L.A. Jacob (00:00:15) Welcome to Small Publishing in a Big Universe. In the middle of January, we made it to 2022. This month we have audiobook narrator Jenn Broda, talking about producing audiobooks. This month from our sponsors: L.A. Jacob has rewritten War Mage in the extended edition. There is a slightly different story than the one she originally wrote with Jake Logan. With more details in character development, L.A. Jacob makes magic plausible in 2004 Afghanistan.
Do you have a story that needs to be told? Beginning February 1st, all of the Paper Angel Press imprints will be reopening for submissions. Paper Angel Press handles historical fiction, general fiction and mysteries. Water Dragon Publishing specializes in science fiction and fantasy. While Unruly Voices works with non-fiction, including self-improvement, memoirs, and poetry. Stay tuned for an interview with Jenn Broda, an audiobook producer and narrator.
L.A. Jacob (00:01:41) When your past is left undone, it comes to find you. Fern Fatelli is a private investigator with more shady contracts than most willing to take on the cases that other PIs won’t touch, often at the peril of herself and the members of her family. In the Glass Bottle series by J Dark, Fern walks a tightrope between her own concerns, those around her and her past. The Glass Bottle series consists of Best Intentions, Broken Bridge and Beguiling Voices, along with two short stories, “A Last Good Day” and “Sinera” all are available from Water Dragon Publishing in digital editions from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and other online book sellers. Best Intentions, Broken Bridge and Beguiling Voices are available in trade paperback or hardcover from Amazon, Barnes and Noble. Or support your local independent bookstores by ordering it through bookshop.org or indiebound.org. These books are also available as audiobooks from Audible and Apple Books. For more information, visit their firstname.lastname@example.org slash glass-bottles.
This month’s interview is with Jenn Broda, audiobook producer and narrator for such titles as Carnival Farm, Mermaid Steel, and the Shelby McDougall Mysteries. We talk about expectations. What a typical day of an audiobook producer is like. Creating audio books is not just reading a manuscript into a microphone.
This is L.A. Jacob with Steven Radecki. With us today, for our guest, we have Jenn Broda, who is a narrator for audio books. Hi, Jenn.
Jenn Broda (00:04:00) Hello. Thank you for having me today.
L.A. Jacob (00:04:02) Steven is going to ask the first question.
Steven Radecki (00:04:05) How did you start getting into the recording of audiobooks?
Jenn Broda (00:04:09) Well, in a former life, I was an opera singer and like so many artists, I needed money. So I became a teacher and I taught for 16 years because I really ended up loving teaching how to perform. I taught drama, musical theater, speech and debate, and I just kind of stayed with it and kind of gave up on the opera career track. But then I started to notice that I really missed performing and I was like, how can I get back into performing after 16 years of teaching? I wasn’t in the performing world anymore and so how could I get back into that? And I looked at our community theater around Albuquerque, New Mexico where I live, and there wasn’t a whole lot that I could do. There wasn’t a lot of opera that I could do. And so I was like, oh gosh, I really, really miss performing.
Jenn Broda (00:05:05) What can I do? Well then an idea struck me. Oh, I had a friend in college that did voice acting. I’m gonna look at that. So when I was looking at all the different genres of voice acting, audiobook narration really stuck out to me because that was like being on stage. You have a story, there’s characters, you have to bring them to life for your audience. And so I started learning all about audiobook, narration. There’s a lot more to it than I thought there would be, but just fell in love with it, fell in love with the technical side of it, bringing all the characters to life. I started learning all about audiobook, narration, fell in love with it, auditioned, started landing gigs, and here I am. And
Steven Radecki (00:05:50) Here you are. Having been a teacher myself, I would say that teaching is also a form of performing as well.
Jenn Broda (00:05:57) Oh, very much so, yes. <laugh>.
L.A. Jacob (00:06:00) Tell us about a typical day when you’re producing an audiobook.
Jenn Broda (00:06:05) When I am producing an audiobook, my typical day starts at 5:00 AM and I get up, have some coffee or tea, and I go over what I need to accomplish for that day. I try to get into my lovely studio by about six o’clock in the morning record until my son, who is almost two years old, wakes up, take a break, have breakfast with him, give him some hugs and kisses, and then I’m back in the studio till about 10 o’clock when my husband has to go to work. The rest of the day is wrangling a rambunctious toddler. And then I try to edit everything that I recorded that day during his naps and in the evening. Then the next day it’s rinse and repeat up at five, record till 10 and then edit during naps and after he goes to bed.
L.A. Jacob (00:06:53) Do you find that doing this actually is freeing up for you for having time with your toddler?
Jenn Broda (00:07:01) Definitely. Obviously I’m not teaching anymore. I’m doing audiobook narration. My baby is my miracle baby. Mm-hmm. I wasn’t ever supposed to have a child. Mm-hmm. and he is my miracle baby. So when I went back after maternity leave, I would cry on the way to work every day. Oh yeah. That I was leaving him and it was so difficult. And then two weeks after I went back to work, coronavirus happened, everything shut down and I was already doing the audiobook narration in my spare time, which was really hard to be working full-time as a teacher doing audiobook narration and taking care of a three-month-old. So when Coronavirus happened, I finished out the school year and I said, you know what? It was a sign that I was supposed to stay home, take care of my child and do audiobook and it’s just perfect. It works out for me, works out for my husband. He works 10-hour shifts, so we bounce off each other when I’m working, he’s watching the baby and when he’s working I’m watching the baby.
Steven Radecki (00:08:05) I see your studio around you. Is this something that you created specifically for this or did it evolve?
Jenn Broda (00:08:11) It’s a room in my home, so it’s actually a very interesting story. The lady who owned our house before us was European and wherever she was from, I can’t recall, we’ve been living here for ages now. She had dressing rooms in Europe and so she built on these tiny narrow little rooms to two of the bedrooms that were her dressing rooms. And when we moved into this house, we were like, what are we going to do with these tiny little rooms that have no heat, no air conditioning. They were just essentially closets. Well, this one that I’m in became a storage place for just all of our junk. When I started getting into the narration, I said, I want to use that room. It’s my studio. So we got all these acoustic panels. I’m pointing to acoustic panels, but in front of me that you can’t see, but there’s acoustic panels. We lined the walls to make sure that everything was dampened and it just makes the perfect studio space.
Steven Radecki (00:09:12) What do you find is the best part about being an audiobook producer?
Jenn Broda (00:09:16) Well, as I mentioned, my background is in the stage and my favorite thing about being on the stage was bringing characters to life. Getting to know these characters, essentially living their life on the stage. It was just so much fun to do that and that was what I missed so much was these characters. The best part of audiobook narration is to bring these characters to light. Except now I don’t just have to be one character, I get to be them all. I get to have multiple personalities every day, which my husband would say I already do. So it’s perfect.
Steven Radecki (00:09:55) And you get paid for it.
Jenn Broda (00:09:57) I get paid for it.
L.A. Jacob (00:09:58) Have you ever run into books or stories either, either just not your style or disturbing or that you’re just like, I can’t do this?
Jenn Broda (00:10:09) Yeah, I have run into characters that I don’t particularly like, but it is not my job to put my personal beliefs into that character. The author wrote that character a certain way. That’s how it’s supposed to be portrayed to the audience or to the listeners. And so I have to work really hard to make sure I’m putting my own opinions and judgments about these characters out of the way and then I can complain about them later. But when I’m recording, I don’t have the right to have any opinion about them at all.
L.A. Jacob (00:10:43) What was the biggest challenge that you’ve had when producing an audio book? Without naming names?
Jenn Broda (00:10:49) The big, and I’m gonna try not to cry during this, just so you guys know, cuz this is a pretty intense answer, but I had an event in my life that has to do with my child–a miscarriage. Actually I’ve had six miscarriages, so that’s pretty intense in and of itself. But the challenging part was I keep getting these books that deal with miscarriage and it’s really hard to sit here in front of the mic and relive these miscarriages. And one of the books was incredibly detailed in the event, we’ll call it the event, and it was so hard to make sure that I was experiencing the event the way that the author intended the character to experience it and not as Jenn Broda who has been through this. It was incredibly challenging and I would, multiple times I’d have to leave my little studio and have myself a cry, have a cup of tea, and calm down and make sure that I came back as the character or as the narrator and not as Jenn Broda going through it.
Steven Radecki (00:12:01) What do you wish authors knew about working with an audiobook producer or narrator?
Jenn Broda (00:12:05) I wish that authors knew that it is not a quick process. It is not something that I’m just sitting in front of a mic reading the book, which is part of it. But there is so much more to audiobook narration on the short end. It can take six to eight hours to produce one hour of finished audio and that includes all the prep time, reading the book multiple times, getting to know the characters, the story arcs, researching names, places, accents. If there’s an accent that I don’t know, I have to learn it. So that takes time. If there’s names I don’t know how to pronounce, I have to research it. So that’s just all in the prep work. And then there comes the recording. And again, it’s not just as simple as sitting here in front of my computer reading the script, I have to be my own director.
Jenn Broda (00:12:59) I’m constantly listening to what I’m saying, listening for weird noises coming out of my nose, my stomach gurgling, my child crying, my birds screaming. So I’m listening to that as I’m trying to make sure that all the voices are correct. I’m actually saying the words on the page, not putting my own order of the words. Cuz you’d be surprised. People say, oh, reading is so easy. Nope, it is not easy. I’m constantly wanting to change the words that the author wrote because my mind sees it a different way. So that’s just the recording. Again, it takes time. After the recording comes, the editing, which I’m combing through every single file, listening for sounds that I didn’t catch, stumbles that I might not have caught, that I have to now cut out breaths that are very, very loud, that distract from the listening experience and that’s the editing part.
Jenn Broda (00:13:58) Then comes the proof listening, have to proof, listen, make sure I actually read it. If there’s mistakes that I need to correct I correct those. Then I master everything which brings it up to specs. So every platform that you upload to has certain specs that each file needs to have. If there’s 54 chapters in a book, I have to make sure that all 54 chapters hit those specs. If they don’t, it’s gonna bounce back and I’m gonna have to correct it. After the mastering comes the final review by the rights holder and nine times out of 10 they find mistakes that I didn’t catch. Cuz it’s almost nearly impossible to listen to yourself and catch every mistake. So I’m very thankful that every rights holder that I’ve worked with is willing to listen to the audio and let me know what pickups I need. So then I have to do those pickups master again and then send it in. So it takes a lot of work and I wish that authors knew that, that it’s not a quick process and that we as audiobook producers, we put a lot of time and energy into making sure that their audiobook is going to be the best quality possible.
Steven Radecki (00:15:16) So I wanna get a little technical for just a moment just because there’s a detail about this and I wanna make sure that the authors among our listeners understand, because I know some of them have heard this term. A lot of audiobook producers discuss things in terms of per finished hour, PFH, what you’ve described as kind of that process. But what I wanna discuss briefly is for the author to understand of when you say per finished hour, it’s all of those things that you just described that have to happen to do a complete hour of finished audio.
Jenn Broda (00:15:47) Yeah. I don’t think a lot of authors realize that, that there’s a huge amount of work that goes into that finished audio that they’re listening to and a lot of audiobook producers, they will actually hire out for some of those tasks. They will hire editors, they will hire proof listeners, and so some of that per finished hour money that you think you’re paying to the narrator, they’re then having to turn around and pay other people to help produce the audio. I happen to like to be in control of all of it, so I do all of that myself, but if I was to hire out part of that money would be going to that.
Steven Radecki (00:16:30) So the thing that I think authors need to understand is when they hear per finished hour, that’s not like you think of most tasks, an hourly rate.
Jenn Broda (00:16:46) That’s right. All of the hours that go into producing one hour of finished audio.
So it’s not like I’m sitting here for a 10 hour book getting paid, right, $250 an hour that it only takes 10 hours to read. Right. It doesn’t take 10 hours to read. It takes a lot longer than that. It could take 80 hours to produce that 10 hour book, and so that rate is divided by all those many hours that you put into the production.
Steven Radecki (00:17:10) That’s exactly what I was looking for. Thank you.
L.A. Jacob (00:17:12) Last question. How do you know when you’ve actually nailed it? That is the tone, the voice, the character. How do you know when you’ve done that?
Jenn Broda (00:17:23) I like this question a lot. For me, I know that I’ve nailed it when I don’t think I’m listening to myself when I’m like, wow, this person is a good narrator. I say, oh wait, that’s me. Or I’m hearing the characters instead of Jenn Broda. So if I hear the characters instead of myself, if I hear the narrator’s voice instead of my high pitch girly voice, then I know. Wow, I nailed it. I did. Good.
L.A. Jacob (00:17:58) Thanks again to our guest, Jenn Broda, an audio book producer in narrator. New in audiobook format from Paper Angel Press read for you by Jenn Broda is Pious Rebel by Jori Post after her partner dies. Suddenly Lisa Hardrock realizes how little she knows about the life she’s been living and starts exploring her questions in a blog that unexpectedly goes viral. The audio edition of Pious Rebel is available from Audible and iTunes. For more information, visit their website at paperangelpress.com slash pious rebel.
L.A. Jacob (00:19:05) We plan on publishing new episodes every second Wednesday of the month. Watch for new episodes around that time. Music is provided by Melody Lubes. If you want to know more about small publishing in a big universe, visit our website at S P B U podcast.com. A listing of all the books mentioned this month is available there on our marketplace. Tweet us at S P B U dash podcast and like us on Facebook at S P B U dash podcast. This podcast was recorded and edited by us truly L.A. Jacob. This month’s episode was sponsored by Paper Angel Press and its imprints Water Dragon Publishing and Unruly Voices. If you like this podcast, please leave us a review or you can contact us via our website, SPBU dash podcast.com. Thanks for listening and talk to you soon.