I was given the opportunity to release an audiobook after launching my book campaign and gaining support from my family and friends. I never discussed marketing, my podcasts, recording experience with my publisher before this. I worked with them mainly in 2019 when they hired editors and designers to help with my cover design and page layout.
I published my book Reborn in December 2019 and announced I would be publishing an audiobook narrated by me the same year on my book launch. However, the process became unexpectedly long and challenging. I patiently waited because I understood I fundraised enough to publish an audiobook written in the contract.
I then received news from my publisher in April 2020, and they wanted me to wait three more months to publish in July 2020. I agreed after considering the impact of coronavirus and changing plans. I soon had my first meeting with the audio technician the publisher hired for me. The meeting was one of the two zoom meetings I had with her. The technician later sent me a pdf file and asked me to read over the guidelines of recording. The meeting with the technician was 30 minutes long, and we mainly discussed the type of microphone and recording interface to use.
Moreover, it was my first time telling the technician about my podcast. I introduced her to my recording materials as well as microphones. However, the recording equipment I had was different from the ones the technician had in mind. I also ended up flying back to Taiwan after the working from home lockdown order began in Seattle. The time zone difference and uncertainty were the most challenging parts of my audiobook journey. In addition, I contact my publisher, editor, and technician using Quip, a data-driven application for communication. I always type my responses and questions on the chat and wait for their responses. It usually takes a while for them to get back to me because they live in different cities and are from different time zones. I wish they had an office I could easily walk in and get my questions answered.
In the end, the publisher and technician asked me to buy everything on my own. Their reason was that international shipping could cost a lot more and take a longer time. I agreed and ended up searching and asking around instrument stores on my own, looking for the microphone and recording interface they would approve.
I screenshotted, linked, translated every product into a file, and sent those on the chat. The technician approved and promised I would get reimbursed in which took another half year. I waited until September to receive my equipment. In October 2020, I finally started recording, following the audio guidelines.
I never procrastinated and always have been proud of my ability to manage time. However, I pushed myself to my limit in the process without considering if I could handle everything in late 2020. On top of recording my audiobook, I have been working with clients as a digital media strategist. I enrolled in a certificate program and was in the middle of taking SEO online cases, hosting two podcasts, editing audio files, writing in two languages, designing posting materials, and actively managing writing sharing platforms. My mental and physical health were on edge.
On a personal note, I felt stuck in Taipei, Taiwan. I have been thinking of ways to head back to the United States, but I had no choice after trying everything. All I could do was work and manage everything like how “the normal” Amy would do. Deep down, I knew I was breaking down and falling apart.
I received criticism from close people in my life, saying different things that hurt me and dragged my motivation to record. There were phrases such as “your book didn’t make enough sales anyways” and “everything you do is and has been useless.” Those hurt me and crashed me at one point. But I knew I could not just give up. I turned myself into writing and storytelling.
I could not explain to my family why I had been staying up. When nobody understood, I had to be on my side. All the time I “slacked off” in their eyes, I was staying up at night editing and practicing voice recording on my own. I was tired of explaining and no longer had the energy to face internal conflicts with many responsibilities on me.
I pulled myself back up. I wanted to make sure I was at my best. I followed the guidelines and submitted voice samples for review. It took me three tries to get the sample passed. For my podcasts, I record with an M-Audio recording interface and Superlux CM-H8B microphone. I edit my podcast episodes with Garage Band on my Mac. For the audiobook, I record with an AT2020 USB microphone and Audacity. During every recording session, I was having a problem waiting for absolute silence in my room with all windows closed. When there were slight street noise, buses, and motorcycles passing by, I had to pause, delete, and re-record. I remember recording the same line more than 30 times. It challenged my patience, and I wish the voice technician could have worked with me in person during a recording session at least once. However, I know this was never a part of the contract. It would not have happened even if I were in the same city as her.
I ended up practicing, listening, and recording on my own every day. As a writer, it was an excellent opportunity for me to slow down and process every word one more time. I quickly learned recording was not just “recording.” It was about voice acting and performing.
I remember attending and sharing my work as a poet at open mic events in Seattle. The tone of voice and where one cut off a sentence make a difference in audience interpretation, especially in poetry. I reflect on my diction, lines, and meaning in every poem. These are the questions I ask myself when I narrate: What are the feelings and emotions in the poem? What do you want listeners to get out of this performance? What do you want to emphasize here? This went on for almost a year.
I kept communicating with my technician on Quip. She wrote more instructions and asked me to prepare some personal information required for launching an audiobook. I had the second that was also the last zoom meeting with her in April 2021. The meeting lasted longer in which she verbally instructed me to create an account for the audiobook distribution platform, to upload files, select options, and type in descriptions. I did those, and that was the “last step” of launching.
Just when I thought I could relax, I faced more problems. The audiobook distribution platform sent me promo codes that I could send to readers. I was confused about what those meant because no one explained it to me. Therefore, I ended up reading and asking more questions. I received responses from my technicians days later, and we realized I could not give the codes to my readers in Taiwan. The promo codes were limited to US and UK readers, but most of my readers are from Asia. I am still contacting her and working on resolving this issue. For those who pre-ordered a physical copy of my book in 2019, I promised them free access to downloading my audiobook. I made sure I fulfilled this promise.
Releasing an audiobook was not done at the moment I clicked the upload button. There were no marketing materials I could use directly, and I was on my own again. I took few days off for my sanity and sat myself down. I wrote down all the possibilities and brainstormed all the creative ways to share this news with the world.
A part of me was worried about my readers’ reactions because it had been a while since I released the physical copy. The other part of me knew I had to organize and celebrate. I stayed up designing flyers, writing marketing captions, and emailing to every pre-order reader soon after. I updated my website, created audiobook mockups, and published this article series on the audiobook journey. I kept track of the promo codes on excel files, responding to readers, and sharing my news with the world.
I also reached out to poets who shared similar interests with me on the internet. I would tell them about my work and my audiobook. I am always grateful that there are supportive creators out there, encouraging me to keep writing. Publishing was a long journey, but I’ve gained a lot from working through the barriers.
Most importantly, I’ve learned a few things in recording my first audiobook.
1. Voice is powerful. Use it well.
2. Take care of your mental & physical health.
3. Sharing your news with the world! Don’t be shy!
During the first few weeks of launching my audiobook on audible, I was happy to find out that Reborn is the #1 New Release in Asian American Poetry and #6 Best Seller in Poetry About Love.
Please check out my audiobook: https://rb.gy/r9o6wh
Your kind action makes a difference and brings my show to more people.
I’d love to especially thank Emi, H.K, and Elly for supporting me.
Lastly, thank you for reading and staying with me. I’m happy to answer any questions. Let’s connect!
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More about Amy Hsuan Chiu (Aeimee):
NEW! → 2021 Reborn Audiobook: https://rb.gy/r9o6wh
Poetry & MIDNIGHTO2 Podcast: https://linktr.ee/ahcpoetry
Mandarin Writing & Podcast 散文：https://linktr.ee/aeimee