Adapting your Book for Audio
Before your audiobook can be recorded, you’ll need to rework your book into a marked-up script.
- Review your document one line at a time and make annotations to indicate places for natural pauses, as well as any words to be emphasized.
- If you plan on using alternative voices for different characters, you may want to highlight or color-code all of the quoted speech.
- You may also wish to modify any clunky or particularly long sentences.
Don’t forget to include author, publisher, and copyright information at the beginning and the end of your book.
Using an A-Z Service
You may want to consider contacting an A–Z service that’ll take care of the entire audiobook creation process for you:
- Deyan Audio: www.deyanaudio.com
- Now legendary in the audiobook industry, Deyan Audio was founded in 1990 by Bob and Debra Deyan. The company works with the largest publishers and has handled all aspects of production, including casting and directing for thousands of audiobooks. Deyan Audio has to its credit multiple Grammy, Audie, Earphone, and Listen Up Awards.
- Spoke Media: www.spokemedia.io
- From concept to casting, recording to post-production, Spoke Media is dedicated to creating a superlative listener experience. Taking care of the entire audiobook recording and post-production process, they craft audio productions that transfix the audience and pull them into the story—because great stories deserve the perfect telling.
- Pro Audio Voices: www.proaudiovoices.com
- The audiobook experts at Pro Audio Voices can produce your audiobook start to finish and/or help you narrate your book yourself. From clarifying your audiobook goals to getting out the word, they guide you through the process of getting your book into audiobook format with personal attention and ease—then help you promote your audiobook to increase sales. Serving an international clientele, Pro Audio Voices can help turn your book (in any language) into an audiobook.
- VoicesforBooks.com: www.voicesforbooks.com
- VoicesforBooks.com delivers full-production audiobooks in any language, offering a large selection of female and male narrators in all sounds and styles. Just send your book file, script or manuscript. We'll walk you through all the steps for selecting a creatively-appropriate voice for any budget. You're welcome to participate in auditions and live recording sessions once your audiobook production begins. And once your book is fully recorded, you'll receive a ready-to-publish audiobook on a timeline that fits your needs. Visit www.voicesforbooks.com to learn more and listen to voice samples.
- BeeAudio: www.beeaudio.com
- BeeAudio combines the finest talent, the best technology, and optimized efficiency to deliver the highest quality audiobooks and narrated media at the most competitive prices. With a roster of over 300 narrators as well as specialists in every area of audio production, their expert teams collaborate throughout the production process through to quality control and deliver excellence to every project, every time.
- e-AudioProductions: www.e-audioproductions.com
- e-AudioProductions.com offers a complete audiobook production service and provide authors the opportunity to have their books professionally recorded and produced. We work closely with carefully selected talented voice artists that cover all styles, moods and budgets. Listen to sample and request a free demo recording of your book with the narrator you prefer. We will also guide you step by step through the recording process if you want to record your book yourself. Our priority is to make sure our clients are fully satisfied. All of our audiobooks go through a multi-step production and quality guaranteed process.
- Common Mode Inc: http://www.common-mode.com/
- Take advantage of Common Mode, Inc.’s wealth of experience in the audiobook publishing industry. Drawing from a vast casting pool of lauded professional narrators with built-in fan bases, and the highest quality post-production team, your audiobook will match the quality of those produced by the major publishers. Contact us for a quote and to learn more about how we can work with you in transforming your text into the audio realm.
Hiring a Narrator
Finding the right narrator for your story is critical. While self-narration is definitely an option, there are also benefits to hiring voice talent. Many professionals who have experience with narrating audiobooks have developed a sense of what works (and what doesn’t), allowing them to improve the quality of your recording. Professionals are also able to truly bring your script to life with their artistic abilities, infusing the recording with subtle touches honed through years of work. Furthermore, voice talent will typically be working from fully-equipped recording studios, resulting in a high-quality audio production.
The first thing to note is that voice talent professionals broadly belong to one of two groups: union and non-union.
- Union: The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) represents approximately 160,000 actors, voiceover artists, and other media professionals. The Canadian equivalent organization, ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists), represents over 22,000 performers. The role of these unions is to negotiate, administer, and enforce collective agreements to provide performers with equitable compensation and safe working conditions. Union members can only take on union work.
- Non-union: Non-union voice talent professionals don’t receive some of the benefits of union workers (such as retirement benefits and health insurance), but they have full control over their career and the jobs they accept. Many successful voice talent professionals who qualify for unions opt to stay out as a matter of personal preference.
Whether you’re looking to hire union or non-union talent, there’s no shortage of performers out there; services such as Voices.com, Voice123, and VoiceBunny can help connect you to thousands of voiceover artists from across the world. You can post your job on their marketplace or peruse their talent pools to find the perfect narrator for your audiobook, filtering your search by gender, age, and years of experience (among many other options). The AudioFile Talent & Industry Guide is another great tool that lets you search for narrators by name and specific vocal skills, and also provides sample clips and linked reviews of recent work.
Providing potential narrators with a few paragraphs to a page of text from your manuscript to read from and asking for a sample audio file should provide you with a fairly good idea of how they’ll sound narrating your book. Additionally, most performers will want to review a digital copy of the manuscript for its content before they commit to an audition. In general, it’s best to provide your narrator with as much information as possible upfront to enable them to fully evaluate the project and assess whether it’s a good fit. In order to provide the best performance, your narrator must understand your intent as the author, have a firm grasp of the storyline, and have the skill set required to deliver an effective final product.
You’ll also want to ask your narrator whether they’ll take care of proofing, editing, and mastering the recording. Many narrators will include these services, but you may need to look elsewhere for help with post-production. Mastering involves preparing and transferring recorded audio from the final mix to a data storage device (the ‘master’ from which all copies will be produced), and is something that can be handled by an audio engineer along with editing. Websites like SoundBetter and Fiverr can help connect you to experts in this area, or you can go with a service such as e-AudioProductions.
Once you’ve decided on a narrator, there are a couple of options to consider in terms of payment:
- Pay-for-Production: The author offers the narrator a set fee per finished hour of recorded or produced audio. After this payment, the recording becomes your property (which allows you to use it for however long and whatever purposes you’d like).
- Royalty Share: The author and the narrator split the revenue, with the narrator receiving a predetermined percentage of future sales revenue. The percentage can be variable based on each narrator’s experience and visibility within the industry.
The cost of producing a finished audiobook can vary greatly depending on your book’s length and how much your narrator charges per finished hour of audio. A typical rate of speech is around 9,400 words per hour, so a 90,000-word book might come out to just under 10 hours of finished audio. Narrator fees will vary based on whether they’re union members or not; SAG-AFTRA stipulates a minimum fee per finished hour of $225 USD. The cost per finished hour for an ACTRA performer narrating audiobooks is $256.50 CAD. (This includes the per hour fee of $225.00, plus 12% contribution to performer insurance and retirement equaling $27.00, plus 2% admin fees in the amount of $4.50). Non-union professionals may charge whatever they’d like (typically anywhere from $100 to $250).
Something to keep in mind when budgeting is that each hour of recorded audio usually takes double that amount of time in the studio—so 10 recorded hours may take around 20 hours of studio time for the narrator. Additionally, editing and other post-production often takes even longer depending on the audio engineering skills possessed by the narrator.
If you opt to self-narrate, there are a few key things to keep in mind:
The first step us to set up a studio. Selecting a quiet location is critical, as background noise can ruin a recording. If you’re recording at home and don’t have a soundproof room, you may want to record at night when there are fewer noises. Recording in a carpeted room with all curtains pulled shut reduces the amount of hard reflective surfaces for sounds to bounce off of, allowing for a more direct signal from the microphone. Padding the walls with blankets, cushions, or foam can also help dampen the sound.
You’ll also need a computer or tablet with some recording software. There are plenty of options out there; one example is Audacity, a free, easy-to-use, open source digital audio editor and recorder available for Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux, and other operating systems. Links to download Audacity are available on their website. The developers have also created a comprehensive user manual, which can be accessed at http://manual.audacityteam.org/.
Next is a microphone. The built-in one on your device is an option, but for higher sound quality you may want to invest in a better mic. There are many affordable USB mics available that can plug directly into your computer or tablet—one popular option is the Blue Microphones Snowball (available on Amazon for $69.99).
Headphones are not a requirement, but can be quite helpful when it comes to self-monitoring. You don’t need anything fancy; basic headphones are fine.
Recording & Post-Production
Note: This section on recording and post-production assumes you’ll be using Audacity, but the key takeaways apply to any recording software.
To begin, open up a blank Audacity window and click the red ‘Record’ button. Wait ten seconds before you begin to narrate (simply record the ambient background noise during this time).
When you start reading your script, be sure to take your time and read slowly and distinctly to ensure clarity and ease of understanding. Keep in mind that making mistakes is an inevitable part of the process! If you stumble, cough, or mispronounce something, stop speaking and let the recording continue in silence for at least five seconds before returning to the previous sentence and starting over. These types of errors can be remedied in the post-production phase.
If you want to take a break, you can press the blue ‘Pause’ button. When you’re finished recording a track, press the brown ‘Stop’ button. While you can record your entire book in one track, creating a separate track for each chapter as well as for the opening and closing credits can help facilitate organization and exporting.
Post-Production: This is the step where you’ll take care of noise removal, volume adjustment, and editing.
- Noise Removal: Unless you’ve been able to completely soundproof your studio, there will be ambient noise—which is why it’s helpful to record at least ten blank seconds at the beginning. Using your mouse, highlight those ten seconds. Select Effect>Noise Reduction from the menu, then click ‘Get Noise Profile’. Next, press Ctrl-A to select the entire recording and navigate to Effect>Noise Reduction again. Click ‘OK’ to remove the ambient background noise from your recording.
- Volume Adjustment: Press Ctrl-A to select the entire recording. From the menu, select Effect>Amplify and click ‘OK’.
- Editing: This is where you can remove any mistakes made during the recording process. Press the purple ‘Skip to Start’ button to return to the beginning of your recording. Click the green ‘Play’ button and begin listening carefully. Once you arrive at an error, you can highlight the mistake and the silent period following it and press the ‘Delete’ key on your keyboard to erase this section. You may need to adjust the spacing to ensure the new sentence begins smoothly. Audacity also allows you to undo a command, as well as cut/copy/paste sections of the recording.
Once you’re satisfied with your recording, it’s time to export your MP3 file. Select File>Export, ensuring the file type is set to ‘MP3’ and the bit rate mode is constant at 192 kbps.
For more help using Audacity, you may want to check out their Forum.
Tips and Tricks
- Keep the mic at a distance of approximately 6–8 inches from your face. Come in closer when you need to whisper, and make sure to pull back (and even turn your head away from the mic slightly) when you’re raising your voice to a scream or shout.
- Speak as clearly as possible, and ensure your pace is effective (not too fast and not too slow). You may want to experiment with reading a few different ways, then let someone else listen and provide feedback.
- Remember that making mistakes is inevitable—if you stumble, cough, or mispronounce something, stop speaking and let the recording continue in silence for at least five seconds before returning to the previous sentence and starting over. These types of errors can be remedied in the post-production phase.
- Try to avoid breathing loudly, smacking your lips, clicking your tongue, and any other similar distracting noises. You may want to use a pop filter (available for under $10) to reduce or eliminate these and other 'popping' sounds (known as plosives) caused by fast-moving air on a mic during recorded speech.
- Keep characters, voices, and accents consistent throughout your recording (it’s usually best to avoid making these too over-the-top or cartoony, although it depends on your book’s tone). Additionally, try to keep the energy of the performance consistent.
- While you can record your entire book in one track, creating a separate track for each chapter as well as for the opening and closing credits can help facilitate organization and exporting.
- If you want to include a brief music stinger in your opening credits, there are services that provide these royalty-free for commercial use (provided you give credit to the creator—typically voiced at the end of your production). One example is ccMixter, which features samples and remixes licensed under Creative Commons licenses. Free Music Archive is another great resource. Always make sure to read a track’s license to ensure it allows commercial use.
It’s best to start thinking about your audiobook cover early in the process. While the artwork accompanying your audiobook can be the same art that’s featured on the cover of the print and eBook versions, an alternative is to design an original cover for the audiobook. This can help with avoiding licensing fees or taking the marketing in a different direction if you desire.
Your audiobook cover is your number-one promotional tool, so it’s crucial to put your best foot forward. The visual you choose will be responsible for drawing in potential listeners—no matter how incredible your story is, it’s tough to sell if people aren’t enticed.
There are several specifications your audiobook cover must meet so that your work will be accepted by all of our partners:
- Include author name and title
- No references to physical (CD) or other media editions
- No CD jewel case, promo stickers, or cellophane
- No offensive material
- No colored borders on the side
- 2400pixels x 2400pixels (H x W) minimum
- Must be a perfect square
- File size should be less than 8 MB
- 24-bit minimum
- 72 dpi minimum
- RGB (Not CMYK)
- JPG format
- File name alphanumeric only
Tips and Tricks
- If you want to hire a graphic designer to ensure your cover is professional and visually intriguing, there are several cost-effective services such as 99designs and Fiverr that can help connect you with the type of artist you’re looking for.
- There are also websites like SelfPubBookCovers.com with pre-designed covers to choose from and customize. Covers start at $69, and once sold can never be sold again (ensuring your cover will be unique).
- You can also try designing your own audiobook cover thanks to the abundance of free graphic design and photo editing tools like Canva, GIMP, Inkscape, and DrawPlus Starter Edition. Which applications you choose to use will depend on whether you have any previous experience with graphic design, but there’s something for every skill level (from basic to advanced).
Specifications your Audio must meet
Your audiobook must meet certain requirements to be submitted:
- Consistent in overall sound and formatting.
- Audiobook must be comprised of all mono, or all stereo files.
- Audiobook must include opening and closing credits (in separate tracks).
- Audiobook must be narrated by a human; text-to-speech recordings are not allowed.
- Each uploaded file must contain only one chapter or section.
- Each uploaded file must be no longer than 120 minutes.
- Each uploaded file must contain a section or chapter announcement at the beginning of the audio file.
- Each uploaded file must have between 0.5 and 1 second of room tone at the head, and between 1 and 5 seconds of room tone at the tail of each track.
- Each uploaded file must be free of extraneous sounds such as plosives, mic pops, mouse clicks, excessive mouth noise, and outtakes.
- Each uploaded file must measure between -23dB and -18dB RMS.
- Each uploaded file must have peak values no higher than -3dB.
- Each uploaded file must have a noise floor no higher than -60dB RMS.
- Each uploaded file must be 192 kbps or higher MP3, Constant Bit Rate (CBR).
- Each uploaded file must be 44.1 kHz.
- Each uploaded file must be no larger than 170MB.
Information Adapted from: