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A Step-By-Step Guide To Making An Audio Book

Audiobooks are becoming more and more popular. People who generally can't find time to read are turning on their car and plugging in their phones to listen to platforms like Audible on their way to work. They are listening to the latest bestsellers while working out at the gym, while they rock their infants to sleep at night, while they're stuck at the airport, while standing in line at a coffee shop, on the subway- anywhere they have a moment to spare. So what does this mean for you as a writer?

Creating an audiobook can help elevate your author business. According to a recent study done by Pew Research, 20% of Americans are now reading ebooks. For you as an author, it opens the door to thousands of new readers, which in turn means tons of potential sales for you. In an ever-advancing technological world it seems like new ways to consume novels pops up each day. Out of all the options, choosing an audiobook version can help give you an edge by making your novel more accessible, affordable, and portable.

Common Audiobook Questions:

Won't it be expensive?

How much time does it take?

Like many self-publishing options, there's a range. Statistically speaking audiobooks cost relatively less than other ways to publish, mainly because there are no physical formats or materials that need producing. But when all is said and done there are still costs associated with creating one. It's hard to put an exact price on it because it largely depends on how you go about producing it.

The largest costs come from booking the studio and hiring a narrator. On average, an audiobook runs about 12 hours in length. It costs between $300-400 per finished hour. When you do the math, it adds up fast. The finished product will likely range between $5k-6k when all is said and done, with a higher cost associated with a longer book. This isn't the final cost though, it depends on the studio's rates, your narrator's price, and how much you decide to DIY.

Like all else Indie, setting a budget before you begin planning will help keep your costs in check.

How Do I Go About Making One?

Here are the 7 necessary steps of creating an audiobook.

1. Prep your book for recording

2. Decide who will record it

3. Hire your narrator

4. Record it yourself

5. Collaborate with an audiobook producer

6. Create the audiobook at home

7. Upload to ACX

If you haven't jumped on the opportunities of an audiobook you're missing out! Many Indie authors hesitate to use this format because at first glance it can be a little daunting. Rest-assured it's not as difficult as it may appear.

The easiest way to transition your book into an audiobook is to start by PREPPING YOUR BOOK FOR RECORDING. The simplest way to do this is by taking a preexisting Ebook script and trimming out the excess. Taking an Ebook rather than a full novel is simpler to work with because there is less to cut, but if you don't already have an Ebook, it's not required. You will have to factor in extra time for editing and slimming down your word count, however, so be aware of that before moving forward.

What you should cut:

  • Anything that won't make sense when read aloud

  • Hyperlinks

  • Captions

  • Visuals

  • Calls to action or click here prompts

  • Any choppy or awkward sentences

  • Long-winded descriptions

Point is, you have to keep in mind that the way we (or our chosen narrator) reads aloud will affect your story. Hearing it verses reading it alters the narrative, so it's important to eliminate anything that the narrator may trip over, make unclear, or struggle to pronounce. A smooth, powerful, and interesting delivery is the goal. After you've made your cuts make sure to do a final read-through aloud to make sure you didn't miss anything.

After you do your edits and smooth your script, it's time for the fun to really begin! It's time to move on to recording your audiobook. Before you can begin you must choose who will read your novel. The wonderful thing about DECIDING WHO WILL RECORD IT is that you have full creative control.

Here are your options:

1. Hire someone to record it for you

2. Record it yourself in a studio

3. Work with an audiobook producer

4. DIY at home

Hiring a professional is always a good idea. In the case of audiobooks, it's simply the easiest route. While at first glance you might think hiring a pro would be more expensive with some research and the right place to look you'll find that this isn't the case. It can actually be more cost-effective to hire someone rather than produce all the voice-overs yourself.

The right place to look is freelancer territory. Exploring sites like Upwork and Fiverr will bring up professionals within a wide price range- something for every budget! You can see for yourself below from this example on Fiverr.

Never worked with a freelancer before? No problem! Just keep these handy rules in mind while reaching out.

You'll need a proposal to get started. Before you reach out, you should have a clear outline of what your project is and what your expectations/needs for it are. Taking time to write this down so that you can send it to your chosen freelancer can help negotiate pricing, establish boundaries, and give clarity to desired results. It will also eliminate confusion on both sides.

You'll want to include a sample audio content to share with your narrators as well. This is known as your "retail audio sample". This can be used to share with potential freelancers and can be used to lure your future audience on Amazon into buying your book. This clip can be anything you want it to be so be creative! Examples include reading a full chapter, or a brief summary of plot highlights. The goal is to attract would-be readers and narrators alike. If you capture their attention you'll have inspired them to read more.

The upside to working with a freelancer is that on average they cost less than those who make a living from narrating audiobooks alone. Many will charge in the $500-$600 range for a full Ebook to audiobook conversion, which is good news for those on a budget.

If you have a little extra in your budget and would prefer to hire a professional with more experience, then a general Google search will reveal life-long pro's with the experience level you're looking for.

Option #2 requires a lot more work on your part, and can wind up being more expensive in the long run due to the amount of effort, time, and money it takes to record in a professional studio setting. Another thing to consider is that you'll need to set aside a large amount of time to actually record your book, regardless of whether you're familiar with recording or not.

If this is a challenge you're ready to take on or if you love the idea of complete creative control down to the last detail, then this may be the most exciting option for you!

Creating a schedule can help you manage the tasks ahead. A sample schedule may look like: 1) Booking your recording studio three weeks in advance, 2) Booking up to sixteen hours of studio time per day, 3) Planning for editing time post recording, about two or more weeks.

The timeline for your project won't necessarily be the same as the example. It will depend on the length of your book, your familiarity with recording and audio editing, and how much ground you can cover vocally in a session. When push comes to shove, give yourself more time than less and make sure to book far in advance. Studio slots fill up quickly and there's usually not a lot of wiggle room. Organization and preparation will help this process go smoothly.

Option #3 is an accompaniment to option #2 for those who want to record their own audio but aren't sure how to ensure the quality they need to make it work. An audiobook producer brings the knowledge to stabilize the project, can provide input and answer questions, and help sort out technical difficulties. It's an excellent option for first-time audiobook recorders.

Finding a professional is as simple as going back to Fiverr and Upwork. You can hire a freelancer for this as well, with prices ranging according to experience level. Keep in mind that it will also be billed by the hour. Below is a sample of what you'll find on Upwork.

When you choose your freelancer, the same rules apply. You'll want to have your proposal ready and to also ask them some interview questions about past projects and working style. It's important to find someone who will mix well with your own work ethic and personality since you'll be working closely in a small space for several weeks while you record your project.

Hiring an audiobook producer can bring stability and security to your project and can lend guidance for those who need technical help.

Many writers grow very attached to their stories. If you're currently producing a non-fiction or a memoir then you may feel as though your story needs to come directly from you, rather than someone else. If you have experience and recording equipment because you also run a podcast, radio show, or are a Youtuber, this option will probably make more sense than outsourcing. If you have the confidence and voice for an audiobook, then record away! At the end of the day you know what is best for your story and how you want it to be told.

Recording it from home presents it's own challenges and upsides. In order to be successful you'll need a space with good acoustics, high-quality recording equipment such as a microphone and audio editing software, and of course, time when your home is both noise and distraction free.

To get you started, here are a few things you'll need:

  • A high-quality USB mic such as The Blue Snowball condenser mic or the Samson Meteor Mic USB Studio Microphone.

  • A pop filter like The Earamble Studio Microphone Pop Filter.

  • An open source cross-platform audio software such as Audacity.

You don't have to have the world's best equipment to get the job done and there is certainly a range for everyone's budget out there. Do your research before buying and you'll wind up with a suitable at-home studio.

Certainly the biggest upside to recording at home is that it's cheaper. Not having to pay for a studio, for a voice-over narrator, and only covering equipment costs means that your overall production costs can be kept relatively reasonable. It's a wonderful option for those with smaller budgets or for those who feel more comfortable doing work within their own home.

The Final Step.

You've chosen your recording style and have paid your dues sweating it out in the studio or talking for hours at home. You've finished recording and editing your audiobook- what next?

It's time to upload it to UPLOAD YOUR AUDIOBOOK TO ACX. ACX stands for the Audiobook Creation Exchange. It's an all-inclusive platform where you can publish your audiobook and make it available on Amazon, Audible, and the Apple audiobook store all at the same time. The main benefit to using ACX is that you still retain all the audio rights, while the platform handles all distribution tasks. Uploading requires a lot of steps, but the process is straightforward and user-friendly.

Here's a brief walk-through:

  1. Go to the ACX website.

  2. Log in to your account at

  3. Click “Add Your Title.” [Note: You must have a Kindle ebook published]

  4. Search and find your book then click on “This is My Book” prompt.

  5. Click on the “I have this book in audio and I want to sell it” prompt.

  6. Choose your territory and distribution.

  7. (Note: We recommend the “World” rights options with 40% royalties for the best results.)

  8. Choose the language(s) you’d like to sell the book in.

  9. Agree to the “Audiobook License and Distribution Agreement” terms

  10. Complete the “About My Book” section.

  11. (Note: You can duplicate the content from your Amazon page or create original content.)

  12. Complete the proper copyright information.

  13. Complete the info about the narrator, audiobook publisher, and any reviews.

  14. Click the “add audio file” prompt.

  15. Go to browse for the first section of your audiobook to ensure it was added.

  16. Continue this process until your entire book is uploaded.

  17. Don’t forget to change the chapters and section titles as you go.

  18. Finally, upload your book cover.

  19. Double-check that your info matches that of your printed book.

  20. Make sure your author name and book cover are the same as your printed book. This is important because ACX will not let you upload if there are mistakes.

There you have it! A step-by-step guide to creating your first audiobook. Good luck!

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