Producing an Audio Book: Guest Post from Kelly Jackson

Producing an Audio Book: Guest Post from Kelly Jackson

Headshot of Kelly Jackson

Today’s post is from an interview with Kelly Jackson, the narrator of my recently published novel, Rising Above It

As an author, I’m naturally protective of my characters, and I was worried about how they would sound in an audio book. This quote from Kelly’s website convinced me she’d be the ideal narrator. 

I’m a character who idealizes other characters, voices, stories, accents and ideas. I will tell the story of your book and care for it as if it were an art piece of spun glass that you just picked up at the festival to send to your Mom! I will tell the story of its origin through its place in your life and the lives of your books’ listeners. I will wrap it with great care for its presentation to an enamored audience. I will be a good literary/audio partner with you and your beloved craft!

If you listen to even a sample Rising Above It on you’ll see that Kelly delivers on her promise. 

Here is the interview:

How did a Texas girl get all the way to Hawaii?

My sister and I wanted to make a bold, midlife move, and Hawaii seemed the perfect adventure!  And, after we made our decision out on our porch over Martinis one fine Texas evening, a giant truck came down our street (in Austin, Texas) with the word ALOHA above the truck cab.  AND, on the side of the truck was painted a surfer dude with the words, ALOHA MOVERS! We burst out laughing at the sign that the Universe had just given us.

As a published author, what made you decide to become an audio publisher?

I like the sound of my own voice, and wanted to tell the story of my nutty novel, A Texan Goes to Nirvana because I had lived it!  I did my research, created a home recording studio, and I fell in LOVE with storytelling!

How do you come up with the different voices for your characters?

I’ve always been known as the ‘jester’ in my family, and used to mimic Mother and Daddy’s friends, so it seems that I was born with this unusual talent.

What preparation do you make before beginning the actual narration of a book?

I pick a genre that I like and that suits the nuances of my voice.  When I am offered the narration, the author sends the manuscript, which I scan to understand the basic outline.  I do not read every word of the book in advance because I want to sometimes be as surprised by what a character might say or react to as the listener feels.  For me, it lends authenticity. There are many narrators who read every word in advance, but I’m happy with my own process.

What kind of recording equipment do you use?

Oh gosh, it’s all so technical…the type of microphone, platform for recording, etc…I just used the audiobook narrators’ consensus of what to use. Much easier!

What professional editing assistance do you need to complete a project?

I use a human being!  Lots of narrators do their own editing, but I neither trust myself to do that well enough, nor care to spend the enormous amount of time that the editing process takes.  I found an AMAZING sound engineer with whom I partner to complete each project.

What costs are involved in producing an audio book?

WAY more than I had anticipated!

How do you organize for your recording sessions? 

I like to have an author’s character breakdown from which I can refer each time a new character appears in the story.  I probably should be more organized, but I’m so anxious to just get to the story.

Do you like to record in small or large chunks of time?

I work for a couple of hours straight and take breaks.  I don’t want to get so tired that it affects the sound of my voice.  I like to record every day if I can so that the story stays consistent with my vocal proclivities throughout.

Do you do any kind of warmup or voice exercise before a recording session?

Hehehe…nah.  I rinse out my mouth and scrape my tongue to eliminate the clicking sounds that happen to narrators.  When just speaking, one doesn’t realize all of the sounds that can surround the sound that comes out. What a lesson THAT was!

Do you drink any kind of beverage before or during a session?

I have a water bottle with water and a dash of green tea added to keep me hydrated.  HAVE to stay hydrated.

What are the author’s responsibilities vs. the narrator’s responsibilities in the production process?

The biggest responsibility that I have as a narrator is to re-create the characters in a way that the author will like.  They have their own characters in their heads…the way they sound, the way they act, and the way they look. They are exhibiting an ENORMOUS amount of trust to a narrator in this process.

The actual production process itself requires the author to provide a final, edited manuscript to the narrator.  And, it’s awfully nice if the author can market their book and audio version ALONG with the narrator, as it behooves both, in partnership, to tell the world about the ‘art’ that they have produced.  And, it helps sales, of course!

What’s the most challenging thing about producing an audio book?

Timing from start to finish is the hardest challenge for me.  I know how anxious the author is to have the finished product, but it takes a long time to create the audio version of a book.

As author of A Texan Goes to Nirvana, were you able to increase your sales by offering the title on audio as well as print and Kindle? I suppose I’m asking if it was worth the trouble?

It was absolutely worth my time and effort to narrate my own book!

What projects are you working on now? 

I am beginning a second book for Kathy Stillerman as part of her Barton Family series (which I LOVE!).  And, I just finished a ‘cozy mystery’ book for another author. I’ve been lucky to have a nice flow from one book to another.

Regarding your narration of Rising Above It, who was your favorite character?

I adored the female protagonist, Hattie, with her quiet strength and endearing humanity.  I also have a very soft spot for their African American housekeeper and cook, Georgia. Although I loved my mother, her maternal instincts were paper thin, so I was actually raised by a character very similar to Georgia.

Who was your Least favorite? 

I did not like Seth Snoddy!  What a toad! I did have to laugh with my author, Kathy, about trying to voice the name Seth Snoddy in my narration.  Say that name five times as fast as you can, and you’ll get a sense of the challenge!

Which character was the most difficult to portray?

All of Kathy’s characters were so deliciously and carefully drawn that I just didn’t find any of them difficult to portray.  I’d met each ‘type’ of character in my life, so it was fun to vocally ‘flesh them out!’

You mentioned that you produce audio books in addition to your “real job.” Would you ever consider audio production as a full-time job?

THAT is my goal!  I’m no spring chicken, so transitioning from being a senior executive assistant to CEO’s to narrating audiobooks full-time is my dream!

What advice would you give to an author considering audio production for his/her book?


Thank you, Kelly for sharing your experience with my readers. 

You can purchase the audio book of Rising Above It HERE.  

I’m delighted to announce that Kelly has agreed to narrate and produce In the Fullness of Time, Hattie Barton’s story of growth and empowerment during the woman suffrage era. The book will be available in 2020, to coincide with the One Hundredth Anniversary of women’s right to vote. 


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