This is the story of the little audio book that could – struggling through adversity to final lay down 4 tracks for consumption by the public.  Not just any audio book, but the audio book of The Cell Window.

Writing

Let’s start at the beginning.  This audio book, like all audio books, began its life as a written story.  When I released The Fiction of Kosmo, Volume 1, I included the 10,000 word story Key RelationshipsKey Relationships basically poured out of my brain and onto the keyboard thousands of words at a time.  Even with many competing priorities, I was able to finish the story in ten days.

The Cell Window was a completely different beast.  I struggled to gain traction with story.  Despite the fact that it is nearly identical in length to Key Relationships, it took six weeks to complete!  In the process, it delayed the release of The Fiction of Kosmo, Volume 2.

That’s not to say that the process of writing the story was entirely negative.  When I was finished, I was very pleased with the story.  The mature tone of the story caused me to lose one loyal readers, but it got very positive reviews from many others.

The store

At some point along the way, I decided that I wanted to sell some of my content online in an effort to break even on my blogging.  I wanted to avoid sites that would charge me fees, in order to keep costs low, allowing me to keep prices low.  I ended up going with Zen Cart (see review here), a product that installed on my web server.

While Zen Cart has the benefit of being free, it has the drawback of having a much steeper learning curve than a site where you simply drop your files, set a price, and wait for the cash to roll in.  I’ve tinkered quite a bit with it, taking time away from my writing.  At this point, the Hyrax Publications store is probably in a fairly stable form.  Other than adding new content, I don’t foresee any major changes.

Headset woes

What would an audio book be without the audio?

When it came time to record, I went in search of the headset microphone I had used with my old copy of Via Voice speech recognition software.  It wasn’t in my drawer of computer stuff.  I pulled out the large tote from the closet – it wasn’t in there, either.

Oops.  It seems that I had bundled Via Voice – and the accompanying headset microphone – with an old computer when I sold it.  I’m guessing that this is because Via Voice was for OS9 and I had replaced that computer with an OS X machine.  In any case, no headset microphone.

OK, so I went out and bought a headset microphone.  No problem.

Well, actually, problem.  When I went to use Audacity to record the audio, it didn’t pick up any sound at all.  What was going on?  I’m not an expert on recording audio, so I searched Google in hopes of finding out what was at the heart of the problem.

It seems that Macs require actually “line level” audio input, whereas PCs do not, because of some additional component on the motherboard of PCs.  Thus, the headset intended for a PC was not going to work.  Curses.  I abandoned the headset microphone.  As a last ditch effort, I recorded audio to my microcassette recorder and tried to feed that in.  The computer DID recognize the input – but the sound quality was pretty crappy.

I went back to eBay and ordered a USB headset that should work with my Mac.  A few days later, the headset arrived in the mail.  I was ready to roll – I wanted to start recording immediately.

There was only one problem – there was no USB adapter.  I took a careful look inside the case and couldn’t find anything.  I carefully re-read the eBay description.  Yep, it was supposed to have a USB adapter.  I looked at the image in the auction – it clearly showed the USB adapter.  It was quite obvious that the adapter had been left out of my package.

I communicated the problem to the company, and they quickly shipped out the adapter.  I made a few quick test recordings, and I was ready to roll.

Recorded

The first thing I recorded was The Tale of the Wolf.  Honestly, I was a bit underwhelmed by the audio version.  In particular, I notice some idiosyncrasies that I didn’t like.  (No, I’m not going to point them out.  If I did, they would jump front and center for you. )

Tale of the Wolf was a mere 2 minutes in length.  The Cell Window was clearly going to be much longer.  Since the story contains about 20 times as many words as Tale of the Wolf, I estimated that it would be 40+ minutes long.

Clearly, a 40 minute audio book should be broken into some tracks.  I had a few things to consider.  I could choose to zip up all the MP3s into a compressed file and have the customer download just one file.  Alternately, I could have the customers download each file separately, as MPs.  I decided to go the route of the multiple downloads because I didn’t like the extra step of extracting the MP3s from the compressed file after download.  This seems like a minor issue to a lot of people – but one of my computers does not have any native tool to expand a ZIP file, and it took some time to find the proper tool.  It wasn’t a big deal for me, but I felt it might be problematic for some customers.  Better to leave the files as MP3.

How many tracks?  I founded that breaking the story into chunks of about 2500 words would allow me to end each track at the end of a story section.  The audio book would have 4 tracks (for a total length of about 48 minutes).

I was very self-conscious during the recording.  I’m not a professional reader, and knew that the audio book was not going to have the slickness of something by an audio master such as Scott Brick.  The goal was for the audio performance to be neutral – not adding significantly to the value of the original story, but also not detracting from the value.

When I was finished, I popped the files into iTunes and gave them a listen.  Surprisingly, I thought the MP3s came out sounding OK – better than they had sounded to me when I was recording.  Certainly, there are a few awkward spots where I momentarily lose my place when reading.  Overall, though, my biased opinion was that I had done a somewhat competent job, considering my amateur status.

I burned the files to CD and listened one more time the next morning.  After listening a second time, I was still happy with the performance, and deemed it ready for the store.

You can download the audio version of The Cell Window at the Hyrax Publications store.  You can purchase it separately for $3.99.  It is also included in the Annual Kosmo Pass (regular price $18, currently on sale for $9), along with all of Kosmo’s eBooks and audio book, including those scheduled for release in the future.  We expect to add a few eBooks each year, and plan to record nearly all of the 50 existing fiction stories to audio in the next few months.  The annual pass is currently good for 14 months, rather than 12.

As a special bonus, the first person to buy a copy of the audio version of The Cell Window today, will get it for FREE – and I’ll upgrade you to the Annual Kosmo Pass!  What’s the catch?  Well, you won’t know if you’re the first person until later (the charge will be processed, then I will refund the money later in the day).

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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