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August 2016

Recording of Pulling the Trigger – OCD, Anxiety, Panic Attacks and Related Depression: The Definitive Survival and Recovery Approach

Earlier this year an email popped into my inbox from a publishing consultant called Natalie Wills requesting some information about audio book production. Natalie was getting in touch on behalf of a new client called Trigger Press, a new publishing company which is part of a charity launching this year called ‘The Shaw Mind Foundation’.

Natalie was interested in finding out more information on how to get an audio edition produced of a new book called “Pulling the Trigger – OCD, Anxiety, Panic Attacks and Related Depression: The Definitive Survival and Recovery Approach” which Trigger Press would be publishing later in the year.

It’s always tricky to give a ballpark idea of the cost for producing an audio edition of a book as costs can vary widely, depending on many factors. One of the key things to ask is what is the word count of the book, as you can often get a good idea how long you’re going to need in studio by asking this simple question straight off. Many people are unaware of the complexity of the audio production process. They are often surprised by how much preparation and work goes on before you even get into the recording studio.

It was clear from the start that this was a more complex project than usual, so Natalie and I arranged to meet up in person the following week to go through everything in more detail.

When we met we quickly found much in common as we’ve both worked in publishing for a long time. Within minutes I felt like I’d known her for ages and found her extremely easy to talk to.

The first thing I needed to do to get an idea of how to approach this project was to read the book. After reading the book, I quickly realised that the book would require two readers.

While the book focuses on Adam Shaw’s lifelong battle with OCD and is relayed in Adam’s own words, it is also told from Clinical Psychologist Lauren Callaghan’s point of view, which focuses on the background of his case and the subsequent treatment plan she devised. So as it was written from both their perspectives, it was going to make a very interesting audio book.

After much discussion with all the parties concerned, I started researching possible narrators for the project. This was no easy task as we were trying to find two narrators who, while they could not only convey the personal story of the two authors, were also tried and tested professionals who would be able to cope with the complexity of the writing and the content.

After much debate we settled on Adjoa Andoh, an experienced audio and radio performer and also an extremely astute audio book narrator to voice “Lauren” and Jot Davies who is also a highly skilled audio narrator, to be the voice of “Adam”.

Once the book script was finally ready for recording, I settled down to “prep” the script. This part of the process for an audio producer/director is vital.

I read the book again, this time marking up any particular sections where a specific emphasis might be required by the narrators, then noting down any words with tricky pronunciations and researching them online. We also had several pages throughout the book which included graphs or tables which would need to be re-written so that they worked orally rather than visually.

Once this was completed, I sent over various queries to the team at Trigger Press – they went through all my questions and came back to me with the relevant answers, together with confirmation that any re-writes I had suggested had been approved.

Lauren also needed to re-write some of the more complicated clinical sections to ensure the script was perfect prior to starting recording.

The next job was to send the script to the two narrators several weeks prior to our recording dates, so that they had time to read through and prepare their scripts thoroughly. Most narrators prepare by marking up their scripts, highlighting words that will need emphasising during the recording, or inserting a mark to indicate where they may need to take a breath or include a beat for rhythm and flow.

PTT-book1-600x600First to be recorded were the sections written from Adam Shaw’s viewpoint. This took a full day in studio and it was tough going to get it all done in the time we had available. Jot Davies absolutely had to communicate the “personal quality” of Adam’s story, which was crucial for this book.

A few weeks later we recorded the sections written by Lauren Callaghan with Adjoa Andoh. It took just under 2 days in studio to get this section of the book recorded.

We record using a system called “fluff and repeat” which means that if the narrator makes a mistake, they simply stop reading, go back to the beginning of a sentence or to a natural break in the line and then start recording again. This cuts down the time needed in an expensive London-based recording studio, as it’s a much more economical way of tackling the recording process.

Once the recording is complete it’s time to start the edit. The sound editor’s job is to cut out all the mistakes or noises that are made during the recording. They also cut out any extraneous chat too! They are also making sure the audio book “flows”, so they adroitly adjust any gaps or beats that might have been left by the narrator that are too long or in some cases, too short. This is painstaking but vital work as the edit is a crucial stage.

This process can take quite some time, sometimes even weeks, depending on the fluency of the narrators and whether they are “noisy” or not. Some narrators just naturally have very clacky mouths and can cause a lot of extra work due to “lip smacks” or loud breathing or even tummy rumblings. This can all add substantially to the sound editors workload.

After the recording is all cleaned up, it was then time to patch it all together. As both narrators had recorded their parts separately, we then needed to cut and paste all the various sections together, as the voices of Adam and Lauren alternate throughout the book. It was tricky and time consuming work to piece it all together in the right order.

After one final listen through of the whole recording to ensure it’s all correct and sounds fabulous, the audio book is then ready to be uploaded to all the e-Retail sites we sell through. We usually need to ensure a book is uploaded around 3 weeks before publication date to ensure it’s all ready for the big day.

Pulling the Trigger – OCD, Anxiety, Panic Attacks and Related Depression: The Definitive Survival and Recovery Approach will be available for download on 1st September 2016 through iTunes, Audible, Amazon and all other leading e-Retail sites worldwide.

Ali MuirdenAli Muirden – Creative Content Digital