Most people I run across are stunned to learn how little market competition there is in the audiobook space when compared to the overwhelming number of books that are being published each day (traditional and indie).
And it is for this and other reasons that I have focused my creative and marketing energies on audiobooks. I now make the majority of my book royalties from audiobook than other formats combined, albeit as an indie author.
For traditionally published authors, royalties from print and ebook tend to be much more than audiobook, but whether for the indie or traditionally published book, one should not ignore the audiobooks channel, unless you like leaving money on the table. In fact, many traditionally published authors are choosing to retain audiobook rights to their works, since those royalties are more valuable.
Please note that there are other options to self-publish your audiobook, but none have the market reach that ACX does. I could spend time comparing various audiobook publishing platforms, but that is not the purpose of this post. Others might have a higher royalty percentage or a non-exclusive license, but ACX gets your audiobook in front of the largest crowd. PERIOD.
There are certainly even cheaper ways to record and self-publish your audiobook, but you don't want to cut too many corners. People will be able to tell if the sound quality is not up to par.
So let's get to it!
1. Schedule 30-90 Minute Sessions & 3-4 Total Hours on Recording Day
I intentionally led with this step as #1, since many of us talk about completing many projects that we never seem to get around to doing.
The only way to succeed is to set self-imposed deadlines on your calendar, then stick to them. It really is that simple. Don't buy any equipment or complete any further steps until you have achieved this one. Put the dates on a physical wall calendar or your smartphone calendar; don't underestimate this simple, practical step.
Continuing for longer sessions will get easier the more you do this, but I don't recommend going longer than 90 minutes in one sitting. After session one, get up, walk around for 5-15 minutes, then get back to session number two.
After 3 or 4 hours of total recording time in one day, you should stop, since you could damage your vocal chords. I recommend waiting 7 days before recording again.
I typically can record an entire audiobook in 3-5 Saturday mornings (3-4 hours each Saturday), but yours might take longer or shorter depending on a variety of factors.
Schedule these regular, weekly times on your calendar, so you get in a rhythm and complete them within several weeks. If you don't put them on your calendar, you will either not start or not finish. Both are tragic when we all have much to offer others in our audiobooks by publishing them.
2. Purchase a Quality Digital Mic & Pop Filter
AudioTechnica makes a solid entry-level mic for $54.99 (stand not included). It is their ATR2100 model; you can get it with free shipping on Amazon.
I decided to invest a little more in a higher quality mic (which include its own stand), since I am committed to producing many audiobooks. I chose and am partial to my Blue Digital Microphone which I got at BestBuy for very reasonable price.
Amazon sells it as well for $190.04. Blue has a reputation for studio quality microphones at a fair price, and this one has a conencter (USB or Apple connector), so you can use Audacity or GarageBand as suits your taste.
I also recommend a pop filter to attach to the mic to reduce plosives. There is one for less than $7, but I chose the one Blue makes for $54.
3. Download Audacity for $0 or GarageBand app for $4.99
To be clear, Audacity can be run on PC or Mac, but if you want to use your iPad, then GarageBand is another option. Download this on the laptop or iPad you plan to use for recording. One thing this assumes is that you already have a laptop or iPad that you can easily move to your recording closet for step 8.
This is a screenshot of the dashboard on a Windows PC.
And now on Mac OSX...
4. Kick Everyone Out of the House
If it is summer, then they can go outside and enjoy some Vitamin D, courtesy of the sun, or they may need to go to the park (away from the house). Let them know that should not come into the house, unless it is a TRUE emergency. You can assure them that you will come let them know when they can come back in.
Under no circumstances do I recommend leaving your kids unattended outside. They need adult supervision. If you need a babysitter, schedule one.
5. Kick Back Some Rockin' Tea
I personally adore decaffeinated Earl Grey tea, but just about any tea will do. Keep it warm and start sipping a large cup of this about 30-45 minutes before you start recording. It will prepare your vocal chords for speaking longer than you would in a normal day.
6. Continuously Pop "Pectin Only" Throat Drops
Make sure to leave the menthol ones behind. Those are good for colds but not for this application.
Just find some simple throat drops with pectin; these will help lubricate your vocal chords throughout your recording session. Without these, your throat will wear out quickly, and you will be hoarse.
A couple of choices:
- Luden's Wild Cherry $1.40 per bag of 30 drops
- Smith Brothers Warm Apple Pie $4.22 per bag of 20 drops
I personally like the Smith Brothers brand for two reasons, but Luden's is the less expensive brand.
- Unique warm Apple Pie flavor
- Hey, I'm a "Smith" too!
Keep one in your mouth (cheek) while recording, but be careful they don't click against your teeth on the recording. As long as you keep it in your cheek while speaking/recording, you won't have a problem.
When you stop for a break, then suck on the drop and coat your throat before moving on.
7. Do Vocal Warm-Ups
The simplest way to do this is to sing a few songs.
Or you can check out this vocalization warm-up video from Eric Arceneaux, vocal coach to the stars.
8. Record in a Clothes Closet With The Most Clothes
While you can go into a professional studio to record your audiobook (and pay a handsome fee), your clothes closet is an inexpensive way to replicate the same, sound dampening environment.
It is the quietest place in any house, and it has natural, ambient sound dampening material (hanging clothes) already built in.
9. Record Some "Room Tone" or "Dead Air"
This is vital for your sound engineer (step 9) to have some background noise (FROM EACH RECORDING DAY) to add during the editing process. So before you record on a particular day, record about 10 seconds of nothing. And if you hear background noise on that "dead air" recording, "stop, do not pass go, do not collect $200" (this reference is from Monopoly), and silence those noises before recording any real narration.
Turn off your water heater, AC/heater and any fans. Ask people to vacate the premises. Think of anything that could show up on your recording, bleeding through even the clothes and walls in your closet.
There are many technical specs to make sure to change before recording, so be sure to check out ACX's audio production standards.
Some things to note (but not exhaustive list):
- Record all files in mono or stereo; don't have some of each. Mono is suggested by ACX.
- Set recording rate to 44,100 Hz (44.1kHz)
- No plosives...this is the reason for the pop filter (mentioned in step 2 above).
- Final files must not exceed 170MB or 120 minutes each.
- Don't forget to record an Opening Credits & Closing Credits files.
- Use your best chapter (usually first or early chapter) as your "Retail Audio Sample". This file is what potential readers/customers of yours will hear to help them decide if they want to purchase, so make sure it "hooks" the hearer. It must be less than 5 minutes in length, so you may have to edit a chapter to get to this minimum time.
IMPORTANT: Record the first chapter of your book and get your sound engineer (step 11) to sign off on the levels and settings before you record too much. The first time you do this, you will likely have to make a few changes. So don't record your entire audiobook before you get them to check your chapters.
11. Find & Hire a Quality Foley Artist (Sound Engineer) to Edit and Master Your Files
I work with Nathan Ashton, and he would be delighted to hear from you and quote you on your project. Just reach out to him on his website, and tell him Miles sent you.
Depending on the length of your audiobook, it will cost you several hundreds to several thousands. If you make the edits, and your foley only does the mastering, that will save time and money.
Nonfiction work generally is less expensive, and fiction the opposite due to the latter requiring music and a variety of actor's voices for each character to be believable.
Admittedly, this cost will push the total spent over $85, but you could do learn to do the editing and mastering of your files yourself and save this money.
IMPORTANT: Don't forget to give your sound engineer the following ACX audio production standards, so they know what ACX requires.
12. Upload Files to Dropbox, Google Drive, or Other Cloud Service
As you finish each recording session (day), upload the files in WAV (PC) or AIFF (Apple) format (for best audio quality). The files will need to be changed to mp3 format @ 192kbps for ACX standards, but have your sound engineer do that step after they have edited the files. Your foley will need the original files at the highest quality to start.
Then ask them to upload the edited/mastered files to another folder on the same cloud service and review them before uploading to ACX.com
Alternatively, you can have them upload the files directly to ACX.com, but I prefer to do this step myself, since I want to triple check the chapter titles and review the audio edits.
13. Create an Account & Upload Your Files to ACX.com...Then Wait for Approval
This will likely take a couple of weeks to see your title on sale for your first audiobook IF there are no errors with the files.
If there are errors, you will have to correct them and upload again and wait again. So take the extra time to make sure the files are good to go before uploading and submitting to the ACX editorial team.
On a second and future audiobook, I have noticed that the approval process is faster than two weeks, but that is only if the files are accurate on the first upload/submission.
14. Kick off Your Audiobook Marketing
Planning should have started before recording in order to be prepared when the audiobook goes live online for sale. And check out my post on How I Got $145 in Audiobook Sales With $475 in FREE PPC Ads
15. Enjoy Seeing Your Audiobook For Sale on Audible, iTunes, and Amazon
Bonus Tip: Use a Kindle or iPad to read your book, since there isn’t any noise from turning digital pages. You definitely don’t want to have the sound of flipping physical pages of a book on your audiobook recording. And no matter how hard we may try to turn pages quietly, the mic will pick up that sound.
You can listen to the first, complimentary chapter of each of my audiobooks on Audible.com here...