This article is for you if you’ve written your own book and want to record an audiobook version.
Below we’ll run you through the essential steps for audiobook recording, helping you create an audiobook that listeners will love and meet technical standards.
Generally, it’s wise to get your audiobook recorded by a professional narrator in a high-quality recording studio. Still, it’s entirely possible to record and publish an industry-standard audiobook.
Learning to record an audiobook is a valuable skill that will save money if you decide to record and publish more audiobooks later.
While you’ll need to invest in high-quality equipment and learn the ins and outs of audio recording and editing, your initial investment will pay off if you continue this creative pursuit.
Further, audiobooks significantly improve your book’s reach.
According to research, audiobook listenership has increased a lot in recent years. That means that if you can offer the reader an audio version of your book, you’re more likely to make more sales and boost your profits.
How to record an audiobook
Below we’ve covered the essentials of audio recording to create high-quality, successful audiobooks. We’ll explore:
- Essential recording equipment
- Technical and industry standards for audiobook publishing
- Audiobook narration tips
- Audio editing tips
Getting the necessary equipment is the first step toward recording a great audiobook that listeners will love and meet industry standards.
Without the right equipment, you won’t be able to meet the technical standards required by ACX (Amazon Creation Exchange) to qualify your audiobook for publication.
What equipment do I need to record an audiobook?
To record a high-quality, successful audiobook, you’ll need the following:
1. Recording studio
A recording studio is essential if you want to produce high-quality results.
If your budget allows, you can rent a professional studio. However, even short-term rental of a professional studio can be costly, so many indie audiobook recorders choose to create an at-home studio.
To make a home recording studio, find a quiet room in your house.
Remember that background noise jeopardizes the quality of the recording, so eliminate as much of it as possible.
A good mic will help you eliminate such noise, but background noise can still leak into your recording in a noisy environment.
So, when we say a quiet room, we mean it. That includes no noise from appliances, neighbors, passing cars, or family members and pets.
Ideally, your studio will feature a carpet, thick curtains, and foam, soundproof wall panels. These room features reduce echo.
2. High-quality microphone
There are many budget-friendly microphones for those who want to record high-quality audiobooks. A quick Google search or a discussion with an audio-savvy friend will help you decide on the best microphone for you.
Below we’ve listed some of the most popular microphones for audiobook recording.
Blue Yeti USB
The Blue Yeti USB is a popular choice among voice recording artists. This is a durable, high-quality condenser mic with four pick-up pattern options.
RODE NT USB
The RODE NT USB is a versatile mic that can capture fine audio, making it a popular choice among voice recording artists. The mic eliminates background noise and creates crisp and clear results. This mic is easy to use and produces excellent results, making it a wise choice for beginners and professionals alike.
A pop filter is a screen that covers the microphone to reduce the impact of plosive sounds in your recording. Plosive sounds are consonants that block your flow of air as they leave the body, such as:
Practice speaking these sounds and notice their quality. They block the initial flow of air and are followed by a release of air. These are natural sounds but get amplified by recording equipment, making a ‘pop’ sound, disrupting the listener’s experience.
A pop filter is a cheap piece of equipment but can make all the difference to your recording. They work by reducing the ‘pop’ of plosive sounds, making your narration smoother.
If you don’t already own a high-quality pair of headphones, invest in them.
With headphones, you can plug the jack into your computer and check your sound levels live. That means you can monitor your sound levels as you record instead of recording an entire section and checking sound levels after, possibly having to re-record if sound levels are poor.
Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
A digital audio workstation, or DAW, is recording software. This is a must.
Fortunately, there are many DAWs on the market. Audacity is a free DAW used by many recording artists. Ableton is another excellent DAW, but it is not free. If you own a Mac, it has a GarageBand version already installed.
Audacity is the way to go if you’re just starting. It rivals most other DAWs in terms of features and capabilities.
ACX recording specifications
According to Amazon’s Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), “your submitted audiobook must be consistent in overall sound and formatting. Consistency in audio levels, tone, noise level, spacing, and pronunciation gives the listener an enjoyable experience. Drastic changes can be jarring to the listener and are not reflective of a professional production. This distracts from the listening experience and may lead to poor reviews and reduced sales.”
They also explain that “each uploaded file must be free of extraneous sounds such as plosives, mic pops, mouse clicks, excessive mouth noise, and outtakes. Extraneous sounds can distract listeners from the story, and outtakes sound unprofessional. Each can elicit bad reviews and bad reviews can hurt sales.”
In terms of the technical requirements and specifications for your audio files, ACX and other audiobook creation platforms require that:
- Audio files must be uploaded in MP3 format.
- Each file must not surpass 120 minutes in length.
- Begin each chapter with a pause, room tone, and a header announcement (i.e., Chapter 1: Exodus). End with a pause and room tone.
- Audio volume must, on average, fall between -23 and -18dB (decibels) RMS (root mean square)
- Peak volume must not exceed -3dB
- Noise floor (sound of equipment with no other input) must not exceed -60dB
- Background noise and noise distortion must be kept to a minimum or non-existent.
When you start recording, you won’t read your entire book at once.
Create a separate audio file for each chapter, and remember that a file must not exceed 120 minutes in length. Remember that you must also allow a pause at the beginning for room tone, followed by the opening header (chapter title).
At the very beginning, you’ll need to introduce the book overall, including its title, author name, narrator name, and acknowledgments.
Recording an audiobook is not just a matter of speaking the text into a microphone.
Whether you’ve written nonfiction or fiction, your audiobook narration should be engaging and offer an enjoyable listening experience for the reader. Such is why many writers hire a voice actor or professional audiobook narrator to record their book.
Still, you can narrate the entire book with your voice if you are willing to take on the challenge.
Needless to say, your voice should sound interesting and enjoyable to listen to. You don’t need to sound like Morgan Freeman or Tony Robbins, but your voice should be smooth and consistent.
Voice actors understand that the quality of one’s voice can change throughout the day and may also be affected by the foods we eat, how much sleep we’ve had, and overall energy levels. As such, it’s wise to record your narration at the same time every day and to take time to warm up your vocal cords.
Read on for some more tips on recording your audio book
1. Don’t overdo characters
If your story has several characters, you may try to do a different voice for each character; this can work if you’re a trained voice actor, but if not, don’t worry; you don’t have to vary your voice to extremes to tell your story.
Consider the qualities of each character, such as confidence, nervousness, or authority.
Subtly change your voice to fit the qualities of the character speaking.
If you’re male and speaking lines of a female character, don’t overdo it. The listener already understands the character, and feigning a female voice (or vice versa) can disservice the narration quality and the listener’s experience.
2. Read aloud for familiarity
Before you start recording a given chapter, read it aloud first.
Reading aloud before recording helps you gain a sense of how to approach the narrations, whereby you’ll discover opportunities for creativity and nuance in your voice.
Even though you wrote the book, reading aloud establishes familiarity with the sound and flow of the text, which will help you create a smooth and consistent narration.
3. Schedule and limit your sessions
Avoid overworking. Limit your recording sessions to an hour or two at a time to prevent vocal strain.
You may want to get your finished audio uploaded as soon as possible, but if you strain your voice, you’ll only set yourself back further.
4. Record a demo for feedback
It’s wise to record a demo and share it with others for feedback, share it with friends and family to get their opinion and reach out to an actor friend or someone else in the recording industry to gain professional insight.
5. Mark mistakes
If, in the process of speaking, you make a mistake, mark that mistake with a distinct sound, such as a clap or a loud vocal sound. This will help you find and edit out that mistake in the editing process.
Editing is a skill set, so you may want to hire a freelance sound engineer to help with the editing process. Again, you can take on the challenge yourself, but you’ll need to invest significant time into learning.
If you have the time, try YouTube and Skillshare to learn more about sound engineering and editing.
If you already have some sound editing experience or have recently for this purpose specifically, consider the technical requirement outlined above, sourced from ACX and other audiobook publishing platforms.
Editing will involve:
- Setting volume boundaries.
- Eliminating and covering narrative gaps (you’ll probably need to take a few breaths between sentences and paragraphs!).
- Speech mistakes.
- Making sure your files meet dB limits.
Recording your audiobook takes time and effort, but the creative and financial rewards can be more than worth it.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, audiobook sales have increased significantly in recent years. They are an incredibly versatile reading option, making them a popular means of consumption among all demographics.
Hopefully, this article has enlightened you on the basics of audiobook production and inspired you to take creative control of your work!