Whether you want to get your work into audio without hiring a narrator or your goal is to become a professional narrator yourself, breaking into the world of audiobook recording can seem daunting.
But the potential has never been higher. More people than ever are listening to books rather than reading them in print (or e-print). No time to sit down with a book? Audio offers the option to read while driving, cleaning the house, or walking the dog.
Need more proof that audio is worthwhile? This report estimates that the audiobook market size will expand at a compound annual growth rate of 24% until 2027.
There’s a lot to learn, but recording your own audiobooks is easier than ever, and we’ll help you break it down. From the equipment you’ll need to how to get your audio published, here’s a quick overview of audiobook recording and how you can break into the biz.
Step 1: Prepare your manuscript
It may sound obvious, but before you set out to read a manuscript, it should be edited, proofread, and polished. It should also match the published text word for word, so don’t start recording until your manuscript is final and ready for print. Some audiobook distributors will deny your audio files if they find inconsistencies. (We love Findaway Voices, but you can also distribute via Amazon’s ACX.)
Step 2: Get an audio editor
Just as a professional editor can take your manuscript to the next level, a professional audio editor can make the difference between a polished audiobook and a new-narrator mishap. Audiobook distributors like ACX have specific standards that must be met for them to accept your audio. If you’re doing this step yourself, make sure you understand the requirements before you hit “record.”
If you’re hiring a pro, try searching “audio editor” on a site like Upwork or Fiverr. Look for people who have worked on audiobooks specifically. The files are long and have a specific structure, so don’t waste time and money on someone unfamiliar with the process.
Offerings vary widely, so be sure to clarify whether the editor you’re hiring will find and fix mistakes or if you’ll need to document them. You should also establish how they charge: per project, per hour, or per finished audio hour?
Step 3: Gather your equipment
You don’t need to get too fancy with recording equipment, especially if you’re on a budget and just starting out. But, of course, you want your books to sound good!
Here are the essentials:
- Recording booth: A home studio doesn’t necessarily require a fancy soundbooth. All you really need is a very small space that keeps noise out and prevents your voice from echoing, which is why lots of podcasters and narrators convert carpeted closets into recording booths.
- Work station: You don’t need an elaborate soundboard; a laptop or even a smartphone will do. In addition to the recording equipment (likely a computer), you’ll want a mic and a pop filter to make those plosives a bit gentler. The better the microphone, the better the sound—but don’t break the bank right out of the gate. You can always upgrade down the line.
- Software: Recording software like Source-Connect, Audacity, or even Zoom. Some of the software (like Audacity) is free, but you’ll need to pay for the programs with more bells and whistles.
You’ll also need to eliminate any background noise. You probably aren’t even aware of how loud your home is, because you’ve gotten so used to the fans whirring and the hum of your refrigerator. But the mic will pick up all those sounds, and even light background noise can render your recording useless.
Turn off everything you can while you’re recording and be aware that electrical interference can occur, even with silent devices like routers, so plug your recording equipment into the same outlet as your workstation and shut down everything you can live without.
Step 4: Do the math
Time to figure out how many hours of recording time are ahead of you. On average, you can divide the total word count by 9,000 (the average number of words narrated per hour) and then multiply that number by three.
For example, a 60,000-word book will require approximately 20 hours of recording time. That’s a lot of reading, so drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
Step 5: Read ahead
Before you record your own book—or anyone else’s, for that matter—read through it with a narrator’s lens. And be honest: are you the best person to record the words you’re reading? Sometimes the answer is yes, and sometimes it’s no. Only you will know what’s right for you.
For example, if you’re a romance writer but aren’t comfortable narrating erotic content, you’re probably better off looking for a narrator who is. If your work of fiction calls for characters with a wide range of accents, do a sound test and make sure you’re able to read them in a way that feels right to you. On the other hand, nonfiction listeners love to hear a book that’s read by the author.
Make sure that every manuscript you decide to read is one you feel you can record well, even if it’s your own. If you’re recording for other authors, ask how they want their books to be read. Think about whether you can maintain your delivery for the entire length of the book. Research pronunciations in advance, to be sure you know how to say all the words on the page.
Step 6: Hit “publish”
Once your audio files have been recorded and edited, all that’s left is to publish them. Platforms like Amazon’s ACX require a quality assurance check that can take up to 30 days, so keep that timeline in mind if you’re counting on your audiobook to launch by a specific date.
And there you have it! Six easy steps to recording your own audiobook. So tell us: have you narrated a book yet? And if so, how did it go?