If you’re planning to publish a book or have already published a book, producing an audiobook version will give you more sales, increased visibility, and a perception of legitimacy. And in this day of relatively inexpensive equipment and easy outsourcing, there’s really no reason not to!
Let’s look at recent audiobook trends
Audiobook sales are on the rise every year. Audiobook sales increased 26.2% in 2013, 28% in 2014 and 31% in 2015. The major player in the audiobook sales space is Audible, and their membership has grown 40%, year over year. (Check out cnbc.com, goodreader.com, and publishingtrends.com.) So, the number of people actively looking for audiobooks is on the rise. Where’s your audiobook?
I can hear you, already: “Sounds like a good idea. How do I produce an audiobook?” Well, there are a couple of ways, all of them surprisingly easy.
1. Record your book yourself with your own equipment.
Many independent publishers like to record their own audiobooks. There’s a connection created between author and listener, when you know it’s the author’s real voice, resonating in your ears for 5+ hours. At the end of the book, the listener feels like she’s become friends with you, the author/narrator.
Plus, the recording equipment and software that you’ll need are relatively inexpensive.
Let me break down the bare minimum equipment and software you’ll need:
- A good microphone with a pop filter
- A microphone stand that’s tall enough for you to use while standing
- ScreenFlow for Mac or Camtasia for PC
- A device to read the book text from (eg. laptop, tablet, or printed pages)
That’s it! You’ll need to set up your microphone stand in a room that has decent acoustics. Look for these characteristics in a good recording room:
- Carpet or rugs to eliminate that “empty room” echo. Some people even record inside their closets because the hanging clothes do a great job of absorbing those echoes.
- Extreme silence, except for your voice. This means you can’t hear the air conditioner kick on, the neighbor’s lawn mower, barking dogs, yelling kids, traffic, airplanes—none of it. You might be recording in the middle of the night to get that level of silence.
- Space to stand, use your arms, and move around while you’re recording. You definitely don’t want to sit or crouch while you’re recording. You want your voice to reflect emotion and energy, which means you’ll need space to wave your arms when you’re emphasizing a point. The listener will never hear you waving your arms, but he’ll hear the passion in your voice and stay tuned-in to your book.
The last thing you’ll need: patience and a lot of it. Your 30,000-word book might end up being only three or four hours long, but it’s going to take you a heck of a lot more hours to record and edit. You’ll have sections when you need to take breaths between sentences, shuffle papers, sip some water, re-do a sentence while recording.
Then, if you’re doing the editing yourself, you have to listen to every second of recording and cut each tiny clip that you don’t want in the original file. This is not a one-take project. You’ll likely need several long days to record and several long days to edit, so make sure you plan to be patient.
2. Record your book yourself with someone else’s equipment and outsource editing.
Just because you want to do the narrating doesn’t mean you have to buy all the equipment and do it all yourself. For a bit of a level-up narration experience, I’d recommend looking for a local recording studio. In Houston, we have several recording studios that offer a range of set-ups. You’re likely looking at either recording with a production engineer listening as you narrate or recording solo in the studio. There are pros and cons to each.
Recording with a production engineer listening: In this setup, you would rent the studio for a session (often four hours), you would stand in the sound-proof section, and a production engineer would be watching you through a large window, monitoring audio levels and such.
The benefit, here, is that the engineer will let you know if your volume, cadence, and style remain consistent throughout the recording. They’ll let you know, on the spot, if you need to re-record a section. When you finish recording, you know you have high-quality audio that’s ready for editing.
The con, here, is the cost, of course. You’ll pay several hundred dollars per recording session, and you may need more than one session. Plus, you’ll leave with an audio file that still needs to be edited.
Recording solo in the studio: In this setup, you would rent a single room for a session (again, for a set number of hours), and you have just a microphone and audio recorder in a soundproof room. The benefit is that this set up is usually much cheaper (more like $50 per hour), but you don’t have another person double-checking your audio levels, so you may find out later that you have to re-record a section.
Once you have the actual recording in hand, you can either edit yourself (using ScreenFlow or Camtasia), or you can outsource the editing. If you go to upwork.com, you can post a job for a freelancer to edit your audio file, and you can find skilled professionals with all their own software to edit the audio file for you. The benefit is that you narrate the book, with the help of a studio, but you don’t have to spend hours upon hours editing the audio file. Win-win!
3. Outsource everything.
Honestly, this is the route I’ve used. If you published a book a while ago and are facing major resistance in creating the audiobook, this is the route I would recommend.
Go to upwork.com, and post a job for a voice over artist to narrate your book. Specify what type of voice you’re looking for (male, female, age, accent). Ask applicants to submit an audio sample, and pick the voice that’s closest to what you’re looking for, within the budget you’ve set. Don’t be too cheap on the narrator, though—the voice quality is extremely important for an audiobook!
The voice-over artist will deliver the finished audio file to you, and all you have to do is upload it. Tada!
What do I do with the audio file, once I have it?
I recommend uploading to acx.com because they distribute easily to Amazon.com, and they’re easy to use. There are other distributors beginning to emerge, but ACX is a trusted, reliable distributor, so that’s what I recommend to our clients.