Way, way back in my past, I used to write a regular column for Allegory Magazine. It was called The Writer’s Toolbox. It consisted of short, helpful articles on ways to improve your writing. Eventually, it branched out into promotional or publishing topics as well.
The column ended as other responsibilities took over, but the articles were eventually collected into my writers’ guide The Literary Handyman, a fun nod to the Writer’s Toolbox, even though the articles drew from multiple sources.
I miss those articles. In the spirit of those bygone days, I’m creating a new column here. I don’t know how often I will be able to post, as my responsibilities have only grown, but at least when inspiration takes me, there is a place for the resulting wisdom (It’s okay…you can laugh 😉 )
So…without further adieu…
In this ever-changing publishing industry, authors are getting creative in their promotional efforts. They have to. Most of the time, they are on their own, no matter if they are traditionally published, go with a hybrid publisher, or self-publish. The era of publisher-sponsored promotional tours and dedicated marketing teams is–for the most part–gone. That means, as an author, the success of your book is primarily dependent on how much effort you put into promoting.
I don’t know about you, but my promotional budget sits pretty firmly at ‘free’. As in, that is what I can afford to pursue. Social media helps, but there is a lot of noise out there you need to shout to be heard over, particularly in this time when online venues are our only option. With a little effort, though, and a lot of patience, there are things you can do. Along with my fellow authors, YouTube is where I am currently focusing my efforts.
With conventions going virtual or on hiatus for the foreseeable future, one of the things our fans are missing is a personal connection. One of the cool things about conventions has always been getting to talk to your favorite personality (in this case, authors) and getting to hear them read. We can still give them that. Thanks to plug-and-play microphones and free programs like Audacity (used for sound editing) and OpenShot (used for video editing), anyone can record an excerpt from their own work and post it for the fans to enjoy. Some authors I know even use Zoom to do recordings, though this can be with mixed results. It gives you the chance to play with virtual backgrounds or have your cover display behind you, but it doesn’t always work consistently and if you need to edit the audio, the file will be exported as audio-only.
I don’t know enough about Zoom or sound and video editing software to tell you how to use them. But hey! That’s what YouTube is for, right? I get by using just two features on Audacity (Noise Reduction and Normalize) and for OpenShot I don’t do more than drop the elements in place and export to video. I can tell you that the two above programs are fairly easy to use. Are they the best out there? I don’t have enough experience to say.
I do have some pointers for you on improving the quality of your audio, though.
1) to improve the sound quality of the recording and to prevent sounding like you’re holding the reading inside a tin can, create a sound-dampener behind your microphone (if you have a stand-alone mic) to prevent your voice from bouncing off the walls, and talk into the mic. This can be as simple as a box lined with a towel, draping the wall with fabric or foam, or wrapping a paper cone around a more conventional stick mic. I’ve used at least two of these methods and they work very well. If you are recording off your laptop or phone, try the sound-dampener and make sure you know where your mic is on the unit and do your best to speak into that.
2) if you make a mistake, stop and collect yourself, then read the full line again. You can edit out the mistake more easily if you start fresh.
3) read from an electronic device, not a paper copy. The microphone will pick up the turning pages, something that cannot be easily edited out if it occurs while you are speaking. I set up my mic in front of my monitor, but off to the side. Then I open a Word document to the opposite side, with the sound editor/recorder up in the corner so I can access everything (I do have a large monitor). If you use this method, click on the Word document with the mouse after you hit the record button on the recording software but before you actually start reading so you don’t hear the click of the mouse.
4) be mindful of sounds in the background. Record somewhere that does not have a constant or repeating sound in the background, like a fan, clock, or air conditioner.
5) try not to pop your words, draw loud breaths, or make noises with your mouth (other than required by the reading)
6) do not hold or touch the mic or the surface it is on more than necessary.
7) do not shift or fidget while you are reading. The mic will pick up those sounds and if they happen while you are reading they are next to impossible to edit out.
8) do not read too fast or rush out a sentence until you are breathless. Take a pause if you need to. It is easier to edit out too-long pauses than it is to introduce them.
9) read with inflection, not in a monotone. Try to infuse your words with the appropriate emotions or reactions, but do not shout or raise your voice loud, even if the scene calls for it. You want your volume to remain comfortable for the listener.
Not interested in creating your own channel or the effort that goes into building an audience? Look for YouTubers that have opened their channel to outside content. Some of them like to feature authors or other personalities for readings or interviews or discussions on set topics.
Not coincidentally, eSpec Books has their own channel that offers such opportunities.
The eSpec Books Author Reading Series – This is for authors published by eSpec Books, reading eSpec content.
The eSpec Guest Author Reading Series – This is for any author (eSpec or otherwise) reading content not published by eSpec Books.
We are looking for 10 to 15-minute readings. There is some leeway in either direction, but better to keep the readings short. Viewers do not always have a long attention span and may not watch the whole video if it is very long.
Read your title and your pen name, then start the story. No need to put anything at the end.
Audio is preferred, but video is acceptable. If we need to edited out errors, video will be converted to audio. If the reading is clean, it will be posted as is, with a title card added at the front, and the book cover at the back.
We need an author bio, high res author headshots and book covers, and a book blurb for all submission (subject to approval). Any content should be suitable for a 13-and-up audience.
If you would like to participate and you have your reading ready, contact us at especbooks @ aol . com.