Creating the audiobook for The Peppered Moth was complicated by the need for secrecy (my wife disapproves of the book) but also by the fact that it was a steep technical learning curve.
Initially I receieved a 'thumbs up' from Audible when I sent a sample of the sound quality achieved by using my fairly primitive equipment but a great deal of time passed between this 'thumbs up' and my completion of the recording. And when I delivered the four-hour long audiobook a message came back from Audible declaring that the recording had failed. By this point I had lost any record of the 'thumbs up' and have since come to think that I may have dreamed it (it does, in the light of subsequent events, seem like an unlikely thing for Audible to have sent me). The list of things that were wrong with the recording was extensive and contained entire sentences where barely a single word meant anything to me at all.
A normal person would have given up at this point - but I am on a mission to complete my targets for the year and nothing will get in my way. I decided on a two pronged attack. I wrote a message to the e-mail address given under 'help' and I also joined a message board where people struggling to complete audiobooks post requests for technical advice and other audiobook makers and technical geeks give their opinions on how to solve problems. I started several new topics on the boards.
I had assumed that the message to the help centre would be fruitless and would probably result in an incoherent reply designed to push me over the edge into abandoning the project. After all it was likely to come from an overworked geek with a fantastic knowledge of the world of recorded sound and very limited communication skills. Meanwhile over at the message boards things got off to a very bad start. People began spouting technical jargon that did not even seem to have any relevance to the questions I had posted and one highly-strung nerd seemed to take it personally that Audible had sent me a cruelly dishonest 'thumbs up' and sounded like he was getting tooled up and ready to go out and kill whoever was responsible.
Then I got an e-mail from John Grant. John Grant was replying to my e-mail request to Audible and I quickly realised that I had struck gold. It might well be that John Grant is not a real person. More likely he is a team of people with a variety of skills, who use 'John Grant' as a sort of Avatar when dealing with authors. Whatever the reality, John Grant, I quickly surmised, was an audio-recording guru who combined technical mastery with patience and clear communication skills - a previously unecncountered combination of virtues. He even possessed a level of empathy that enabled him to imagine what it must be like for me, the embattled author, faced with this sheer rock face of apparently insurmountable challenges.
John Grant was almost certainly seated at a series of control panels that looked a bit like the bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise but he understood that I was seated in a kitchen looking at a laptop. One of the things that had nearly defeated me was that I was being told that my recording was not loud enough but that I needed to reduce the levels. This objection made me wonder if I was not perhaps simply dealing with a nest of sadistic nerds who liked to torture creative types.
John could see that things were bad but he assured me that the sitution was not hopeless. The issue of the levels was explained to me in layman's terms and I made the adjustments. This gave me so much satisfaction that for the rest of the day I swaggered about and even talked of doing complex DIY jobs about the house that I had previously assumed were beyone my skills range. At each stage John Grant invited me to send in samples of my adjusted recording and even though a week often passed before I receieved my reply, he always came back eventually and confirmed that progress was being made. Needless to say the process involved re-recording large swathes of the book but I enjoyed doing this as it gave me a chance to improve the quality of the performance - although the difficulty of only being able to do these recordings in my wife's absence naturally added considerably to the slowness of progress. Eventually John Grant suggested I submit the audiobook again and while I was abroad in Malaysia I recieved an e mail confirming that the recording had been rejected again.
However I did not crumple up on my sun lounger like a relaxed oyster suddenly squirted with lemon juice. The reasons for the rejection were, for a technical wiz like me, mere child's play, and on my return I was able to make the final adjustments and submit the project again.
The final 'thumbs up' confirming that the project had been accepted and was now on sale did still come as something as a shock. Part of me had wondered if there was not still a sadist of sorts working behind the scenes, but no. John Grant and I had done it.
I am excited to say that not only is The Peppered Moth audiobook now available on Audible but it is actually selling - which means up and down the land people are listening to a truly outrageous and daring piece of satire of which I am inordinately proud. If you would like to check it out here's the button: