What is proof listening? Our audiobook producer reveals all the secrets!

What is proof listening? Our audiobook producer reveals all the secrets!

You’ve probably heard of an editor, or a subeditor. These are the people who read book manuscripts before they are published to make sure there are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. But what about audiobooks? This is where proof listening comes in!

Every single audiobook that is recorded in the Listening Books studios goes through a process of proof listening. We spoke to our audio producer and asked him what this is all about!

A gif of Nick Offerman wearing headphones and pointing at them indicate he can't hear

So, what is proof listening?

Proof listening is the process of listening back to something you have recorded and already edited to do a final check for mistakes.

That’s interesting. You’ve already edited the audiobook?

Yes, you will have gone through and taken out any major mistakes you noticed while recording. It’s just a check to make sure you haven’t missed anything.

What is the point of proof listening?

It’s important because it’s a final check through of the audiobook to make sure that it sounds like it should and I haven’t missed any small mistakes.

A gif of Ryan Gosling wearing headphones concentrating hard

What sort of mistakes are you looking for?

Well, it can vary, but there are some common ones. Sometimes an audiobook narrator will make a small mistake and start a sentence again, which can be quite difficult to catch when editing because you don’t always remember that it happened during the recording. Usually you’re just looking for anything that sounds a bit wrong like long gaps between sentences where the recording might have started again. Hopefully it’s nothing that means a narrator has to come back in and re-record!

Do you ever spot any errors?

Yes, fairly regularly! As a producer, when I am deep in the throes of editing a book there is so much to take in that I can miss some things that I really wouldn’t want in the final book! Sometimes I ask someone else to do a proof listen for me so that I get some fresh ears on the audiobook. It’s like any editing – it’s difficult to spot every tiny detail yourself all the time.

How long does it take?

However long the audiobook is, really. Normally at least the length of the audiobook, plus a bit more time for starting and stopping, going back to check things, and correcting mistakes.

A gif of a woman putting on pink headphones and walking off frame

Is there anything you can do to make it easier?

Proof listen in short chunks! It is very hard to concentrate and listen intensely for details for a long period of time. Break it up and regularly take breaks away from the computer to ensure you can give the audiobook your undivided attention. That can add to the time you spend proof listening, but it’s worth it in the end when you have a flawless audiobook!

Can you avoid proof listening in any way? Can’t you just concentrate harder when editing?

Not really! No matter how thorough you are when doing the recording or when editing, it would be very foolish to say you are 100% certain there are no mistakes at all in an audiobook without a final listen. You should always check it through to make sure – even if the final audiobook is 50 hours long!


Thanks to Nik for speaking to us about proof listening!

Got more questions about the audiobook recording process? Try these posts: An Interview with an Audiobook Narrator or 5 Things You Might Not Know About Recording Audiobooks

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