Welcome back! This is Part 2 of a two-part series. If you missed Part 1, check it out here to learn about: audiobook recording, audiobook studio locations, recording devices, recording formats, microphone selection and positioning, readying your script, and selecting a recording schedule that fits your lifestyle. Once you’ve tackled that, here are the next six keys to recording your in-demand audiobook.
7. Remain Consistent For The Entire Audiobook Recording Process
Consistency in the sound of the audio files is very important. If you make changes, your listener will notice. Your listener will hear changes in your position to the mic, your energy level, the tiredness of your voice, and your passion for the subject during that recording session.
It is imperative that you keep the set-up, time of the day, and energy level the same from day to day for a consistent and professional recording. If you’re feeling tired in the middle of the chapter, don’t take an extended break. Take what you need, but finish the chapter. If you break for a long period of time and restart, the listener will hear the transition from a tired voice to a fresh voice. It may be hard to believe, but it will be very noticeable.
8. Record One Chapter Per File
When recording your audiobook, the final file division will require one file per chapter.
When you record your chapters, start a new recording file for each chapter. This saves time when you go to produce the final files for upload. And it will keep your files organized. If each chapter is its own file, you can easily verify completed work and keep your files in order.
9. Load Your Files Into DAW
Once your files are recorded, load them into your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). This term refers to any program that you are using for digital editing and production. Whether that program is Audacity, Audition, Logic, Pro-tools, or Garage Band, the generic term, DAW, refers to all of these.
If you recorded the narration on your computer, the files would already be in your DAW. If you have recorded them onto an external digital recorder, you will need to transfer them to your computer and then import them into your editing program. In this program, you can edit to remove the mistakes and eventually convert the files into the proper format for final uploading. (My DIY clients do this process themselves, but for those who select Hybrid or Full Service I complete this process for them.)
10. Editing Your Audiobook Recording Completed Files
A critical effort when recording your audiobook is editing the files.
Here are some pointers if you’re doing this part of the recording process yourself. (My DIY customers do this work themselves after the self-paced video course, while my Full Service and Hybrid clients hand this piece of the puzzle over to me.)
Your goal in editing is to make the narration flow. This is a twofold process of removing the repeats (from starting over when making mistakes) and removing breaths that disrupt the flow of the idea or lengthening spaces where the narration seems to jump.
- Reading mistakes – The easiest way to begin editing is to listen through the narration while following the text and replacing the mistake with the second, third, or fourth take (more if that phrase was a struggle). Simply find the beginning of the good take, highlight the part you wish to remove (usually the beginning of the bad take) and delete it.
All DAWs function in about the same way, but you will need to refer to the “Edit” menu or the user manual to get specifics.
By cutting out the “bad” and replacing it with the “good,” you should end up with a “mistake-free” file. However, if the narration “jumps” or the inflection or volume doesn’t match, you may need to find an alternative spot to edit or adjust the timing or volume of the replaced narration for it to sound natural.
- Breaths – This is a matter of debate among recording experts. The camps are divided between removing all breaths or leaving breaths in.
Since we desire the audiobook to have a conversational feel, breaths are an important part of the conversation.
Having done audiobook recordings for over three decades, I recommend you leave in breaths. We expect people to breathe when they talk with us. It signals the end of a thought or the addition of supplemental information. It is a natural part of the speech pattern, and our brain listens for this natural cue.
If you remove all breaths, the narration sounds unnatural to the brain, and the listener becomes distracted. The brain says, “He’s not breathing! He’s gonna pass out!” However, by leaving normal breaths intact, the listener can relax, knowing that the narrator is not in distress.
With that said, it sounds unnatural to have multiple breaths within a sentence.
Frequent breaks can destroy the flow of the thought and leave the listener wondering why the narrator is nervous or uptight. Abnormally long or loud breaths can also distract from the message. In these instances, long breaths should be shortened while the volume of loud ones can be reduced. Both actions are easily accomplished within the editing features of your DAW.
Natural breaths within the conversation are important to maintain the flow of thought and to aid comprehension. Unnatural breaths, however, disrupt comprehension and distracts the listener from the material.
- Slurps, Burps, and Tummy noises – These physiological issues are going to happen. You can’t take in that much air without having to burp at some point.
Your stomach is going to growl. You will get a throat gurgle at some point, so don’t get upset; just deal with it when it comes.
If these happen between sentences, give a long pause so you can cut it out later. If it happens during the sentence, stop, go back to the beginning of the sentence (or paragraph) and start over. This will ensure you have clean narration to edit around the gurgle to get a noise-free narration.
If you have to swallow before starting a sentence, finish the swallow before starting. The extra pause can be removed later, and this pause will give you a “clean” or natural-sounding start to your word.
11. Mastering Files
Mastering corrects any technical issues within the file to prepare for uploading. This may include equalization, limiting, noise reduction, expansion, and normalization.
While all of these technical adjustments may not be used on each file, the goal is to have all files sound similar in volume, equalization, and noise. Therefore, it is important that you record it correctly from the start. If you capture clean narration from the beginning, the mastering process can be relatively quick. If you have technical issues throughout your recording, the mastering process may be lengthy and more difficult.
- Consistent levels. Consistent volume is very important. Audiobook listeners do not want to keep adjusting their volume as they listen to your audiobook. It is frustrating and disruptive.
The levels need to be just right–like Goldilocks and The Three Bears! If the levels are too low, they will miss important information. If too loud, they will be startled by the sudden shift.
Therefore, it is critical to keep the volume range as consistent as possible. This is accomplished by placing a hard limiter on the file at a level that will reduce most of the spikes but allow overall volumes to reside within a consistent range. Once the limiter range is determined, the file is then “normalized” so that the entire file doesn’t exceed -3 dB. This process raises the entire level of the file, including the noise floor.
However, noise, undetectable in the original recording, is now boosted and can be easily heard. This noise must be corrected before the final upload as the sound will be distracting to the listener. Think of the old cassette tapes we used to listen to. We didn’t think much of it at the time, but after we heard our first CD, the tape hiss was unbearable.
The next step in Mastering is to remove the unwanted “hiss” and the environmental or mechanical noise, which has now been boosted through the normalization process. It was not heard before but is now discernible. The denoise process finds the frequencies that make up the noise and reduces them.
While this may sound like a difficult process, there are computer programs or “plugins” that will identify the offensive frequencies for you and successfully remove them from the recording. The danger when using these programs is the desire to correct the file too much, which could make the audio sound affected. Only use as much denoise as necessary to correct the recording instead of trying to eradicate the noise completely.
- Correct Spacing
When uploading your files to the audiobook server, make sure the file format is set up correctly. Each audiobook service will be different, so make sure you have the correct amount of blank space or “room tone” at the beginning and end. Audible requires no more than 5 seconds of room tone at the beginning and end.
I try to standardize my format with 1 second at the beginning and 2 seconds at the end. This allows for good spacing between chapters and sections. There are other specific submission requirements for each audiobook distributor, so please consult their websites for the specific requirements.
- Correct File Format
This is another requirement that may be different from company to company. Files formats may differ, but usually, they are in the .mp3 format. This converts the original recording into a compressed format where the file size is smaller and, therefore, will load quickly on listening devices.
Audible.com requires the final format to be a .mp3 format with a 192kbps (or higher) 44.1kHz constant bit rate. While this may sound confusing, most DAWs will give you several options when you are exporting your files. Check the dropdown menu to see your choices.
12. Uploading Your Edited and Mastered Audiobook Recording Files
The upload process is as simple as browsing your computer for your finished files and uploading them to the dedicated server. The upload time will vary depending upon the file size, internet speed, and the bandwidth in your location. Files are usually initially checked to make sure they conform to the server’s requirements. If there is a problem with any of the files, a report will be generated to tell you the problem. They won’t, however, tell you how to fix the problem.
But you can figure this out. Don’t worry! The authors I work with amaze me. They are so intelligent and creative and ready to tackle new things. And most are ready to record their audiobook once they understand the long list of benefits.
Some of my clients prefer to learn these audiobook recording steps on their own through my DIY option with a 5-session, self-paced video course, The 5 Ridiculously Simple Steps To Record Your Audiobook. As a bonus, I offer every DIY customer an hour of personal coaching with me to make sure all of their questions are answered.
Other authors prefer the Full-Service option where I come to them, create a professional recording studio at their home, a hotel, or other nearby location, and I help them every step of the way. Recording in my Colorado studio is also an option for Full-Service clients.
And then there are authors who want to do some of it themselves but want to hand off the mastering and editing parts to me. Those clients are my Hybrid folks.
My main hope is for every author to get the opportunity to expand their reach and their revenue by selling a popular audiobook. I want them to enjoy the process and feel a sense of tremendous accomplishment. They’ve created something that will educate or entertain others forever. What a legacy!