Indie musicians and their fans might already know about SoundCloud, an online audio distribution platform that launched in 2007. You can listen to and share tracks on their website or with the free app version for mobile devices. What’s in it for indie authors, you might ask? How about a chance to reach new readers?
After I heard a Mash Stories podcast featuring a reading of a brilliant short story by former IU staffer David Antrobus, I stole — well, borrowed — the idea to share audio recordings of my flash fiction. But I don’t have high-tech sound editing skills or expensive equipment, so I came up with a way to make and post recordings on my own.
If you want to try it, you’ll need a smartphone or tablet, a SoundCloud account, and a recording app that produces MP3 files.
Creating a SoundCloud account is pretty straightforward. Their free account option works fine for this purpose and gives you about 180 minutes of recording time — not a bad start. Upgrading to the “Go Pro” version gives you more space and lets you track stats more definitively.
Go to SoundCloud.com and hit “create account” at the top right corner. You can set up an account with a password or sign in with your Facebook or Google account. Set up your profile. If you signed up using your Google account, it will pull in your profile picture. The site gives you an option to add a banner to your profile page, which you can see here.
Now, on to the recording. You can choose from a ton of voice-recording apps and programs to create your MP3 files, and I’m sure many, like GarageBand, offer almost-studio-quality sound or at least the editing capability to enrich your recordings. But because I’m just learning how to do this, I started small. I found Voice Recorder, a freebie from the Google Play store, and uploaded it to my Samsung tablet.
Here are a few recording tips that have helped me:
- Choose a short piece to read, maybe five hundred words or less. That’s about three minutes of audio, enough to offer a taste of your writing. More than that might discourage listeners who don’t want to make a big time commitment. And a longer read will make for a larger file. If you’re not choosing a standalone piece like poetry or flash fiction, choose an excerpt with a “hook” that entices listeners/readers to want more.
- Rehearse your reading. Slow down and breathe. I approached this experiment in recording the same way I might prepare for a reading at a bookstore or open-mic. I print out the excerpt in a nice large font and mark the phrases where I want to pause or add emphasis. I read it out loud a few times for timing and for places that tend to trip me up.
- Get comfortable with the equipment, especially the volume level of the recording app. You might want to make a few test recordings to gauge the volume of your voice and how close you need to be to the microphone. You don’t need to shout into it.
- Listen to your recording. Delete and rerecord as needed until you are satisfied.
When you’re ready, upload the MP3 file to SoundCloud. You can do this a couple of ways.
- Transfer the file from your recording app to your computer. Voice Recorder lets me email it to myself. Then I go to my SoundCloud.com account, click on the Upload page, and upload my file.
- Upload directly from the voice recorder if you have the SoundCloud app on your device.
Once you’ve uploaded your file to SoundCloud, it becomes a track and you can edit your metadata. Add a title, keywords, and description. Don’t overlook the idea of adding your Amazon author page URL or website. You can also add an image for that particular track. Here’s the URL so you can see (or listen to) how it turned out: https://soundcloud.com/user-669122940/the-bridge. Save it, and you’re ready to share your track to Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr right in the program, or grab the URL and post it wherever you’d like.
When I had the idea, I couldn’t imagine that I was the first writer who’d latched onto this, and I was right. A quick spin through Mama Google showed me that Wattpad was working on a way to incorporate writers’ audio files, but right now the option is only available on Android phones. Until they open this up to more users, the recorder/SoundCloud trick could give you an inexpensive, easy way to get your words into the ears (and minds) of more readers.