Wednesday, December 18, 2019

eta: criticism of new acx post [whooo! The Lost Children is on its way to ACX!!]


[the addendum at the top has nothing to do with either book or author! this is all about ACX]

ETA: well, i’ve pondered whether to type up an eta on this post and thought i’d let myself cool off from my intense irritation at the time (and this also spares a lot of cranky detail)…but the long and short of it is, between the last book I’d done for ACX and this book, they’d completely changed their final post-production standards. And i mean *completely.*  And not only had they added a chokingly restrictive set of parameters to the post specs, they sound ABSOLUTELY AWFUL.  I mean…seriously….awful.  They crush, absolutely demolish, headroom; they remove the majority of interesting timbre of anyone’s voice; and, basically by way of compressing the shit out of the thing (which is only partly the cause of the above), make it sound suffocated and lifeless.

The industry standard for audiobooks sounds nothing like the ACX final production requirements, incidentally; i strongly suspect these requirements were put in place to homogenize all the various studio and make-shift studio sounds/noise/etc. so as to hide the noise of all the different qualities of those set-ups.

I’ve spent a not insubstantial amount of money to create an all but silent chain in which I record at settings that allow for about as much headroom as you can find outside of professional studios, and use software in post that max out those features while normalizing & compressing enough so that volume is not excessively dynamic, but headroom is retained and voice color is preserved.  

You take my final production and put it through the ACX process (all noise parameters of which my file alread exceeded. by a lot.)?  And it sounds like it’s been rolled under one of those pavement flatteners in LoonyTunes cartoons from my childhood.  When I heard the resulting file I was horrified – it just sounds *awful.*  I, for one, would never listen to an audiobook that meets the ACX standards currently required, because they sound so freakin’ lifeless.

soooo yeah.  I’ve never been that thrilled with ACX – it’s just…kinda the only place new narrators can get a start, now that amazon and audible have combined forces into this huge juggernaut.  But now I will go out of my way to never, ever produce a book for them again.  I’m auditioning much more aggressively to small audiobook publishers than Ihave before.  It’s been a couple years; lets see what I can find.



original post:

Pretty much what ACX does at this point is check for basic consistency compliance – did you save at the right bitrate/sample rate, did you leave the right number of seconds at the beginning & end of the file – basic stuff.  What they don’t check for is garbled file uploads – insert horrifed face here when I realized that the third book of the Seeds trilogy had gone out with a file that for some reason in the upload to ACX had been loaded with digital artifacts, and had already sold a bunch of copies.  GAH.  

That’s okay – I’m just as happy ACX doesn’t have a veritable army of quality control checkers, because there are literally dozens of aspects of editing and post-production that could be picked on and that would drive any new audiobook narrator to distraction.  Newbies aren’t getting paid hardly anything when they accept royalty-only contracts (I think my first book has made about 30 bucks in 5 years :D), and while most people don’t launch into an audiobook career until they can perform reasonably well (indeed, that’s why we do this thing – performing is awesome), that has absolutely nothing to do with the other skillsets you also need:  director, editor, post-production quality nit-picker.  

Being an audiobook narrator is not ‘reading a book aloud,’ not by a long shot.  

lolololol – I started to write the rest of this blog post chatting about some of these things, but it turned into a whole damn article.  ..sooo here’s a link instead 😀


At any rate, The Lost Children is on its way to its final checks… *folds hands, looks up at deities far and near* may I please not have overlooked any picky acx settings, and may the uploads please not have gone astray, because I would love it if this book came out in time for last minute Christmas presents 🙂

Friday, December 13, 2019

Over Jordan….or why I bombed my entire website and rebuilt it in 2 days (from December 13, 2019)


When I decided to do a short run of podcasts to see how that format worked for me, I knew I’d need intro/outro music for it…. music that reflected the ‘unvarnished first-take’ quality that was the theme of the whole ‘Ivy Reads’ podcast.  And then suddenly, it happened – in exactly the best way 🙂

Over Jordan, performed without warm-up, with my oldest kiddo

Here’s what I wrote for the notes on the podcast episodes – because the way this recording came about was so perfect and unplanned, it’s just too fun a story not to share.

If you’re one for ‘The Whole Song + story plz!’ – this post is for you 🙂

I have a lot of polished music recorded to my name…but the whole point of this series is that it’s unpolished reads, and it occurred to me that this version of Over Jordan has exactly the same ethic and origin. Here, let me tell you a story.

*3 years ago, oldest son races upstairs guitar in hand, wakes me up*

son: ‘Mom! I need you to record a song for my D&D campaign!’
me: *mumble* what? what song?
son: I’ll tell you on the way downstairs!
me: *mumble* mmmkayyy…
me: ….do i get coffee first?
son: NO! Must record now!
me: pffffffllfflllfffff

Strangely, despite a singing career that stretched back to 6yo, I had never heard Over Jordan. (he was suitably shocked)

him: It’s easy! I’ll hum it for you! Super easy fast recording np!
me: ….*still mumbling* can i at least look up lyrics?
me: *gets out iPad, lyrics are acquired*
him: it goes like *hummms verse* and then like *hums chorus* got it?
me: you have a lot of faith in your mother. okay. lets do this. ….probably 10 times.

I flipped on the studio power, sat in front of the mics; he stood, guitar stuck just inside the studio door (it’s 4×4 – no room in there for both of us), and we did a rehearsal take.

…..and that’s what you’re hearing. We didn’t need a second.

It’s so fun when that kinda stuff happens 🙂 

I hope each of these reads has something similar – some moment when an un-rehearsed note hits just right – an utterly spontaneous delivery directed only by the prose itself. Cause sometimes? The artist’s sketch is so much more alive than the finished painting, even when it’s nowhere near the final thing.


I realize I probably have exactly zero visitors to my site as yet (talk about being an unnamed artist at this time!), but if anyone was here this week, they may have noticed my entire website just went sideways.  Ultimately I had to delete everyyythinnngggg and reinstall the CMS from scratch, and then rebuild the whole site from memory (and the largely preserved text on my tumblr, thank goodness!).  And what I was trying to do was so simple!  Maddening 😀  And what was that you ask?  Stream .mp3 previews for my audiobooks.  That’s it.  That’s allll I wanted!  *shakes fist at html gods*  But now I can – mwa ha ha!

The only thing that truly bothered me about wiping out the website, was I did not preserve the blog posts that I had accumulated during the recording of The Lost Children, and I really liked them 🙂   A lot of bits and bobs about how the recording and editing were going, my use of new post-processing software and what I thought about it, my thoughts about how the loss of my mother in the midst of recording gave added weight to a weighty part of the story.  But that’s okay – more blog posts will be written!  

And here we are – an .mp3 you can take a listen to and enjoy 🙂