This article was written by “Sir” Isaac Smith, a remote audio producer. He specializes in helping authors, speakers, and coaches generate exposure for their written work and tapping into new audiences. He works with his wife from their home in Hawkins, TX, where they help authors convert written work into audiobooks or even a podcast. Currently, he works as a narrator and hosts the BusinessRPG podcast.
Audiobooks are a way to get your content in front of nonreaders. You can make your book available to people who have to travel, are disabled, or simply don’t have the time to sit down and read. But making it happen is a whole separate process in and of itself.
The world of media is shifting. Just as it is more and more common to find self-published authors, it is more and more common to find self-made voice actors, narrators, podcasters, and voice-over artists doing the work that originally took a studio and production team, all from the comfort of their homes. You may have seen the movie, Raya and the Last Dragon? Fun fact: The actors recorded the lines for that movie from home in closets and tents. You no longer have to lease a studio to record something, you just need a system to make it happen.
How do I publish an audiobook?
To publish an audiobook, you will need three things: the right guidelines, the right skills, and the right setup.
There are specific sound requirements you have to meet to publish an audiobook. The platform with the most strenuous requirements is ACX.com, the gatekeeper for Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. If you get approved by them, you will be approved by any other platform, without having to make any major adjustments to your audiobook. They have a very comprehensive guide of expectations for an audiobook submission.
While a solid guide is important, it won’t be worth much if you can’t understand it. You’ll see terms about sound, levels, and other things you may not understand if you have no previous audio experience. But don’t panic. Once you find good recording software, there are plenty of tutorials out there to teach you how to adjust your audio files so that you can meet ACX standards. Just spend some time exploring the terms and educating yourself on what you don’t know.
The skills a DIY audiobook publisher needs include knowing how to be an engaging reader, an elementary understanding of audio editing, organizational skills, and an ear for audio quality.
Do a skills inventory real quick and decide how many of these things you are confident in your ability to do now and how many you are confident in your ability to learn. You will be voicing, editing, and proofing hours of work. There will be mistakes. There will be parts that need to be redone. There will be times when your files sound different, and you need to figure out how to make them sound the same. You will need to create a process for keeping track of mistakes and edits.
This is where it may help to bring in an expert who can listen to you, edit for you, or even read and publish your book using a process that they have already made. ACX.com tries to connect authors with voice-over artists on their platform all the time. There are different rates depending on the needs of your book but remember—you get what you pay for.
It also might be worth looking for an audiobook producer who can quarterback the process. One of the unique things about the system I use with my clients is a way to listen along and catch mistakes you make while you record yourself reading the book. After that, we use our skills to edit the audio and even submit it to ACX for you. It cuts down on the amount of rerecording that needs to be done and saves the reader a lot of time and headache.
The key to top audio quality is making sure your recording setup is the best it can be. Having said that, you don’t have to use a professional studio to get professional sound or to meet ACX standards. The basic setup requires a laptop, recording software, a microphone, headphones, a boom stand, a pop filter, and a quiet place to record with excellent sound quality.
Recording Software: I recommend using Audacity if you need free software that will record quality audio. There is also Adobe Audition, which is paid software but comes with a lot of shortcuts and tools for getting your audio ready for publishing with ACX.
Microphone: The AT2005USB is a very simple microphone that has great quality. The best option for recording an audiobook is a high-end cardioid dynamic mic that uses XLR to connect. Mics can be expensive, and connecting them to a computer requires more hardware. The AT2005 is a safe alternative option that will still get you the audio quality you need for an audiobook recording. It also can connect using a USB port and is ready to go as soon as you plug it in and turn it on.
Headphones: You don’t need an expensive headset to listen to your audio. However, you do need a set that will cover your ears so you can listen to just the audio. Panasonic has a set that I’ve used several times—great quality for small budgets.
Boom stand and pop filter: If we were talking about podcasting, I’d say this was optional, but if you are recording an audiobook, these are essential. A boom stand is used to keep the mic close to your face and absorbs vibrations that would be heard otherwise every time you touched the table or shifted your weight from side to side. Pop filters are important, too, because they absorb the plosive sounds that everyone makes when talking. Unless you want to spend hours re-recording and doing extra editing, you will need these pieces of equipment.
Space to record: Finally, and most importantly, you need a quiet place to record with good sound quality. My go-to solution is a walk-in closet with a rack of clothing in front of me. This is an excellent way to dampen echo and maintain peak audio quality. You don’t want your space adjacent to loud areas in your house where noise is still heard through the wall (ie, a shower running, AC vents, ice makers, etc.). Mike D has a great video on YouTube of how to use a closet for a sound booth.
If you are willing to put in the time to record, edit and learn, you will be able to publish your audiobook from start to finish. But not everyone’s time is worth going the DIY route. I’ve developed a system that allows me to guide authors through the production process, which saves them time in recording and leaves them with a published audiobook. If it is worth your time to connect and learn how I help authors with audiobooks, feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn.
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