Who Me? Record My Own Audio Book?

There’s no way I’m doing the voice over of my audio book!

That was my immediate reaction to my wife, Nadine’s, suggestion that I narrate my debut book, Running With My Head Down, rather than having it done by a voiceover actor, which is often the case with audio books.

I had a few good reasons why I wasn’t the right person for the job:

1. I am not a professional voice talent.
2. I’m not crazy about the sound of my own voice.
3. My voice will give out way before I get to the end of the 52,000-word manuscript.

From my years of work in personal development, I knew that these excuses were driven by FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real). It’s always fear that stops people from taking risks, and in this case, it was almost stopping me from doing a voice over of my entrepreneurial journey.

Nadine, an avid listener of audio books, argued that she could always tell right away when a book was read by hired talent versus the author. Even though the professional is polished, it’s the perfection that lacks the true emotional connection that the author needs to have to the reader.

“Since your book is really your story, who better to read it out loud than you?” Ugh. But despite my reluctance, I knew that she was absolutely right. But, how would my voice sound? Where would I record? And would anybody buy it on audio?

The fact is that most people are uncomfortable hearing the sound of their own voice. And as I found out, I could record the book in multiple, brief sessions. And it was going to be worth it, since a whopping 18% (and rapidly growing) of all books are now purchased on audio.

Out of excuses, I agreed to do it. And, my publisher, Greenleaf Book Group was glad, as it would make the audio book more authentic.

A quick google search later, I discovered CMR Studios in St. Petersburg and spoke with the engineer, Mike directly. He immediately alleviated all of my fears and let me know he’d be with me every step of the way. We booked our first day of recording with no commitment to how many hours I would read aloud.

The day of reckoning was here. I was about to be my own voice-over talent.

What do performers do to prepare before they record? What do they eat or drink (and avoid)? All of this was going through my head the morning of my 2 p.m. session armed with bottles of room temperature water and hot tea, feeling like a bona-fide rock star!

After eating a healthy lunch of grilled salmon over a green salad I started my one-hour drive over the bridge to St. Pete, while doing mouth and tongue stretching exercises I’d found online.

To fellow drivers, I must have looked as if I was having an epileptic seizure!

Upon entering the one-story building, Mike again reassured me of the process, and led me to the soundproof room where I would be reading, sitting down comfortably, as he worked in the room opposite of me separated by glass.

As I sat down before the microphone, put on the headphones, and set up my iPad (which guaranteed that nobody would hear pages turning), a calm came over me. The first thought that entered my mind was that this book was written to inspire others, while it would also be a permanent record for my kids and future generations.

“Alright, we’re ready to go,” said Mike, in a calming voice that gave me confidence. “Take your time, catch your breath in-between sentences, and you’ll do fine.”

Got it.

“What am I meant to do with my life? What is my destiny? How am I going to get there? These were some of the age-old questions that most preoccupied me from adolescence through young adulthood.” From the minute I started reading these words, I felt the same emotion as I did when I was actually writing them. I was totally focused, immersed in the message, which allowed me to forget my self-consciousness. And as I heard my voice through the earphones, I actually liked the sound of it. This was pretty damn cool!

While we stopped from time to time because I didn’t enunciate a word succinctly (My damn New York accent got in the way every now and then) or stumbled over certain words (like “ecstatic”, “denigrated”, or “genuinely”!), Mike was right there to catch me as he read along word for word.

About 90 minutes into the reading, I’d gotten through only Chapter Two.While my enthusiasm never waned, I noticed that slip ups were increasing. I started saying words that didn’t appear in the sentence. Adding a simple “a” or “an” is a no-no for Audible! You need to read every single word exactly like it appears in the book—even if the book has typo. No exceptions. I was getting more and more frustrated with myself. It was time for a break.

Stepping away for a few minutes gave me the opportunity to re-group and clear my head. I sat back down and gave it my all for another hour. We got to the end of Chapter 4 and we both knew it was time to call it a day as the slip-ups began to accelerate again. As it turns out, it was my eyes that got tired of reading before the voice gave out.

Mike said that for someone that had never done this before, he was impressed. Sharing that ‘I did far better than most people’ absolutely made my day. We wrapped up by scheduling a few days next week to continue the recording and assumed it will take about 4-5 sessions in total to complete, as I’d prefer to keep the sessions shorter to keep my energy at its peak.

I read Running With My Head Down the same way I approach every challenge I’ve ever faced in life, with laser-focused determination. Who knew the project that I feared the most would turn out to be one of the most enjoyable, gratifying experiences of being a published author after all.