Podfic Feedback

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Podfic feedback is a topic of much discussion in podfic fandom.

Discussion

What's Unique About Podfic Feedback

Giving or receiving feedback on a podfic can be a particularly sensitive issue. Podficcers have highlighted specific reasons why in meta pieces, for example:

  • Commenting on a podfic can mean commenting on a podficcer's body:
And yes, maybe I should be able to accept crit. But crit on a podfic, to me, feels radically different to crit on a fic. With fic, the words themselves distance me from the reaction. With podfic, if someone tells me they don't like me voice, or my accent, or the way that I read something, its like they are saying they don't like me. And there is no way I can see of getting over that.
pennyplainknits, 2010[1]
but with podfic, you have this weird alien middle-space. it looks like feedback, it looks like concrit, it looks like something we know how to deal with, a comment on something we've created and set loose, something separate from the self. for me at least, it's a comment on my body, my voice, the way i am sitting in a room, the way in which i move as i read. it doesn't ever become separate. this isn't good or bad, it just is. it's interesting. but it means that while a comment on a story or a post that i write makes me think about what i said/created, a comment on a podfic makes me think about me. so when i get a positive comment about a reading that remarks that reading is cool and dispassionate, i have a hard time not hearing that they are saying *i* am cool and dispassionate. it's weird, and fascinating, and again: neither good nor bad.
general_jinjur, 2010[2]
Not being a native English-speaker, I do think that my ability to speak English is a skill. But, for one thing, in the case of podfic I'm most likely reading someone else's words so the English isn't actually mine, and for another comments about accents are rarely about how good my English is. They are about how different my accent is from other English-speakers'. [...] I like being told listeners enjoy my accent and find it intriguing, soothing or even exotic! God knows there's enough accent insecurity out there in Podfic Fandom, so reassurance that one's accent is not off-putting is always welcome. It's just not the thing I am most proud of, or the thing I want people to notice over all others, or the thing I want to be known/remembered for, because mostly, I don't view my accent as a skill, I view it as an imperfection [...].
greedy_dancer, 2012[3]
  • Editing is a (mostly) invisible skill:
When listeners hear a coherent reading, no mistakes, no loud background noises that distract from the story, they might take it for granted; as some people who don’t know much about podfic like to repeat, "what’s so hard about reading?" Actually, even getting to that stage might have taken me hours and hours and HOURS of editing, and that's before we even get into noise reduction or adding effects or music. Aside from removing all the outright mistakes, I might have had to paste sentences from different takes together to create the perfect emotional sequence; I might have had to cut and paste a name taken from an entirely different scene because I said the wrong one in all my takes of this scene; I might have had to splice together two syllables from different takes of the word because each take was mispronounced in a slightly different way or get rid of awkward breaths that cut up the flow of a sentence. In any case, if I did these right, the listener is never going to notice and thus won’t be able to comment on it, even though for me it’s probably what was the longest, most difficult part of the podficcing process [...].
greedy_dancer, 2012, ibid.

How Rare is Podfic Feedback?

For a variety of reasons, podfic has a much smaller audience than fic does.

On AO3, as of Oct 2021:

  • The median number of kudos on all works was 1900. The median number of kudos on all works tagged "podfic" (not excluding posts containing both text and podfic) was 14.
  • The 20th page when sorted by kudos listed fanfiction with well over 16,000 kudos. When filtering to works using the "podfic" tag (not excluding posts containing both text and podfic) the 20th page ended with a work that had 254 kudos.
  • The podfic with the most kudos (excluding posts which included both text and podfic) was PODFIC of: This Dangerous Game By MissDisoriental by Aleandri. It had just over 15,000 hits and 800 kudos. The fic it was inspired by had 309,500 hits and 16,361 kudos.

Lack of feedback, a widely-shared sentiment in fandom by no means unique to the podfic community, is nevertheless a frequent topic of discussion -- and disappointment -- among podficcers:

@carlamlee …and it’s widely known that podfic gets v little feedback of any kind.
general_jinjur, 2013[4]
As someone with fic, podfic, art, and vids posted on their AO3, I can tell you point blank: FIC GETS THE MOST FEEDBACK. End of discussion.

Ime, feedback rates go fic > vids > art > podfic.

bessyboo, 2017[5]
"I do wish that podfics got more love and appreciation in general," podficcer Werebear says. "The time required to make them is considerable, and from what I've seen on AO3 at least, you're lucky to get half a dozen kudos, if that."
"Why podfics, the audiobooks of fanfiction, deserve more appreciation" on Syfy.com, 2019[6]
comment on podfic: "i'm amazed this doesn't have more comments/kudos"

me: ...welcome to podfic life, lmao

like it's a sweet sentiment but i've long ago accepted podfic does not bring like huge numbers in and personally am not really invested in changing that. [...]

GodOfLaundryBaskets, 2020[7]
In all honesty the only time I would expect to get a comment for certain is if it's an event for podfic only, or if I'm making something for another podficcer. Outside of that, even if it's an exchange of some kind, I take a comment on podfic as a happy surprise.
tinypinkmouse, 2021[8]

This feedback scarcity makes the relatively frequent off-topic comments ("Where is the text?", comments which only mention the plot of the fic), backhanded compliments ("I usually think explicit podfic is creepy, but...", "I initially found your voice grating/your accent distracting, but...") or unsollicited concrit all the more annoying or discouraging:

What is WRONG with people? I had someone comment on a podfic from 2014 which is 20 goddamn hours long saying they were enjoying it, but they were reading at the same time as listening, and apparently I occasionally made a mistake in my reading. [...]

Just...if it were a typo in a fic, then at least it would be an easy fix that I might conceivably be glad to know of? But “there are occasional unspecified errors buried in 20 hours of audio” is just douchebaggery.

flockofwords, 2019[9]

When a new fan shows interest in podfic, experienced podficcers will frequently include a warning that podfic should not be done for external validation:

Let me say up front that if you are the sort of person who needs lots of comments, then podficcing is probably not for you.
winkingstar in "So you want to be a podficcer...", 2009[10]
5. Be prepared for NO feedback. You might get a comment from the author of the fic you're reading, and a couple kudos on on AO3 but probably nothing more.
PunishingLawyer, 2018[11]

To balance out this relative lack of feedback from the wider audience, some podficcers put a premium on feedback they get from their beta or from the author of the story they are recording:

OMG just got AMAZING WONDERFUL feedback on my finished podfic from the author. Grinning like a loon right now. YAAAAAAY!!!
jenepel, 2011[12]
Incredibly lovely podfic feedback from the author of said (pod)fic is the best!! I am rolling around in the happy feelings!
takola, 2013[13]

It has also been pointed out that, while podfic feedback might not be as frequent, it is sometimes more in-depth or more rewarding than feedback on other mediums:

omg podfic feedback is kind of amazing. I mean, ALL feedback is awesome, but man. <3
mistresscurvy, 2012[14]
@boysinperil: [...] @twwings looked at [works with most] kudos vs [works with most] comments - all of my kudos are stories, but all of my comments are podfic. Interesting!
@twwings: podfic doesn't get as many kudos, but its fans are more enthusiastic!
boysinperil & twwings, 2020[15]

Why Is Podfic Feedback Rare

  • Lack of vocabulary for the audio medium/fear of saying the wrong thing:
In podfic meta discussions, it periodically comes up that some people want to leave feedback on podfic but just aren't sure what to say.
klb, 2011[16]
Sometimes, especially if we're more used to leaving comments on other types of fanworks or if like me the Fandom Language (often: English) isn't the language we're most comfortable with, we're at a loss for words.
yue_ix, 2014[17]
Which reminds me, I never know how to comment on a podfic, because “i like your voice” just seems creepy. As does “you read smut so smooth”
twistedingenue, 2014[18]
(okay, fr fr promise I'm not a creep, maybe it's just me but commenting on someone's voice feels so weird!! I feel strangely out of my element. Like, if I said something was cute that was written in a fanfic it's fine, but since it's your voice I feel weird just constantly repeating "You've got a good voice" like, who would even say something like that irl? Idk. I just hope I'm not coming off as a crazy person or something XD)
commenter on a podfic by greedy_dancer, 2020[19]
  • Technical/logistical issues:
my feelings on feedback are really simple as regards fic - you read something and enjoy it, you comment and say so. if you're reading on a03 and for whatever reason can't leave an actual comment, you leave a kudo. period.

but i get that leaving feedback for podfic is different, on account of you can't always listen to it right then, and after you've downloaded and listened and enjoyed, you don't necessarily remember where exactly you got it to leave feedback, or you're not somewhere you can leave feedback, or i don't know, there are legitimate reasons for not leaving any kind of comment on a podfic that stem from the kind of fanwork podfic is and the way people enjoy it. [...]

tsuki-no-bara, 2011[20]

This might have been especially true before streaming audio was widely available, and many listeners had to download podfic files and upload them to their listening devices (which weren't connected to the internet, such as early mp3 players.) This meant that the listening experience happened largely offline, requiring extra steps to go back to the podfic post and leave feedback after the fact.

Encouraging Podfic Feedback

Resources

1. Say you listened and enjoyed [...]

2. Describe your listening experience: where you were, how it made you feel [...]

3. Comment on the reader's voice and style [...]

4. Highlight specific parts you liked and why [...]

5. Tell your history/relationship with the reader [...]

I kept thinking about this and starting lists of all the things I like in feedback, but then I realized they all came back to the same idea:

Tell me you liked my SKILLS.

There are two ways I can think of to do that: distinguishing my reading from the writing, and distinguishing my skills from my body. [...]

I'm absolutely not saying that feedback should not mention the story – as I said, a mutual love for the story is probably what unites me and the listener in the first place. But if you are writing a comment to the podficcer only praising the story's plot, you might want to leave that feedback for the writer instead, since that is their part of the work that went into the podfic. [...]

Now, there are things that go into my reading that are not related to my body: there’s my performance choices (my acting, my interpretation choices, the voices I give the characters) and there’s my editing choices (pacing, noise removal, all the technical aspects that go into making the file as smooth and clean as I can, the effects or music I add, etc).

Overall fluidity of listening experience/reading voice

Fluid, smooth, easy to get into, effortless, gentle, polished, quiet, sleek, soft, steady, tranquil, even, flat, soothing, uniform, fluent, monotonous, rhythmic, varying, changing, interrupted/uninterrupted, disturbed/undisturbed, broken/unbroken, consistent/inconsistent, rough, demanding, challenging, coarse, complex, perfect, clean, slick, clever, graceful, comprehensive, fun.

Dialogues and favourite lines

Smooth, sharp, quick, dry, funny, emotional, snappy, snarky, tearful, loving, tender, hateful, angry, laughing, smug, sexy, suave, cocky, raspy, loud, quiet, laugh/smile-in-voice, soothing, gentle, challenging, hoarse, screamed, whispered, dead panned, etc.

[...]

Fests and Challenges

  • Podfic Critical Feedback Exchange by paraka, 2010
  • Podfic reccing community Podfic Love ran a "Podfic Feedback Day" on the 15th of every month, between 2014 and 2018, aimed at encouraging listeners to leave feedback on "(at least) one podfic".[21]
  • Podfic Appreciation Fest was created in 2021 "to encourage you to leave feedback on amazing podfics. Encourage you...with points!" Participating and non-participating podficcers could submit up to 5 podfics they would like to receive feedback on, which earned particiants bonus points. Podficcers were also able to opt out of receiving feedback as part of the fest.[22]
  • The Voiceteam event regularly included challenges to leave feedback on podfics, particularly podfics with no comments on AO3.

References

  1. ^ On Podfic by pennyplainknits, June 14, 2010 (originally on LJ, mirrored on DW)
  2. ^ no subject by general_jinjur, June 15, 2010
  3. ^ Pod-Aware meta: story love, body love, performance love by greedy_dancer, posted to Dreamwidth November 2012
  4. ^ @jinjurly tweet, Sept 16, 2013
  5. ^ @bessyboo tweet, May 11, 2017
  6. ^ Why podfics, the audiobooks of fanfiction, deserve more appreciation by Kristina Manente on Syfy.com, Dec 1, 2019
  7. ^ @GodOfLaundy tweets, July 15, 2020
  8. ^ @tinypinkmouse tweet, Feb 16, 2021
  9. ^ tweet by @flockofwords, Nov 10 2019
  10. ^ So you want to be a podficcer... by winkingstar, posted to merlinpodfic on Jan 22, 2009
  11. ^ PunishingLawyer reply to 'Good guides on how to make/edit podfic?' on r/FanFiction, 2018
  12. ^ @jenepel tweet, July 11, 2011
  13. ^ @takolaLJ tweet, Feb 12, 2013
  14. ^ @mistresscurvy tweet, July 23, 2012
  15. ^ @boysinperil & @twwings tweets, Dec 9, 2020
  16. ^ Podfic Feedback Toolbox: 5 ways to give great podfic feedback by klb, posted to amplificathon June 2011
  17. ^ Commenting on Podfic: vocabulary by yue_ix, posted to podfic_tips in November 2014
  18. ^ tumblr post by twistedingenue, 2014
  19. ^ commenter on "(Podfic) Nikandros POV of Damen/Laurent - Tumblr ficlet #6" by greedy_dancer, 2020
  20. ^ podweek day 5! aka "feedback!" by tsuki-no-bara, posted to LJ November 2012
  21. ^ Podfic Feedback Challenge tag at podfic love
  22. ^ Podfic Appreciation Fest 2021 by kitsuneheart, posted to amplificathon in March 2021