So you’ve published your book. First, let me say congratulations—many would-be authors never even make it this far. You’ve accomplished something magnificent, and you should feel proud of what you’ve created!
But now isn’t the time to rest on your accomplishments.
While you might be tempted to let your book sit on bookstore shelves or in Amazon’s digital marketplace, there’s so much more you can do with a published book after it’s been published.
Additional promotions like giveaways will expand your audience. Interacting with your fans and customers on social media will raise your author profile. And that’s not even considering the possibility of translating your book into other media forms.
Depending on their contract with their publisher, some lucky authors get the opportunity to license the film or television rights to their work, or have their books translated into other languages. Either prospect has the potential to be extraordinarily lucrative, but they both require cooperation from outside parties—and complicated contracts to haggle over.
Seem like more trouble than it’s worth?
Well, I’m here today to tell you about one opportunity you won’t need additional help for—something you can create in the comfort of your own home and use to reach an enormous, untapped audience for your book.
I’m talking about recording your audiobook.
What’s So Great About Audiobooks, Anyhow?
Think back to the days of “books on tape”—cassette tapes, that is.
If you’re 30 or older, these crackly recordings probably have a powerful nostalgic hold on you: your favorite stories, read aloud by the author or a soothing-voiced actor, lulled you to sleep in your youth or filled the long, empty hours of family car trips.
And although the cassette format has gone the way of the dinosaur to pave the way for CDs and MP3 sound, the “book on tape” hasn’t vanished.
In fact, it’s making a startling comeback.
The advent of digital music consumption has changed the audio industry forever. The wide range of available file formats means we can consume a message wherever and whenever we want—and we can get only what we want, rather than being locked in to bundled albums, etc.
Last year, the Recording Industry Association of America reported that more than three-quarters of all music-related transactions were digital singles, and this electronic format allows us to take our favorite tunes anywhere we go, without the need for bulky equipment.
But it isn’t just music that folks are downloading in droves.
Let’s look at some more numbers: In 2012, total industry sales of downloadable audiobooks rose by more than 20%, and in the same year, more than 13,000 audiobooks were published, compared with around 4,600 in 2009. And last February, the Audio Publisher’s Association announced that audiobooks had become a billion-dollar industry—an industry that is still growing swiftly.
Why You Should Record an Audiobook
There’s never been a better time to record an audiobook and take advantage of all the medium has to offer—and take your sales goals to the next level.
Here’s why creating your audiobook is the smart choice:
- Nostalgia: As mentioned before, audiobooks tap into childhood memories of being read to or of hearing “books on tape”—which is especially valuable in an era when nostalgia itself is at a premium.
- Time: Your readers are busy. They might not have huge chunks of time to devote to reading a physical copy of your book… but they can Recording an audiobook lets your readers experience your book in those chunks of time they can’t do anything else, like on their morning commute.
- New Markets: Today, there are book-buyers who forgo paper copies altogether, choosing to exclusively listen to the books they buy. Recording an audiobook lets you tap into a voracious market of audio-only readers, one you never could have accessed otherwise.
- Creative Control: The experience of reading is not a one-sided affair. To “create” a story, author and reader cooperate to conjure the images and sounds of a fictional world; and for a nonfiction book, reader participation is required to absorb the ideas and information contained in the pages.
An audiobook gives the author (you!) a little more control over how a book is presented—you or a narrator of your choosing supplies the voices of the characters, and music and sound effects can create whatever mood you desire for the recording.
Audiobooks are on the rise, presenting opportunities you just can’t afford to ignore. Do right by your book—and your readers will perk up their ears.
How to Record Your Audiobook
So you’re committed to transforming your published book into an audiobook, but aren’t sure how to begin. I won’t lie: the process isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelmingly difficult, either.
With this 7-step, all-encompassing guide, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about preparing, recording, editing, mixing, and publishing your first audiobook on ACX.
Ready? Open your book, pull up your microphone—and let’s get started!
1. Make an ACX Account
ACX is an Amazon Audible-affiliated marketplace where authors, literary agents, and publishers can connect with professionals like narrators, sound engineers, and recording studio personnel to cooperate in producing high-quality audiobooks.
In order to upload and sell your audiobook on Audible—and also have it sold on Amazon and iTunes—you’ll need to make an ACX account. Here’s how it’s done.
- Confirm Your Rights: Make sure you have the audio rights to your book by checking your contract with your publisher. If you have audio rights, you are a Rights Holder for the purposes of your dealings with ACX.
- Enter Your Information: Go to ACX.com and click Sign Up in the upper left side of the screen. Enter the email-password combination you use for your Amazon account, then fill in the requested personal information—your full name, address, etc. Make sure you select Author for your user identity to gain access to the unique systems and tools ACX offers its author users.
- Enter Your Bank Information: When you start your account, ACX will ask for your banking and tax information—which is a good thing. This information is how Audible will pay you royalties when your audiobook starts selling.
After you’ve completed your new ACX account, read the Audio Submission Requirements carefully. While the site goes into greater detail, here’s what you should know going in:
- When you upload your audiobook, you’ll need to include opening and closing credits, separate chapter files, and a one- to five-minute sample.
- Leave a brief silence at the beginning and end of each chapter, and read your chapter headings out loud.
- Be consistent in your overall sound quality and formatting
- Each separate audio file you upload must have a running time of no more than 120 minutes.
2. Create Your Audiobook Script
“What’s this?” you wonder. “A script? What do I need a script for…? I thought I would just read from my book.”
You’re right—mostly. While your audiobook script will be quite similar to the retail copy of your book, remember that you’re translating your work into an entirely different medium. Changes will have to be made to accommodate this transformation, and creating a rockstar-quality audiobook script is the first step.
Think of your audiobook script as the audio version of your ebook or print book—the one you’ll read from when you finally create your awesome audiobook.
Before You Write Your Audiobook Script
To make sure you’re absolutely ready for audiobook publishing, the first thing you need to do is complete one final read-through and edit of your manuscript.
Yes, your book has been published and should supposedly be error-free, but even famous authors sometimes publish books with small-but-embarrassing mistakes hidden among the pages. Editing after the edit can save your story—especially in audio formats, which make going back to change things after publication forbiddingly difficult.
- Has my book been professionally edited and proofread?
- Have I edited my book myself at least twice before beginning my audiobook script?
- Have I done everything I possibly can to make this book the best product it can be?
If your answer to these three questions is a hearty and confident YES, then you’re ready to begin writing your script.
How to Write Your Audiobook Script
Step 1: Start with Your eBook File
At TCK Publishing, we typically start writing our audiobook scripts by converting our ebook files, as they’re far easier to edit than most print book files.
To start your audiobook script, save a duplicate copy of your ebook file and name it “audiobook script” so you can find it more easily later.
Step 2: Update the References in Your Book
If your book is nonfiction, you’ve probably got diagrams, charts, or other visual aids sprinkled throughout your text, along with indicators like: “Refer to the image on the next page.”
This works just fine for a visual medium, but falls flat on a recording. In your audiobook script, change likes like these to something like: “Refer to the image in the Audiobook Companion document that comes free with the purchase of this audiobook.”
An audiobook companion is a PDF document included in the purchase of most nonfiction audiobooks that contains all visual elements from the print version of the book. You can and should upload an audiobook companion with your finished audiobook to make sure your readers don’t miss out on the additional information your charts, graphs, and diagrams add to your manuscript.
All audiobook companion documents should include:
- A Title Page: This should mirror your print book’s title page, including your book’s title, copyright information, and some messaging to indicate that this an audiobook companion and not your ebook proper.
- Information by Chapter: List each chapter of your book along with any relevant links, images, graphs, charts, footnotes, and additional materials the reader might wish to refer to.
- End Matter: Include your author bio, contact information, and any additional resources you want your readers to have access to.
- A Call to Action: Leave a quick call to action on the very last page of the PDF, asking your readers/listeners to leave an honest review of the project on Audible or Amazon.
For more on creating your companion document, check out this helpful guide:
Step Three: Prepare Your Narrator
Whether you’re narrating your book yourself or hiring a professional, make sure to take note of any words in your audiobook script that might be hard to pronounce. These can include technical jargon, foreign or fantasy words, acronyms, and even your own name.
Create a list of these troublesome words and send them to your narrator ahead of time—or practice them yourself to make sure you can pronounce all of them correctly.
If you have a large list of words like these, simply record a video or audio file of you pronouncing the words correctly, and send that recording to your narrator.
3. Get Your Studio Ready
If you plan on recording your audiobook from the comfort of your own home, you’ll need two key things:
1. A Dedicated Studio Space
Choose a quiet space in your home, preferably one that’s small and has a minimum of ambient noise. Use foam pads, blankets, or whatever you have around to cover your walls—bare walls echo sound, but soft coverings will muffle reverberations and create a more intimate sound for your audiobook.
2. Correct Equipment
Lack of proper recording equipment is easily the top reason more authors don’t create their own audiobooks—but the truth is, you probably have most of what you need already.
- A Computer or iPad: Digital recording requires some kind of computer, after all.
- Recording Software: If your computer is a Mac product, it’ll come with a handy tool for making high-quality audio recordings called GarageBand preinstalled. For PC users, we recommend Audacity—it’s freeware, and easy to use for beginners.
- A Microphone: This is the real kicker. Unless you’ve done this before or also record music in your home, you’ll need to buy or borrow a microphone to make your audiobook recording. I personally use the Blue Yeti USB microphone, but there are hundreds of great plug-in microphones available for purchase.
You can, of course, use the internal microphone in your PC or iPad, but this will result in a crackly, tinny sound which may sound unprofessional to your listeners.
- Headphones: If you want to monitor the sound of your recording as you record, you’ll need a pair of headphones. Basic headphones or earbuds will do fine: they plug right into most microphones, and you’ve probably already got a pair lying around the house.
- Optional: To get the best quality sound and to minimize the funny noises that we all make when we speak, without even knowing it, you may want to invest a few dollars in a pop filter, a small device that looks kind of like a magnifying glass with pantyhose stretched over it. This goes in front of your microphone and muffles the explosive sounds that can come with Ps and certain other sounds, making your recording sound smoother and more professional. You can pick one up for just a few dollars on Amazon.
4. Preparing for Narration
You’re almost ready to begin recording your audiobook, but one question remains—will you narrate your book yourself, or hire a professional?
If you choose to fly solo when making your audiobook recording, proper preparation for your starring role is the key to success. Now that your studio space is prepared, here’s what you’ll need to do to get yourself ready to record:
Drink a glass of water before you begin a recording session, and keep additional fluids on hand to sip in between takes. A dry mouth makes your voice pop and crack and can ruin otherwise good takes. Also, don’t drink alcohol: even if your words don’t slur, alcohol thickens and slows your voice, which a high-quality microphone will pick up immediately.
Some audio professionals swear by mint tea, hot or cold depending on the season and their preference; tea with licorice root in it can also help to soothe the vocal cords for long recording sessions.
Whatever you do, do not drink coffee before a session—its astringent qualities change how you shape your words and can alter the tone of your voice enough to be noticeable in the recording.
Don’t go into a recording session cold. Do vocal warmups to loosen up those golden vocal cords, and prepare for each chapter recording by reading passages of it aloud outside your sound booth.
Practice any difficult-to-pronounce words or any phonetically tricky passages so you don’t stumble as you read.
Get Your “Voices” Straight
Audiobooks take away the visual aspect of their print counterparts, but the added dimension of sound gives you a few more options to play with when recording. Simply put: it’s not just what you say anymore, but how you say it. The tone of voice in which you record will color how your words are perceived by your listeners: when you practice reading aloud, experiment with different volumes, tones, and levels of expressiveness, and use one combination consistently when you record.
Additionally, if you’re recording a novel, consider slightly altering your voice to distinguish between each of your fictional characters. Don’t go over-the-top or cartoonish with this change, but even somebody with no vocal training can “create” characters in the minds of listeners with only subtle changes to their voice.
ACX isn’t just a platform for authors to upload their own work. It’s also a dedicated framework to connect writers with talented professional narrators.
If you decide to hire a pro to narrate your book, listen to narration samples to choose the voice that’s right for your project, or hold auditions using a small passage from your book. Make a selection, contact your lucky new collaborator, sign a contract—and get producing!
But even with a pro on your side, you’ll still need to do a few things to prepare him or her for the work ahead.
Introduce your narrator to your project: describe the tone and feel you want your recording to invoke. Talk about character voices: How should the people that populate your fictional world sound? How expressive should they be? How distinct?
And, like we mentioned before, provide your narrator with a list of difficult words from your manuscript to ensure that they can pronounce them correctly in your audiobook.
Remember: even the professionals can’t read your mind. If you want some specific detail to be included in your audio project, speak up!
And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for—actually recording your audiobook.
You’ve got your audiobook script written, your equipment set up, your studio space prepared… now all that remains is to fire up Audacity or GarageBand, create a new voice track, and hit RECORD.
While there are many worthwhile tutorials out there for how to use either of these recording tools, here are a few hot tips that apply no matter how you’re going about things:
- Make sure your “Master Volume” (indicated by a flashing colored bar) never crests above the “yellow” range during loud moments in your recording, and stays in the “green” zone during normal recording. Any higher than that, and your voice will “peak” the software, distorting the audio quality and ruining the take.
- Under “Controls,” make sure your “noise gate” is checked as On and set to approximately -65dB. You can play around with this setting to suit your tastes, but this level of gating should ensure that when you’re not talking, your microphone won’t pick up any ambient noise from the room.
- Keep your mouth between six and eight inches from the microphone. If part of your narration requires you to whisper, bring your mouth closer, but never so close that your lips touch metal. And if you have to shout or “speak out,” pull way back—and turn your head to the side to keep the audio from peaking.
These techniques will capture the vocal “color” of whispers without actually making your recording much quieter or louder.
- Make sure to speak slowly clearly and enunciate each word. Speaking this slowly might sound unnatural at first, but readers will appreciate being able to clearly understand every word you say. I recommend making several sample recordings at different speeds, and seeing which one sounds best to you.
- Try to speak accurately and make as few mistakes as you can—but it’s foolish to expect that you’re going to narrate your entire book on your first try.
If you make a mistake—say, you mispronounce a word—lean into the mic and say a quick “BOOP!” and continue from the last sentence. This “BOOP!” shows up as a clear spike in the waveform—the visual indicator of your recording’s sound levels—and should be easy to find when you edit your audiobook later.
For larger mistakes, hit STOP, delete that range, and start again.
Pro Tip: Never leave a mistake unmarked or uncorrected. Unless you listen diligently to every single second of your recording, chances are, you’ll never find all your mistakes—and they’ll end up in your published audiobook! Gasp!
- Do your best to minimize loud breath sounds, lip smacks, tongue clicks, vocal “pops,” and other extraneous noises. To assist with this, buy a cheap pop filter to minimize saliva-created mouth-noises, particularly hard P-sounds.
- Remember to keep your tone, voices, and character accents consistent without making yourself sound too wacky or out-there.
- Take breaks! Don’t try to whizz through your audiobook in one go. Your voice will get tired and you’ll lose focus—and the quality of your project will suffer.
- Create a separate recording for your opening credits. Announce all pertinent information about the recording: the name of the book, the author, the publisher, and the name of the narrator. If you’re doing your own narration, you can simply say, “Narrated by the author.”
- Once you’ve recorded your opening credits, create a new track for each chapter you record. State the name of chapter at the beginning of each track—or if your chapters have no name, just say, “Chapter One,” or “Part One.”
- After you’ve recorded every chapter of your audiobook, conclude with a brief thanks to your listening audience.
Once these steps are complete, congratulations—you’ve got the raw recording of a real-live audiobook on your hands!
6. Mixing and Editing
You’re not finished yet—but you’re close.
Much like writing your book, producing your audiobook involves the critical task of editing.
Take care with this stage: it’s tempting to rush through mixing your audiobook, much in the same way you might be tempted to breeze through the final proofreads of your print manuscript, but this is your chance to take your project from a raw recording to a polished and professional product. The more time you spend here, the slicker your production quality will be—and the higher your reviewers will rate the finished product.
Additionally: take extra care when deleting passages of your audiobook. I know from experience how easy it is to delete the wrong passage, or to edit out too much—a few misclicks, and whole sections of your precious audio file might be gone forever.
Here’s what to look for when editing and mixing your audiobook:
Remember those vocal “BOOPS” you added to mark where you made a mistake? It’s time to seek and destroy: scan the waveform of your recording for “BOOPS” and delete passages with mistakes in them.
To delete a passage, follow these simple instructions:
- Click the spot on the recording’s waveform where the passage begins, and begin a “blank air” recording from that point—a recording where you don’t speak into the microphone.
- When you hear the “BOOP,” hit STOP. This will create a separate passage in the waveform that can be clicked individually.
- Select the “BOOP” passage, and hit DELETE on your keyboard. This will remove the passage from the file, leaving a blank space.
- Click-drag the rest of the recording so that it matches up with the recording before the deleted passage began. Make sure that the two sections don’t overlap, or you will lose part of your recording.
Throughout your recording, there will be pops, smacks, and breath sounds that your pop filter failed to block. Use the same technique detailed above and remove these distracting noises from your recording.
Peaks and Valleys
As you listen through the entirety of your audiobook—like you should be doing!—you’ll probably notice that there are certain parts that are louder or softer than you’d prefer. Maybe your voice got tired during a specific passage. Maybe you leaned too close to the mic during another.
But whatever the cause, you’ll want to correct these blemishes. A consistent volume is one of the hallmarks of a high-quality audiobook: your listeners want to relax while they listen to you read, not strain to hear you—or suddenly have to clap their hands to their ears.
You can either re-record these passages, or drag-select them and manually adjust their volume.
Music and Sound Effects
This is my favorite part of the mixing process. Your audiobook doesn’t have to just be a one-man show, after all. Maybe you want to add a quick music stinger for your opening credits. Maybe a climactic scene absolutely requires a sound effect—screeching tires, or maybe a boom of thunder! Or maybe you’d just like some ambient music playing throughout your audiobook as a whole to set a certain mood.
Here’s the good news: there’s tons of royalty-free music beds and SFX in iTunes, and there are plenty of other sites that stock similar sounds if you’re willing to dig for them. We recommend SoundBible for free sound effects and ambient noise—while it’s not the biggest noise catalogue around, it’s absolutely free, as well as easy to use.
However, be careful not to overdo it with the extraneous noise. A little light music or ambient rainfall is one thing, but constant bells and whistles (or honks and screeches) can be distracting.
Your audience is there to hear your book, not a bunch of noise. Keep music soft and additional sounds to a minimum, and you’ll be fine.
Editor’s Note: Or rather, a warning. ACX typically frowns on the use of sound effects in audiobooks and will sometimes even refuse to approve productions that include too musical passages, stingers, or SFX. Consider creating two versions of your audiobook: upload a “pure” edition to ACX, then offer a “deluxe” edition with all your musical choices and sound effects included straight from your author website.
7. Publishing Your Audiobook on ACX
You’ve done it. You’ve successfully recorded, mixed, and edited a world-class audiobook any reader would be proud to listen to.
Now it’s time to reward yourself for all your hard work and actually publish the darn thing. Log onto your ACX account, and we’ll talk you through the rest:
- Claim Your Book: Once you log in on the ACX website, click “Projects” at the top of the screen. You’ll be prompted to claim one or more books published under the name you entered when you made your account.
If you don’t see your book listed, enter book’s title in the box provided. Click “This is My Book” to claim your work and continue the process.
- Choose Your Path: Claiming your book will bring up another dialogue box with three options. Click the middle option, “I already have audio files for this book, and I want to sell it,” to continue.
- Specify Your Terms: Tell ACX in which territories you own the audio rights to your book, what language your book is written in, and what kind of distribution deal you want.
- Sign the Agreement: Click the check-box to agree to ACX’s Audiobook License and Distribution Agreement, then click “Agree & Continue.”
- Describe Your Book: Enter all relevant information about your book. Include a plot summary, author bio, and any reviews, praise, and awards your book has received.
- Upload Your Files: Breathe a sigh of relief—you’re on the home stretch. Now, simply upload your opening credits, audiobook chapters, closing credits, and brief audio sample… and you’re finished!
From there, ACX will review your audio to make sure it matches their technical standards. If it passes, they’ll compile your files into a fully functioning audiobook, ready for sale.
Note: If your audiobook files don’t pass ACX’s technical check, you can hire someone to make sure that the various technical details—room tone, RMS levels, roll-off, gating, etc.—are all correct. There are tons of audio engineers on Fiverr who do a great job with ACX production for affordable prices.
What Comes Next?
So you’ve published your first audiobook. What do you do now?
Do what you did when you first published the print version: start promoting!
An author’s work is never finished. Use all the tools and tricks you used to market, promote, and sell your books for the audio version as well. Take to social media. Host a giveaway. Schmooze for reviews.
ACX helps you out specifically by providing free download codes you can use to give away copies of your book for reviews—make use of these!
Do everything possible to ensure that people know about your audiobook—or you’ll be the only one who ever listens to it.
For more information on promoting your audiobook (or your books in general), start with the articles linked below:
- 10 Book Marketing Tips to Create a Frenzy of Loyal Readers
- How to Set Up Your Goodreads Author Profile
- How to Write an Author Bio: 8 Steps to Catch Readers’ Interest
Jacob Mohr relishes the opportunity to work closely as an editor with the authors of tomorrow, creating new stories and exciting possibilities—and making the world a little more awesome, one book at a time.
When he’s not editing someone else’s writing, Jacob can usually be found reading Stephen King, riding rollercoasters, or crafting his own stories.