A Few Words About Audiobooks!

Greetings, SE’ers! Beem Weeks here with you again. Today, I’m talking about audiobooks!

Male dj working on the radio vector illustration

Once the realm of big-named authors and major publishing houses, audiobooks have become the fastest growing segment in publishing today—even among indie authors. In the early days of the format, authors like Stephen King or Tom Clancy might sit down and narrate their own stories, which would then be released on cassette tapes. Some of authors with the financial means and Hollywood connections might employ named actors and actresses to read their works.

Today, this format has been opened to those of us of more meager means. And it’s quite simple.

While I’ve yet to convert one of my books into an audiobook, I have produced several for other authors.

The first step is to find an appropriate voice to represent your work. Sites like Fiverr offer a wide variety of voice talent at reasonable rates. An assortment of world accents is on display for your perusal. Looking to branch out into the foreign language markets? You can find voice artists for most languages and dialects.

Female dj working on the radio vector illustration

Once you’ve secured your voice talent, you may want to add sound effects to your recordings. If Billy slams a door in chapter three, why not give listeners the sensation of being there as that door gets slammed? If your characters are texting, add a sound effect. Need a cellphone ringtone? There are dozens from which to choose.

Then there’s bumper music. What is bumper music, you ask? It’s a short musical piece that opens each chapter. You’ll also want an even shorter piece to signify scene breaks.

There are dozens of sites offering sound and music catalogs. Some of these are free. However, the freebies are usually limited in selection. Other sites carry a wider selection of effects and music for a price. Whichever way you choose, be sure you secure licensing rights. This is usually included in a paid subscription to any of the online providers. Many of the free sites offer material that hasn’t been copyrighted, so there’s no issue using it.

Okay. So, now that you’ve acquired the right voice, found some fantastic sound effects, and picked the perfect bumper music, what’s next? You’ll need software like Adobe Audition or Audacity to put it all together. Adobe Audition carries a monthly subscription fee, Audacity does not. However, with Audacity, you are severely limited in what you can and cannot do.

Now that you’ve installed your software, received your finished recordings, and downloaded all effects, it’s time to get to work on assembling your audiobook. This is the easy part.

Male dj working on the radio vector illustration

Each chapter will have its own audio file. With an open copy of your book, map out the places for scene breaks and sound effects. Note to those interested in the audiobook format for your work: Be sure to listen thoroughly to the recordings as soon as the voice actor sends the files to you. Listen for mispronounced words, missed lines, flubbed lines, reading tone, and anything else that might throw the listener. If your character is meant to be fearful in a certain scene, but the voice artist sounds chipper, you’ll want it corrected. Most voice actors will re-read lines and words at no extra cost.

Now comes the learning curve. For ACX (Amazon) to accept your recordings, your finished files must meet their audio submission requirements. I discovered this after much trial and error. This includes room tone (which your voice talent will record for you on request), decibel ranges, noise floors, and time limits per audio file. For a full list of these requirements, visit the ACX Audio Submissions Requirements page.

If you’re still keen on producing an audiobook, just know it’s not difficult. There is a cost involved, though it doesn’t have to break your budget. And with the market exploding, this may be the next journey on which to embark.

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47 thoughts on “A Few Words About Audiobooks!

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  3. Thanks for this interesting tutorial on audiobooks, Beem. I don’t even like formatting my books, let alone make an audiobook, lol. I suspect one day it will be easier and free like KDP publishing became? I can wait, lol. I’m a book reader, not much of a book listener. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I do have an audio book out there (only one) produced by my publisher. I didn’t like it but then I was neither involved nor am I an audio book person. This does not mean that they do not have merit. My wife loves good audio books. I have a friend who is a trained Shakespearean actor who has offered to voice one or two of my books (lol- when he is resting). You would know him from the TV (in the UK), Game of Thrones, Silent Witness, Casualty, Shetland, and other series. I am not sure that I would like sound effects but I know nothing of these things so any advice sent would be gratefully appreciated. I would also like to thank Beem for covering this new thing that I know so little about. Lol- once, many years ago I was a sound engineer. Hard to believe now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A trained Shakespearean actor? That sounds very cool. Not everybody is an audiobook sort of person. Nor is it a must have for today’s authors. But for those who want to give it a try, there really are many options today. Thanks for adding to the conversation, Raymond.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Very helpful post Beem. I have an audio set up and I used to do a lot of voice overs for various projects workwise in radio and tv but these days I stick to short stories and poetry. The artificial voices are much improved from the early days with plenty of variety as far as gender and age, but to me they don’t have the emotional context that a real voice does. Hiring someone is the best option and I do like Verwayne’s approach. You do need to soundproof but you can do that with corrugated foam acoustic tiles that can be mounted on cardboard and hung on the walls surrounding a PC without having to find a permanent solution. A good quality mic is needed and the ability to edit as you have suggested with a library of sound effects. The other issue today with our multi-national access to ebooks and audio books is accent and dialect and so important to find a voice that fits the narrative.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Great input, Sally. Thank you for sharing. I agree that artificial voices are much better today but still lack the emotion. There are also nuances that get lost with artificial readers. As you’ve pointed out, it doesn’t require a big budget to soundproof a room. If the author has a good voice, they can read the story themselves and save money.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have 28 audiobooks out and four others in progress.

    I paid “big money” for my first one ($500 in 2014), but I’ve learned a trick. I hold a 14-day audition period on ACX and I specifically tell people I am looking for newbie voices, and I will pay between $50 to $100 PFH (per finished hour) of audio. Typically, I will get about 50 to 60 auditions. Most of them are Grade A terrible, but you will get some excellent voices in each audition.

    I also respond to each person who auditions. I thank them for their time and effort (whether or not I will use them), but I also tell the people who impressed me I have several books to do, and if they don’t get THIS job, I will try to offer them another ‘no competition’ job. If I get a favorable response from that note, I keep the name, voice sample, and email of the person with a “note to self” of what job I thought that voice would work.

    The man who did “The Touch” for me was the perfect “understated” voice I wanted for that story for $75/PFH. He later told me he had been on ACX for three years without ever getting a job… but after he did “The Touch,” he immediately got several other stories based on the clips he mounted as examples of his work at $350 PFH.

    A few years later, I went to him and asked if he knew a female voice to put my “Finding Myself Again,” and he had his wife do a few voice clips for me… and I got them as a team at $175/PFH… and they knocked it out of the park. My wife’s voice is a bit more assertive than mine, but I am not a boisterous person, so his voice and the voice of his wife matched our voices. I have a gentleman who has done several stories for me at $80 to $95 PFH. I can trust him to do what I want, as I want, and WHEN I want it done, and he has never had a “re-do” to meet standards.

    I have several that I will have “re-voiced” now that my mind is back on track. As Judy crept closer to dying in 2017 until her death in early 2018, I was going through the motions and not caring about anything. All I knew was I had to write something. I could do better, but my mind was lost. Lisa has me back and smiling again, so now I’m cleaning up books, fixing old audio files, and actually living again. It makes a difference. I sell a lot of Audible books. Lisa put out a 75-minute Audible story, and it has sold enough copies to pay for its production and make her over $200 in less than a month!


    Liked by 3 people

  7. You are multi-talented, Beem, and I can imagine that the audio books you produce are excellent. I created an audiobook for my memoir. I didn’t know what I was doing, but through trial and error, I finished it. I’m not inclined to try it again, but after reading your suggestions, I realize there are many possibilities. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with readers like me! 😊

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I did an audiobook for my first novel. Money was tight but we bought a decent microphone, a pop filter and used Audacity. It’s not expensive but there are all sorts of things that can get in the way. There are quite a few characters in the book, and in the end I saved small clips of all of them to listen to in order to make their voices consistent. I don’t have a soundproof room so it could only be done in the early hours of the morning after the village had gone to sleep and before the birds woke up and the commute started. Cars, owls, cats and foxes all joined in and there were many days when wind and rain made recording impossible – the microphone picks up sounds you can’t hear! On the other hand, I managed it and it cost me almost nothing. I may have another go sometime and try to improve on my technique. I’ll certainly have a look at Fiverr. Thanks, Beem!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I’ve had a number of people ask me if my books are available in audio, but it’s something I’ve never explored. Probably because I personally don’t listen to audio books (I prefer to read). It is however, interesting to learn what goes into producing one.
    A very informative post, Beem!

    Liked by 4 people

  10. I’ve had some of my books made into audiobooks, but I’ve never done it myself. Too scary. And I haven’t made enough money off the audiobooks to motivate me to do it myself. But I think audio is becoming more and more popular, so someday, that might change.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know authors from both camps, Judi. Some have little success sales-wise, while another is selling more audio copies than print. You are correct, it is becoming popular. Perhaps the costs will come down eventually, making it easier to put them together. Thanks for adding to the talk.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Great post, Beem. I have one audiobook, but it was so expensive to pull together that I haven’t done another. I thought about trying to do one myself, but the ACX submission requirements feel overwhelming, to be honest. You’ve convinced me to at least look into ACX voice talent again. The split royalty open is manageable if someone with willing to go with new talent. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  12. Very informative post, Beem. Honestly, I haven’t really considered audiobooks much for the reasons others have mentioned – cost, equipment, etc. I’d rather read than listen (I’ve tried audiobooks and found them boring), but some readers (listeners?) prefer this method. This post gives me lots to think about.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s definitely not for everybody, Joan. I have listened to a few audiobook. I prefer to read books. But this is a rapidly growing area in publishing. As for cost and equipment, there are plenty of options available.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you for opening the subject in my mind. I have been looking for audio solutions for about three years. I always get stuck on the cost. Maybe technology with be of help as time goes by. Fivver is worth a look. Thanks, Beem.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I don’t have the studio or recording equipment (or the voice!) to do it myself, and I suspect my pocketbook would suffer from hiring the talent (though I’ve never looked at Fiverr). I wouldn’t mind getting more of my titles on audio, but right now only work produced by a traditional publisher has been converted. It’s definitely on my long-term list. And now I know where to get advice on it if I ever pursue it! 😊 Great post today. Thanks, Beem.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. I recorded my Slices of Soul audiobook myself, but I’m not sure I did a great job, lols. The recording was fine, but I’m not convinced I have the right voice. For Jewel in the Mud, I hired a voice artist through ACX. That was expensive, and I’m nowhere near even beginning to recoup that. Your Fiverr suggestion is a good one, and I may try that route one of these days. Thanks for sharing these helpful pointers, Beem. Have a wonderful weekend 💕🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Your voice is fine, Harmony. I can hear you reading poetry. I’ve never used ACX for voice talent. I know on Fiverr, you can haggle with the artists. They’ll often go lower on their cut if they know the budget is tight. It’s good for their resume and they get paid.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. I would dearly love to get my books on audio. I’ve looked into it a couple of times and so far, from what I’ve found, it costs around $2,000 per book. That isn’t in my little budget. People tell me I can read them myself, but as you pointed out, I would need the right software and equipment to do that. So, while it sounds easy, from where I’m sitting, it is pretty difficult, if not impossible. However, I have not explored Fiverr yet, and that may be more affordable. Thank you so much for sharing this topic. I’m anxious to see what everyone else has to throw into the conversation. Have a great weekend!

    Liked by 3 people

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  18. I hate to say it, Beem, but it doesn’t sound all that easy. I’ve gotten several books through the Smashwords “Meatgrinder” and formatted Word docs so Amazon can turn them into printed books. I’ve designed a few of my own covers. But the process you describe sounds pretty complicated! It’ll be interesting to see how many other authors have gone through it.
    I’ve heard that if you have ebooks in the Google Play store, you can get them converted to audiobooks read by an artificial voice. At least one author I know says the quality is acceptable. Haven’t tried this myself, but I’m passing on the info for what it’s worth.

    Liked by 2 people

    • They can be a bit difficult, Audrey. Especially if you lack the proper tools. But they are becoming easier to produce. I’ve heard the artificial voices many times. Some sound okay, though it’s not high quality. Thank you for adding to the conversation.

      Liked by 2 people

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