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Every Step You Need to Make an Audiobook: Tools for Writers Series

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Audiobooks are the future of publishing. They’re convenient for those on the go and easy to consume. But did you know that audiobooks are also easy to create? You don’t need to be a famous author or published through a big-time publisher to create an audiobook. You can do it yourself or hire a service to do it for you.

In this guide, we discuss how to create an audiobook from scratch, even if you’re a complete beginner.

Step 1: Decide Who Will Record the Audiobook

Your first step is to figure out who will record your audiobook.

You have two choices:

  1. Record the audiobook yourself
  2. Hire someone else to do it for you

There are definite pros and cons to both choices. Let’s break it down.

The Benefits of Recording the Audiobook Yourself

If you decide to record the audiobook yourself, you can save money. That’s a big pro, especially if you don’t have a lot of extra money to spend on producing an audiobook.

Another big benefit to doing it yourself is that you’ll be able to forge a special connection with your audience. There’s nothing quite like listening to the author read their actual work. No one is more familiar with your story and its characters than you are. Your unique voice and tone will insert more nuance into your storytelling, making it a richer experience for your audience.

The Drawbacks of Recording Your Audiobook Yourself

There are drawbacks to doing it yourself. First, you probably don’t know anything about audiobook recording. To do it successfully, you’ll need to learn the basics.

Audiobook production isn’t free. While you may save money by recording your audiobook, you’ll still need to invest in recording equipment. This includes a quality microphone (expect to pay $50 and up) and a pop filter. A pop filter reduces those jarring “pop” sounds in your audio. An unexpected “pop” sound is scary to your listener. It’s why ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange), the leading audiobook marketplace, automatically rejects audiobooks with such sounds. Your pop filter will eliminate explosive sounds.

You’ll also need to secure audio editing software. The right software will enable you to record your audiobook from your computer. Audio editing software is necessary for editing and mastering your audiobook in post-production. Fortunately, the leading audio editing software, Audacity, is free for both Windows and Mac users. If this feels too technical, you can hire a professional service.

Producing Your First Audiobook

The Benefits of Hiring Someone Else to Record Your Audiobook

Speaking of professionals, let’s discuss the benefits of hiring a team to record and produce your audiobook.

The first benefit is obvious: You don’t have to do it yourself. If you’re easily overwhelmed by the prospect of learning a new skill, you can hire someone. You’re still technically doing your own audiobook, but this time with the support of a team. You play boss, where you hire and approve.

Another benefit of hiring out your audiobook production is that you’ll save time. Recording a 10-hour audiobook easily takes 20 hours for professional narrators. Then, editing takes an additional 30 hours. That’s 50 hours minimum for professionals who know exactly what they’re doing. As a beginner, you’ll likely spend a lot more time recording and re-recording because it’s only natural to make mistakes. But, if you hire someone else, you’re free to pursue other things while you wait for the audiobook to be completed.

The Drawbacks of Hiring Someone Else to Record Your Audiobook

For all of its benefits, there are negatives to hiring out your audiobook production.

Voice talent isn’t free. Neither is an editing service. Depending on the service you choose and the length of your audiobook, you may spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on your completed product. However, your expenses may be less than if you did it yourself. Tally up the cost of equipment and software, plus the time it’ll take for you to produce your audiobook. A 50-hour minimum time investment isn’t free, especially when you could be doing something else with that time.

Auditioning takes time. You’ll likely need to sample multiple narrators to find the right one. After all, you can’t have the wrong person narrating your story. You need someone who can bring your characters to life. Auditioning multiple voice artists can be frustrating and time-consuming. But fortunately, there are many voice artists out there, and you’ll eventually find someone who will do the job well.

Which Option Should You Choose?

Weigh the pros and cons and determine what works best for your budget and sanity.

You don’t need to be a famous author or published through a big-time publisher to create an audiobook. You can do it yourself or hire a service to do it for you.

Step 2: Prepare Your Audiobook Script

No matter who records your audiobook, you must prepare an audiobook script. Sure, you could pick up the manuscript and start reading, but chances are great that you’ll need to tweak a few passages for audio listeners. You definitely don’t want to hand over your audiobook to a narrator and then have to pay them to re-record passages to your liking. Prevent this headache by creating a script.

Your script should contain:

  • Speaker tags during dialogue, if it hasn't already been tagged
  • Markings that indicate to the narrator what words to emphasize and when to pause
  • Pronunciation help, specifically with character or location names (or your personal pronunciation preferences for certain words like syrup, oil, and Caribbean)
  • Voice tone, such as enthusiastic, sarcastic, playful

If you're working with a voice artist, ask if they prefer to receive detailed notes instead of a marked-up script.

Step 3: Record Your Audio Files

Producing Your First Audiobook

If you’ve decided to record your audiobook, here’s what you need to know:

First, your audiobook should be recorded over multiple files. ACX stipulates that each chapter (or section) should have a dedicated audio file. Begin each audio file with the name of the chapter read aloud. This allows the listener to easily move between chapters in their audiobook program.

After recording your audiobook files, prepare a retail audio sample that allows customers to preview your audiobook. This sample should be between 1-5 minutes and highlight an engaging part of your story (without spoiling key elements, of course). iTunes will automatically use the first five minutes of your audiobook as part of its sample. Your sample should not contain any explicit content.

In addition to your chapter files, you should also record two separate files: One for the opening credits and one for the closing credits. The opening credits should include the book title, the author’s name, the narrator’s name, and any other content that shows on your book’s cover. Your closing credits, at minimum, should include the words “the end.”

Add one second at the beginning and end of your audio to account for room tone. Room tone is the ambient silence in your room and is unique to your room. Room tone is necessary for transitioning your listening. It gives them a hint that the audio is starting or ending.

By the way, your audio should be narrated by a human, not a text-to-speech service. No creepy, robotic voices allowed. Learn more about ACX's audio submission requirements here.

Step 4: Edit Your Audiobook Files

If you’re interested in recording your audiobook, you’re probably leaning toward doing everything yourself, including editing and mastering. This means that you’ll work as your own audio engineer.

As alluded to above, there are many steps involved in producing your audiobook. You may need to re-record certain portions and splice them together. You’ll have to remove extra sounds, including pops, mouth noise, mouse clicks, and distracting noise from your audio. It’s also essential that you record in either mono or stereo (not both). Mono is preferred and strongly recommended.

Step 5: Submit Your Files

After you've edited and mastered your audiobook files, upload them to ACX. This is the only place you’ll need to upload your audiobook files. Once accepted at ACX, your audiobook can then be sold through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. These three platforms account for 80% of the audiobook market.

In addition to your audio files, you’ll also upload your book cover, write a description, and select a category. Creating an ACX account is free and easy. You’ll need to add your bank account and tax info.

What Happens Next?

After you've submitted your audio files to ACX, it will take up to 30 business days for the QA team to review it. They'll check to make sure that your audio doesn't sound like a bowl of Rice Krispies® (you know, snap, crackle and pop).

If the team finds any problems with your audio, you'll get a notification from the QA engineer. Re-submission restarts the process, meaning that it can take an additional 30 business days to go through the quality-check process.

What If You Don't Want to DIY Your Audiobook?

You can still create an audiobook yourself without being engrossed in the minutiae.

If you'd like to work with a professional audiobook production team, we recommend John Marshall Media as the best in the business. You can choose from over 200 narrators to produce a strong audiobook. John Marshall Media handles every aspect of the audiobook process, including script preparation, recording, and editing. This GRAMMY® Award-winning studio has produced over 10,000 audio titles and has worked with the largest publishers in the world.

If you're interested in creating an audiobook but would prefer the support of a professional team that's been at it for over 25 years, check out John Marshall Media here.

Over to You

Are you interested in creating an audiobook? Would you do it yourself or hire someone else to do it?

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