Podiobooks.com has a single gatekeeper: me. Getting past the gatekeeper (again, that’s me) is pretty simple. Yet I’m constantly amazed at those who don’t pass on their first submission. And I’m even more puzzled by those who grow frustrated with repeated rejections. Had they taken the time to get things right the first time, we wouldn’t be in this situation. The requirements (and some suggestions) are clearly spelled out in our short Submission Guidelines (pdf).
So I’m taking this post to do a little “inside baseball” commentary. If you have no desire to submit work to Podiobooks.com and are content to simply be a listener, feel free to skip this. But if your plans include making your own serialized audiobook and joining the others here, please read this! It will save both of us much time and aggravation.
Follows is my process for checking all new submissions. I tend to work in the order of reverse-difficulty. In other words, I look at the easiest things to fix first, then move up the food chain to the more complex. Keep in mind that if anything is wrong during this waterfall of events, I stop checking and reject the file. My rationale for doing so is this: if you’ve screwed up the easy stuff, you’ve probably boinked something more difficult down the chain, and I’m not going to waste my time going further.
Every new submission is sent via email to me. I typically (though not always) open the email to check to see if the file name is correct. I don’t download anything at that time, as I prefer to wait until Sunday and process all new submissions and once. But the file name doesn’t take much work to check, so I’ll look. If it doesn’t follow the format outlined in the guidelines, I’ll send you a note telling you to try it again. I get lots of file names with spaces in them and with extra “.mp3″ extensions tacked on the end.
On Sunday, I steel my nerves and start downloading the dozen or so new submissions from first-time providers. Some submissions are brand new. Some submissions are prior week(s) rejects that are trying again. Or again. Or again. Remember: I only check once a week. Miss it the first time, and I won’t check again for seven days.
I download the file and first check to see if the encoding specs are right. At least half the submissions are rejected due to encoding errors, typically when the submitter doesn’t know the difference between stereo and Joint Stereo. Plenty of folks haven’t nailed the bit rate or sample rate, either. Why? They aren’t looking, or don’t know where to look. If that’s you, don’t submit. It will be wrong. Find out how to check. Google it. Ask the mentorship forum. Fire up the “Help” documents for your editing software. The .mp3 encoding specs we’ve set aren’t suggestions. They are the law.
Next, I check the ID3 tags. Lots of people skip the Grouping tag. Not all editing programs let you set the Grouping tag. If yours doesn’t; find one that does. But plenty of other errors are made. Like forgetting the Track, confusing Album for Artist and other mistakes. Again, our guide clearly spells out what needs to be here. And don’t forget to embed an image!
Finally, I open the .mp3 file in Audacity and look at it. Here’s where I can tell if the submitter bothered to try and maximize their sound. Most don’t. Or they have a really loud intro and a really quiet narration track. I stress the use of The Levelator, but many don’t use it. It’s a shame, really.
After looking, I listen. Not to the whole file, but parts. I tend to listen to the entire opening, which should be short. And often isn’t. I listen to the whole outro — assuming you have one (which you need) — to see if proper attribution and other information was provided. I then do some spot-checking throughout the file to see if stumbles were edited out. I don’t have time to listen to the whole thing, so I just try and listen to a few minutes here and there. Very few things I find during listening will cause me to reject a file, by the way. Ultimately, the provider is responsible for the content. I just make suggestions from experience. Experience that is mine own culled from watching every single comment made by listeners since we started doing this in 2005. I think that counts for something.
Then, and only then, I’ll send the provider the all clear and give them info on how to get me the rest of the information I need to get their book live. After that, it’s jut a matter or scheduling.
That’s it. The whole process. Any fail point and it gets rejected and a quick email from me is sent. They are free to resubmit, but I won’t look again until the next Sunday. It’s the only way I can stay sane.
In case you missed anything, here are the quick hits of my checking process:
Check encoding settings
Check ID3 tagging
Check overall waveform
Check for intro/outro
I purposely didn’t put the things I check for in this blog post. I know how many shortcut takers there are out there. I’m one. All the information you need on each of those steps is clearly detailed in the Submission Guidelines, linked above. If you want to build your own checklist from that, be my guest. Because I’ve got one in my head that I just outlined above. Might as well follow it, too.