Narrator Guidelines

This is PodCastle’s standard set of narrator instructions for everyone who volunteers to narrate. If you would like to audition to narrate for PodCastle, please visit our Submittable portal for more instructions.

Click here to see our narrator contract template.

We now offer narrator pay to compensate our readers for their work. Standard rates for solo readings are $15 for flash fiction (<2000 words), and $30 for short stories (2000-6000 words). Rates vary for two-narrator readings, full cast readings, and longer works, and will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Narrators interested in more paid work may also consider auditioning with Strange Horizons.

Technical Specs

We strongly prefer an uncompressed mono WAV or AIFF format files, FLAC, or Apple Lossless (m4a). If necessary, you may use the MP3 format, however, please do not encode at anything less than 256 kbps.

A sample rate of 44.1 kHz is best since it’s what we publish at, but we insist on at least 22 kHz. Stereo or mono doesn’t matter, although in the case of WAV and AIFF using mono halves the file size.

Editing

Please edit the file yourself if you have time. It’s easier for you to do it because you have a much better idea of where your mistakes are. If you don’t have time, send us the raw recording to edit, but PLEASE drop us a line (editor@podcastle.org) to let us know it’s not. That way we can schedule the time to do it. We reserve the right, in such cases, not to use the recording at all. (Well, we reserve that right in any case, technically — but we’re more likely to exercise it.)

Reading Tips

If you don’t like the story — for instance, you just can’t imagine it sounding other than a little cheesy — please don’t torture yourself. Let us know you’ve decided it’s not for you, and if possible share with us any criticism you may have. You won’t offend us. We will respect your candor and professionalism, and it will reflect very well on you as a narrator.

Make sure your reading starts with the title and author. PodCastle prefers a clean, ‘audiobook’ style of reading, but with some energy and personality to it.

Pacing is the most important thing. In particular, don’t read too fast — that’s hard on the listener. Wherever there is a break in the text (several empty lines and/or something like ### or * * * *) please leave a silent pause about 3-4 seconds long.

Do not put in special effects or sound effects unless you have cleared it with the Editors or Sound Producer. If you think a sound effect might add something, please email us and talk to us about it. We might be all for it, but our sound producer will make a determination as to whether he will work with your effect, or will create the effect when he puts the episode together.

We recommend reading the story at least once out loud before you record. This will help you find which words you have a tendency to stumble over, or might be unsure of how to pronounce, and give you practice with some of the less familiar sounding words and names that might appear in a fantasy story. If you are even the slightest bit unsure of how to pronounce anything, please look it up! Dictionary.com is an excellent resource for this. Note, however, that it uses North American pronunciations. For British pronunciations, try howjsay.com.

Or, just ask us! We run a lot of stories with strange words and names in them, and will be glad to consult the author for any help you might like. Taking the time to read the story aloud before recording will save you time in the end because it will make for fewer mistakes along the way.

How you handle mistakes is up to you. You will make them; it is impossible not to. The best way to handle them is just to keep recording, mark the error with a loud, sharp noise, and start that sentence or paragraph over again. Then you (or our editor) can find the marked points visually later on and fix them. As stated above, we do ask that you edit your recording before sending it to us if at all possible. We will review it as well, and let you know if we need any retakes.

Most of all, be yourself. Don’t be so hung up on getting it perfect that the reading comes out dry. We’d rather have an imperfect reading with some energy than a polished and lifeless one. Get into the story and the characters. Go with your instincts. That said, please try to speak as clearly as you can, paying attention to the consonants at the beginning and endings of words.

Some tricks to get yourself warmed up for narration include taking a few minutes to relax your neck and shoulders; making a series of silly faces to warm up your face, lips and tongue; and reciting some tongue twisters. Always make sure you have a glass of water at hand and don’t hesitate to take a drink between scenes.

Despite all the care and diligence you might apply, it’s possible that we may ask you to do a retake of a sentence or two if our editor feels it is necessary. However, we try to avoid doing so if at all possible.

If at any time, during or after your recording, you have any questions or issues, we encourage you to e-mail us.

Recording Tips

  1. If at all possible, use a USB mic instead of one that plugs into the audio in jack on your computer. You will often get a cleaner recording with an inexpensive USB mic than a more expensive mic that is going through the audio in jack.
  2. Watch your levels. If you are recording into the red, you will “clip” the audio and there is nothing the sound producer can do to adjust for that. If you are doing character voices that are all loud and shouty, please back away from the mic for that bit. The sound producer can raise the levels as needed but can do nothing if you go past your mic’s impedance.
  3. Please be careful when turning pages if you are reading from a hard copy and try to turn them between sentences rather than as you are speaking.
  4. Again, do not add sound effects unless previously cleared with the editors and sound producer. If you have a particular idea, send a sample of the narration with the effect to editor@podcastle.org and include what program you are using to create the special effect and what settings you are using. The sound producer will make a determination as to whether he will work with your effect or create the effect when he puts the episode together.

 

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