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The Audiobook Trail

Arts & Culture Podcasts

The show dedicated to all things Audiobooks - from inside the booth, to the tip of your earbuds. Narrator insights, technical tips, industry news and trends, and plain old fun! Hosted by award-winning audiobook narrator and producer John McLain.


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The show dedicated to all things Audiobooks - from inside the booth, to the tip of your earbuds. Narrator insights, technical tips, industry news and trends, and plain old fun! Hosted by award-winning audiobook narrator and producer John McLain.






Chapter 40 - Air and Sound - Some Tips

This week John talks about the thrilling and mind-boggling concept of...air. We need to breathe it...and we need to live within it. We'll explore a couple of issues pertaining to the recording space, and some practical tips to stay fresh and cool. Plus an article for M.I.T. - or is that M. AI. T?


Chapter 39 - "Happy Thanksgiving!" John cried.

On this special Thanksgiving edition on the Trail, John shares why this oft glossed-over holiday is so important to him - both personally and professionally. He'll share a personal story of how being thankful lifted him out of a bad narration slump, and finally shares a fun and meaningful tradition of his own to celebrate Thanksgiving. Plus, a listener asks John whether he hosts any other podcasts. Hmmm...


Chapter 38 - The 2 (or more) Prong Approach

This week John presents a cool and simple exercise for audiobook character performance. Be bold! Be different! Be weird? Later, he reacts to the ending of the SAG-AFTRA strike, and shares comments from a well-known performer who is educated in computer science - and she isn't enthusiastic about the strike-ending deal.


Chapter 37 - Tell Me A Story, Mr. Roboto

Is resistance to A.I. in art futile? Imagine going to see a motion picture that you yourself are in - and then witnessing yourself doing things that you actually didn't do. One A-list actor recently experienced just that, and has something to say about it. Also, John discusses a recent beta program involving an offer that many authors just might not be able to refuse.


Chapter 36 - Answering Your Letters

Mail call! This week John answers more emails: from how to earn the Audiobook Narrator merit badge, to an insatiable desire for audiobook consumption. Plus, we'll talk World Series baseball, and - if you listen very closely - you may find out why John and Batman have never been seen together in the same room at the same time...


Chapter 35 - The Vital Importance of the Brand

In business, a unique, scoped, and attractive brand is crucial. On this ride down the Trail, John cites a couple of branding examples and outlines how to apply branding principles to your narration business. Also in news - does Big Tech have your back? Plus, a big diamond investment is paying off.


Chapter 34 - Showing Your Wares: The Audiobook Demo

"Let's see what this baby can do!" Today, John explores the basics of the all-important demo. What it is, what it should be, and what it should never, ever be. Also, more news about computers pretending to be people - and the Trail breaks into a new continent!


Chapter 33 - Mail Call! Answering Your Letters

This week John clears off his desk by answering a few of your Dear John letters! Recording software...demos...royalties...the's all here, driven by you!


Chapter 32 - Reflections On Sound Reflections

There are very scary-smart people that spend their lives studying the science of acoustics. John isn't one of them, and thankfully, he doesn't have to be. On this ride down the Trail, he talks simply about the acoustics that the audiobook narrator must deal with - and how to do it. Also, the horrors of waterslides, and the rudeness of voicemails.


Chapter 31 - The Invisible Character: Playing the Setting

What do colors sound like? Weird question - but one of many that the narrator must consider when dealing with a story's setting. Today John explores a couple of types of setting, and shares some tips on overcoming the lack of visuals in an audiobook - plus the one truth that the narrator must not miss in the process. And in News...could the writers' strike be over? Plus he shares a Dear John letter about money and chemistry.


Chapter 30 - Borrowing From The Greats

"You can't handle the truth!" "You complete me." These iconic scenes and performances are burned into our minds and hearts, and they influence us. But is it ok for the narrator to borrow from great performers? When is it stealing? John gives some advice on how to sort it all out, and a simple technique from the wings of the theatre that adds clarity to it all.


Chapter 29 - The Spaces In Between: Staying Productive

Sometimes narrators book projects back to back - but if not, what about the gaps? John offers five tips on how to stay productive between audiobooks. Also, in news: the SAG-AFTRA strike is spreading into video games and their voice actors. What does this mean for audiobooks? Plus we'll make a (very) brief visit to "Dr. ChatGPT."


Chapter 28 - Labor Day "Best-of" Special

You've probably heard it yourself...John needs a break! This week, we present some of our favorite moments from the first 27 chapters of the show!


Chapter 27 - Freedom of Movement

An actor is playing "pretend," and unless we're pretending to be a statue, we have to move! But in the space of the audiobook booth, where pristine sound is king, how is that possible? John shares some techniques that might help. Also, he takes the occasion of a Dear John letter to unburden himself.


Chapter 26 - Audiobooks

John loves boxing...but we're talking about something different here! Punch-and-roll recording. What is it? We'll take a look starting with John's first experience with it, in 1989! Plus an A.I. news update, and a heartfelt farewell to a wonderful voice actor gone too soon.


Chapter 25 - Workin' For A Livin' - Getting Paid As A Narrator

The ways narrators and/or producers are compensated in the audiobook world can be pretty complex - so today, John talks money! How do narrators get it? What's fair, and how do we even know? Plus a new blooper reel, and one way that being a gambler at heart can factor into your decision-making.


Chapter 24 - Get Lost! Voice-Painting On The Canvas Of Imagination

This is no "happy accident!" Today John gets his artist on with a lesson inspired by the late painter Bob Ross. What can the iconic PBS dauber of "happy little trees" teach us about narration? Plenty! Plus, why good storytelling is not about words - and the one painting that John insists upon displaying in his home every winter - and why.


Chapter 23 - Gettin' Loud!

"What if I have a character that yells in the book?" he shouted. As pro narrators, we can't literally yell into our mics, so what do we do? Today John shares a few techniques for getting loud without, well, getting loud. Plus, a way that you *might* one day become a millionaire. Might.


Chapter 22 - Agents and Audiobooks

Do audiobook narrators have talent agents? Do they need them? Today, John explores the roles agents play in the narration world. He also shares his personal experience with his former agent. And in news...resistance is futile! Petri dishes are playing Pong down under...and it's giving John the willies!


Chapter 21 - Union Yes...or No?

This week, John addresses a Dear John letter: union membership as an audiobook narrator. What's the right move? What are the issues to consider in making the decision to go union, or not? Also, yet another somewhat horrifying AI update.