Pronouncing the words right in that audio book
You know everything about your book, including how to pronounce the words in it. Pronunciation isn’t an issue in the paperback or Kindle editions even if some of the words are the kind that your readers only see in print. If you know a lot of people who read, you’ve probably heard some of them say they never knew how to pronounce this word or that word because they only saw it in books. Sometimes, they’re quite shocked at the pronunciation the first time they hear it.
This issue becomes clear when you start working with a audio book reader (producer). We probably won’t know the producer’s background, so clarifying pronunciations before s/he says the words wrong is important.
- If you’ve used unusual, foreign, or made-up fantasy world names for characters, towns and places. In my novella Conjure Woman’s Cat, the conjure woman is named Eulalie. It’s an old name and my producer had heard it said more than one way. How did I want it?
- Dialect and slang words aren’t universal. I live in the South, so I know that the term “shug” is pronounced “shoog,” not “shugh,” The word is used as a short form of “sugar” when you’re talking to a person, as in “Hi, Shug.”
- Likewise, words in other languages, including Native American languages, may not be in the producer’s lexicon. And those the producer is familiar with may come only from reading. (Many of us recognize a lot of French words that we know better than to try to pronounce.) You may need help from a translator or teacher if you can’t find a language book that includes word pronunciations. My novel Sarabande uses the Lakota name for the Missouri River, “Mni Sose.” I’m guessing that 99.99% of the producers offering audio book services won’t know that’s pronounced (more or less) “MOW-nee-soh-shay.”
Voice tone and pacing are a bit different because they’re very subjective. Those of us with people in our families who were good storytellers know that some kept us captivated and some did not. Sure, part of it was body language and facial expression. Otherwise, it came down to whether the tone and pacing fit the story. A good storyteller will tell a ghost story differently than a humorous story or a cops and robbers story. You can suggest to prospective producers what you want, but you’ll only know if they “get it” when you hear their auditions from the first chapter of your book.
If you write and have worked with an audio book producer, you might have additional suggestions such as good sound quality, proper pauses (to take a breath), and a reasonably good reading voice. My focus for the past couple of weeks has been pronunciation because two of my books are in production right now, and each had a specialized list of pronunciations.
The trick for the author is finding the problem words in the manuscript before the producer is in the middle of the recording. It may take several passes through the manuscript to catch those words because you’ll be so used to them, you may not think of them as problem words for somebody else. Goodness knows, you don’t want to lose readers for (and be embarrassed about) a book there your characters’ names or their pet foreign phrases or regional slang are mispronounced.
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Thomas-Jacob Publishing currently has four books in production for the audio editions.