Guest blogger: @FutureNostalgic, on AudioBoo

With the increasing popularity of AudioBoo, a number of writers have either embraced it, tried it or are considering it. I asked one of the most prominent members of the #FridayFlash community of writers to discuss some of the issues around AudioBoo.


Hello folks, Sam from Future-Nostalgic here. Tony has kindly offered me the opportunity to write a guest post at Landless about my thoughts on the rising phenomenon of AudioBoo as it relates to flash fiction.

First of all, what is AudioBoo?

From Wikipedia:
AudioBoo allows...users to record and playback digital recordings up to 5 minutes long which can then be posted on the AudioBoo website...These recordings are referred to as 'boos.'
I can see the potential of Audioboo for authors of flash fiction, not least because the 5 minute limit for individual boos is ideally suited to reading a story of 1000 words or less. Audioboo is, I'm told, incredibly easy to do, simply register for a free account then record direct onto the Audioboo website, or record your boo offline and upload it later and away you go. It is also possible to embed the Audioboo player on your blog or website so listeners can access it directly from your site.

I suppose there is a certain appeal to hearing an author reading their own work, and from the author's point of view, Audioboo may help identify areas for improvement in their work, and help them tighten up their writing as they gain more experience of how it actually sounds. There is also potential for an increased audience among those people who prefer listening to reading from a screen

So, why isn't everybody doing it?

The author can be, by their very nature, an introverted beast who prefers to be represented through the written word than through other media. Having said that, some #FridayFlash authors, like Tony himself, and Icy Sedgewick, Benjamin Solah and Jodi Cleghorn to name but a few, feel much more comfortable about having their voice accessible online.

In fact, with the ease of use that Audioboo provides, Benjamin Solah has begun a new Twitter meme and website, #SpokenSunday to combine #FridayFlash with Audioboo podcasting, giving authors a new outlet for their work, which leads me on to something important, the voice itself.

Some of us are blessed with a naturally good speaking voice, others achieve it through training, but there are still others of us who feel that, for whatever reason, our speaking voices are not conducive to public performance. Guess which group I fall into? The standing joke on Twitter is that my voice resembles a cat gargling with spanners. Neither do I have a knack for accents, nor the ability to voice female characters.

I have a regional accent too, that, to be honest with you, I am proud of. The accent in and of itself does not worry me, though I am conscious that it may subconsciously influence the listener and their enjoyment of my work, so I'd prefer it wasn't part of the equation. I am comfortable with the voice I hear inside my head when I speak, though having heard a recording of my voice, I do not like how more high pitched and squeaky it sounds when I hear it back; there's the cat with the spanners again.

For me to feel happy having my stories available in an audio format, I would probably need to pay to have them recorded by someone who doesn't empty the room by the time they've spoken the first sentence, someone like my good friend and very talented author and voice artist Emma Newman, who offers a recording service for flash fiction (and longer works) at very reasonable rates.

I would prefer to go down this route, if funds allowed, for another reason, namely that I prefer my words to speak for themselves, rather than me speaking them. Let me explain – part of what I love most about writing, and reading come to that, is the reader's ability to interpret the story themselves, to hear in their own head a comfortable voice, their own, and to construct a mental image of the setting and characters in a story. For me it's part of the mystique of a story. I am sure there are readers who prefer to hear a story read exactly as the author intended, I prefer to give my readers the opportunity to enjoy the experience without the distraction of my voice, trust me, that's a blessing; I also enjoy my anonymity.

There are practical challenges too, not least of which is microphone technique. I don't believe many of us are naturally gifted with the ability to simply pick up a microphone and record. It takes practice, and while I may, eventually, be persuaded by my good friends (enablers) in the online author community to take a deep breath and podcast one of my stories, I can't imagine me ever taking the plunge without a lot of behind-the-scenes preparatory work, training, practice, and a script.

And then there's the issue of recording quality. There are some very good freeware audio programs available, Audacity for example, that can do a lot to improve the quality of an audio recording however, what such programs cannot help with is the quality of the audio input, and I am not convinced the microphone I have available will necessarily be up to the job.

To successfully podcast my stories I will need a new microphone, voice training and a good deal more confidence about my voice than I currently possess, though if my friends keep working on me as relentlessly supportively as they have been lately, you may hear my first Audioboo sooner than you think!

So, what do you think about podcasting your work? Is Audioboo something you'd like to try? And do you have any hints and tips you'd care to share that may help me decide to take the plunge?

Finally, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Tony for handing over the mic to me for this post, I'd better hand it back again sharpish before my voice empties the room. Again.

Thanks, Tony!


You're very welcome, Sam! So what do you think, everyone? Do you Boo, either as a social medium or to read your fiction? Do you think it's a valuable tool for a writer, either as an outlet to reach an audience or as a means to improve your writing? And if people on Twitter are Tweeps, what do we call someone on AudioBoo? A Booer?

Direct links to the AudioBoo accounts for folks that Sam mentioned: Tony Noland, Icy Sedgewick, Benjamin Solah, Jodi Cleghorn, Emma Newman


  1. I think your notes about letting the story speak for itself is why I usually chose to read stories devoid of dialogue. I am absolutely unconvinced of my ability to "become" a character, but I like reading the stories all right.

  2. When it comes to listening to an audio book or reading a physical novel, I rarely go the audio route. I prefer to see and hear the story unfold in my head, as I read along.

    I've been doing video podcasts for a couple of years now (Unrelated blog niche, seperate from my personal blog). I think I could easily manage the technical side of recording and embedding. However, I'm more of an on the fly type of person and get tripped up when I try to script a recording. That problem alone will most likely prevent me from getting involved in "Spoken Sunday".

    I think that is it fantastic that so many people are giving AudioBoo a try. Recording yourself and putting it out on the web, for all to see, is intimidating. I'm thrilled that the community has been so open and supportive.

  3. You've listed great info for the self serve writer here that is good stuff. For those who want to hear what can be done at an even more sophisticated level, I suggest they cross the pond and have a listen to Cast Macabre.

    The "King" of the audio casts in my mind is Barry Northern, what he has done over at Cast Macabre is akin to the old time radio shows, simply fantastic. Granted you need some patience as his casts run upwards of twenty minutes but listeners will be well rewarded.

  4. Sam - there are definitely pros and cons to audioboos and not everybody will be comfortable doing them. Some audio boo folks like Jodi Cleghorn and Greg McQueen are very comfortable talking off-the-cuff and are doing some nice audio digests. I am *horrible* at talking off-the-cuff, which i suspected and then confirmed when i tried to record my first audio digest. I ended up having to write out a script for myself ;-) So i suspect you won't be seeing many of those from me.

    But i love reading stories and although i'm not so good at it yet, audioboo provides a wonderful informal platform to try out the medium and get feedback not only on stories but on my delivery. I've been interested in podcasting for some time but i don't have the time to invest in it at the moment. As Michael says above, Barry and others are doing incredible things with more professional-sounding podcasts. Maybe I will be able to do that down the road.

    But for the moment, being able to grab my iphone, hit 'record', start talking and press 'publish' is about my speed ;-)

    Sam - don't feel pressured into doing it if you're not comfortable. Of course i encourage everybody to give it a try, but if it doesn't suit, there's no need to push it. Just as if somebody tried to pressure me into doing daily audio digests, i'd most definitely pass on that. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and the key is to play to our strengths and work on our weaknesses as we can. Nice post! :-)

  5. I love the idea of AudioBoo. I frequently listen to podiobooks and podcasts when driving, so I love the idea of using this medium myself.

    That said, I have EXACTLY the same reservations. One is technically I don't really have experience recording. I've looked into using my phone but so far the Audioboo app for my particular phone seems unreliable. So I'd have to use my computer, and I'm not sure how I'm going to do that.

    The second reservation is my voice. I'm experimenting with training myself to speak a little more deeply without sounding completely ridiculous. My voice isn't horrible, but I'm just not sure it's suited for podcasting. I'm willing to give it a go though, if I can figure out how to make it come out halfway decent.

    The thing that's nice about audio stories is that you aren't tied to the computer or the page. You can listen to them while doing other things. I like that. I think Audioboo is a good idea, and I'd love to hear your voice too. :)

  6. I think there's little difference between podcasting stories and doing live readings. I don't have a terrible interesting voice, I have little range in it, it's accented and I too can't do voices. But for me, it's about the author reading their words so that they're not only offering their story, but also a little bit of their personality. That's what I try and get across in a reading and in the couple of podcasts I've done. Mind you I've also got the actress who did my video readings (female MC in the book) also to record a podcast. I'll be making it available this week and the contrast may be interesting.

    Great post Sam.


    marc nash

  7. Seemingly near constants: People dislike their own voice, and someone enjoys listening no matter what the speaker claims.

    I never listen to audio books because reading is more efficient, but I enjoy listening to a few short 5-minute stories. It's nice hearing the author's delivery no matter their voice.

    I do some AudioBoo because speaking is a good skill worth practice, and I sometimes speak my stories while working on them. Why not share? My latest Boo is actually work for future #FridayFlash as I try to get the sound right.

    And some stories are better performed. Listen to Jim's latest.

  8. Great post, Sam. All right, I admit it, I'm one of the "enablers" you're talking about. Sorry if I made you feel pressured. Of course you have to do what you're most comfortable with. And I haven't recorded anything yet myself, but will start soon. I'm a bad peer. :)

    I like the idea of offering one's stories in both formats for the sake of accessibility. On the other hand, I get what Sam's saying about the reader's internal, intimate experience. That's probably my favorite part of the fiction experience. I've been following #spokensunday, though, and hearing the author's voice hasn't taken away from that for me. Just saying.

    Also, I'm not altogether pleased with the sound of my own voice, either. But I'm willing to give it a go because the idea seems fun, and because of the accessibility thing.

    So Sam, even if you never record a word, we'll love the Pixies anyway and keep turning up for everything you write. Your voice is clear and wonderful right on the page (or screen). :)

  9. I'm very much in the same boat with you, Sam. I'm not fond of how my recorded voice sounds and I want readers to have their own interpretations of my stories. A few of my stories have endings that I thought were cystal clear, but the comments opened me up to different possibilities based on how individuals saw them play out. I love that.

    I might take the time to play around with AudioBoo and see how a few friends react, then I'll decide whether to take the leap and post it with #spokensunday or not.

    Thanks for the great post, Sam, and thanks Tony for hosting.

  10. I wonder if our preferences have anything to do with the way we naturally learn. Some people learn better listening while others learn by sight.

    I learn by sight. I also (naturally) prefer reading. If someone tells me something I do not pick up as much information as when I read it.

    Thanks, Tony and Sam, for the information!

  11. Thank you for the mention, pet! Really appreciate it. And for what it's worth, don't feel bad about having a regional accent - we all know I do, and I think one of the ways of breaking down barriers regarding perceptions of accents is to get them out there. Besides, 90% of the people who listen to me have no idea about the cultural preconceptions that go with my accent within the UK, and therefore it's a nice boost to me that my work is being listened to and appreciated, unencumbered by regional prejudices.

    But yes, equipment is a factor. Then again, I just use my Skype headset - it's not brilliant, but it's enough for now.

    Honestly, come and join in! I for one would love to hear your Boos because at least I'd get to hear the mother tongue!

  12. I miss recording audio versions of my stories. My microphone died a while back and it's taking a while to replace. I've actually missed the Audioboo game entirely - I was using a streaming audio interface on my blog that a friend invented for me.

    Recording is good for most writers. It makes you hear the words you're using, and hopefully consider the possible effects.

  13. Thanks for the comments, suggestions and encouragement. It seems to me we are broadly divided into two camps, those who have Booed, and those who're not keen on their voices, and as a result have yet to. I'm not saying you've changed my mind, but you may have succeeded in nudging me in the right direction. I also have something coming up next month that may, just may, lend itself to including an audio element to the project.

    There are a few specific things I want to pick up on...

    Michael - Yes! I have the utmost respect for what Barry Northern is doing with Cast Macabre, the content and quality of his podcasts are truly excellent, and something I aspire to, one day. Maybe.

    PJ - I don't feel unduly pressured into giving AudioBoo a go, to be honest the encouragement has been of a very supportive nature. I see AudioBoo as a medium to long term thing for me, for now I'm just happy writing stories.

    Gracie - Yes, yes you are! No, as I said to PJ, I don't feel unduly pressured, just a constant, gentle encouragement, which is no bad thing. I feel I need to find just the right proejct to record though, and that may take me a while.

    Danni - An eminently sensible approach, I may well do the same. I'm not going to inflict my voice on unsuspecting #SpokenSunday listeners until a few trusted souls have listened to my efforts first. Volunteers?

    Laura - That's an interesting point you raise, thank you. Now I think about it, I feel I am similarly drawn to the written word, which may go some way towards explaining my reluctance.

    Icy - Now then, kidda! The mention is my pleasure. Of course, you've gone one step further with your video podcasts, there's nee way I'm trying that, like! I don't feel bad about my accent either, but I have been told in the past by people from outside the area that I can be quite difficult to understand. As for equipment, well I do have a headset mic...and speaking in the mother tongue could be quite interesting I suppose. Watch this space, bonny lass!

    Finally, thanks again to Tony for offering me the chance to let me borrow Landless like that. I will now return you to your normal programming...

  14. Thanks to everyone for all of your thoughtful comments. Sam, you put your finger right on some of the key issues around Boos and audio work in general, first with your post and again with your comment above.

    I for one am looking forward to more audio pieces.


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