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How to Make an Audiobook: A Comprehensive Guide

Being an author, you’ve invested so much time and effort into writing and publishing your book. So whether it’s physical or digital, it’s a no-brainer that you want to expand your audience and increase your sales. For that reason, many authors find themself searching “how to make an audiobook?”

Audiobooks are becoming more and more popular and they’re hotter than ever. We might be at the beginning of a new wave of book publishers. 

Think about this, in today’s fast-paced digital lifestyle, it can sometimes seem like you have to choose between time and money. With an audiobook, you get both! That’s because, unlike printed and ebooks, audiobooks are an excellent way to consume media on the go. They can be played on any kind of mobile device. They allow people to listen to your book while commuting, doing chores, or anywhere else they might find themselves in need of some entertainment. And they can lead you to a whole new and broader audience. 

So if you’re planning to convert your book into an audio version, go for it! Now is the perfect time to do it! Read on to get a comprehensive guide on how to make an audiobook.

Why Create an Audiobook?

Easy to Find and Less Competition

People can easily find and discover your content in common audiobook websites and apps than the millions of printed books and ebooks titles online. There’s also less competition for the attention of the audience. So while there still aren’t a lot of writers who are in the audiobook market, authors should take advantage of it.

Never Mind the Stock

Producing audiobooks is hassle-free. Because they are digitally created, you don’t need to worry about physical storage for your book stocks and rushing in printing to meet the demand. 

Never Sell Out

Audiobooks never get sold out. Meaning if your book becomes popular and in-demand, you know that it’s always available.

Attract and Gain New Audience

There are a lot of people who love to learn but are not very fond of reading. Lack of time to read can be a barrier too because some audiences are too busy and are always on the go. Then, there are other individuals, such as the visually impaired and dyslexic, who want to read, but are unable to do so due to their disability. For all these reasons, audiobooks attract these new audiences. 

Earn More

Audiobook publishing is a fast-growing industry in terms of profits and market size. According to Grand View Research, the global audiobooks market size was valued at USD 2.67 billion in 2019 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.4% from 2020 to 2027. And with the low production cost compared to publishing printed books, the profit margin is potentially higher. Yes, audiobooks do make more money!

Now that you know all the benefits and convenience of turning your published book into an audiobook, you might be feeling really enthusiastic and ready to produce it. However, before you leap into that decision, you should consider many things. The success of your audiobook will primarily depend on all decisions you made before going down that path. 

Things to Know and Consider Before Creating an Audiobook

Is My Book Genre Good for an Audiobook?

You should consider your book’s genre to make the best decisions on how to adapt it for audio. 

Here are the types of book genres that usually sell well and those they are actually recommending not to consider converting for an audio version according to Audible

To ConsiderTo Avoid
Health and FitnessTravel Guides
BusinessPicture Books
Self-Help/SpiritualityCookbooks
History/BiographiesInterior Design/Home and Garden Books
RomanceReference Books
Science fiction/FantasyTextbooks
Mystery/ThrillerQuotation/Citation Books

Abridged Vs. Unabridged Audiobook Version

An abridged audiobook is a shortened audio version of the original book. Still, you’ll get the main and detailed idea of the book but all the smaller details are removed. Meaning the major theme and plot are still complete and not sacrificing the storylines. Don’t be confused that it’s just a summary because it still gives all the important information of the original version of the book. 

An unabridged audiobook is the exact audio version of the original book. The whole content and caboodle are still intact and have not been changed in all aspects.

To make it simple, their main difference is the duration. 

Though unabridged audiobooks are in demand these days, a growing number of audiences prefer the shorter, abridged versions. 

So what path will you go into? Take into consideration their pros and cons.

Abridged Audiobook

Pros 
  • Lower production cost
  • Lower price than unabridged version 
  • Appreciate the audiobook without the ‘fillers’
  • Convenient for busy audiences who have limited time for listening to audiobooks
  • East to access by a wider audience
Cons
  • Some literary aspects of the original book may be changed
  • Extra effort to decide on what you want to omit from the original book

Unabridged Audiobook

Pros 
  • Full and original literary contact is still intact
  • Listeners can enjoy the same experience as readers with the whole content still intact
  • Book lovers with plenty of time to listen to an audiobook will prefer this version
Cons
  • Higher production cost
  • The time duration is longer (which may be boring to some audience)

To decide which version you would pick up, you may take into consideration your target audience’s preferences and situations. Think like one of them and ask these questions to yourself: Do I have the time to listen to longer unabridged audiobooks? Would I really enjoy the abridged version considering they omitted some details? Do I go for the cheaper one or the pricey one to fulfill my enjoyment? You may check different online forums to check the audience’s takes and opinions about this.

Remember also that it depends on the genre of the book where the abridged and unabridged version would fit into. Abridged is for giving the main idea and central principle for a shorter duration, while, unabridged version is for giving detailed information that will move and inspire others. 

Best Format and File Type for Audiobooks

Audiobooks can be created in different audio file formats. The two most common types used in making audiobooks are the following:

Lossy Compressed Audio Formats

In this format, the audio file was compressed, significantly decreasing the audio file size, which may  result in loss of quality. But in most cases, you won’t be able to tell the difference. This format is commonly used for audiobooks. Different formats under this type are MP3, AAX, M4A/M4B, AAC, M4P, OGG, and WMA. 

Lossless Compressed Audio Formats

Unlike the lossy compressed audio formats, the “lossless” format doesn’t reduce the file size as effectively as the former but maintains all of the audio quality.  The downside to this is that the file size is still large. Different formats under this type are FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec), WAV, and ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec).

Popular audiobooks platforms and marketplaces like ACX, Audible, and Findaway Voices require an MP3 file format of 192kbps (or higher) and a constant bit rate of 44.1 kHz if you want to work with them or if you want to submit your audiobook file. Don’t worry, once you submit it to them, it’s their job to convert your audiobook to all the appropriate files that listeners would want to download with.  

What Makes a Good Audiobook

There’s a lot more to making an audiobook work than simply recording a book. Here are factors to consider in order to make an audiobook a good one.

Narration 

If a narrator doesn’t feel emotionally connected to each scene of the story, then you can’t expect the reader to be either. The narrator should not sound bored during each scene but instead should speak with passion and emotion. They should be fully committed to their job of bringing a story to life in the way that best fits the tone of the content itself and be able to empathize with each character and make you feel like you are there, witnessing the same events as they are.

Voice 

There should be a voice variation. When applicable, you need to have enough variety in the narration to distinguish between characters. If your narrator doesn’t change their voice much from one line to the next, you could be creating confusion and putting a lot of stress on your listener.

Editing 

The ideal audiobook is a seamless, uninterrupted read where each word or sentence flows directly after the last and no distracting sounds are introduced.

Now you have all the information you take into consideration, it’s time for the preps!

Transcript Preparation

Edited and Proofread

The first step in preparing a transcript is to ensure the manuscript has been properly edited and proofread by a professional before starting your narration. It requires a lot of work, and it can be a real headache to make changes to the content after recording. So make sure your manuscript is clean before you start.

Let Go of All The Visuals

Visual elements, such as charts, maps, graphs, photos, and illustrations won’t be read out loud during recording. And they don’t work for audio, so you’ll need to remove them from the manuscript and change them into something that can be narrated. 

Remove All Unrelated Text 

Be sure to remove and strip out any extraneous text, such as footnotes, captions, hyperlinks, resources, and more. These are not needed in an audio version of the book, and they will only distract from your content.

Search and Hire an Audiobook Narrator

Choosing your narrator is one of the most important decisions in creating an audiobook. The first thing to think about when considering a narrator is that it will be the one who can most effectively bring your book to life through their voice, pacing, and delivery. Also, they’ll be the person that’s responsible for making or breaking your book’s success. If the narrator you choose isn’t a good fit for your content, it could lead to disappointing results.

You can search and hire a narrator through an online marketplace or a production company. Be sure to listen to a few samples of their work so that you can properly vet any potential narrators. You can also provide anyone interested with excerpts of your audiobook transcript so they can audition with a sample recording of it. This audition process is one of the most important steps. This allows you to hear their voice, as well as judge their level of professionalism and ability to read your content and to make sure you hire the one that has the experience with the type of audio narration that you have in mind, in other words, your preferred branding. 

Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind. 

Articulation Balance

Hire a narrator who neither under nor over-articulates—unless your character has a distinct way of speaking. If your character has a unique speech pattern, you may need to use that as a point of emphasis.

Variation of Voice

Proper variation in the narrator’s voice is a key factor to distinguish between characters during dialogue. Without sufficient differentiation between the characters, listeners may become confused about who is speaking, making it difficult for them to follow the conversation.

The narrator should sound natural with each gender’s particular cadence and inflection. If a voice actor alters his or her voice too much, they can end up sounding unintentionally comedic. Also, if your story has characters who speak with accents, then the voice needs to be authentic and pull off convincingly.

Intuitive Pacing

A good narrator will be able to control the pace of a story. They’ll know when to slow down, when to speed up, and when to pause.

Passion and Enjoyment

Excellent narrators sound as if they are totally and completely invested in every line of their story. Whatever emotions the story conveys, whether it’s funny, scary, sad, or romantic, they need to be fully committed in every single word. If they sound bored, the reader will feel the same way.

The best way to ensure your narrator is the right fit for your audiobook is to ask them questions. Below is a list of essential things to know during the hiring process.

  • How do they prepare for the recording session, in terms of familiarization with the story or content?
  • Do they have a studio with professional and high-quality equipment?
  • Do they prefer to share royalties or do they have a fixed fee for their service?
  • Their experience in terms of the number of books they’ve narrated.
  • Their availability and timeline of their narration.

Should I Narrate My Own Audiobook?

You may be thinking about narrating your book, but do you have what it takes? There are a lot of things to consider, including whether you have the time, ability, and equipment required for such a project. In this section, we’re going to help you know if you can do the job or you may want to proceed on hiring a professional audiobook narrator and producer. 

Narrating your book is possible if your content is non-fictional. A book that tells a story about your own life is an option too. You don’t need to worry about dialogue, where you have to put effort and time into voice acting and putting accents.  

You should also take into consideration all the necessary traits to be a good narrator—balance in articulation, voice variation, can pull authentic gender voicing and accents, and excellent pacing.  Do you possess all these abilities? Furthermore, do you have experience in some professional speaking engagements? Do you have the confidence to narrate? Can you speak for a long period? Are you comfortable speaking in front of a microphone? 

Remember that narrating for an audiobook is a performance. You need to entertain a listener. Your writing skills don’t automatically resonate with your speaking ability. They are basically different. 

Keep in mind all the pros and cons of narrating your audiobook.

Pros

  • You have full control of the production and all its aspects.
  • You don’t have to worry about dealing with and paying a narrator.
  • Or, you will learn and acquire new skills, especially in the technical aspects of producing an audiobook.

Cons

  • You need to provide all the recording equipment and editing applications for the production. And we’re talking about high-end and quality equipment which will be costly. 
  • Recording can take a lot of time. 
  • You will need to set up a recording studio-like setup at your home. Meaning, it should be suitable and sound-proof. You can rent a studio, but of course, this will add to your additional expenses. 
  • Let’s be real here, listening to your own voice over and over again may not be enjoyable. 

Produce Your Audiobook

Now that all vital preparations have been made, it’s time to focus on the production stage.

If you choose to go down the path of narrating, recording, and producing your audiobook, you’ll be in charge of the following.

  • If you decide to rent out recording studio space, book sessions on a recording studio.
  • Or, if you choose to record from home, remember that there are a number of equipment you’ll need to purchase, set up, and know how to use. These include a microphone, pop filter/screen, microphone stand, and headphones.
  • Find a space in your home. Make sure that it will be suitable for the recording environment.
  • Acquire and learn to use a variety of audio editing software (such as Audacity or GarageBand) to produce a professional-quality audiobook. In some cases, it will require extensive training and experience in the audio editing process.

When it comes to audiobooks, some authors may think that creating their audiobook by themselves will be the best choice, thinking it seems like the cheapest route. However, taking into account the costs of purchasing all the necessary recording equipment, editing software, and studio rental fees, you will find that it will be more costly. 

It’s best to hire an experienced professional audiobook narrator and producer to handle multiple aspects of producing your audiobook, including recording, editing, and mixing. Doing so will allow you to save time, money, and effort, and it’ll also get you a high-quality audiobook than you might otherwise achieve.

Laying Out of Cover Art

The cover art is an important element of your promotional strategy since it is the face of your audiobook. After all, what good is an audiobook without a good cover? Make sure it can attract listeners to your audiobook and help them decide if they want to listen to it.

It has to match the look and feel of your paperback/ebook cover, but it should be designed for use on the thumbnail dimensions of the different audiobook platforms and websites. The thumbnail is what will be used in the search results, so make sure your cover is a good representation of your book.

Publish Your Audiobook

After completing your audiobook, you’ll want to determine which digital distribution platforms to use to reach as many people as possible. This is important because the platforms you choose will make or break your audiobook.

You have different options that include both paid and free audiobook publishing sites. Here we’ll take a look at the most popular platforms for each category.

Paid or Royalty-Based

Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX)

ACX is a platform where writers, publishers, and literary agents can connect with voiceover actors, recording studios, sound engineers, and other talents who are necessary for creating audiobooks. It offers authors 40% of retail for sales on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes for exclusive distribution. While with non-exclusive royalty (where you can retain the right to distribute elsewhere), you will earn 25% of retail sales. 

Findaway Voices

One of the biggest benefits of Findaway Voices is its distribution capabilities. They take a flat fee of 20% of your royalties and you have more than 40 options for distribution.

Google Play Books

You just create an account, upload your content, set a price, and begin promoting your book. This platform also receives a percentage of every sale, but you’ll earn up to 70% revenue on books purchased.

Kobo

Kobo sells all kinds of digitally formatted books, including audiobooks. For audiobooks priced at $2.99 or lower, authors keep 35% royalties, while for audiobooks priced over $2.99, they can keep 45% royalties.

Author’s Republic

Authors will receive 70% of what their audiobook earns across over 50 channels, including all major distributors such as Audible, Audiobooks.com, and iTunes.

Free Audiobook Sites

Books2Read

Books2Read is a reader-facing site featuring book discovery tools developed by indie-publishing service Draft2Digital. They provide the Universal Book Link, a free resource designed to help authors and publishers share their books with readers and to help readers find books at their favorite stores.

Chirp

They work with publishers and authors to curate new deals every day, helping their partners drive sales, reach new readers, and boost visibility for their audio titles.

The Audiobookworm

The Audiobookworm specializes in reviewing and promoting audiobooks. It is owned by a book lover and blogger. 

AudioFile Magazine

Though they do not sell, AudioFile reviews and recommends audiobooks. The focus of reviews is the audio presentation, not the critique of the written material.

Bottom Line

If you want to be successful in the world of publishing, you have to understand that there are a lot of different platforms for your content. If you already have a book, turning it into an audio version should be a no-brainer! You just have to go one step further, and it can be worth it and profitable. It can help you reach new audiences and improve your overall sales because more and more people are now discovering the convenience of listening to a book instead of reading it. Use this article as your detailed, step-by-step guide to create your successful audiobook and take the leap!

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