One of the most common questions I get, whether it’s from authors who have already published their books or those who are just starting out, is how to record an audiobook.
And for good reason.
More people than ever are listening to books instead of reading them. People are busy and don’t necessarily have time to read, but they do have time to listen—while they’re doing chores, on their commute to work, or during exercise.
And since you’ve taken the time to write your book, it’s crucial that you make it available in all the formats your readers will want.
If you aren’t convinced that you should make an audio version of your book, this report estimates the audiobook market share in the U.S. alone will grow from $3.3 billion in 2020 to $15 billion in 2027. Whoa!
So if your goal is to get your book into as many hands (or ears) as possible, why not make it available in all the formats that readers prefer?
The good news is that recording your own audiobook is easier than ever.
Here’s How to Record an Audiobook from Home in 5 Simple Steps:
1. Prepare your manuscript
If you’ve already published your book, this step is easy. Your manuscript should already be perfectly polished. But if you haven’t yet published other formats of your book, don’t start recording your audiobook until your manuscript is finalized and ready for print. That means it’s been edited, copyedited, and proofed. It’s important that your audiobook matches the paperback version of your book, word for word, because sometimes readers choose to follow along while listening. In fact, audiobook distributors like Amazon ACX might deny your audio files if there are inconsistencies. So, we recommend making your manuscript ready for print before beginning your audiobook, whether you’ll be narrating it or you’re hiring someone else.
2. Decide who will be the narrator
The next step is choosing whether you want to hire a narrator or read it yourself. This choice is ultimately personal, but there are a variety of factors that will influence your decision:
Why to do it yourself:
- You can often bring a spirit to the book that no one else can.
- Especially with nonfiction, readers often want to hear the author’s voice.
- It’s less expensive. Even after investing in a simple home studio, you’ll save a lot of money by not having to hire a narrator.
Why to hire a narrator:
- Narrating a book is hard to do well. So if you’re not confident in your ability to narrate professionally, then you should hire someone.
- It’s much less time-consuming. Recording a book will usually take you a minimum of 20 hours, depending on the length of your manuscript.
- It’s simpler. Doing it yourself will require that you learn to become an amateur studio recorder.
- Narrators are surprisingly affordable and easy to access via ACX. $100-200 per hour of finished audio.
So what should you do?
- If you’re confident in your ability to read, are comfortable setting up the tech and a home studio, and you have the time: do it yourself.
- If you’re not confident, don’t want to deal with the hassle of tech, or don’t have the time: hire someone.
- TIP: Don’t let the money be the biggest factor.
3. Hire an audio editor (If You Narrate Yourself)
If you’ve decided to narrate your audiobook yourself, that’s wonderful! Your listeners will love it. The next step in the process is getting your recordings edited so they meet the standards of ACX (our recommended distribution platform), and in most cases, we recommend hiring a professional to do this for you. If you’re comfortable with audio editing and have real experience, then by all means, do it yourself. But most authors don’t have much (or any) experience editing audio, and if that’s the case, you definitely shouldn’t try to do it yourself.
Not to worry! It’s relatively easy and inexpensive to hire an audio editor with experience in audiobooks specifically. It’s a good idea to find an audio editor before you start recording. That way, you can have a resource on hand if you have any technical questions when you do start narrating.
You can search for “audio editor” on Fiverr or Upwork and seek out the ones who have previous experience with audiobooks. You’ll find editors at all points of the pricing spectrum, so it’s important to check their experience in the industry, make sure they’ve worked with ACX files before, read their reviews, and listen to their samples to see if you like their work.
It’s also important to look at what they offer. On a platform like Fiverr, editors usually offer multiple levels of editing. Sometimes they don’t include detailed enough editing. Some might include much more than you need. It’s important to note that you just need an editor, not a narrator, as you’ll find many who offer both. Some will find and fix mistakes/errors; others want you to identify them in a spreadsheet and essentially tell them where to make edits, etc.
Here are some initial questions to ask your audio editors:
- Do you have experience editing audiobooks?
- Do you have experience editing files to ACX specifications?
- Do you find and fix mistakes, ums, pauses, etc. or do I need to document that?
- Do you split chapters?
- Do you make sure the sound for each chapter is consistent?
- Do you add music/sound (if that’s something you want)?
- Do you charge per project, per hour or per finished audio hour? (This one is crucial!)
It’s also very important to pay attention to how well they communicate. Are they responsive? Do they seem like they actually want your business? If they aren’t good communicators, they probably won’t be great to work with. Professionalism goes a long way and you want someone to care about your hard work.
Also, look at how they charge. This is a crucial step! Some audio editors charge on a per project basis, which makes it easy because you’ll know the exact price no matter how long it takes. But other editors charge on a per hour basis, and it’s critical to determine if that is per working hour, or per finished audio hour (tip: you want the latter!). If an editor charges based on finished audio hour, you can also be fairly sure that their initial quote will be similar to the final invoice. It’s relatively easy to estimate how many hours your finished audiobook will be, and editors who charge on a finished hour basis will factor in their editing time to their hourly fee.
However, beware of editors who only charge by the working hour. You might give them ten hours of unedited audio, and they could take 20 hours to edit it, or they could take 100 hours to edit it, and you’ll have no idea until you get the invoice in the end. We advise you to stay away from this type of billing.
Similarly, it’s a good idea to figure out how much you’re willing to spend. You’ll find people who do basic editing between $5 and $40 per recorded audio hour; or more detailed editing (sound quality, etc.) between $30-$180. We’ve found that you can get high quality work for the lower to middle end of the spectrum, but this might not always be the case (which is why it’s so important to ask the right questions and read their reviews). For example, we found a very high quality editor who edited a 73,000-word book for $400 (about 10 hours / $40/hour). It’s important to note that the longer your book, the more they’ll charge, regardless of their billing setup.
4. Set up a home recording studio
If you’ve chosen to narrate the book yourself, you’ll need to set up a home recording studio to ensure you can create the highest quality product possible. Even if you don’t have a professional studio, with a minimum investment, you can create a close-to-professional studio in your own home.
You’ll want to identify the quietest area of your house, way from the humming of your fridge, the buzz from a light, or noisy street traffic. Keep the area as small as possible. In larger areas, the sound will travel and the microphone will pick it up. Some people choose to record inside their closets, with all of their clothes still in it! This can work great because the clothes act as a sound barrier, making this one of the cheapest options, and the easiest to set up (it’s already mostly done!).
You’ll need to make sure you have a computer with recording software installed, a microphone, and mic accessories. There are plenty of affordable options for all of these. If you’re not recording in a closet, you may also want to purchase sound proof panels, but a great alternative to this expense is to hang moving blankets from floor to ceiling to create a small room and block out most of the sound.
Check out our How to Make an Audiobook online course for our recommended gear list and tips for setting up your home studio.
Once your studio is set up, it’s time to start recording!
5. Publish Your Audio Files
Once you have the completed (ie, recorded and edited) audio files and you’re happy with them, it’s time to publish your audiobook and give your readers yet another way to access your story.
If you plan to publish on Amazon ACX (and we recommend that you do), it’s important to remember that you’ll need to have either the paperback or ebook version of your book (or both) already live on Amazon before you can publish your audiobook.
In ACX, you’ll upload your audio files one chapter at a time, and submit them for approval. They’ll go through a quality assurance check that can take up to 30 days, so you’ll also want to keep this timeline in mind if you’re waiting on your audiobook for a big launch.
If your files are approved, your audiobook will automatically be for sale in the Amazon marketplace, alongside the other formats of your book. Congrats!