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This week I posted story number 30. For six weeks, I’ve been recording and sharing children’s books in the hopes that it will give parents a few minutes of quiet time and will entertain the kids.
When the current situation started back in March and we were put under a shelter in place order here, I had a friend tell me that I should read children’s stories everyday online with video. It would really help out parents and kids during this time.
With A Voice Like This started as a podcast back in 2007. While it was primarily about music, including making a completely DIY EP, I also included other information and featured live interviews. That experience meant I was comfortable with live audio work. At the time I also swore I’d never do video because I didn’t like the look of someone just sitting behind a microphone, but I digress.
I thought it was a good idea and I wanted to do anything I could to help in any fashion. So I decided to quickly (or at least as quickly as I could) set this up and get going, so I laid down my ground rules:
- The stories had to be free to watch and listen
- They had to help on as many levels as possible
- They had to happen on a consistent schedule
- The stories should be live
The Stories had to be free to watch and listen
This was my primary goal. I immediately thought of YouTube. With their recent changes due to COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule), they don’t allow personalized ads on children’s content any longer. They also don’t allow comments or live chat and that fit perfectly with what I had in mind. A low noise floor, where the entire focus could be on the story as it was being read.
I also wanted to include access to the book itself and with some books, that means links to how you can buy the book, and sometimes those are affiliate links. I don’t consider that an ad, as no one has to buy the book or even click the link, but more on that next.
They had to help on as many levels as possible
Helping Children and Parents. Check. But there are others involved in children’s stories as well. So I needed to identify them and see if there was a way I could help them too, not just during this time, but on an ongoing basis.
First are the Authors and/or Publishers. The easiest and best way is to provide information on how to buy the book. As of now, 60% of the stories that are available for purchase are only available directly from the author/publisher. That information is shared in the video description.
The remaining 40% are links to online stores. Whenever possible and the first place I look is Bookshop.org. The reason for that is simple. 10% of the sale from that affiliate link goes to support independent bookstores. Another group that I can help and it’s by using a specific link. If you want to know more, it’s on their About BookShop page. They explain how they work with Independent Bookstores (It really helps to have an author for a wife). They just launched this past January.
Here was a bit of a wrinkle. I needed to have the rights to record the book and it needed to be at no charge, the trade-off is the exposure and the purchase information. But what to do when I don’t have a current book to read? I won’t read without the proper rights, so I fill with Children’s stories in the Public Domain. For that, I’m indebted to the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature at The University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries and their digital collection. The collection has been a lifesaver, pure and simple.
They have to be on a consistent schedule
This was a big point. At first, I didn’t know what I was getting into, so I had thought of possibly doing 7 days a week. I was quickly disabused of that idea by just trying to get the idea up and running. It took two weeks to get the first 5 stories complete. At that point, I thought 5 days a week was sufficient (I question my own wisdom and sanity on that decision at times still).
The Stories should be live
This was my one roadblock that could have done this project in at the beginning. I had a specific quality and method in mind and I found out that I had some experiential and technical hurdles that would prevent a live stream of the stories. The biggest one? I had no ethernet port on my laptop. I hadn’t realized that until I went to set up the live stream. Long story as short as I can, There was no way I could achieve a consistent quality live stream over WiFi with my current setup. And I tried a bunch of technical workarounds.
I found the answer on YouTube. They have a Premiere function where you can prerecord and release a video at a specific time so everyone can view it at the same time. At that point, YouTube was the only service that I found had that feature, though I didn’t look too hard anywhere else at the time. I was set on using YouTube anyway.
Based on all of that, the Premiere time was Set for 10:00 am CT Monday-Friday.
And that’s how I got to 30 stories.
Where will it go from here
I have at least a couple more weeks before that decision needs to be made. It may continue after the current shelter in place is over, but not 5 days a week. But even if it doesn’t, I have a body of work that can and will help long term. A body of my work…And as an Artist, that helps me define what I did and how I used my talents at a time when it was needed and benefited as many people as possible.
If you would like to be a part of the work I’ve done, you can subscribe to my YouTube Channel, view my playlist or, I’ve built Stories – With A Voice Like This where you can watch the stories, submit a story if you’re an Author/Publisher and browse an archive of all the stories.