Creating an audiobook is easier than you may have assumed. This article will walk you through the basic steps of making an audio version of your work. First, I’ll focus on how to do it without any third-party sites, then we’ll go over how to use ACX.
Set Up Your Recording Area
Look for a place in your home that is enclosed and relatively quiet (silent is best, of course). If you’ve got the funds, feel free to either install professional recording equipment or pay for studio time. Your basic needs will be:
- A decent microphone (I use a Blue Snowball and love it!)
- Editing software (Audacity is a common, straightforward program).
Consider printing or drawing signs that can be placed on the refrigerator, in the hallway, or on the door to your recording area so that people in other parts of your home know to keep noise to a minimum until you’ve finished your recording for the day.
Don’t forget to turn your phone, clocks, and other noise-making devices off before you begin each recording session.
Record Your File
Use your equipment and software to record yourself reading your book. Be sure to keep water on hand and take breaks as needed. Slow down and speak clearly. You only need to be within a foot (6 – 12 inches) of the microphone in most cases, so there’s no need to have your mouth touching or an inch aaway.
For each section (each chapter, in most cases), stop and listen to the recording from beginning to end. If you had to stop because a train passed nearby or your phone rang, that’s fine. You can simply cut that out in editing. However, if you skipped a word or mispronounced a word, you may need to rerecord that passage so that you’ll have a clean version of it that you can insert during the editing process.
Stopping to review a chapter at a time allows you to notice and fix problems early and often so that you don’t finish hours of recording and then have to go back and review hours of audio that then needs to be edited. Doing this can feel overwhelming and burdensome.
Edit the File
Now that you’ve gotten through recording the entire book, it’s time to tidy it up. Here is a list of common problems you’ll be looking out for and correcting:
- Long pauses (cut and close the gap).
- Interruptions (cut and close the gap, insert re-recorded clips if necessary).
- Rushed speech (insert space between sentences).
- Skipped words or segments (record a clip including the needed material and insert it where appropriate).
Review the entire file from beginning to end to listen for any problems that may have slipped past you. If you have a fellow writer who’s willing, ask them to listen to it for you as well and give you their notes.
Upload the File
If your website has a shop with the ability to sell digital products, you should be able to simply attach the edited audio file to the product description in your shop.
That’s it! It’s time to start promoting and selling! If you want to go beyond selling your audiobook directly, read on to find out how to sell your audiobook on ACX.com (Audible, Amazon, and iTunes).
Publish Your Book
ACX can pull from books available for sale or pre-order on Amazon. So be sure to upload your book there first.
Create an ACX Account
Audible books are born on ACX.com in order to be sold through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes directly. Go there and open your account as an author.
Answer all the registration questions and confirm your email so you can move forward.
Pick Your Book
A list of books the system thinks belongs to you will appear based on your account details. If not, you can find your book using your author name/pen name, title, ASIN, or ISBN. Even if your book is in the pre-order phase on Amazon, you should be able to find it.
It’s helpful at this point to start creating the audiobook version of your cover. ACX will attempt to squish your portrait-style image into a square one and that looks awkward, so I encourage you to design your own. It won’t differ much from your ebook cover. The two major changes are:
- Adding the name of the person performing the book (i.e., “As read by Jayn Doh”). If this is you, or you’re certain who you’re going to hire for this, you can add this information to the cover image now. However, keep in mind that the best-laid plans can come undone. So, until the person you plan on hiring has actually completed the project, it might be better to hold off on including their name on the cover. They could quit the project, get sick, die, etc.
- Changing the aspect ratio to 1:1. This means creating a square cover image instead of a rectangular one.
Consider what you want to pay for someone to complete your book. Audible will provide you an estimate of how long your audiobook will be based on the length of your paperback / ebook. Remember that your producer will be reading the entire book, listening to the entire book, and editing the entire book (almost like three different jobs!), so do your best to come up with a price that is fair based on how much work they’ll have to do. Once you settle on a price, this will be what you’ll pay the producer that you end up choosing based on their audition. You’ll pay their fee one time in advance and then all royalties from the book will go to you.
Another option is to do a royalty split with the producer. In this arrangement, you agree to split the royalties evenly with them for a span of seven years. The major upside of this arrangement is that it costs you nothing up front. You can get started and get your book produced for $0 and earn royalties on the back end.
Choose whichever payment option works best for your goals and budget.
Audible will allow you to include specific text that you would like for the auditioning producer to read. This will help you get a feel for how they sound reading various pieces of your work. The word count is limited, so I’ve found it helpful to do a “spot check” version of the book, not just start from the beginning. Here are my suggestions for segments of your book you might want to include:
- The opening passage
- A scene with multiple character, especially if there is a rapid back-and-forth (such as a heated argument).
- A high-tension, dramatic scene.
- A funny scene.
Put one or all of these into a single document that you can attach so that producers can review it and use it to audition for you. Having them show off their skills for each of these different kinds of scenes so you have a more robust idea of what their overall performance will be like.
Set up a rating list on a piece of paper, a Google Doc, a whiteboard, etc.
As entries come in, write the name of the voice actor and how you would rate their audition. It doesn’t really matter what rating scale you use, so long as it’s consistently applied to each submission (letter grades, low-medium-high, one through ten, etc.).
Once you’ve closed auditions (I usually leave them open for about two weeks), it’s time to finishing listening to them and rating them. Review all the ratings and choose the one that rates highest. This is your audiobook producer!
Contact them to review and finalize pricing for the project. Here are a few things it’s helpful to let them know before they start working on the audiobook:
- How to pronounce certain words like names and cities. A common one for me is “Louisville” because most narrator’s I’ve run into want to say loo-is-vill 😖 which sounds to any Louisvillian like nails on a chalkboard. So I always let them know that I prefer loo-uh-vul or even loo-ee-vill.
- How to denote certain visual cues in the audio. For example, how will a listener know that a character is thinking something, versus saying it? They can’t see that the text is italicized. They also can’t see things like images and footnotes.
- That you want regular submissions. Getting a huge batch of audio files dumped on you all at once can be overwhelming. It’s helpful to let your producer know that you’d prefer that they submit each chapter as it’s completed. This will also help you catch problems early instead of letting them seep into the remainder of the chapters.
- How you would like the intro and outro stated or what you want them to include. Grab any audiobook from the big girls like Hachette or Simon & Schuster and you’ll notice that they start with a brief intro letting you know some of the same information included in the frontmatter of a printed or digital book (i.e., the title and author, the publisher, the copyright date, etc.).
Promote and Publish
Now that you’ve had the audiobook produced and have reviewed the final product for accuracy, it’s time to submit it for a quality review that Audible conducts. Depending on how long the piece is, this process can take from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. In the meantime, start reminding people that the audiobook is being released soon.
Once your book had been approved, Audible will let you know and you can make it available for sale!
While creating your own audiobook does take time and effort, it’s not impossible and you can literally do it for $0.00 if you so choose. But even if you do decide to invest some money into getting it produced, the investment is likely to be worth it. Audiobooks open your work up to new swaths of the population that you would never reach with an ebook or a paperback.
Still have questions? Leave a comment below!