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A Newbie's Guide to Podficcing

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I started listening in podfic the summer of 2017. It was pretty quickly charmed by it. Free audiobooks! I could enjoy fanfic and do productive, responsible things at the same time, like walk my dog or wash dishes! That winter, I started thinking about making podfic myself, and I posted my first podfic in February. I'm writing this in April 2018—I've been doing podfic for only a few months now, and I definitely consider myself a newbie.

So what do I know? What advise could I possibly have to give?

Well, I know what it's like to be a new podficcer. As a newbie, one issue I ran into is that the existing podficcing guides focus a lot on the technical aspects—like background noise and Audacity vs GarageBand—and very little on the performative aspects, like regulating your reading speed, voice acting, and how to get through that one line you trip over every time. There's also a lack of listing the basic conventions of podfic, like how big cover art should be, and how many seconds of music to include.

I plan to keep updating this guide over the next few years, as I grow as a podficcer, so I can answer the questions I had and hopefully help others.

I urge everyone to comment down below.

Fellow newbies, please—share your experiences, your questions, your advise. What was hard for you? Is there that one frustrating thing you still can't figure out? This can help other newbies, both present and future. And on the flip side, what have you learned so far? Tell us all about that cool trick you figured out. What things did you have to figure out on your own because no one explained it anywhere?

Experienced podficcers, I'm not sure if many of you would click on a post titled A Newbie's Guide to Podficcing, but if you're here, please leave comments too! You may have forgotten what it was like to be a newbie, but you have a lot more podficcing wisdom than we do. Please share it!

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You can make podfic.

You! Yes, you! You can make podfic if you want to.

You don't have to be perfect. I know it's daunting. There are other podficcers who have been doing this for years. Some of them have made hundreds of works. Some of them have perfect, hypnotic voices. Some of them have clever sound effects, or beautiful cover art. But you can still do this.

Everyone starts somewhere. Being a newbie is a not a crime. It is not a shame.

The real secret to know is this: If people were looking for flawless audio stories, they would be listening to professional audiobooks, not podfic.

My love of podfic is born partially out of my love of fanfic. One of the things I love best about fanfic is that it's not professional. If published works are like going out to eat at a restaurant, then fanfic is like a home-cooked meal. It might not be quite as polished or skillful, but it's made with love. Sure, maybe one side got a little burnt, but you can eat around it—it's really not that big a deal. It's personal, and tailored to fit the interests of a relatively a small group of people.

Your listeners are not looking for perfection. They don't expect that of you.

You can do this.

Let me tell you all the reasons I was a terrible candidate for podficcing:

  1. I've struggled all my life with speaking too fast, and not clearly enough.
  2. I'm particularly bad at reading aloud. (This caused me trouble when I was about 7. Even though I could read very well in my head, I was no good at reading aloud, and so teachers thought I was just bad at reading overall.)
  3. I didn't have a proper microphone.
  4. I had never used an audio editing before.
  5. I live on a college campus where there are almost no quiet places to record.

I've started podficcing anyways. Recording myself and then listening to those recordings helps me be more aware of how I talk, and which makes me speak more slowly and clearly in other areas of my life. I think that podficcing is good practice for me. I started by recording on the internal mic in my laptop, and I reserve a quiet room at the library to record in.

Now I'm going to try to address every excuse I can think of. If your excuse isn't listed, leave it in the comments.

But I hate my accent!

There are two possible things that can happen with your accent.

  1. Your accent is the same as your listener's. In this case, they likely won't notice it at all.
  2. Your accent is different than your listener's. In this case, they likely will find it charming.

But I hate my voice!

That's ok—lots of people do. Remember that for your voice, like with anything else, you're usually you're own worst critic. Try to afford yourself the same kindness you would give to a stranger. Your voice is the result of the shape of the inside of your mouth. It's part of your physical body. You probably know—at least in your head—that you should love your body as it is. But self-love is hard, and it's ok if you aren't there yet. But just as you shouldn't let your insecurities about your body hold you back from going to the beach, neither should you let your insecurities about your voice hold you back from podficcing. And remember: just as confidence and good posture makes everyone look better, it makes you sound better too.

But I'm transgender and have voice dysphoria!

What if I told you that you that it's fairly easy to digitally change the pitch of your voice? Podficcing could be a chance to present yourself to a world of podficcers, a space where you have the ability to control what you sound like.

But there's something actually objectively wrong with how I speak!

If you have some sort of speech impairment, or otherwise struggle to speak in a clear, easily intelligible way, podficcing might actually be extra beneficial to you. I personally have a clutter—which isn't quite the same as a stutter, but it's related—and my whole life I’ve struggled with speaking too fast and not clearly enough. I can say from personal experience that podficcing helps me work on it and speak more intelligibly.

But I smoked for years and now I talk through a hole in my throat!

Admittedly, you might not want to narrate. But how about getting involved in multi-voice projects, where different podficcers voice different characters? Your voice could be good for playing Emperor Palpatine.

But I'm deaf!

(Admittendly, this one seems rather unlikely. Most people make podfic because they also like listening to it, and that's not very deaf-accessible. But what do I know? There might be a few deaf podficcers out there.) Find a podficcing friend and collaborator, who can edit your recordings for you. Are you deaf and non-verbal? Well, it's not exactly the same as podficcing, but fic-signing could totally be a thing.

I swear to you all: you can do this if you want to.

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Here are some links to other useful things, by podficcers much older and wiser than me.

Podfic Guides

Auralphonic is a podfic podcast, made by several AO3 podficcers. They have several websites, and you can also find them on the podcast app. I wouldn't recommend it as a guide or a place to look for advice—they're mostly geared toward a more experienced podficcers, and the medium is a podcast, so by its nature it's conversational and meandering rather than directed and informative. But the podcast is interesting, and it's definitely worth listening to.

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To record podfic, you will need something with a mic, and some sort of audio editing software. This is the one part of podficcing that I think other podficcing guides do a pretty good job of explaining, so I'll be fairly brief.

Microphone

You need something with a mic in it. It does not have to be an actual designated microphone. If you do have a Real Actual Microphone of some sort, or can borrow one from someone, that's great. But you really don't need a designated mic, especially as a newbie.

Most laptops have an internal mic. If you ever Skyped anyone from your laptop, you probably used it then. That can work for podficcing.

If you have a smartphone, you can record podfic on that. It probably has a voice recording app already, and if it doesn't you can easily download one.

If you have a tablet, that's a good choice. I know there are both podficcers and musicians who sometimes do recordings on theirs tablets even though they have proper mics, just because it’s easier.

If you have more than one of the above, making some test recordings. Record yourself reading the first paragraph using both, and then compare them and see which one has better audio quality.

Audio Editor

The conventional wisdom is that Mac users use GarageBand, and everyone else uses Audacity.

GarageBand comes with Macs, and so you don't even have to download anything. Yay! However, it is only available for Macs. If you see something claiming to be GarageBand for Windows, don’t install it—it’s lying.

Audacity is an open-source program that anyone can download for free—even Mac users. When you open it up, it looks super complicated, and I was terrified by it at first. But it's not actually that scary, and there are tons of great tutorials on YouTube. Once I got over my fear of it, it really didn't take very long at all to learn. You'll probably be learning new little things about it for a long time to come, but be proficient and able to edit with it pretty quickly. I swear to you, it's not as bad as it looks.

But if Audacity is scaring you, then I recommend Ocenaudio. It's another free program, and it a lot less intimidating, with a more intuitive interface. One weird thing about it, though, is that it makes my audio sound way better… but only within the program. When I finish and save it, the saved file just sounds normal again. That was disappointing to realize.

There are lots of other audio editing programs out there, both free and paid. GarageBand and Audacity are the two main ones, but there are lots of other options for you to explore if you want. Use whatever works best for you.

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Factors to consider

  • How easily would the fic translate to an auditory medium?
    For example, does the fic incorporate pictures or other visual elements? Does it have more than one interconnected storyline, one of which is marked with italics? Are there texts? Documents? Does it involve singing? Speaking a foreign language? Are there footnotes? Most of these features can be done in podfic, as long as you're creative, and the results can be quite impressive. But keep these things in mind when you're looking at fics... and maybe don't pick one that would require it as your very first podfic.
  • How easily can permission be obtained?
    The next chapter is all about podfic permission, so go read that. But one thing to keep in mind when picking a fic is how easy it will be to get permission. Is the author very active? Do they reply to all the comments on their fics? Or not?
  • How long is it?
    However long it is, you can do it if you want to. Queen's Gambit is a 43 hour podfic of a 354k fic that reena_jenkins did over the course of 8 months. It's one of the Podficcing Wonders of the World, and I think it stands as a testament to the power of podficcers, and just how much we are capable of. You can podfic a work of any length. I believe in you. However... don't make your first few projects super long ones. You will just get frustrated and end up hurting yourself. For your first couple ones, I recommend something no more than 4k.

My personal method

Finding good projects isn't that hard, but it is hard if you do it at the last minute.

In my Google Drive, I keep a chart-list of all the things I might possibly want to podfic someday. I make note of how long the fic it, any weird features it has, and any ideas I have for it. (Example. This one would be really good with two distinct voices. That one I could use a certain special effect for. This one I should stand up to record, so I can bring more energy to the reading.) If I read a new fic that I think I even might someday want to podfic, I add it. If I remember an old fic I'd like to podfic, I add it.

That's my "maybe possibly" list. If I really like an idea, I move it over to my "things I actually think I want to do" list. These are the ones I have semi-concrete plans to actually do in the next few months.

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Certain portions of the podficcing community seem weirdly terrified of asking authors for permission. It's actually kind of cute, in a "too shy to ask someone out" kind of way.

Really, what could happen?

  • They say "yes."
    The majority of writers will give you an enthusiastic "yes!" You like their fic so much that you want to put time and effort into glorifying it. That's super flattering.
  • They say "no."
    Ok then. Move on and podfic something else. If you still really want a podfic of that fic for your own listening—say it's your favorite fic ever and you would love to be able to fall asleep listening to a podfic of it—you could still make it and listen to it yourself. Just don't post it.

Now let's look at some of the more difficult responses you can get:

  • They say "yes" even though they don't really want you to, because they feel uncomfortable saying "no."
    This is a difficult one to deal with, because how can you tell if they mean it or not? You can ask in private—most people feel more comfortable saying "no" in private. You can make it very clear in your request that it's totally ok for them to say no. But beyond that, you have to trust people that consent really means consent.
  • They never see the message and don't respond.
    You're left hanging, hoping for a response that never comes. The best advice I can give you is to move on and podfic something else. If they ever respond, you can revisit that one then.
  • They don't respond as a sort of passive, avoidant way of saying "no."
    But how do you know if someone who doesn't respond genuinely didn't see it, or if they're passively saying know? This is why I say that either way, you should try to move on and don't get hung up on it.

Blanket podfic permission

Certain writers have give blanket permission for all of their works to be podficced. This is great and lovely, and you can go right ahead. And if you really don't want to ask anyone for permission, then you can pick fics from those writers accordingly.

Where to ask

My general policy is to ask via email or tumblr if possible. It feels more respectful somehow. I think that someone who doesn't really want their fic podfic will feel more conformable saying so in a private email than they would in the comments on AO3, where it will be there for the rest of the fic's life. But if I can't find any other means of contact, then it's going to have to be in the comments.

  1. Go to author's profile page on AO3. Check if they have any blanket permission policies listed there. See if they have an email or tumblr listed.
  2. Check the end of some of their fics. Sometimes people list their tumblrs in end-of-fic notes. (I'm not saying you have to check for a tumblr on every fic they've ever posted. But you can look at a few, just to see.)
  3. Failing to find any other means of contact, just ask in the comments.

How to ask

How should you go about asking for permission?

It may feel awkward at first, but it gets easier. I recommend writing a generalized podfic permission letter with a few fill-in-the-blanks, and saving it. Each time you need to ask permission, you can just go through it and alter it as needed.

What about when the author is unreachable

There's this fic you'd love to podfic. It was posted 10 years ago. You went to the author's page, and they haven't posted anything new in 8 years. You're fairly certain they've moved on and aren't coming back. What do you do?

It's fair enough to say, "Ask an author before podficcing their work." That's polite and respectful. It's much harsher to say all works whose authors cannot be reached can never be podficced.

Let me say now: There is no clear stance in regarding the podficcing of works by unreachable authors. Everything that follows is just my musings and opinions.

My experience on AO3 has been that we—for the most part—are quite irreverent about how published authors feel about transformative works, but we are extremely deferential to the wishes of other fan authors. I'm not saying this is a bad thing—I think it's actually really sweet how we're so respectful of each other. But I think it's kind of paradoxical from a philosophical point of view.

By deferring to the wishes of authors regarding fanfic, we are sort of creating a social equivalent of copyright. In legal copyright, there is such thing as the public domain. For books published by individuals, they're copyrighted for life of the author + 70 years. I think that fanfic might do well to establish some similar conventions.

Authors who have moved on probably don't think about their old fanfics much anymore. They're a good chance they don't much care now one way or the other. My advice is to go ahead and podfic it. You can make a note that this was podficced without permission, and if the author ever comes back and isn't ok with it, you'll take it down. If you want to see an example of that, here's a podfic I did called Fool's Gold, and I've got a disclaimer at the bottom, begging mercy.

Anonymous or orphan_account

These authors have deliberately waved any rights they have over their fic. You're free to podfic it.

Be the change you want to see

As we've just established, it can be difficult to contact authors, especially if you want to do so in private rather than in the comments.

So do your part. Make sure you are easily accessible. Make sure you include your fandom email, and tumblr/blog/whatever if you have one, on your profile page.

And going even a step further, take a look at akamine_chan's post about transformative works policies.

For me, after hearing the folks on Auralphonic talk about it, I made a blanket permission statement. I did this because it seemed like the right thing to do morally. I never imagined anyone would actually like anything of mine enough to actually use it. But then, within a few months, BabelGhoti podficced my fic Osiris—a fic that to this day has no comments on it. So you never know. (And let me say, as an author whose work as been podficced, it is the most ridiously affirming thing ever. I spend most of that afternoon grinning like an idiot.)

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When looking for a quiet place to record, you will likely find that a lot of places are less quiet than you thought. Birds chirping, road noise, pets, the hum of various appliances, creaking chairs, wind...

These things are more of an issue if you have a good mic that picks up everything. If you're not using an Actual Designated Mic, this will be less of an issue for you than it might be otherwise.

Find the quietest place you can find. Work with what you've got. Closing windows and doors can help more than you might think.

Things you will need:

  • Whatever you're recording into
  • The fic you're podficcing
  • Something to drink

Positioning

You want to be in a position that's comfortable, where you won't have to move around too much. Sitting down is pretty common in podficcing. Standing up is the norm for professional voice actors. (I think.) Laying down is a possibility. Just be somewhere where you're comfortable, and can stay pretty still for a while. If your chair creaks or your jacket rustles, that's a problem. So try to eliminate things like that.

I find that it really helps me to be able to gesture emphatically. Gesturing helps the emotions come through in the recording, and waving my finger around like a conductor helps me with my pacing.

Drinks

You'll need something to drink while you're podficcing. I suggest something as simple as possible, ie. water or herbal tea, and not juice, milk, or coffee. But if that works for you, then go for it.

I think that hot drinks work best. My theory is that the heat helps the muscles in my tongue and cheeks relax, the same way a hot bath helps tight muscles relax, but I have no evidence at all to back this up. Try different things, see what works for you.

This also seems like a good place to pont out that podficcing whilst drunk is a thing... but not a thing I would recomend to newbies.

The fic

You want to have your fic in a format that's super easy for you to read.

I like to copy the fic into Word, and make the font and spacing really big. Usually, I am so not that kind of person. My mom and grandma have chided me before for reading books with tiny print in the half-dark. But with podficcing, you want it to be as easy and thoughtless as possible. You don’t want to loose your space and get mixed up.

Some people like to mock up the fic. They might mark different characters dialogue. I sometimes add commas or fix typos.

You can have it on your computer, on your phone, printed out, or anything else you can think of. Just do whatever makes the fic the very easiest for you to read it.

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Overall, the most important advice for doing the reading itself is this: Read it with confidence, read it with conviction, read it like you mean it. Read it with love.

I’m a lot less selective in podfic than I am in written fanfic. I listen to a lot of stuff I wouldn’t have read. Emotions are highly contagious. Even a story that wouldn’t have really been my thing other, I often find myself really enjoying because you can tell the read loves it.

The last thing is strike while the iron’s hot. There have been times with me where I’ve made plans to podfic something, but by the time I get around to it, I’ve lost my passion for the project. That’s no good. So do it when you’ve got the emotion to back it.

That one line sent from hell

You don't know what it is about this line, but it's just impossible to say.

  • Stop, drink some water, and take a deep slow breath. You need to let your face relax. Your muscles tensing up because you're frustrated will only make things harder.
  • Elongate your vowels. This will help you slow down, and give you a split section to pause before you have to tackle some more constants.
  • Backtrack a little. Try going back a line, and starting from there. If can get on a roll before you get the hard part, it's easier.

Character voices

Accents, and using a voice that is higher or lower than your own natural voice, can easily sound silly. Unless you feel confident in it, I don't recommend it. Changing the speed and cadence of your voice is a much safer option. You can also make your voice higher or lower when you're editing.

One thing you'll quickly realize is that your voice naturally changes a lot. For example, if something takes more than one session to record, it might be difficult to get your voice to sound the same in both. You can use this to your advantage by recording the dialogue of different characters in different sessions.

Phrases and intonation

When I started podficcing, I quickly became hyperaware of the way sentences are broken up into phrases. In English, we naturally mark the end of a phrase by our tone either going slightly up or slightly down. Both sound like perfectly fine English, but they sound different than each other.

I figured this out thanks to a fic about River Tam, and one about Cersei Lannister. My first real podfic was about River. Because it was my first one, I read it about a million times. For that one, I naturally used mostly upwards inflections because it made the story sound more sing-song-y, which is what I wanted for River. Later, I was doing some test recordings for a fic about Cersei, and I absolutely hated the way it sounded. That's when I figured this out. I tried it again marking the phrases with downwards inflections, and it was much better.

I don't think this is uptalk, or at least not in the usual sense. Marking your phrases with upwards inflections doesn't make them sound like questions. It just makes it sound more sing-song-y, more flowing. I think my "narrator voice" or "storyteller voice" naturally leans toward this.

Conversely, marking your phrases with downwards inflections makes you sound more authoritarian. It's not that upwards inflections lack conviction or sound unsure. I bet Luna Lovegood would use upwards inflections, and she has more conviction that just about anyone. And I bet Professor McGonagall would use downwards inflections.

The two just sound different, and you can try both. And you don't have to use just one or the other—different ones might be better for different parts of the story. Perhaps downwards inflections for the throwaway lines, and upwards inflections for the lavish descriptions.

Positioning and voice

My mom has to make a lot of phone calls for work, and she was taught to stand up while you're on the phone, because it makes you sound more professional. Also, smile while you're on the phone, because it makes you sound more friendly.

I'm not necessarily recommending you record your whole fic standing up and smiling—especially if it's long. But I am saying that what you do with your body impacts your voice a lot. When my mother is making business calls, she always wants to sound friendly and professional. Podficcing is different. We want to convey a lot of different things, depending on the specific fic we're doing.

Try recording both standing up and sitting, and listen to them. You might not want to do the bulk of your recording standing up, but now that you know how it sounds, there might be certain times when you want to use that effect.

I recorded phoenix while sitting down, and I think you can really hear it in my voice.

I recorded These, our bodies, possessed by light while standing up, and I think you can alsoreally hear it in my voice.

Creaky voice

It's known in lingustics as creaky voice, and also known by the coloquial term vocal fry. Here I'm going to call it creaky voice because I am fresh out of a univerity lingustics class, and moreover the term vocal fry is mostly used by sexist assholes. Regardless of its name, creaky voice is a quality sometimes found in speech. I'll let David J. Peterson explain it more in depth here. (He's the linguist who created Dothraki.)

There is nothing wrong with vocal fry. It does not hurt your vocal cords in any way. Some languages even use creaky voice to make distinctions between certain words. For example, Mandarin Chinese's third tone is basically creaky voice.

Within English, vocal fry is quite common among both men and women. But in women's speach—not in men's—it's often stigmatized, saying it sounds ugly or annoying. Why? It's just another way to be sexist. Even when it's not acceptable to outright put women down, it's still perfectly acceptable to put down things associated with women.

I know there are some male podficcers out there, but the majority of us are women. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with vocal fry, or with women using it.

However, creaky voice is a little more creaky, a little more rattly, than modal (normal) voice. In the context of making recordings, when you are specifically trying to speak very clearly and to minimize pops and clicks, you could try to avoid creaky voice. If you want. As someone who struggles with speaking clearly, I think that voiding creaky voice might help me articulate a bit clearer, so I'm trying that out to see if it works.

Like everything else I've talked about creaky voice vs modal voice is a facet of speech, a tool which you can try, and then and use if you want to.

But even if you do decide to minimize your use of creaky voice within the performative sphere of podfic, please, do not ever be ashamed of the way you talk. In linguistics class, our professor showed us a collection of clips of old men criticizing the use of "vocal fry" in the speech of young women, not realizing that they were using vocal fry themselves. So if you ever hear people criticizing vocal fry, remember that they are sexist idiots saying linguistically false bullshit.

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Which parts should you read?

Intro

Here's a basic into. {Curly brackets} are for optional parts, and [square brackets] are for fill-in-the-blanks. This is just a guide for those who feel they need now. Free to edit it as you see fit.

{This is} [Title]. Written by [Author], read by [Podfic]. {This is a [fandom] fanfic.}

Blurb and tags

What about the blurb and tags? Should you read those? Well, some people do. Some people don't. Some people read some, but not all.

Tags and blurbs are typically used to help people find fics they'll like. Bear in mind that your podfic will be posted as its own post. You should definitely include written tags and a blurb there, to help people find it. But by the time someone clicks on your podfic, they'll already have read those. You don't need to read them again.

However, if the tags and/or blurb are particularly funny or charming, or feel felt they add something to the fic, you certainly can include them.

The one time when I'd specifically advise against reading a blurb is if the blurb is a passage from the story. You're already reading that, and so reading it again is redundant and repetitive.

Outro

Saying something at the end is pretty standard practice. This lets readers know that yes, the fic actually is over. It didn't just go silent because their earbuds accidentally got unplugged. Though, of course, you can also just end. You don't have to say anything. But here's a standard closing:

{The end.} {Thank you for listening.}

Author's notes

If a fic includes author's notes, should you read those?

Well, if you want to. If you think they're relevant to the story, or funny, or otherwise add something to the fic, then go ahead and include them.

If not, drop them.

Reader's notes

Reader's notes are something I think I've only seen in Reena Jenkins' podfics. They're not super common, but they're not unheard of either.

You aren't the writer of the fic (unless you are) but you are the creator of this podfic. You have put time and effort into this project. You've probably given this story a fair amount of thought during that time. If you have any notes or comments you want to make, go ahead and add them. You are allowed that.

The fic itself

Is it ok to make slight changes to the wording of a fic?

In the process of podficcing something, you usually end up reading the fic very thoroughly, sometimes more than once. It's a lot like betaing in that way, and sometimes you'll notice beta-like things.

Typos

If you find typos, fix them. Read what the author meant, not what they wrote.

Awkward wording

This one is a little less clear-cut. Personally, I think it's ok to alter these two. Move a phrase from the beginning of the sentence to the end, so it flows better. If they used the same word twice in one sentence, remove or replace one of them.

This one is a bit different, though. It is a somewhat more intensive form of editing. I generally take the stance of "if you don't think anyone will notice, then go ahead." This is particularly a pragmatic agurment—who cares if it's allowed, as long as you don't get caught?—and partly a more general one. If it's not a bit enough change that anyone would notice, it's not a big deal.

I also tend to think that it's more ok in narration than it is in dialogue. Dialogue might be intentionally weird, while narration generally isn't. Also, the iconic phrases of a fic are generally more likely to be the dialogue.

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Editing is great. Just like editing your writing allows you to sound more polished and eloquent than you naturally are, and photoshop allows pictures to look better than they naturally are, audio editing allows you to sound better than you actually are. Even (especially) if you're not that good at reading podfic yet, editing allows you to put your best foot forward.

Editing is different depending on which audio editing program you are using. There are lots of Youtube tutorials for GarageBand, Audacity, and most other programs.

Editing is also different depending on your editing style. I'll try to highlight different options here. Try not to get annoyed by the number of times I say, "Give this method a try, but don't be surprised or frustrated if it doesn't work for you."

Auphonic

Auphonic is mostly made for podcasters. It sets your sound levels to a standard volume. Have you ever listened to something that was really quiet, so you turned your volume way up, and then the next thing you listened to was of standard loudness and it blasted your eardrums out? This will prevent that from happening. It also has a noise removal function, which is helpful.

I recommend running your audio through Auphonic either first thing, or after your rough edit.

Noise Reduction

You can definitely use noise reduction more than once. However, usually, if you do it more than twice, the audio starts to sound weird. So 1 or 2 times is good.

You can also use a noise gate to get ride of quiet sounds. Noise gates are particularly good for things like making your breathing quieter.

To breath or not to breath

Some podficcers like to edit out their breathing.

Some podficcers don't care about this.

Some podficcers take a sort of middle ground, editing out some breathing—perhaps the deep breath in at the start of a paragraph, or the awkwardly timed breath in the middle of a long sentence, or any particularly loud breathing—but leaving the less noticeable ones.

All of these are perfectly ok. Your listeners already know that you are a living being who breaths, and it's ok if your podfic reflects this. But it's also ok if you want to put out a more polished product, and little details like that matter to you.

Editing styles

Record, then edit

Record all the way through. If you mess up a line, just say it again. When you're all done, edit and cut out the flubbed lines.

Visual editing

This is a form of edit-then-record where you clap/snap your fingers/click your tongue/whatever after you make a mistake. This brief loud sound makes a quick, thin spike in the audio, which makes it easy to see it and go back to fix it.

This is good for very practiced readers who make very few mistakes, and who are recording long fics. They might actually need help finding their mistakes.

For those of us who make lots of mistakes, I wouldn't recommend it.

Edit as you go

When you make a mistake, stop and move the cursor back to before the mistake, and redo it.

The good thing is that it means that your final version is mostly edited already. Some cons are that it interrupts your flow while reading. You could also end up deleting a line when you thought was bad, but which in hindsight—if you listened to it again—was actually the better take.

Read-edit baklava

This is my new podficcing style. I'm not aware of anyone else who does this, so I named it myself. (I like baklava.) If there is a more widely used name for this, let me know.

Record a chunk of the story. Maybe one page. Record it like you were in the record-then-edit style. Then go back an edit that chunk.

I like this because it doesn't require quite as much constant pausing as edit-as-you-go does. When I flub a line, it often takes several takes before I get it right. Going back after each of those would be a pain. Moreover, when I'm editing I often listen to all the different takes of a flubbed line and then conclude that there was nothing wrong with the first one. If I did edit-as-you-go, I would have deleted that first take.

The other common thing is that I listen to all my takes and conclude that none of them are good. So I need to re-record it. Getting your voice to match in re-records can be hard, but if you recorded the rest of it only a few minutes ago, this is rarely a problem.

But the downside of this method is that because you're both recording and editing, it can be quite time-consuming. If you don't have a lot of quiet time when you can record, you'd probably be better off with record-then-edit.

Chapter Text

Sound effects are another one of those extra little embellishments you can add to podfic if you want, but which are by no means necessary.

Sound effects fall into two basic groups: those which you add (such as the sound of a text message alert) and those which alter what you already have (such as an echo).

Added

There are lots of places online which have free sound effects you can download. Ones that I've used:

If you use some other site, please leave a comment and tell us all about it!

Altered

There are lots of ways to alter your voice. This will vary depending on what audio editor you are using. I use Audacity, so if you have some advice about things you can do in other programs, again, please comment down below and tell us all about it.

  • You can change the key to make your voice higher or lower than it naturally is.
  • You can add an echo.

Chapter Text

Sometimes people like to at a song at the beginning (and occasionally end) of a podfic.

There are 3 main styles here:

  • Song correlation made by the author. For example, for a fic that's named after a song lyric, or a song that's mentioned in the author's notes.
  • Song correlation made by you, the podficcer. you think really goes with the fic.
  • Song from canon. For example, adding some of the John Williams soundtrack to a Star Wars fic, or part of a show's theme song to a fic of that fandom.

Length

Here is what experienced podficcer reena_jenkins has to say on the matter:

  1. Up to 30 seconds for the intro.
  2. Either a fade out to silence over 5 seconds, or a fade to softer volume for a loop of instrumental music that runs underneath your spoken voice.
  3. Followed by the fic header information (title, author, podficcer, any relevant tags or warnings).
  4. Fade in over 5 seconds back to the same volume level as the music intro and header recording.
  5. Anywhere from 20 seconds to a minute of more music.
  6. Fade out over 5 seconds, and begin podfic reading of main body of text.
  7. Then fade in for 5 seconds, from the end. This part of the music can be as long or as short as you want, since music at the end of the podfic can be skipped over more easily if the listener isn't interested anymore.

Resources

Here are some resources by more experienced podficcers:

Chapter Text

Once you're all done editing your podfic, it's time to save it.

Mono vs Stereo

  • Stereo: there's a separate version of the audio (called "channels") for the left and right ears
  • Mono: all one channel

Stereo can be used in creative ways, such as having Character A's voice come from the left, and Character B's voice come from the right. I also once heard a fic where a ghost's voice rapidly panned between the left and right, creating the disconcerting effect of movement. If you've used music or sound effects in your fic, those might also have different right and left channels, which you may want to preserve.

(If you do plan to use panning left and right to stylistic effect, I recommend panning 50% or 60%, rather than 100%. People often listen with only one earbud in, and this way—while they won't get the full effect of it—they won't miss hearing certain parts of it.)

However, if the left and right channels are identical or near-identical, you can turn it into a mono file without it sounding different, and it will make the file size smaller.

File Type

MP3 is the typical format for saving podfic in.

For multi-chapter fics, MP4 can be used, and the program Chapter and Verse can be used.

Chapter Text

First off, cover art is totally optional. You don't need to include it.

If you do want to include cover art, you'll probably want to make it in Photoshop (if you have it) or GIMP (Photoshop's free open-source cousin). Both have a bit of a learning curve if you're not already familiar with them, but luckily both have a ton of great YouTube tutorials.

Typical podfic cover art is 500 by 500 pixels, but while you're working on it, make it bigger than that.

Playing with the color levels, changing how bright/dim or warm/cold a picture is really changes its feel. And overall, the feel of the cover art is generally more important than the exact details of it.

Also, you can always tag a fic with Podfic Cover Art Welcome. Maybe someone else will make cover art for you.

Images

Some common images to use:

  • Screenshots or posters from the canon, if it's a visual medium
  • Fan art (ask the artist before using it)
  • An object that in central or symbolic in the story

If you're looking for a higher resolution version of a specific image, go to Google Images, put your first image into the search bar, and you may find larger versions of that image.

Fonts

Fonts are very important in cover art. You can get lots of great free fonts at:

Flaming Text is also a site you can use to get fancy text. Don't mind their "buy it" shit. Just copy-paste the image over, and use the "color to alpha" to get rid of the background.

As a rule, the byline font should always be not only more legible, but also simpler, than the title's font.

Resources

  • LunaPic is a cool website, where you can apply all sorts of effects to pictures.
  • BeFunky and iPiccy are both online photo-editing sites, which are useful if you don't have any photo editing programs on your computer.

Ideas and references

Chapter Text

Once you're all done editing, and you have your final version, there's one last step before you post it online. You need to add the file data.

There are probably a bunch of ways to do this, but I prefer to do it in iTunes.

  1. Drag the file into iTunes
  2. Right-click, and select "Song info"
  3. Fill in the various fields in the "Details" tab
  4. To add the cover art, if you have any, go to the "Artwork" tab, and click "Add Artwork"
  5. Click "ok" in the bottom

Now there is no one standardized way of using the fields. There's some variety among various podficcers. How I do it is:

  • "Artist" is the podficcer, you
  • "Composer" is the author

Other parts are somewhat more standardized

  • Unless it's a multi-chapter fic, both "album" and "song" both the name of the fic
  • "Genre" is [fandom] Podfic
  • "Year" is the year you made the podfic

Chapter Text

Considering you are reading this on AO3, I will assume you are an AO3 user who plans to post their fic on AO3.

Currently, you can only save text directly to AO3. Image files and audio files can be viewed on AO3, but must be hosted on some other website. I know that they are looking to change this in the future, to allow for more podfic, fanvids, and fanart. If that comes to pass, then I'd be delighted. But there's no clear timeline for this, and I don't think that anyone should be waiting around for it to happen.

Websites

Luckily, there are lots of websites where you can host your podfic for free. The ones that seem (to be the most popular among AO3 users include:

Website Space (for free) Streaming? Downloads? AO3 streaming?
MediaFire 10 GB No Yes No
Dropbox 2 GB Yes Yes Yes
Clyp 6 hours Yes Yes No
SoundCloud 3 hours Yes Yes Yes
Internet Archive ...unlimited? (I think?) Yes Yes Yes
Google Drive1 15 GB Yes Yes No

1 You have to connect it to Music Player for Google Drive, and select "Get shareable link".

These are just some of the ones I've seen other podficcers use. There are lots of websites out there, and if you use something else, please leave a comment and tell us all about it!

Backups

I really encourage you to host your fic in at least 2 different places. You never know when a website will shut down, or start charging like Photobucket did. For years, lots of podficcers saved their fics to the Audiofic Archive. Now most of those links are dead.

If you're looking to make podfic, chances are you also like listening to podfic. And chances are that at some point, you've come across a podfic that looked great, you were so excited to listen to it, you clicked on it... and the link was dead. Remember the frustration of that! Don't do that to your own listeners.

There are plenty of websites you can use. Please use at least 2. Personally, I use 3.

Audio streaming

AO3 allows for audio streaming, meaning you can have a little audio player graphic thingie with a play arrow, right there on the page. (Read more about it here.)

However, for this, you need a link directly to a download of the MP3. I am not aware of any websites that currently allow you to host in a way that works with it. I think you need to host the file on your own personal website for this to work.

Other the streaming option looks a little different, but can also work.

To quote this AO3 news post:

The HTML Sanitizer we use runs a very tight whitelist on sites we allow to provide media code (this is necessary in order to ensure we don't let malevolent code slip by). If it's not posted to one of these listed sites, the Sanitizer will delete the embed code entirely.

  • archive.org
  • criticalcommons.org
  • dailymotion.com
  • google.com
  • metacafe.com
  • podfic.com
  • ning.com
  • soundcloud.com
  • spotify.com
  • vidders.net
  • viddertube.net
  • vimeo.com
  • youtube.com
  • 8tracks.com

SoundCloud Streaming

To get code to embed something that's hosted on SoundCloud, click "Share." Then, on the panel that pops up, click the second tab: "Embed." If you want to pick what color you want the play button to be so it matches the cover art, do that now.

Then copy the code. It should look something like this:

<iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" allow="autoplay" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/429822000&auto_play=false&auto_play=false&hide_related=true&show_comments=false&show_user=flase&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=false"></iframe>

There are 3 styles that SoundCloud can do. It all depends on this segment of code here: height="whatever". The options are 300, 166, and 20. I can't get 300 to look right, but 166 looks like this:

And 20 like this:

Internet Archive Streaming

To get code to embed something that's hosted on Internet Archive, click this button here.

Then copy the code. It should look something like this:

<iframe src="https://archive.org/embed/AzdaemaPodfic-Phoenix_201805" width="500" height="140" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen="true" mozallowfullscreen="true" allowfullscreen></iframe>

You don't really need all that, and once you use it here, AO3 will automatically strip it down to just:

<iframe src="https://archive.org/embed/AzdaemaPodfic-Phoenix_201805" width="500" height="140" frameborder="0"></iframe>

It looks like this:

And you can play with the demensions as much as you want.

Dropbox Streaming

Unlike the others, Dropbox doesn't have a nice little embedding "copy the code here" thing. So I'm making you one. Here, copy this code:

<embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" flashvars="audioUrl=LINKTOMP3HERE" src="http://podfic.com/player/audio-player.swf" width="400" height="27" allowscriptaccess="never" allownetworking="internal"></embed>

Now go to Dropbox and copy the link. Take the part that says https://www.dropbox.com/ and replace it with https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/ and put it in where it says LINKTOMP3HERE. And it should look something like this:

And once again, you can play with the demensions as much as you want.

Chapter Text

Considering you are reading this on AO3, I will assume you are an AO3 user who wants to post their fic on AO3.

Title

The conventions for how list the name of podfic are mostly, but not entirely, standardized. It's always the title of the story plus the word podfic. There is some variety in how it's capitalized, and if the word podfic comes before or after the title

For sake of example, let's say there's a podfic of a fic called Song lyric fic title. You could see that called:

  • [podfic] Song lyric fic title
  • Song lyric fic title [Podfic]
  • (Podfic of) Song lyric fic title
  • Song lyric fic title by Author (PODFIC)

Very commonly see the word podfic in all lowercase, or with only the first letter of Podfic capitalized. Less common but still seen is the word PODFIC in all caps.

The word [podfic] is usually in brackets, but you also sometimes see (podfic) in parenthesis.

Occasionally you see Podfic of instead, always placed before the title.

Sometimes you see the fic's author included.

These formats are all used, and you can title your fics using whichever conventions you like best. They're all acceptable. I personally use the format [podfic] Song lyric fic title because I feel like that's the most common one, but I never counted to see if that's actually statically true.

Tagging

You want to tag your podfic fairly similarly to how the fanfic was tagged. If you don't want to have to think about it, then just copy all the tags from the original fic, and you're good to go.

But if you want to change the tags a little bit, that's ok too. For example, if the author's tagging style if "tag for everything" while your tagging style is "tag only for relevant stuff" then it's ok if you don't tag for that character who shows up in the background for a minute. If you think something is tagged (or rated) inaccurately or insufficiently, then mark it the way you think it should be. It's alright. You're posting it under your name now. If it contains some questionable content that it's not marked for, that's on you. Change it, and tag it in a way that makes you comfortable.

Now to the fanfic tags!

Information to include

You pretty much always need to include:

  • The podfic length
  • A link to where the podfic is being hosted
  • Your name
  • The author's name

You might also choose to include

  • A link to the original fic
  • Cover art
  • The cover artist's name, if that isn't you
  • Anyone else you want to give credit to
  • The size of the file download
  • More than one verion of the podfic, such as one as an MP3 and one as a podbook, or one with sound effects and one without

Embed images

If you have cover art, you'll want to include that. Like we talked about before, AO3 cannot host files directly. You need a direct link to the image, hosted on another website. I use imgbb.com. Imgur is another good option. After you upload an image, right-click on the picture and select "Open image in new tab". That page's web address is the one you want.

The basic code is:

<p>
  <img src="https://image.ibb.co/c8wwex/Chocolate_For_Example.png" />
</p>

If you want the image smaller than its full size, you add a piece to the code and say how many pixels wide you want it. (You can also do this by height, if you want. Like height="200px") My chocolate picture is 700px wide, but I want it 400px.

<p>
  <img src="https://image.ibb.co/c8wwex/Chocolate_For_Example.png" width="400px" />
</p>

For podfic cover art, 500px by 500px is standard.

If you want to center an image in the middle of the page, the code is this. I'll make the image very small here, so you can see it centered even if you're viewing this on your phone.

<p align="center">
  <img src="https://image.ibb.co/c8wwex/Chocolate_For_Example.png" width="90px" />
</p>

Chapter Text

On AO3, it's very common to use skins to format podfic.

AO3 has two different types of skins.

  • A site skin changes how every page looks to one AO3 user. For example, one that makes the site dark, with white lettering.
  • A work skin changes how specific works look to all AO3 users. This is the kind you want to use for podfic. (Important!!)

Fancy skins by Eos Rose

Here are some examples of podfic skins with their code, made by the podficcer Eos Rose

Be aware that these all have specific color schemes. They don't look good with all cover art. If someone is using a site skin that changes the AO3's main colors, it might not look good with them either.

Simple skins by me

What I personally use is this podfic skin. It has the same basic layout as Eos Rose's fancy skins do, but without the colors, fonts, or frills. This way it will look good with any cover art, regardless of its color or style. It's also compatible with night modes/dark themes.

On a screen that's wide enough (900px or more) it has the art on the left and the info on the right. On a smaller screen (ie. phones) the art goes above and the info goes below. I'll use this podfic as an example.

Here is the skin:

#workskin .podfic {
  width: auto;
  max-width: 900px;
  margin: auto;
}

#workskin .podfic p {
  margin: 0px;
}

#workskin .podfic .cover {
  display: inline-block;
  float: left;
  margin-right: 30px;
  width: 100%;
  max-width: 450px;
}

#workskin .podfic .cover img {
  width: 100%;
  border-radius: 20px;
}

#workskin .podfic .content {
  display: inline-block;
  max-width: 100%;
  width: 400px;
}

#workskin .podfic .content iframe {
  width: 100%;
  height: 30px;
}

#workskin .podfic .content ul {
  margin: 0;
  padding: 0;
}

#workskin .podfic .content li {
  margin-top: 0;
  margin-bottom: 5px;
}

#workskin .podfic .content h3 {
  margin-top: 20px;
}

The only part I really want to comment on is this segment:

#workskin .podfic p {
  margin: 0px;
}

AO3 expects all posts to contain fic, which is formatted in paragraphs. So when you post something that doesn't—for example, podfic—it will still try to stick paragraph tags around it. So to deal with this problem, I neutralized the paragraph tag. Now AO3 can stick paragraph tags wherever it wants, and they won't do anything.

And then to use it, I structure a post something like this:

<div class="podfic">
<div class="cover"><img src="https://image.ibb.co/j3HJtT/buymearingcoverart.jpg" /></div>
<div class="content">
<h3>Details</h3>
<ul>
<li> <b>Length:</b> 00:30:07 </li>
<li> <b>File type:</b> MP3 (19.1 MB)</li>
</ul>
<h3>Hosting</h3>
<iframe src="https://archive.org/embed/AzdaemaPodfic-BuyMeARing"></iframe>
<ul>
<li>On MediaFire <a href="http://www.mediafire.com/file/6jnmwi8hfkttp79/buy+me+a+ring.mp3" rel="nofollow">here</a> </li>
<li>On Google Drive <a href="https://drive.google.com/open?id=1oZ3xScm873n_3CTNLKAyPqN8-6Che7Rw" rel="nofollow">here</a> </li>
</ul>
<h3>Credits</h3>
<ul>
<li> <b>Text:</b> <a href="https://archiveofourown.org/works/9557210" rel="nofollow"><i>buy me a ring</i></a> </li>
<li> <b>Author:</b> notquiteaghost </li>
<li> <b>Reader:</b> reena_jenkins </li>
<li> <b>Editor:</b> Azdaema </li>
<li> <b>Cover artist:</b> cantarina </li>
</ul>
</div></div><br />

Making your own

Maybe you like one of the skins I showed, and you're happy to use it as it is right now. Great!

More likely you're thinking, "I mostly like that one, but there are a couple things I want to change..."

The good news: you can take any of these codes as a base, and then edit them to fit your tastes. The bad news: this might take some trial and error, and playing around with code.

CSS code complicated. It's something I'm still learning, and it's more than I want to get into here. But there are lots of other websites and tutorials that can help you with CSS.

So go create a work skin. Name it "[username]'s Podfic Skin" or whatever you want. Copy in the code from the skin you liked best. Figure out which parts are doing what. Add, remove, splice, and—if you figure out something you really like—comment down below and share it with all of us.

Or don't use a skin at all. That's perfectly ok too.

For example, this layout by Kess is one possible way of formatting your posts without a skin.

Also: Eos Rose's 3 were really the only skins I was able to find when I was looking. If you've got another one, please link it in the comments! Or just copy the code in. CSS is pretty easy to include, just put the tag pre around it.

Chapter Text

My first ever podfic collab was Podfic Polygons, in April/May/June 2018. I ended up working with both the podficcer and cover artist of the podfic that converted me to podfic in the first place. I was kind of a star-struck mess.

Collabing is awesome. It's really, really awesome.

It's also rather intimidating as a newbie. You can say "I'm still learning, it's ok that my podfics aren't perfect." But it's rather harder to say that when you're doing a project with experienced podficcers, and your work will be listened to right next to theirs so the disparity between yours will be clear for everyone to see. And I wasn't only worried about embarrassing myself, but embarrassing them by being associated with me. I felt a bit like that song "Honor to Us All" from Mulan. You know, Ancestors, hear my plea, help me not to make a fool of me...

I knew rationally that this was silly, and being an insecure mess never helped anyone. But rationally doesn't really have much impact on emotions.

So, if you're embarrassed or nervous, you've got two options:

  1. Collab with other newbies. You're both figuing it out, and there won't be such a stark imbalance between your skill levels.
  2. Collab with experienced podficcers anyway, despite your nerves.

And why not both?

Things you can do

  • Multi-voice podfics: Any podfics that include more than one person's voice. Different voices could be used to indicate:
    • Different POVs
    • Different times (for example, present vs flashback)
    • Different speakers in dialogue
    • Narration vs text, such as letters (for an example of this, see you know what they say about assumptions, which contains a lot of news articles)
    • ...probably a lot of other things that haven't occurred to me
  • Editing trade: You edit someone else's raw audio, and they edit yours.

Podficcing events, challanges, fests, ect.

  • Podfic Polygons: You form small groups (3–5) and the different steps of making a podfic—reading, editing, ect—are all done by different members of the group. You end up with several podfics (the same number as members of the group) that each group member had a hand in creating.
  • Podfic Big Bang: Record podfic of a fic that's at least 10k.
  • Podfic Bingo: You're given a bingo card with a number of podficcing challenges on it. The point is to push you to try different things when podficcing.
  • Pod Together: A writer and podficcer work together, the writer writing something specifically to be podficced, and the podficcer recording it.
  • ITPE (Informal Twitter Podfic Exchange): A podfic gift exchange on Twitter.

Editing someone else's raw audio

Letting someone else hear your unedited audio is... uncomfortable? For me, most of my mistakes are places where my voice just gets stuck, and I can't get the words out. Often it will happen again and again on the same line, so I've got like 4 takes of me saying the same line over and over, and breaking off at the same point every time. It's kind of pitiful. Moreover, it's really repetitive if you have to listen to it. And because I'm just not a very good reader, my podfics require a lot more editing than other people's, and so asking someone else to do that feels like a burden, or an unfair trade.

Letting someone else hear your unedited audio feels very revealing. It's not like someone seeing you naked; it's more like someone cleaning up your bedroom. The worst part of it isn't revealing your flaws—it's tasking someone else with fixing them.

So yeah, letting someone else edit your audio is hard. Editing someone else's audio, however, is great!

I'm by my nature a kind of obsessive and detail-oriented person. Combine that with the fact that I'm not a very skilled reader, and editing can be pretty frustrating. After it took you 5 takes to get that one line right, having to go back and listen to those failed takes again is aggravating. For a particularly emotive line, I'll listen to my different takes again and again and again, trying to decide which one is best. By the time I'm finished with a podfic, I'm usually a bit sick of the story just because I've read it and then listened to myself reading it, so many times.

But when you're editing someone else's, it's completely different! It's still new; you aren't already getting sick of the story when you start! You're not so incredibly critical! The flubbed lines become amusing and charming. You can choose between multiple takes much more objectively.

Be contactable!

I talked about this in the chapter on permission, but I'm going to stress it again here, because it's important. Until such time that AO3 adds a messaging function, it's your job to make yourself easy for other people to contact.

  • Put your email, tumblr, and whatever else on your AO3 profile
  • Join the podfic discord

Chapter Text

I write fanfic, as well as podficcing. When I first started podficcing, I kind of assumed I would get more kudos on my podfic than on my written work. There's less podfic on AO3, so surely there was more demand for it, right?

...no. Not at all. That's not how it works.

Not many people are into podfic, as inconceivable as that seems. People don't click on podfic that much. This was really hard for me to understand at first. There are people who, while going through a ship's tag, if they see podfic they will skip over it. (Me, I click on it right away, regardless of the summery.)

As of June 1, 2018, the median number of kudos for a podfic is approximately 12. (My methods, which may or may not be very good: I went to the "Podfic" tag, and sorted by kudos. There were 841 pages of posts, so I went to page 421. The fics on that page had 12 kudos on them.)

To me, what was even more disheartening than the number of kudos was the number of views. I thought, "If someone listens to it and doesn't like it, fair enough. I'm new to this, and not very good at it." But that they didn't even give it a chance was really frustrating.

Because it was something that bothered me when I was a newbie, I felt I should make a chapter touching on this. But honestly, I'm not sure what to tell you guys, beyond, "This is the reality of podfic." Truly though, once you get used to it, it does get a lot less bothersome.

And commit on other podficcers' work! The one group who you can expect to listen to podfic is other podficcers. Be nice to each other! Support each other! Take this as a reminder to comment on podfic as often as you can, because you might be the only one who will.