspects of it OK, though.

I intend to do audio for my webcomic and for fiction, i love that you do it.

Standing up is a good one! Notice whenever you see video of someone doing voices for cartoons and such, they are standing at the mic.

The mic that came with karaoke revolution and the first rock band was actually a 30-50 dollar logitech mic. On a stand, with a pop filter, you will get better sound out of that sucker than pretty much anything you buy for under 100.