There are a few ways you can go about making an audiobook as a self-published or indie author.
Basically, you can either record the audio yourself or hire a professional narrator or narration company.
After the audio has been recorded, it needs to be edited and mastered, and then you’re ready to upload your audiobook files, click publish, and start selling audiobooks.
Let’s cover all your options in more detail and show you how to make an audiobook today.
How to Make an Audiobook
If you want to try out recording your own audiobook, follow these steps.
1. Create an Audiobook Script
Many folks skip this step, but it will save you time and help you create a better audiobook recording if you create an audiobook script before you sit down to record your audiobook.
It’s a quick and easy process and our guide to creating an audiobook script will walk you through each step.
2. Get Professional Audio Editing Software
The first thing you want to do if you plan on producing an audiobook yourself is download Audacity. Audacity is a free software program that allows you to record and edit high-quality audio files on your computer.
Even though Audacity is free, many pros use it because it works great, and it’s easy enough to use that even beginners can learn how to use it in less than an hour.
3. Get Audio Recording Equipment
The next thing you want to do is buy a USB microphone (I recommend the Blue Yeti because it works great, it’s plug and play, and it’s pretty cheap).
You probably want to invest in a pop filter that goes over your microphone and helps you create a smooth recording without audio “pops.” If there are pops in your audio, your files will be rejected by ACX and you won’t be able to publish your audiobook until it’s fixed, which can cost you a lot of time and money.
A cost-saving measure you can implement is to use an athletic sock rather than a pop filter. Put the athletic sock over your microphone and it should produce an acoustically clear audio file.
Total cost for this audio setup: Under $150.
4. Narrate Your Audiobook
The next step is to practice narrating your audiobook before you do the official recording—that is, practice reading your book out loud.
You may also want to study some great narrators and speakers. One good way to learn is to turn on “closed caption” for news programs. Listen to the way broadcasters narrate their news copy to get an idea of the speed and cadence you should use when narrating nonfiction work.
You should also buy some of the top audiobooks on Audible so you can learn from their narrators.
When you narrate your own work, you want to keep the quality of sound as even as possible over the whole project. Obviously, unless you’re reading a really short book, you’re probably not going to be able to finish the project in one session. But the fewer sessions you have per project, the more even the sound will be over the entire thing.
Make sure you’re recording in the same body position and microphone setup each time to ensure your voice stays consistent throughout the project.
You want to narrate in a quiet room with a minimum of background noises to degrade the quality of your audio file.
Pro Tip: If you’re on a budget, many people have found it works well to record in a walk-in closet because the clothes around them eliminate most of the background noise.
5. Master Your Audio Files
After you have a clean audio file recording, you begin the mastering process. The first thing you want to do when you master your audio file is to get an audio profile of the ambient noise in the room.
Using Audacity, you can record the ambient noise in the room and use that recording to remove the ambient noise from your audiobook.
Practically speaking, there are two ways to go about the mastering process:
- Record your audiobook and fix errors as you go.
You can record the audiobook and fix things as you go. This is the fastest way to narrate an audiobook. It minimizes duplicated effort.
- Record the entire audiobook, then go back and fix errors.
If you don’t want to fix audio errors as you go, you can record the entire project, listen to it when it’s done, and fix any errors that show up all at once.
What to Listen for When Editing Your Audiobook Files
When you’re going through your completed audio file to upload to ACX, you want to pay attention to the little details. You want to imagine that you are the customer who just bought this book.
- Make sure the audio is clean and clear.
- Remove any pops, clicks, or hisses that you hear.
- Listen for narrative structure.
- Insert dramatic pauses where it makes sense to do so.
- Consider speeding up the way some things are narrated to flow better.
6. Publish Your Audiobook Files on ACX
Once your audio files have been recorded and mastered, you’re ready to upload your files at ACX.com. ACX is the only place you need to go to publish your audiobook. They distribute to Audible, iTunes, and all the major digital audiobook retailers.
After you upload your audio files, you’ll also need to upload a 2400 x 2400 .jpg audiobook cover design. ACX has regulations regarding the type of audio files you can use and specifications regarding the dimensions and quality of your cover image.
After you upload your audiobook files at ACX.com, it takes about three weeks for a book to be reviewed, approved, and published on Audible and iTunes.
How to Hire Someone to Produce Your Audiobook
Many authors choose to hire a professional narrator to make sure you get a high-quality audiobook and to save you all the time and effort it takes to record your own audiobook.
When you hire someone to produce your audiobook for you, they are typically paid per finished hour of your audiobook.
In general, the price for someone to narrate and produce your audiobook is $100-$500 per finished hour.
That means if your finished audiobook is five hours long, you can expect to pay between $500 and $2,500 for the finished product. That includes narrating, editing, and mastering all of your audiobook files for ACX.
Here’s how to find a great audiobook narrator for your project.
1. Create an ACX Account
Create a free ACX account.
2. Post Your Project on ACX
Click “Add Your Title” at the top right of the page once you’re logged in to ACX.
Next, search for your book on Amazon and select it.
Note: If your book has not yet been published on Amazon, you may need to contact ACX support to post a project at [email protected]
Once you’ve selected your book on ACX, click “This is my book” and then click “I’m looking for someone to narrate and produce my audiobook.”
After that, you’ll be able to post your project along with a sample audio script on ACX’s website for professional narrators to review and bid on your project. Within a few days, you’ll start getting bids from narrators along with their audition samples. You can listen to the auditions and pick the narrator you think sounds best.
After you’ve selected your narrator, you’ll make them an offer and sign the contract directly through ACX’s website. Then the narrator will upload the files to ACX, you’ll review and approve them, and then you’ll pay the narrator once the project has been completed.
After that, ACX will review your audiobook and publish it within 3-4 weeks.
On ACX, you can also find narrators who will produce your audiobook for a straight royalty split. That means that you don’t have to invest any money up front—but for the life of your audiobook, they get half of the royalties from that book.
It can be a good deal if you don’t expect to sell many audiobooks, but if you expect to sell more than 500-1,000 copies, you’ll probably end up making a lot more profit if you just pay a flat fee for the narrator to do their work.
What Is ACX (Audible Creation eXchange)?
Audible Creation eXchange, or ACX, is where you (or your audiobook producer) uploads your audiobook files and distributed your audiobook to the top audiobook retailers like Audible and iTunes.
If you’re producing a series of audiobooks, it’s important to have in your contract with your narrator that you have the ability to seek out a new narrator if the narrator you’re working with is unable to produce future books, or drops out of the industry. (It happens more often than you think.)
When you produce your audiobook through ACX, you will get distribution through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. Audible controls over 90% of the digital audiobook market, so that’s really the main retailer you should care about anyway.
Learn more about ACX and how it works here. There are several different paths you can follow depending upon where you fit in the audiobook production process and what you want to do.
Exclusive vs. Nonexclusive Contracts with ACX
You have two options when it comes to producing audiobooks with ACX.
Exclusive Audiobook Contracts with ACX
If you enter into an exclusive distribution deal with ACX as the audio rightsholder, you’re entitled to a 40% royalty on the price of every book sold through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. If you enter into an exclusive deal with ACX, these are the only places your audiobook will be available, but they are the three biggest players in the audiobook marketplace.
It’s important to remember that if you enter into a royalty sharing agreement with your audiobook’s producer, you will receive a 20% royalty of every audiobook sold on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. Your producer will receive the other 20%.
Non-Exclusive Audiobook Contracts with ACX
If you enter into a non-exclusive distribution agreement with ACX, you will receive 25% of the price of every book sold on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. You will also have the ability to offer your book on other websites, including your own.
It’s important to remember that if you enter into a royalty sharing agreement with the producer of your audiobook, you will only receive 12.5% of every copy sold on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. Your producer will receive the other 12.5%.
After Your Audiobook is Published
After your audiobook is published, you should create an audiobook companion PDF document for listeners.
This document will get sent to anyone who buys your audiobook on Audible and it’ll help them get more out of your book. It’s also a great marketing tool to help convert more of your audiobook listeners into lifelong fans.
Go Publish Your Audiobook
Now it’s time to go publish your audiobook!
Got any more questions about how to get started with making an audiobook? Post your thoughts in the comments below and we’ll do our best to help.
If you liked this post, here are some other articles you might love:
- How to Record an Audiobook
- How to Create an Audiobook PDF Companion Document for ACX, iBooks, and More
- How to Write an Audiobook Script Like a Pro
Tom Corson-Knowles is the founder of TCK Publishing, and the bestselling author of 27 books including Secrets of the Six-Figure author. He is also the host of the Publishing Profits Podcast show where we interview successful authors and publishing industry experts to share their tips for creating a successful writing career.