Six Things I Learned While Recording the Audiobook for Better Than Before

Gretchen Reading Audiobook

This week, I’ve been recording the audiob0ok for Better Than Before. I did this once before, for The Happiness Project, and once again, it was an interesting, unsettling process.

Here’s what I learned about myself and my book:

1. I can’t stand the sound of my own voice. Whenever they replayed aloud something I’d read, I had to leave the room.

2. My fear of finding typos was largely unnecessary. I found a few minor typos: in two places, a missing m-dash in front of an author attribution at the beginning of a chapter, and one reversed single-quote mark. If you buy the book, see if you can spot these. (Newsflash: my editor says we may be able to fix these, in the nick of time! Stay tuned.)

3. I have a growly stomach, even when I’m not hungry. Several times, I had to re-read a sentence because “stomach noises” could be heard. But turns out that I’m not the only one with a loud stomach. Look in the photo. See how I’m sitting with a pillow in front of my stomach? They keep the pillow there, for just this reason.

4. I have a hard time saying the phrase “video arcade.” Video arcade. Video arcade. Video arcade.

5. I’ve been mispronouncing the name “Archilochus” my whole life. Not that it comes up very often. But still. (If you’re thinking, “Gretchen, why did you mention Archilochus?” it’s because I quote the line that I love: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

6. Something happened when I read the b0ok aloud: loss of meaning. This is an uncomfortable stage that I pass through with every book, at the end of the process. I’m reading the book, and I start thinking, “This writing makes no sense. This book is a string of non sequiturs. How will anyone have any idea what I’m talking about?” But other people seem to understand the book just fine. Just as my name starts to sound like gibberish, if I say it over and over, I guess that on the 100th reading of a book, it starts to dissolve into nothingness. I have to trust myself, that what I wrote makes sense.

Many listeners wrote to me to say that they were disappointed that I didn’t read the audiobook of Happier at Home. I didn’t do that book myself — though I’d read The Happiness Project — because someone convinced me that listeners enjoy the experience more when a book is read by a professional. But in my case, at least, it seems as though many people preferred to hear me read it.

I enjoy doing the recording myself. It feels so…professional.

Do you listen to audiobooks? I read somewhere that most audiobooks are listened to in the car, but that people are starting to listen to them in more places. My younger daughter loves audiobooks; she listens to them before she goes to sleep.

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