ETA: well, i've pondered whether to type up an eta on this post and thought i'd let myself cool off from my intense irritation at the time (and this also spares a lot of cranky detail)...but the long and short of it is, between the last book I'd done for ACX and this book, they'd completely changed their final post-production standards. And i mean *completely.* And not only had they added a chokingly restrictive set of parameters to the post specs, they sound ABSOLUTELY AWFUL. I mean...seriously....awful. They crush, absolutely demolish, headroom; they remove the majority of interesting timbre of anyone's voice; and, basically by way of compressing the shit out of the thing (which is only partly the cause of the above), make it sound suffocated and lifeless.
The industry standard for audiobooks sounds nothing like the ACX final production requirements, incidentally; i strongly suspect these requirements were put in place to homogenize all the various studio and make-shift studio sounds/noise/etc. so as to hide the noise of all the different qualities of those set-ups.
I've spent a not insubstantial amount of money to create an all but silent chain in which I record at settings that allow for about as much headroom as you can find outside of professional studios, and use software in post that max out those features while normalizing & compressing enough so that volume is not excessively dynamic, but headroom is retained and voice color is preserved.
You take my final production and put it through the ACX process (all noise parameters of which my file alread exceeded. by a lot.)? And it sounds like it's been rolled under one of those pavement flatteners in LoonyTunes cartoons from my childhood. When I heard the resulting file I was horrified - it just sounds *awful.* I, for one, would never listen to an audiobook that meets the ACX standards currently required, because they sound so freakin' lifeless.
soooo yeah. I've never been that thrilled with ACX - it's just...kinda the only place new narrators can get a start, now that amazon and audible have combined forces into this huge juggernaut. But now I will go out of my way to never, ever produce a book for them again. I'm auditioning much more aggressively to small audiobook publishers than Ihave before. It's been a couple years; lets see what I can find.
Pretty much what ACX does at this point is check for basic consistency compliance - did you save at the right bitrate/sample rate, did you leave the right number of seconds at the beginning & end of the file - basic stuff. What they don't check for is garbled file uploads - insert horrifed face here when I realized that the third book of the Seeds trilogy had gone out with a file that for some reason in the upload to ACX had been loaded with digital artifacts, and had already sold a bunch of copies. GAH.
That's okay - I'm just as happy ACX doesn't have a veritable army of quality control checkers, because there are literally dozens of aspects of editing and post-production that could be picked on and that would drive any new audiobook narrator to distraction. Newbies aren't getting paid hardly anything when they accept royalty-only contracts (I think my first book has made about 30 bucks in 5 years :D), and while most people don't launch into an audiobook career until they can perform reasonably well (indeed, that's why we do this thing - performing is awesome), that has absolutely nothing to do with the other skillsets you also need: director, editor, post-production quality nit-picker.
Being an audiobook narrator is not 'reading a book aloud,' not by a long shot.
lolololol - I started to write the rest of this blog post chatting about some of these things, but it turned into a whole damn article. ..sooo here's a link instead :D
At any rate, The Lost Children is on its way to its final checks... *folds hands, looks up at deities far and near* may I please not have overlooked any picky acx settings, and may the uploads please not have gone astray, because I would love it if this book came out in time for last minute Christmas presents :)