Items of Interest: Behind the Scenes at Hachette Book Group Audio

Hachette Group Picture
Hachette Group Picture
L-R: Kelly, Anna, Miriam, Nicole, Brianna, Lenore, Steph & Valerie

Right now I am working my way through  Boneman’s Daughter, an Hachette Audiobook (pronounced ah-shet, the “H” is silent). I have never read any Ted Dekker before, but I heard a lot about him in the months leading up to the release of his latest book. Most were decidedly excited to read it, so I, of course- being the book addict that I am , was curious to give it a try.  As thrillers go- there seems to be more depth here than what I normally find, so I’m excited about that, even though there are some areas where I feel like I want a little bit more information.  I’m so curious!

The week after BEA was still a  busy one for me.  Lenore from Presenting Lenore was still in town and I was fortunate enough to get to hang out with her and her husband Daniel from Daniel’s Daily Drawings, a few times before they went back to Frankfurt.  Lenore had mad arrangements to take a tour of the Hachette Book Group offices  while she was here in NYC and she graciously invited me to tag along with her and Stephanie from Reviewer X.

Hachette Book Group Audio Studio
The control room in the audio studio of Hachette Book Group.

Hachette has its own studio dedicated to recording their audiobooks.  Presumably Boneman’s Daughters was recorded right here in this studio. If you have ever listened to a Blog Talk Radio show hosted by any of the Hachette imprints, you’ll hear Kelly Leonard doing the beginning voice over saying that you’re listening to a show by Little, Brown and Co., etc.  She said that it took her awhile to get the hang of it, but after awhile she felt like a rockstar and got used to doing take after take of the vocals.

Nicole in the studio at Hachette Book Group
If you look closely you can see me sitting in the vocal room, reading that novel that I haven't written yet.

As a songwriter, I am familiar with the studio- so I know how sensitive those microphones can be, and they are doubly so when you’re recording an audiobook because there usually isn’t any sound to mask certain other sounds, like say for instance a growling stomach!  While I was at BEA, I picked up a galley copy of Michael Greenberg’s new book Beg, Borrow Steal: A Writer’s Life. I had been flipping around in the book and had read his account of recording the audio to his book Hurry Down Sunshine, so I was prepared to bombard Hachette’s audio engineer, Tommy, with questions about the process. Here’s what I learned:

  • These microphones pick up all kinds of hidden sounds that your body is usually in the processing of making.  Some are audible to you and of others you are unaware, but poor Tommy has heard them all.  Eew! How embarrassing.
  • They ask you not to drink coffee before you come in to record because it has lots that can cause your stomach to rumble.  Dairy, for starters- plus it dries out your vocal chords.
  • If your mouth is too dry, it makes certain noises.  If it’s too wet, it makes other noises. It’s pretty much a no-win situation.
  • Through the careful use of fruit, like bananas and green apples, they can change up the sound of your vocals and control your stomach noises.
  • Fasting beforehand is not recommended because a) they don’t want you passing out and b) if you’re hungry your stomach will really be vocal and let everyone know, especially the microphone.
  • It takes twice as long  to record an audiobook as it’s eventual length.
  • They call narrators back to re-record if  noises pop up in the recording and after quality control has checked the audio against the book- there might be deviations which are necessary to correct.
  • I could totally be making this up, but this is what I seem to remember.  I was so distracted by all the books EVERYWHERE, and was so busy oohing and ahhing, that I forgot to take notes.  Some reporter I would be.

Books everywhereLenore at the micHachette Group Audio Shot

Me trying to take home all the Hachette ARCs; Lenore recording her own audiobook; and me, Lenore and Steph with Tommy, Hachette’s audio engineer.

Check out Lenore’s version of events.

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    1. I was a little surprised that it was Kelly. She sounded different, but I will have to listen to it again now that I know.

  1. Oh – this was great! Thanks for sharing your visit. I think I would have been distracted by the books everywhere, too. But what a fabulous distraction it would be. 🙂

    1. Totally true about the fruit. Banana helps insulate your stomach from the coffee and the green apple does something with your voice that I can’t quite remember. Maybe make you sound less phlegmy or wet.

  2. The books everywhere would definitely have distracted me too 😛 Sound engineers must hear every possibly noise the human body can make countless times, lol.

  3. I loved your photos! I’ve never really given thought to all of the possible noises that could be recorded – how enlightening (and funny)!

  4. I’m so glad you posted all those sound studio factoids – they were really fascinating and I have a bad memory – ha!

    I wish I could’ve stayed longer too. I am definitely coming back soon!

  5. Thanks for sharing your tour and photos with us. It was so interesting to hear about the audibook recordings and all the do’s and don’t and sound issues,LOL! That must have been fun to see all of the ARC’s!!

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