Between 2023 and 2028, the global audiobook market is expected to grow by nearly 25%. As digital continues to dominate, audiobooks occupy increasing market share because they’re easy to take anywhere.
That kind of growth provides plenty of incentive for indie authors to get their books into audio—but there’s a drawback. Hiring a professional narrator to record your audiobook is prohibitively expensive for many authors, and recording your own can be daunting.
But don’t despair. Ever-improving AI tools have made audiobooks achievable for authors at any income level.
In this post, we’ll reveal three ways to record an audiobook on any budget, from bare-bones basics to professional studios.
Option #1: AI Narration
Digital narration, also called AI narration, is so easy and affordable that anyone can use it. For the most part, it’s plug-and-play—just upload your manuscript to a digital narration tool and let the software do the rest.
There are a few “gotchas” to look out for, though, especially if you write sci-fi. AI voices can sometimes pronounce words strangely or read years as numbers (so 2,028 instead of the year 2028). You can usually work around these obstacles by creating special rules or writing a version of your text to be read by AI, but it’s something to be aware of going in.
Popular tools include Apple Books, Deep Zen and Google Play, with more options always emerging. While AI narration can be controversial, we see it as a fantastic way for indie authors to get their feet in the door of audio. One strategy is to let an AI voice narrate your audio first, then use the earnings from that audiobook to pay a professional narrator down the road.
The key with AI narration is to set reader expectations. Most retailers now allow digital narration, but only if the audiobook is marked accordingly. As long as readers and retailers know what they’re getting, everyone’s happy.
Option #2: DIY
Recording your own audiobook is a great option, especially for non-fiction authors. (So great, in fact, that we wrote a whole blog post on how to record your own audiobooks.)
Going the DIY route means that you don’t have to pay a professional narrator, but there are still a few upfront costs to consider:
- Recording equipment: Of course, you want the final product to be a joy to listen to, and your gear can make all the difference. You’ll probably want to invest in a decent microphone and pop filter to minimize those plosives.
- Time: Reading and re-reading sections of your book is time-consuming, especially if you don’t already produce audio. Know in advance that recording your own book is a learning process and can feel arduous, so don’t expect to get everything right on the first take. (Or even the second and third.)
- Studio space: You can rent space in a professional studio, which will provide the equipment and sometimes even the sound mixing and editing too, or you can record in your own home. If you record at home, find or create a quiet place. Background noise like fans, furnaces, barking dogs, slamming doors, running refrigerators, etc., can destroy a recording session. Closets make great recording spaces, especially if they store long, sound-buffering clothes like coats or dresses.
Option #3: Professional Narration
Professional narrators are still the gold standard of audiobook recording. Most readers prefer them, especially when they’re listening to fiction.
Because they’re pros, audiobook narrators are familiar with the audiobook recording process. They can bring your characters to life in a way you never imagined, incorporating accents and other elements to help your words leap off the page. As a bonus, many narrators even bring along an audience of their own. This can help you market your book to new audiences worldwide.
Of course, all this upside comes with a hefty price tag. The average audiobook costs $1-$2k to produce, with no guarantee that you’ll see a return on that investment.
If you can afford to wait for your ROI, there’s still no better way to hear your book than with professional production and narration. We highly recommend our partner Findaway Voices, which pairs indie authors with the right narrator for their needs and provides the means to produce and distribute their audiobooks wide.
Audio is for everyone
Wherever you’re starting, the future of audio is incredibly bright, and we hope that every writer will take advantage of the new and exciting audiobook recording tools available to indie authors.
However you choose to publish, we want to help! Keep checking back with our blog for updates, or sign up for updates on our latest live streams at D2DLive.com.