WHAT IS AN AUDIO BOOK?
An audiobook is a recording of a book or other work being read out loud. A reading of the complete text is described as “unabridged”, while readings of a shorter version are an abridgement. Spoken audio has been available in schools and public libraries and to a lesser extent in music shops since the 1930s.
An audiobook allows a person to listen to a recording of the text of the book, rather than read the text of the book.
While these have dramatically risen in popularity over the last few years alone, they’re not exactly new. Audiobooks, or “talking books,” as they were often referred to in the past, emerged during the 1930s. Unlike the digital versions we enjoy today, however, they often came in the physical form of a cassette tape or vinyl record and were mostly used for educational purposes at schools or libraries.
These days, audiobooks are simply downloaded as digital audio files in formats such as MP3, WMA (Windows Media Audio), or AAC (Advanced Audio Coding). These can then be listened to from any electronic device that supports streaming audio, such as a phone, computer, or tablet.
Some of the most common websites and apps people use to find and purchase audiobooks include:
- Apple Books
- Nook Audiobooks
- Google Play Books
Elements of a good audiobook
Although audiobooks are increasing in popularity, that doesn’t mean any recording of a written text will be successful. Here’s what makes an audiobook a good one.
A good audiobook has 5 main elements:
- Authentic gender voicing: This refers to the narrator being able to narrate both male and female voices in the story authentically, regardless of their own gender.
- Voice variation: Sometimes, a narrator might not change their voice significantly when narrating a character’s speech. This is acceptable, providing the narrator still has enough variation in their voice to allow the listener to distinguish between characters during dialogue.
- Authentic accents: If a story has characters with various accents in it, then it’s vital that the narrator accurately and authentically portrays these. After all, nothing can ruin a listener’s experience more than a poorly done accent, especially if the accent gives in to stereotypes.
- Seamless editing: Good audiobooks sound like the narrator recorded the entire story in one go, without any breaks, and without variation in pitch or volume. You don’t want there to be any irregularly long gaps between words, sentences, or chapters. Additionally, even the slightest amount of background noise can interrupt a listener’s experience.
- Narrator enjoyment: If a narrator doesn’t seem hooked on every detail of the story, then you cannot expect the reader to be either. Narrator enjoyment is evident in the way they commit fully to telling the story in the most passionate and heartfelt way. Their voice should echo the current mood of each scene, whether it’s romance, sorrow, or excitement, rather than having a monotonous, bored tone.
Audiobook formats and what they mean
The most common audiobook formats belong in two main categories: lossless compressed audio formats and lossy compressed audio formats.
Lossless compressed audio formats are a method that reduces file size without any loss in quality between the original source file and the resulting file. The downside to this is that despite maintaining the original quality, the resulting file size can still remain quite large.
Lossy compressed audio formats, on the other hand, can greatly reduce the original file size, however, in doing this, you must sacrifice some of the original quality. Thankfully, in most cases, you won’t be able to tell the difference.
This makes lossy compressed audio formats a great way of sharing files that would otherwise take way too long to transfer, meaning that this method is the most popular out of the two.
Now, let’s take a look at the different audiobook formats belonging to each category, as well as what they mean.
Lossy compressed audio formats
- MP3: Has the ability to compress the size of an audio file while still maintaining near-perfect sound quality. This file type is popular as it remains compatible with nearly every device capable of reading audio files.
- AA and AAX: This is the format used for Audible audiobooks.
- M4A and M4B: Closely related to the MP3. Similarly, these files have the ability to greatly compress the size of an audio file, yet their quality is exceptional over other more common file types.
- AAC: Stands for Advanced Audio Coding. It is capable of very high-quality sound and is enhanced using advanced coding. These types of files can be opened through iTunes or similar third-party software.
- WMA: Stands for Windows Media Audio file. This is the Windows-based alternative to the more common and popular MP3 file type, however, it is inaccessible to those who don’t use a Windows operating system.
Lossless compressed audio formats
- FLAC: Stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec. Despite its file compression abilities, FLAC audio formats are not often used, as they require special downloads to function.
- ALAC: Stands for Apple Lossless Audio Codec. This file type was developed by Apple for lossless data compression of digital music.
When choosing which format to create your audiobook in, this will largely be determined by what file type your preferred audiobook platform requires, as well as the recording equipment and software you have at your disposal.
When publishing across different audiobook platforms, you may even need to produce your audiobook in multiple file types.
Three useful tips on getting started with audiobooks
- Determine what types of audiobooks perform best: Do some research to see which audiobooks are the best-sellers on each major audiobook platform, regardless of their category. Are there any patterns between these audiobooks? For example, do they have a similar theme, length, style of writing, or tone of narrator?
- Listen to popular audiobooks within your niche: This will allow you to familiarize yourself with the best performing audiobooks in the category your own audiobook will belong to. These will be your direct competitors. Note down what they do well, or not so well, to give you greater clarity with your own audiobook.
- Research which platform(s) will work best for you: We provided a huge list of paid and free audiobook platforms you can use earlier in this guide. Do some additional research on each one to determine if it is right for you. Each platform has varying pay structures, rules, and requirements, so note these down to see if it gets your individual tick of approval or not.
How to Make an Audiobook Step-by-Step
Audiobooks are on the rise, and if you’re an author who’s not pursuing this book format, you’re missing out on an entire audience who could be enjoying your story.
Here are our top steps for creating an audiobook.
#1 – Prep Your eBook Content for Audiobook Recording
If you’re starting from the beginning, you may have no idea how to convert your manuscript from writing to audio. Your first step will be to prep your eBook content for audiobook recording.
This creates a script you can read as you record the audio version of your book. You don’t want to get tripped up while you (or someone else) is reading through the manuscript, so you need to remove everything that won’t make sense in the audio version.https://www.youtube.com/embed/FhNuIUWLTkU?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1&origin=https://self-publishingschool.com
These are the pieces you should go through and look for to cut out:
- Delete hyperlinks
- Delete captions
- Delete visuals
- Remove any calls to actions or click here prompts
Once you’ve created your new script, read through it one last time to make sure it all makes sense in audio form.
#2 – Decide who will record your audiobook
The next step in the creation of your audiobook is actually recording the book. But before you can do that, you have to decide who will record the book.
Here are your choices when deciding who will record your audiobook:
- Hire someone to record it for you
- Record the book yourself in a studio
- Work with an audiobook producer
- Do it yourself at home
- Hire an ACX narrator
You now get to pick which option to take.
If you’re writing nonfiction, particularly a story about your life you may want to record the book yourself. However, if you aren’t confident in producing the best quality audiobook, you can still hire a narrator.
For those of you writing a fiction novel you’ll likely want to hire an audiobook narrator, as these stories often need a narrator with an acting skillset.
#3 – Hiring an audiobook narrator
Most authors find that hiring a professional to record their audiobook is the most expeditious and least painful route. You may be concerned about the cost of hiring a pro for voice work, but you may be surprised to learn that the cost of this service can be quite reasonable.
In fact, converting your self-published book into an audiobook using a pro can cost less than half the price of doing the work yourself.
Many freelancers will quote a price of under $500 for a full eBook to audio conversion; so don’t let the perceived high cost deter you.
If you’ve never worked with a freelancer before, you might not be familiar with the steps necessary to find the right talent. First, you’ll need a proposal.
The purpose of your proposal is to help delineate the work that’s needed. You’ll want to make sure to include the scope of the work and terms of your offer in your proposal. Your second step is to create sample audio content to share with potential freelance narrators. This is your “retail audio sample.”
The purpose of your retail audio sample is two-fold:
- It can be shared with potential narrators during the freelance-hiring phase, and
- It can later be shared with your future audience on Amazon to pique their interest in your book.
Have some fun creating your retail audio clip—it can be anything you want it to be! You may opt to read a full chapter, or simply condense a summary of plot highlights.
The ultimate goal of your retail audio sample is to intrigue both potential narrators and your potential audience. If you can capture their collective attention and pique their interest in your book, they’ll want to hear more.
You can also do a simple Google search to find those who have a career in narrating audiobooks.
#4 – Record the audiobook yourself
Your second option for creating an audiobook is self-recording in a studio. Realize that self-recording may be more costly in terms of effort, time, and money, especially from the paid time to use a pro recording studio.
We recommend that you block out a siignificant amount of time to complete your self-recorded audiobook.
Here’s a good timeline for self-recorded audiobook production:
- Book your recording studio three weeks ahead of time.
- Record your book in-studio. Plan for up to sixteen hours of recording studio time.
- Plan for at least two weeks of post-recording editing.
Of course, these times are just guides; the time-frame may change once you start your project. Obviously, a longer book will take longer to record and edit.
Plan accordingly, and give yourself plenty of time to polish, edit, and finalize a professional product.
#5 – Work with an audiobook producer
The third path to creating an audiobook is to hire a professional producer. If you have never recorded an audiobook before, working with a producer would help you through the technical difficulties.
A producer for your audiobook can ensure the quality of the audio tracks as well as mastering the file for the final production load.
You can find audiobook producers [audiobook engineers] on freelancing sites such as Fiverr or, again, Upwork.
Simply log in to Fiverr or Upwork and type “audiobooks” in the search bar, as seen in the example below.
#6 – Create an audiobook at home
Many authors feel very close their work and would rather the content be told in their own voice. This is particularly true if the book is focused on personal stories or a family memoir.
There are many books that do sound better when told from the voice of the author.
Do you have the confidence and the voice to create your own audiobook at home? If yes, then here is what you need to know to get started in doing that.
Equipment for Making an Audiobook:
If you are a podcaster or music recording talent, you may already have access to the necessary equipment for recording your audiobook.
Here’s what you need to make an audiobook:
- A good USB mic. The Blue Snowball condenser mic or the Samson Meteor Mic USB Studio Microphone are recommended.
- A pop filter. The Earamble Studio Microphone Pop Filter is recommended.
- Audacity. Audacity is a free, open source cross-platform audio software for multi-track recording and editing. You can download Audacity here.
You could go fancier and get higher-end equipment, but these tools should be more than enough to get the job done.
Location and Space for Making an Audiobook:
You want to find an isolated, padded room or recording box. “Room Tone, or “Noise Floor” can bring in all sorts of sounds from around the environment.
Recording in your room is an option but make sure your space is set up for recording and that it is “silent.” If this is difficult, hiring a producer, in this case, would be a recommended option.
Audiobook Recording Tips:
Next, you need to make sure you avoid any random noises that might pop up, and any variances in the recording quality.
Here are some tips to help make sure you do that:
- Turn off all fans and machines.
- Read in a small, carpeted area
- Stay a consistent distance away from the microphone.
- Be prepared to make mistakes and record sentences over when necessary.
- Read the chapter through from start to end.
- Keep your voice at a similar level and tone across recording sessions.
- Modulate your breathing and don’t hold your breath.
- Read from a Kindle or device. No page turning sounds.
- Schedule sessions several days apart. Avoid sounding exhausted.
With the Audacity software and your mic, you should be able to get a decent quality recording of your book. But keep in mind that, recording you own audiobook is an exhausting process and it isn’t for everyone.
You have to set yourself up with the proper environment, and set aside the time for recording. If you have never used Audacity or any type of recording equipment before, there is a learning curve that adds weeks to the audiobook production.
For these reasons you may decide to hire someone for the first audiobook, learn what you can, and then try it for your next book.
#7 – Upload your audiobook to audiobook creation exchange
Now that you’ve recorded your book, either by yourself or with the help of a freelancer, you’ll need to upload your book to Audiobook Creation Exchange, also known as ACX.
When you publish on the ACX, your audiobook will be made available on Amazon, Audible, and the Apple audiobook store.
It’s the only place you need to go to make sure your audiobook gets heard by as many people as possible. You retain all of the audio rights, while ACX handles all of the distribution for you, similar to how the Kindle Direct Publishing platform works.
While there are a lot of steps, uploading is a user-friendly and self-explanatory process.
Here’s a step-by-step guide of how to upload your audiobook on ACX:
- Go to the ACX website.
- Log in to your account at amazon.com.
- Click “Add Your Title.” [Note: You must have a Kindle ebook published]
- Search and find your book then click on “This is My Book” prompt.
- Click on the “I have this book in audio and I want to sell it” prompt.
- Choose your territory and distribution.
- (Note: We recommend the “World” rights options with 40% royalties for the best results.)
- Choose the language(s) you’d like to sell the book in.
- Agree to the “Audiobook License and Distribution Agreement” terms
- Complete the “About My Book” section.
- (Note: You can duplicate the content from your Amazon page or create original content.)
- Complete the proper copyright information.
- Complete the info about the narrator, audiobook publisher, and any reviews.
- Click the “add audio file” prompt.
- Go to browse for the first section of your audiobook to ensure it was added.
- Continue this process until your entire book is uploaded.
- Don’t forget to change the chapters and section titles as you go.
- Finally, upload your book cover
Make sure all info from your printed book matches that of your audiobook. Your author name should be the same and the book cover should be the same as appears on your eBook.
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