Authors are bold. They put their thoughts out there for the world to enjoy. I think authors are very brave! But for many authors the thought of recording their audiobook is terrifying. To step out of their comfort zone, yet again, and learn a new skill stops many authors in their tracks. They wonder where to begin when you make your book into an audiobook? The investment in equipment, finding a suitable recording location, mastering, editing, and even learning a new vocabulary can make the audiobook recording process seem insurmountable. Because of that, some authors stop short of the possibility of expanded reach and revenue that an audiobook offers.
Yes, there is a learning curve, but recording your audiobook is not as difficult as you might think. In these two blogs, I break the process down into twelve steps. There are 12 basic steps to producing your audiobook that, if taken in order, can yield a professional recording and an audiobook that will connect in a powerful way with an entirely different audience.
Let’s look at the first six steps to a completed, professional audiobook:
1. Prepare Your Studio Location
Most authors want to record their audiobooks in their homes or hotel rooms. Selecting a studio location in your home is tricky because your home is designed for living not for noise-free recording. However, there are several things to look and listen for that will help isolate unwanted noise.
Make an effort to avoid:
Outside walls: Exterior walls of your house are closest to the most noise. And it’s this noise you can’t control. Think leaf blower, sirens, or tree-trimming. If you have an interior room, without outside walls, that has adequate space, this location lends itself to limiting excessive outside noise from your recording. An interior room will most likely be a closet. A bedroom may seem fine, but most have windows that welcome those exterior noises you wish to avoid. While closets can be cluttered, the presence of hanging clothes removes unwanted reflections from parallel surfaces. And the small, enclosed space is helpful as well.
Mechanical noise: Noise from furnaces, air conditioners, hot water heaters, and garage door openers, can degrade the sound quality to a point where it is unusable. If you are unable to get away from these distractions, turn off those appliances to avoid that noise. Those noises are more frequent in our homes than we realize. You don’t notice your hot water heater or furnace until it kicks on mid-sentence while recording.
Foot traffic: Footsteps, running, and pet noises will pick up on a recording. They can be difficult to get away from in a family dwelling. It helps to time the recording windows to avoid high traffic times at home. Most ceilings have some form of insulation, but creaks and tapping of dog nails on a wood floor can ruin a recording. Upper-level rooms are preferred over lower-level rooms for that reason. If you must use a room in your basement, select a room, if possible, below a room that has carpet. This will deaden most foot traffic.
Be aware of:
Floor treatments: Speaking of foot sounds, carpet will absorb high-frequency reflections and yield a tighter sounding recording. Avoid tile or hardwood if possible. If your home has no carpet you can spread thick blankets (or moving pads) under your recording space to absorb more sound.
Wall treatments: It’s not just kids on vacation that “bounce off the walls”. Your sound does too. The standard wall construction material for many homes is gypsum (drywall). While drywall is not terrible it can still reflect high frequencies into your recording making it sound echoey. If you can hang blankets or other material to absorb the reflections, this will help improve the sound of the recording. Avoid tile, wood paneling, glass, or other hard material. This will result in a very unnatural sound to your recording.
2. Select Recording Equipment To Make Your Book Into An Audiobook
To make sure your narration is in a digital format, you will need to use a digital recording device. There are several options, of varying costs, available to you.
Computer: Since many have easy access to a computer, this is the most obvious choice for recording. Programs such as Audacity, Audition, Logic, Garage Band, and ProTools can make recording a simple task. The key is to make sure that your microphone can easily interface with your computer through a standard microphone with an XLR connection (3-pin connection) using a USB interface, or a microphone with a USB connection. Both work well and have their unique advantages.
Digital recorder: If you don’t wish to record on your computer due to age, a noisy fan, or another reason, there are many digital recorders available. Do not use a recorder meant for dictation or digital notes as the microphone quality is not adequate for audiobook recording. Select one that will allow you to plug in a standard microphone and offers you different recording format options. Do not use a recorder with a built-in microphone. These do not allow the flexibility for close micing and usually have a lower quality. Always plug-in an external microphone.
3. Understand Your Recording Format
Recording formats can be very confusing. However, to make it simple, record your narration in a non-compressed format like a .wav file. This will give you the best recording without degradation. Use a sampling rate of at least 44.1 at 16-bit resolution.
If you need to record in a .mp3 format, please make sure that the bit rate is at least 196 kHz and has a 16-bit depth. The .mp3 format is a compressed format and if the sampling rate is slower than 196 kHz, you will be able to hear digital artifacts (digital noise) in the recording.
4. Mic Selection And Positioning
The mic you use should be a high-quality microphone. In audio recording, you get what you pay for. A $29 mic may work for a podcast, but your listener will hear the difference in the audiobook recording.
Expect to pay $100+ for a decent microphone. A USB mic will cost a bit less. While this price might seem high, the outcome is well worth it.
The positioning of the mic needs to be as close to your mouth as possible–1 inch or so. This technique is called “close micing” and it gives a warm intimate sound to your voice. It makes the listener feel that you are sitting right next to them having a conversation. Close micing also helps to mask unwanted reflections and noise from entering your recording.
You can’t place the mic on the table two feet away from you and get the desired warmth to your voice. The sound will be thin, ambient, and sterile. It may work for a podcast but your audiobook is not a podcast. Think of it more like a radio broadcast.
Close micing will, however, raise some issues to avoid such as breath pops. Breath pops are caused by the air expelled from the throat while forming consonants such as “B,” “P,” “T,” and “D.” These are called “plosive consonants” and can be very distracting. Because of this, it is best to position the microphone to the side of your head pointing at your mouth.
This helps to keep the air moving away from the microphone instead of going directly into it as it would if the mic were directly in front of your mouth. A flexible “pop filter” may be inserted between the mic and your mouth but if the mic is positioned correctly, may not be necessary. Each person forms words and sounds differently. It really depends on your voice and how you form certain sounds
5. Prepare Your Script For An Audiobook Listener
Make sure your script is ready to read. You don’t speak the same way you write. Word choices and phrasing may be different. This is not to say that the wording must be changed, but you need to make it conversational. Think through what that means for your specific book.
You need to cater to the audiobook listener. Change any wording that refers to your “reader” to “your listener.” This can be difficult to do on the fly so it might be easier to change the wording in advance. Phrases like, “as you read this book,” “as you read this,” ‘the questions below,” “you read that right,” and similar phrases should be changed to show the listener that you produced this audiobook just for them. Many authors don’t do this but paying attention to this detail is noticed and appreciated by the listener.
6. Select Your Best Recording Schedule To Make Your Book Into An Audiobook
Record your audiobook on a schedule that reflects when you are at your best. When you feel great, your listener will hear that in your voice and will connect with you. I suggest that you take an hour a day (if you have the availability) and at the most 5 hours a day. For a busy household, there may only be one hour in a day that allows you the quiet necessary to record. If you can do more, do so, but don’t push it. It is better to take it in small chunks and get great results than try to push through it and achieve a marginal product. You can tell when someone sounds tired or rushed. Your listener can too.
Do you feel like this is a lot to think about? Don’t worry. Anytime you learn something new it can feel like a lot at first.
If you’re looking for a little (or a lot) of help, I offer authors three options for producing an in-demand audiobook for sale.
A Little Help When You Record Your Audiobook:
Some folks want to learn the basics and record on their own. For that group of authors, I created a self-paced video course, the DIY option. This basic option still includes personal coaching from me–I want everyone to succeed.
I also offer a Full Service option with my coaching every step of the way. I master and edit all files. All you do is record with me right by your side. Then there’s the Hybrid option which is a combination of the two.
You can do this! And it’s important to consider your audiobook. More and more readers are looking for resources they can enjoy while doing something else. Audiobooks are the fastest-growing category in publishing right now. It is a wonderful, fun way to expand your reach and your revenue.
So, there you have it–the first six steps to recording your audiobook. In my next blog I’ll give you six more important steps to complete your audiobook, but in the meantime, look through these steps and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at Info@RecordYourAudiobook.com. I’m here to help you tell your story.