10 Tips To Turn Your Book into an Audiobook
Updated: Feb 10, 2021
Last month I wrote about the burgeoning audiobook market. It’s growing by an estimated 25 percent a year, even in a year that has seen fewer road trips, less business travel, and reduced commuting.
If you have written a book, you need to convert it into an audiobook to tap into this growing market. How do you get started? Here are 10 Tips for turning your book into an audiobook, broken down into Recording and Production tips.
Laptop Computer – The first thing you need is a decent laptop computer. Avoid using a cellphone or iPad. Audiobooks take a considerable amount of storage, so you will need the versatility and storage available on a laptop.
Quality Microphone – Don’t rely on your computer’s built-in microphone. Instead, invest in a decent microphone that plugs into your computer’s USB port. While some experts recommend adding a high-end microphone with a portable audio mixer, that gets expensive. You can produce a high-quality audiobook using an external microphone that costs less than $200. I use a Yeti USB Blue Microphone, which I’ve used to narrate all the audiobooks I have on Amazon.
Recording Software – As is the case with microphones, you don’t need to invest in fancy (and expensive) audio recording software. Audacity, a free software program, works great and gives you all the production tools you need to ensure your audio meets industry standards.
Quiet Room – Your biggest challenge may be finding a quiet place and time to narrate your audiobook. The smaller the room, the better, preferably with some soundproofing. You can get all kinds of ideas online, from soundproofing materials you can buy to lining your walls with cardboard egg cartons. My solution was a small closet in a spare bedroom, with hanging clothes serving as excellent soundproofing. It doesn’t look impressive, but does the job and cost me nothing to set up. My “studio” is just a table to hold my equipment and clothes for soundproofing. Done!
Time to Record – You must set aside time to record your audiobook. At most, one hour a day, so your voice remains strong. Research has shown that mornings are best, and when your voice is its strongest. More than 25 years in radio taught me to avoid sugar and consuming dairy products before recording. For audiobook purposes, I record early in the morning (around 5:00 a.m.), even before enjoying my morning coffee. That way, my voice is its strongest, and my throat is not coated with sugar that affects it. You should record at approximately the same time of day to match voice pitch, strength, and timbre. Whatever your schedule, the point is to make sure to set aside time to record. Save the file for later production. By the way, for audiobooks, each chapter must be a separate audio file. Long chapters can be broken up into multiple files and combined in production.
Mark Your Script – Producing your recorded audiobook files often happens hours or even days after recording. During the recording process, mark your script in spots where you had to re-record a sentence. I do this by utilizing the “comments” section in Microsoft Word, highlighting the sentence that was or needs to be re-recorded. Re-dos are common in the production process, resulting from flubs that happen when we sit in front of a microphone. While you can re-voice sections during production, make sure you can match the previously discussed voice qualities. Otherwise, do them the next morning in a separate file, which you can later cut and paste in production.
Replace Breath Pauses – If you listen closely to an audiobook, you will notice you never hear the narrator breathe! Well, we all do, and microphones pick up those sounds. But in production, we replace those breaths with silence. This is done by recording an empty file, removing its background noise, and replacing the breath pauses with this file. You have to approximate the length, but you will get the rhythm after you’re done it a few times, especially when producing your own voice. You’ll want to practice this technique ahead of time, so you’re good at it before beginning your audiobook project. You’ll want to practice this technique ahead of time, so you’re good at it before beginning your audiobook project.
Time for Production – No matter how proficient you are at digital audio production, producing an audiobook takes time. The industry standard is three to four hours of production time for every hour of recording. It is a painstaking process to replace every pause with noise in it, every flubbed word or sentence, and every breath pause. I’ve worked with digital audio for more than 25 years and still need about 3.3 hours of production time per hour of audio. There are no shortcuts to the process, so you’ll need to build the time into your schedule. I prefer recording in the morning and doing the production in the afternoon as a break from my routine as a freelance writer.
Meet Industry Audio Standards – Audible is Amazon’s audiobook service and sets the standards for audiobook production. Among their requirements:
- All recordings must be human-voice -- no computer-read books are accepted.
- File type accepted: MP3 (192 kbps or higher)
- Files must be CBR (constant bit rate)
- Submitted audiobooks may not contain both mono and stereo files. Stereo files
must not be joint-stereo. Mono files are strongly recommended.
- Each file must be comprised of a single chapter, episode, or story. Note that
each file will typically become a “track” that a customer uses for navigation.
- If the audio has no chapters, please split the audio into segments that are no
longer than 2 hours each, but no shorter than 30 minutes each (when possible).
- The files should be consolidated into individual Chapters.
- Each file should be preceded by a three-digit number that denotes the order in
which the files should appear. The file names should appear as: 001_title.mp3,
- Be free of extraneous sounds (mouse clicks, mic pops, mouth noises, etc.)
- Measure between -23dB and -18dB RMS and have -3dB peak values and a
maximum -60dB noise floor.
- 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. This is commonly
called “head room” and “tail room.”
If this sounds complicated, it is, but there is a lot of help available online. Do your research and create a checklist to make sure each chapter file meets the industry standards. One nice thing about the Audacity audio software is that you can run your audio through its various processing filters and tweak it as needed. There is also a program online to run your chapters through as a final check to ensure they meet Audible’s standards.
Export Your Files and Upload Them to Audible – The last step is taking all of your recorded files and uploading them to Amazon’s Audible service. In my case, I load each file to a thumb drive or into Google Docs and send them to the client for them to upload. I narrated and produced one audiobook project for a client that was a 400-page book of short chapters and consisted of more than 100 separate audio files. But the lengthy project was a success, and you can find the audiobook on Amazon.
Narrating and producing audiobooks is rewarding and a valuable service to offer clients or to turn your own book into an audio resource for others to enjoy. I hope these tips will help you plan your audiobook project. Feel free to contact me with questions as you begin the process.
If you find it is too involved after researching tackling it on your own, Ficere Writing Solutions can help! We offer full audiobook narration and production services to turn your book into an audiobook you can be proud of.
Dave Ficere is an Author, Editor, and Ghostwriter with over 30 years of experience in broadcasting and writing. When Dave is not writing and editing manuscripts for clients, you can typically find him narrating and producing audiobooks.
To learn more about Dave, visit him on LinkedIn.
“Bringing Your Story to Life” is more than just a tagline at Ficere Writing Solutions. We provide clients with top-notch writing, editing, and audiobook services to get your book or audiobook ready to publish. Our portfolio of services includes: Ghostwriting books, editing book manuscripts, and narration and production of audiobooks.
To learn more about how Ficere Writing Solutions can help you and your business, click HERE.