June 14

Talking Books – More Than A CD Or Audio File


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We all know what talking books are, right? You can get them at the library, buy them at book stores, and sometimes celebrities do the recording for a book.

Of course, as the title for this posts says – there’s more to it than that.

Talking books is also a way of producing a new book. I’m using it for the first, second and third times right now on titles we’re producing this year. One is Facebook Sucks…And Other Social Media Truths, another is Social Media 101, and the third is Getting Happy (When You Wish You Were Dead).

Have you ever been to a seminar where one of the speakers talks about producing a book just by talking into a recorder for an hour or so? They make it sound super easy, don’t they?

I remember listening to Mark Victor Hansen describe how he produced 100 books in 100 days using this technique at one seminar. Interestingly, I haven’t seen that particular series promoted anywhere. Maybe that’s because there’s a little more to it than just speaking into a recorder, then having it transcribed.

Having recorded over 20 hours of audio, and having it transcribed, I have some observations to share and suggestions to make.

Most of the audio is in interview format. My co-author, Dr. Mark Sharp, asks questions and I answer. We also have some interesting, spontaneous discussions. The rest of the audio is monologue. And because we’re thinking ahead, 80% of this audio is actually taken from video we have shot.

You see, the idea is that we can use the video on a website for promoting the book, as well as social media sites. The video also allows us to use specific segments in developing a coaching program. As we build the program, specific elements can be augmented or illustrated by the video we’ve shot.

Observation #1
The Interview Format Is Much Easier Than Doing A Monologue.

It’s also much more interesting. I confess to finding myself rather boring when that’s all there is to hear/see/read.

The give and take of conversation breathes an entirely different, and livelier,  energy into every aspect of producing the book.

With the idea of doing an interview format goes the concept of having a co-author, or at least a writing partner. Having already written 5 books on my own with just an editor, I am 100% certain that having a co-author makes the project a lot more fun.

Suggestion #1
Always Be Prepared

Just like with the Boy Scouts, being prepared for making your audio is essential.

Whether you’re using the Interview Format or doing a Monologue makes little difference. Either way, you need to have some idea what you’re going to talk about, and how long you’re going to spend talking.

Having done both, I found the monologue turns out better when you spend more time preparing rather than speaking off the cuff (“extemporaneously” for you big word types). Since you’re carrying the whole thing yourself, you really do need to have good notes in front of you.

When you’re doing an interview, there’s obviously another person to help you carry the conversation.

Just listening to the audios is an education. There’s a big difference in the energy, excitement and depth of content between a monologue and an interview. The interviews are way better.

Observation #2
Transcription Is Not The Magic Wand Gurus Make It Out To Be

This is something I’ve tested in several ways. I’ve used a transcription service in the U.S., virtual workers in Canada, Malaysia, Australia, U.S. and Slovenia, and I’ve even tried doing it myself.

Ugh! Doing it myself was tortuous. At first I did the stop, rewind, play routine. Definitely the wrong approach. Then I tried software that allows me to control the playback speed. Yikes! It’s bad enough to think yourself boring, try listening to yourself at half speed.

The transcription service in the U.S. has definitely been the most expensive method. That said, the results are quite good. They also have templates for producing books, and can put in all the extra pages for Title Page, Copyright, Table of Contents and even an Index or Appendix. This is definitely the route to go if you want extra help and guidance along the way.

Using virtual workers has given mostly good, but mixed results. The system I use is www.vworker.com (formerly known as Rent-A-Coder). So the first thing to deal with is learning to use their system. That’s fairly easy, although it’s a bit quirky.

The slightly difficult part is dealing with people in different countries. Now let me be clear – the people are easy to deal with. It’s the different time zones that I’ve had some difficulty with. That’s because I forget that noon for me can easily be midnight for someone else. I’m sure there are lots of people using vWorker who have no trouble with this at all.

As far as the people are concerned, they have all be easy to work with. They have also all given different levels of quality in their work.

A lady from Canada has given me the best results. She’s a native English speaker, and I think that gives her an edge in being able to understand me when I speak quickly or softly. I’ve also had excellent results from a lady in Malaysia, and a man from Kenya. A couple of other people have not worked out well, so I simply haven’t asked them to do anything else.

And the vWorker system provides good protection for everyone. They have an arbitration system for disagreements, and they escrow funds to be sure the money is there for workers to get paid.

For the transcript itself, it is always going to need editing. Yes, some transcripts need more editing than others, but they all need some amount of change and tweaking.

Suggestion #2
Set Aside 2X The Length Of The Audio For Editing The Transcript

Maybe I need that much time because I”m a slow reader or something. I don’t know. But I have found it takes me just about 2x as long to do edits as it does to make the recording.

With the Getting Happy book, it takes a little longer. This book is biographical, and very emotionally charged, so it’s sometimes hard for me to get through the edits. I can definitely only edit one transcript file in a day for that book. (That’s about 2 hours of audio.)

Suggestion #3
Re-record The Audio To Make A Talking Book

The books we’re working on aren’t finished yet, but I can already tell we need to re-record the audio to make a talking book.

Our original recordings will probably be packaged and sold as an “unedited” version. (There’s always some editing to remove ambient noise, coughs, farts and other embarrassing elements.)

One of the reasons to re-record the audio – at least in my case – is that I sometimes swear when I get particularly worked up. That kind of stuff just doesn’t belong in an every day audio book.

Another reason is that the books are ending up much more well organised than our original audios. So making new recordings is going to give the reader/listener a much better experience.


That’s my $0.02 cents worth. Do I deserve change, or does this all make sense for you?

Thank you for taking the time to read. And since you’ve registered, become a member of our community, and have invested the time to read, please reap the reward by making a comment and joining the conversation.


audio books, facebook, talking books, transcription

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